Men, Seriously?!!!!

Risper Wanja Njagi
12 min readMay 1, 2022

Okay, I am about to tell you stories. I thought it would be a rant, but it is actually mostly happy escapist kind of serious but mostly light ranting.

Inage from theweek.in

So let’s talk about men.

Haha, okay, just to be clear, because it sounds like a serious topic, let me just inform you from the go not expect anything super serious or life changing here. This is not an article written to change the world, may be entertain myself. And hopefully you too.

We have all heard the phrase, “Men are dogs”. Or men are clueless. Or men are insensitive. Or men are mean. Or most men are emotionally underdeveloped. Or men are this or that …. But basically, a lot of prejudicial stereotypes that tend to put all men into one category or box.

Some people are bold enough to not even care for using stereotypes to avoid looking like they have a vendetta against men, and just simply say the truth in their hearts, “I hate men…” or “I am not sure what this feeling of animosity against men I have, but I just know I hate them and do not expect much from them.”

I’d like us to tread carefully here. I do not hate men myself. And I do not think “Men are dogs” … No, at least not now. I do not even know to date what that phrase exactly means, or attempts to describe about men. I just cannot claim that I haven’t felt extreme hatred against all men in general at some point. I also can’t claim that I haven’t used that phrase in the past, and I do not want to base my bias on where I grew up, but that place definitely did contribute to the many things I now am and have been unlearning about men.

Please understand that I am very aware that these generalizations are faulty and misleading and wrong and do not at all represent any truth, because as the east is from the west, so is each man different from the other. I have seen horrible enough men to know that some of these mean phrases are actually not very far from the truth if not understatements; but I am also surrounded by the most amazing, sane, sensitive, rational, sober and hardworking men, who prove all those phrases wrong.

Anyways, so why am I talking about all these stereotypes and “men” and how I may or may not still judge some men prejudicially to date?

Honestly, It’s nothing serious. I am not even here to unpack any of these stereotypes.

I have just had the most seriously but also laughable experience with a man, and a child and a bus, this very evening, there was just no way I couldn’t write about it.

Okay, we all agree that no matter where you come from in Kenya or Africa, every place has this one set or group of public transport vehicles that break all the laws and we all absolutely love them because they get us where we are going faster than their law-abiding counterparts, right?

[Side note for my non-familiar with our Language buddies: Public transport vehicles are mostly referred to as “matatu”, or “matatus” or “mats” or “nganya” or “nganyaz” in Kenya. So do not be lost when you see these words use n the remaining part of the article]

Haha, I know the “and we all love them” is a bit of an overenthusiasm from my end because that is simply not true; not everyone likes the lawless matatus. No. In fact, there are very many individuals who dislike such matatus so much, they get offended just by seeing them on the road; and we haven’t even scratched the surface.

Most of these lawless mats are also likely to have super loud ground shaking music speakers; speakers so loud that if you live near the road, you can almost feel the ground shake sometimes as they pass by. It’s usually music so loud that most times you can barely hear each other, and when you talk it may have to be loud and right into someone’s ear. Honestly, if you have been aboard such a mat then you also know that it does take one a minute to get their bearings after alighting, because the music, speed, noise and the experience inside almost usually disorient you.

Another peculiar feature about these mats is their “dondas”.

I know it is possible for someone non-Kenyan or African to be reading this, so not everyone may understand the concept of Matatu “Dondas”. “Dondas” for those who do not know, is these professionals in public transportation vehicles who collect fare from the customers. Of course, it is not all public transportation vehicles that have dondas. Long distance vehicles rarely have dondas, because for such you buy a ticket at the transport company’s office before you can board them. Anyways, for our friends who do not relate to this alien concept, think of a “Donda” as someone who sells you a fare ticket in real time inside the vehicle as it goes to the destination. Haha, this is probably misplaced(and a very bad attempt at a joke) for those who may not be fans, but to be clear, let this “Donda” concept not be confused at all with “Donda” the album byKanye.

Anyways, the point of explaining all this Donda business is to still explain part of the “Lawless Matatus” Culture. You are likely to find that these mats, in addition to the insanely loud music, and mostly reckless driving and definitely illegal speeds, also have these really cool dondas, mostly young. By “cool” I mean that for some reason most these dondas usually have this distinct sense of style fashion-wise. I have observed one on my route who literally dresses strictly in stylish overalls, different releases of Nikes and they have one gold tooth.

You are likely to find these dondas also having a very unique language as well. Most of them speak sheng, which is an informal language spoken mostly in urban areas in Kenya, consisting of English-Swahili Slang, and words from other languages in Kenya. It would also not be surprising to find most of these dondas as being “savage”. By “savage” here I mean a-zero-fucks given kind of attitude, having little patience for someone who’s slow or seems unsure of what they are doing in their mats. A few may be charming and kind, but I will go right ahead and say it, most of them are actually really handsome.

Hehe, I know any over-thinker in the room may be widening their eyes in a level of shock or curiosity wondering, “Mhhhh, so this girl has a thing for lawless mats dondas?” … or just plainly be wondering “Okay, how come you have seemingly observed so much, and with so much detail, about dondas?”

Well, look, in the past I would have been ashamed of admitting how much I observe around me, and especially when it is about a category of people like dondas; and especially given that there is a very large group of Kenyans who particularly dislike these dondas from lawless matatus. Haha, but it is my writing, my space, my observations, my thoughts partly told from the perspective of how I have viewed these people since I was a young girl until now. When I was a kid, I remember listening to “Kiss 100” Radio station, and somedays there would be stories of these “nganya za Nairobi” (Which mostly refers to modern looking public minibuses, particularly these lawless ones with great graffiti, loud music and neck breaking speeds). I grew up in Rural Kenya in Kirinyaga; and so, these reports of “nganya za Nairobi” on Kiss 100 traffic segments were the closest I got this great “Nairobi” and it’s exciting night life, and lawless drivers, dondas and mats, and there is nothing I longed for more than to experience a ride in one of such matatus.

So, my dearest reader, Do I feel like I should be shamed of admitting such a seemingly simplistic dream? A part of me answers yes to that question; but that’s the slowly but surely dying part of me. It is hat part of us that rains on our parade when we just want to enjoy the simple things in life that we longed for when we were young and now have access to. That part of ourselves that has lost a sense of wonder and whimsy, and can barely ever let us have any fun in life because it says things along the lines of, “You should know better” Or “You are past this” or “seriously, can’t you even try a bigger dream?!” … We all have that party pooping part of ourselves, but today it shall not steal my joy of actually appreciating how long I have come, and how true it is that indeed, “Today you are probably living the life you dreamed of, experiencing things you prayed or hoped for” … This part of ourselves can underplay literally any part of our lives experiences if we let it, because it is an element of our souls so mean and dull and lacks a sense of humor. It is rarely impressed by anything you do, pressuring you to always be looking for the “NEXT” big thing, telling you subconsciously that the only way you can barely even qualify to be normal and acceptable is by being super extraordinary and doing extraordinary things.

Well, dear reader, that life sucker part of my soul, has no room in my life today. So yes, I absolutely dreamed of being in a lawless matatu with a mean sheng-speaking Nairobi donda as a kid, and I have gotten my wish to the fullest, and it is a beautiful feeling to experience it from my point of view as a kid.

Anyways, all of these many words and long detour and yet we were supposed to speaking about “men”; and in particular this man and a child and the lawless Ganya I was in this evening …

Okay, haha, so here it goes:

Picture this, it is almost 6:30 pm. It is rainy season so it is a bit chilly. It looks like it might rain so the clouds are darker than usual and looks like it is already early night hours, and we are on this major and busy highway in Nairobi Kenya (Ngong Road for those familiar with it). I am already aboard this lawless nganya from my transport route, so music on, speed on and donda, check. Haha, now that we have established, I have looked at how some of the dondas look like, I do not know if I can call the donda necessarily handsome. Honestly, it’s a bit dark so I haven’t seen much of the donda; and nowadays I do not intentionally check out the physical features of dondas as I used to in the past, but his maroon denim work pants are definitely sagged to a considerable length.

We are in Kenya, so matatus stop at every bus stage to look for more passengers as long as the bus is not full, because we are all trying to make money in this harsh economy. In truth, these lawless nganyaz usually stop at every stage even when they are full to capacity to get extra passengers. So, in this nganyaz that I am in, we stop at this bus stage known as Adams along this high way, and a couple of people get in.

Then, just as the matatu is about to leave; so, the engine is on and vehicle moving at a super slow speed just to indicate to the prospective passengers that “Hii ni gari ya haraka” (This vehicle is for those in a hurry or looking to save time with speed”), this massive man gets in. Allow me to describe him as such for artistic purposes, I am in no way purporting to body shame him. So anyways this massive man gets in, white button-down shirt, and dark grey or just grey pants, I cannot really see the shoes but he is carrying a small paper bag in his right hand, and he speeds to the available bus seat before they fill up and he has to stand, of course.

Then, this small baby girl is lifted into the matatu by the donda, and she looks like she might be looking for someone she has come with into the bus. Oh, the reason why I can observe all of this is because I am at the seat opposite the matatu door. Anyways, the big man has already sat down, and this small baby girl stands right next to me, and my first-born-with-a-baby-sister instinct kicks in, and I hold her firmly on her shoulders and hands because she sways, as if almost falling. This woman sitting opposite me also holds her at the same time, so we smile and mumble something to each other; nothing sensible really, but also one hundred percent understandable to both of us; both of us knowing and agreeing in our hearts that small children’s safety in a public matatu is paramount, and especially when the matatu is this category of “Lawless”. The donda also sort of holds the child, and the coincidence has us all laughing lightly, then immediately asking who the child is with.

The donda directs the child to her parent, as the donda was of course able to see who the child came in with. It turns out, that my “massive” man in a white executive shirt and ironed grey pants who is already seated is the father of this small girl!! Seriously. And he is already seated. And the matatu has started moving, and it seems he had left the fate of the small girl to the donda or Jesus or the air or something!

Haha, I know I could be catastrophizing this small incident I have described, that of course took place in a span of a minute at most because this is a matatu for those in a hurry remember?

But what a gentleman in white and grey right? (To be clear, I am laughing and also being sarcastic).

What happened to “ladies first”? By that I mean let the lady get in first before the man, and by that logic the dad should have ensured his small child who happens to be a girl got in and was safe first before getting in himself? What happened to the labels many men still take pride in, such as that they are “Protectors”? What happened to parents put the needs of their children first before their own, especially when the children in question are small kids of about or less than half a metre in height? What happened to chivalry?

What happened to honoring the clothes you are wearing? Haha, yes, I have gone there. You cannot be in a white executive looking button down shirt and executive looking grey pants and be the person who does not seem to have a grasp of basic human behavior, i.e., child first. I do have this relationship with clothes whereby I feel like certain outfits call out a certain personality and responsibility in us, and executive looking clothes definitely scream “We are allowed to expect a lot from you”.

Anyways, of course the donda got the child to her father and that story ended, but I hope my point is made. Anyone who has used public transport knows how easily you can fall in these matatus because of the changing motions of fast speed and changing lanes, or just the initial wave of movement when it takes off after having been stationary. I was honestly just shocked to experience that.

As I said, I have probably overthought this whole small one minute incident… Haha. But maybe that is my superpower, that I could come up with a 3-page rant on word processor based on a one-minute incident, but point is, I was shocked. And frankly kind of heartbroken, heart broken for the baby. I thought to myself, “Poor thing. I am so sorry you have to go through maneuvering movement in a lawless public matatu in Kenya at your age while your parent, who should have been protecting and looking out for you has taken their seat and seems to have assumed that you will somehow sort yourself. Luckily small girl, you are so young and small you will not remember any of this I the next few minutes, or see it for the recklessness that it is from your parent.”

Again, as I said, I was not writing this so that you and I can draw any deep lessons or make serious conclusions… Honestly all there was for me was shock and I guess a level of disappointment at the treatment of this small baby.

Haha, to all my friends and readers, I am sorry I used a “Men, seriously?!” title for the article, almost making it look like this was to be a serious discussion about men, or what is wrong with them… It is not. Haha, it is just easier to work with such a title.

But perhaps we can all pick something from this. What? I do not know, make your pick. Do you want to observe kids’ safety around you? Do you want to re-explore what small dreams you had and are now fulfilled and thus you have something to be grateful for and thus encouragement to dream again because it is clear God intends for you to enjoy everything you have dreamed of? Might you need to observe the conversations going on inside your mind and see where you could be lacking some spark in your life and maybe it is all caused by your “Party pooper” voice having too much leeway in your mind and thus life?

As I said, I do not know what you can pick from this, but speaking for myself, I do feel more present, and sort of psyched to explore my sense of whimsy and wonder, and to just see what small and big dreams I can dream again. Haha, naturally, I am likely to be more observant of how men treat small kids in the coming week just because the incident is still fresh in my mind… but that, as said, is likely to happen involuntarily.

I hope that you too are experiencing something similar now that we have come to the close of this article.

You are my best invisible friend(s)😊, Happy New Month.

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Risper Wanja Njagi

I write about re-finding ourselves, and everything in between; trauma, rejection, acceptance, healing, mental health