My name is Abednego Shipangalia and I am the resident watchman of a gated residential community; It is Thursday, mid-month and is exactly 6 o’clock in the evening when I arrive to the gate of the estate which is my workplace. I change into uniform, dark blue for the trousers and a light blue shirt, later as it gets colder in the night I will put on a Kabuti From experience, Thursday nights are normally quite nights and we the estate watchmen while away the night closing and opening the gates for the residents as the drive in from their places of work.
As stated earlier, the soldier’s job (Pronounced Soja) has been my calling for the last ten years and I am now fully resigned to be a professional gateman with all the stereotypes attributed to it. It might be a humble and in a way risky calling but then I find it also strangely satisfying.
A Soja is a man watcher, all seeing but barely noticed by many of the estate residents. I can therefore with some degree of accuracy give the personality of a big fraction of the residents.
There is the former cabinet minister who today looks a pale shadow of his former television self. He spends most days reading from his balcony. There is the retired military officer – a creature of habit- Every morning at 0545 Hours, goes for his morning jog and every Friday staggers back from a nearby local at exactly midnight worse for the demon drink. There are four lawyers whose –Jurisprudence – if that is the right word- is never to recognise or acknowledge the Sojas presence. There is the psychiatrist lady doctor who I suspect is her own patient, considering how her vehicle gets dented every other day. And then there are a dozen or so other executives, in government, banking, insurances, engineering et al.
A common thread among this whole lot of residents, I dare say is stress. They all seem overly stressed. Stressed, in their looks, in their driving, in their voices, their reactions to petty situations and how they talk to or (ignore) us, species they consider the lower class. Let a Soja take time to open the gate and you get a full blast of the stress-double barrelled and at point blank range.
The female species, in particular, are quite a handful and from my experience to be avoided at all cost. The ones that are good are wonderful, the bad ones are horrid. Consider this; in my two years as a guard here, I have managed to maintain at least a nodding acquaintance with about 50 or so of the male residents and less than ten of their womenfolk. This tells you something. Indeed, when Eve must talk to you, it is always talking down to you.
A case in point, It is early morning as this gunmetal coloured vehicle driven by a lady resident, shudders to a stop at the gate, the window is slowly rolled down and with apparent insolent contempt, she summons me by a flick of the finger. I move closer to her window because unlike me, she went to school. I went through School.
“ Huyo Maid yangu asitoke kwa hii gate leo, Umesikia?” She says, while looking straight at the windscreen.
The windscreen has a bit of training in public relations and politely answers back.
“ Madam, wewe ni wa nyumba gani? Maid yako ni yupi?”
“ Hujui hii Gari? Kazi yako ni nini hapa?”
The windscreen keeps quite aware that an answer will lead to the opening of another unnecessary war front.
The automatic gear is engaged and the vehicle zooms off.
How am I to relate a mboch (Maid) with a saloon vehicle? I am left wondering.
My solution therefore to ensure that no “Mboch” walks out of the estate carrying a bag.
What is a Soja supposed to do?