| The underground circumstance of a 50 year old David Andati who rolls life in the city of Kwajenga as an African traditional medicine man is common place to any squalid slum that may tickle your mind.
And while hunching tactfully in Embakasi’s Mukuru Kwajenga one evening, I noticed a good number of women emerging with children strapped on their backs. The leery of finding out what is going on overwhelms me and I pick up myself one foot at a time, to find out what’s happening.
Passing three gates on my left side and a black big rotor tank, on the right, between is a dusty street that separates a blanket of iron sheet plots. I stopped facing a maroon tinned gate directly seeing a number of women inside as others went away. Some in flushed faces and others were gloomy.
A sound grab of something being crushed with a heavy metal gave me a taste to knock Indati’s door because the rate of such a crushing at 5 twenty seven in the evening appear at odds in a further place like Nairobi.
“Welcome little boy. Sit down,” said David.
David is a product of Kakamega High School, form six class of 1982. David started working as an herbalist when he was unable to complete even a semester at Kenyatta University’s Nairobi campus in the year 1985.
“I was not seeing anything at the University. These powers to heal were disturbing me so much. That’s why I’m telling you I inherited this power (healing power) from my grandfather.
“I’m told that one evening, while in the university, I went to the bathroom to take a shower. It’s after wards that I just left the school compound for good. I don’t know how to explain the whole thing because it is my relatives who told me these stories later,” said the soft spoken David.
His education went to a standoff and his life took another angle of the city and is today based in the land tune of Mukuru Kwa-Jenga which is five minutes drive from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as a traditional herbalist. He came to the city for business when the need to work in a bigger space haunted him.
“I wanted a place where there is demand. I can’t be limited to a village and I came out to help many tribes, those who are outside their villages,” he said.
He uses the readily available plastic bags to wrap medicine where polythene bags go for 80 shillings per kilograms and small containers, five litre capacity is five shillings.
“I use polythene bags to wrap medicine because getting them is easy. I find enough pieces to use...Bottles do get broken, poisoning the whole medicine. But if the ban on polythene bags is serious I’ll be forced to use bottles to escape arrests, he said.
In the run up towards cost reduction, David told me that few clients do carry their own containers thereby “helping me in cutting down costs”.
“Some people come with their own containers, so I can direct that money to charcoal and paraffin; their prices has increased and when I boil these herb (holding fresh leaves) it becomes very expensive,” he added.
Fuel price has hit the ceiling and nowadays he buys retail paraffin at Sh.68 per litre while charcoal has moved up from Sh.20 to Sh.30.
When the job is looking up, David makes a round 400 shillings and more depending on nature of the day, “and if it goes below this, then business is not good.”
Throat sore, growth, crop, barrenness, chronicle headache, fungal infections, mumps, amoebae and malaria are some of the disease ailments that he treats. In his words, “people can be taught how to cure these diseases (named above) but he affirms that dealing with demonic diseases is a bit metaphysical and David was not able to promise me a course on how to treat madness.
“You must inherit the powers from the medicine man himself to cure things like witchcraft. And the power comes by itself, you can’t force it to work,” he said.
In a day the son of Omulama village receive cases of 20 to 25 people despite the fact that he does not go around selling his business.
“I don’t look for sick people, the ones I have treated tell their friends and relatives about me. And I don’t walk on the road saying, I’m a doctor,” he bragged.
In the house was an old stove whose lower part is painted green and the rest of it, rust covered. A blue Container of water, five stools, two chairs and a table which had a grey cat resting under it.
David is still doing house work in his ten by ten iron sheet box that has only one window. He insists in calling it a hospital. Meanwhile, heart rending cries of nude children filled the squalid house as they wait on for a chance to be dipped in herbal water which to me appeared like cooked green vegetables, with too much soup.
He said that the business is open-shut and being a seasonal biz there are times that he hardly attend to problems of the people. His secret is to spread money that he gets to cater for such “bad days”.
“This is a hospital and I work twenty four hours. Come at night I’ll attend to you. I have no time, I work through out,” he said.
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