May 28, 2022
Mombasa City
  • If you thought living in a bedsitter is hard, think again. It’s not. Enjoy the peace of coming home to your own toilet. Nothing in the world beats that. Because, living in a rental house with communal bathrooms and toilets – is pure hell.

    Mombasa City estates are flush with such housing plans.

    A building with a row of rooms facing each other across a narrow corridor. There are communal toilets and bathrooms at the far end. A single establishment may have, say, twelve single rooms, and as many tenants.

    Sometimes, with families. Usually, it’s two toilets, and two bathrooms. The landlord, though, has locked up one of each for his family. So, twelve tenants – and their families – share the other one toilet and one bathroom.

    Nine out of ten establishments, it’s a pit latrine. Not a toilet. But, seriously, Mombasa shouldn’t be a city.

    Expect queues at the bathroom, every morning. The secret is getting up early. Or, skip the shower. Mwanaume ni harufu, au sio?

    Rental blocks in Utange Village off Bamburi Estate, in Mombasa (file image)

    So, you stay at Door 1A. It’s the first door on the row. Toilets are like 7 doorways away. Towards December, it’s hot as hell. It’s even hotter at night. It’s common to sleep in your birthday suit – stark naked. Still, you are sweating under the mosquito nets. 

    At around 2am, you jerk awake. The urge to pee hits you hard. You fumble in the darkness for your boxers, in vain. You crawl from under the mosquito net and flip on the light switch. Oh, no lights.

    KPLC people, you won’t see heaven – you mumble, sleepily. 

    Anyways, it’s dark outside. A snapshot from your childhood comes to mind. 

    What’s the harm in dashing to the toilets butt naked? It’s not like anyone in the plot has infra-red vision. None of the tenants is from the cat family. You swing the door open, just a crack. You poke your head out.

    There’s not a sound. The entire corridor is dim and hazy corridor. Plus there’s a few clothes hanging on the lines. You have lived here for a few months now. You know the toilets like the back of your hand.

    You silently make it past the first three doors.

    At Room A4, there’s this weird dude from Busia who sleeps on a mat on the floor. He never locks his door. His ears are kind of sharp – his snoring falters for a moment. You pause, mid-step, holding your breath waiting for the snores to pick up the rhythm again.

    All clear. At the back of your mind, you know this is crazy.

    The last three doors are a breeze in the park. You finally reach the toilet section. You poke your business end into the first open doorway. It’s actually a bathroom, but, who cares? It’s dark. And, it’s 2am.

    The line ‘Nothing good ever happens after 2am’ is barely past your blissful mind when, indeed, bad happens.

    Lights! The lights!

    KPLC! KPLC! How many times will I call you?!

    Well, the two bare bulbs in the corridor comes back to life – like they never left. It’s a dazzling, stinging slap to the eyes. It so happens, that the weird Busia guy hadn’t switched off his stereo when lights went out. It’s a generic Sub-Woofer system. The kind that has a row of lights blinking in tandem with whatever is banging.

    The Sub-Woofer comes on with a blast of ‘Kidudu Mtu’, that punchy Taarab hit of yore.

    Mombasa City
    An undated image of a rental building in a Mombasa Estate (file image)

    The sound wakes up the tenant next door. A chatty, single mum – a pleasant, chatty Swahili lady. She runs a grocery stall. She instantly opens her door, steps out holding her youngest kid. It’s pee-pee time.

    The weird Busia guy gets up, stands at his door way, rubbing his rotund tummy. He stretches his arms, and gifts the world with a 60-second yawn.

    So, there you are. Stark naked, in a floodlit corridor. It’s 2am.

    Do you sprint up the corridor? Do you walk back to your room?

    Well, the Swahili lady. She spots you. She nearly drops the kid from her arms in fright and bursts into the most blood-curling scream you’ve ever heard. Were it not for the fact that they knew me, I would have been converted to minced meat by a lynch mob.

    That’s how, dear reader, you get branded a night-runner. It doesn’t help much if you move house. At the Coast, stories spread faster than a bush inferno.


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