“Why do Kenyans buy a car at the first glimpse of success instead of taking up mortgage or buying a house?”
A close friend of mine once asked that.
I don’t know! I’m still trying to figure out “mbona donut ina shimo.”
Yes I’m guilty of it. As soon as I saw my face on TV and a few people recognized me on the streets, I felt like a celeb. I concluded I needed a car to separate myself from all of you mere mortals who don’t appear on TV! (Okay. That was my immature, proud young self talking.)
Now I have a car for convenience. Not necessarily as a symbol of success.
I have taken matatus. The thought of being on someone else’s schedule is not very appealing. Do I want to always stand there and wait? No. So I got a car.
The first time I drove, I was still in Dandora, it was before I even completed my secondary school studies. We would go to one of the community grounds and pay twenty shillings for a lap. The instructor had no interest whatsoever in whether you learnt how to drive or not. As long as you could pay, you could play.
My first car was a Toyota Starlet. I got it a year after getting signed to Gatwich records and releasing my album. My newly found status needed demonstrating. The Beat was playing my songs; I was getting paid 30 K per gig… What else does a man need? It was obvious.
I bought the Starlet at 120 K from Tim Rimbui, Innovator. My friend Andy Mburu helped me fetch it. I didn’t know how to drive. So I began my classes in a random driving school situated at a kichochoro in Ngumo. You are forced to re-live your childhood by driving toy cars on a table. The only thing we didn’t do was make “vroom vroom” sounds.
It was a manual car. I learnt that I was a talented acrobat when I balanced it up a hill in traffic. Here, I’ll teach you how: first, lift the hand break. Wait for the car in front to move a bit. Now lower the hand break, step on the gas and repeat the process. That’s how I survived the traffic jams on Nairobi hills.
I once got offended when a beggar passed my car in traffic. See, he was coming my way after being ignored by the driver in front, I felt sorry. Maybe the guy really needed the money, you know. Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song" even started playing in my mind when I saw his face.
“What about yesterday?What about us?”
I had to make it right. So I started lowering my window, manually, as he approached. Only, a little hitch occurred. The mechanism hadn’t been greased well. I didn’t mind taking my time working on it though. I mean, I was sure the beggar wasn’t in a hurry. Well, surprise! The guy just passed my Starlet and proceeded to the next car. I was so offended! How dare he do that? Discriminating against my car? Does he even know how much a Starlet costs? Is he so special that he doesn’t want to shake his bowl next to a Starlet?!
I forgave him.
My next car was a BMW 5 Series. I knew it would be one even before I purchased it because, somehow, BMWs were the only vehicles I noticed on the road. It’s like when your palm starts itching and you know you’ll hold some money soon. Forgetting you work as a bank teller handling filthy money all day. You never have a clue where it came from.
I bought my BMW. It wasn’t new, but I didn’t know just how old it was! How do you take a car you’ve just bought from a garage straight to another garage? It had more problems than my Starlet! I remember driving along Ngong’ Road one time and hearing the unmistakable clang of falling metal, looking outside my window, I saw people pointing at me and thought,
“Wah! These guys recognize me! They must have watched my latest video!”
The pointing continued as I drove down the road. Yap! You guessed it. Engine parts were falling off the car. I later discovered that some parts in the car were Toyota parts. Funny enough, every time the car had trouble, I’d halla at the same guy who sold it to me; a mechanic. I found out about the Toyota parts after seeking a second opinion.
I forgave him.
I was getting tired of borrowing jumper cables from guys to jump start the car outside their offices after every successful meeting. Then a miracle happened just before I launched, Pulpit Kwa Street, my sophomore album. (You didn’t think I knew the word ‘sophomore’ now, did you? So for more keep it here! See what I did there? Hehe)
Before we closed off City hall way (between the city hall and K.I.C.C) for the Pulpit Kwa Street album launch concert in 2011; the first of its kind. I got a call from Boniface Mwangi. He was planning to start a space for creatives. We had breakfast at Java, Adams Arcade, trying to find a suitable name for it. He threw a few ideas my way and I gave my opinion. By this time I knew my way around a Java menu.
The next day he gave me his ride. A Mercedes Benz C240! He allowed me to drive it to Kawangware for a show I was doing that afternoon. He was my co-driver. Budah! I had never felt such class, comfort and peace of mind while driving a car. Later, I found out it was a trap. Boni was selling the car. No wonder he let me have it for two days. No! I couldn’t return my new found love. We were doing the recce at the venue the day before the concert. Becky (not Becky with the good hair) from KKrew complimented me on how good it made me look and I thought to myself. “I want to always look this good." For once I was not being stopped at police roadblocks. The guards outside town buildings did not stop me to find out where I was going. Okay, there was the occasional one asking “Umekuja kuchukua nani boss?”
I bought the Mercedes-Benz. After the first installment, I realized kumbe Boniface Mwangi needed funds to further the construction of his hub (which was now named PAWA 254). You had to put out “mkono sambusa” driving that car. Everybody who’s had a car knows what “mkono sambusa” is. Sawa, I will explain. It is when you let part of your arm hang outside the window, elbow facing out. That is mkono sambusa.
I forgive you.
MIC And A DREAM
My current car is a beautiful convertible. I bought it like two years ago. When the season is right and no vehicles are being swallowed by the floods, I take it out for a spin and make it topless kama Sautisol kwa stage.
Many say it’s a Porsche! I don’t know about that. Maybe they know something I don’t.
All I know is it saves me troubles like,
“Juliani unaenda pande gani?”
“Unaeza tupea lift? Ni mimi tu na hawa mabeste wangu.”
Let’s just say I enjoy the surprise on their faces. It is a two-sitter.
Recently we exchanged cars with a certain broke CEO. I gave him mine with the fuel light blinking and pointing at E. We raced. He beat me to his house and returned the car with fuel light blinking and pointing at E. SMH.
You ask why I have my tank low. It’s a policy I have with my cars. That’s how I discipline them. They shouldn’t be spoilt. A full tank is spoiling cars. You make them think there is more where that came from.
I got the starlet when I was twenty five. I’d always said I would buy my first car at twenty five. When I felt it was time to make a change, I got the BMW. I didn’t need the Benz and the convertible, but I got them anyway and it’s not like I had the money. This doesn’t only happen with cars. I react the same way to ideas. Every idea I ever made happen came from a place of obsession or excess passion. My ideas always pop out early in the morning. 1 a.m – 6 a.m. I write them down, with my doctor-like handwriting, and share them with any poor soul that is around. I don’t have that kathing of being afraid guys will steal my ideas. Even if they do, they can’t execute them with the same passion or details.
The moral of the story is; if I want something, I have to get it. No matter what.
I have a gift and a curse. The gift is that I always have a drive to do something even when the reality is not favourable. The curse is simple. I often don’t like to calculate; sometimes it’s important to know your strengths and, at the same time, to understand your opponents’ capabilities. Know what you are up against.
What I have is my God, my drive, my passion for transformation and the commitment to see things through.
Kindly share if you are blessed by these stories. You can ask questions in the comment section or leave suggestions on the kind of stories you would like to read from me: musical, spiritual or business related.
Edited by @Ngartia of @Storyzetu.