May 25, 2020
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Swahili 777

Swahili 777
The spanking new Kenyan Airways Boeing 777 was so empty going out from Mumbai to Nairobi that each one of us could go to the central row of seats and make it into a comfortable slumberette. The return flight, though, didn’t have a single vacant seat. That, more or less, sums up what Kenya has gone through in the last couple of months as political riots have kept people out of the country. Yet, when I was there in the last week of February, Kenya was as normal as could be: Nairobi had traffic jams that made Mumbai’s rush hour crawl look like a sprint, hawkers at traffic lights sold sunglasses (and more imaginatively, warning roadsigns of the kind you use when your car has stalled in traffic) while men and women went about their work smartly dressed in well-cut western-style suits.

In other words, it was business as usual. But not if you believed the international media which played and replayed scenes of rioting till you felt the whole country was on fire. Remember the television reportage of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena violence in Mumbai? Mumbai’s police took action against three TV channels for their misleading visuals; here in Kenya, the authorities could only grit their teeth and seethe silently. What could they do, anyway, if reports in London or New York or Paris gave the wrong picture?

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