“ Wait,” said Richard, “First click on the call tab. We might need to check the mic and speaker settings.”
“Translate that into English, will you.” said Babu. But Richard Kamba was busy punching several keys at once on the keyboard. He clicked on something else and looked at Babu saying, “That should do it. Try and call again.” Babu clicked on the call button and they all heard a sound, just like a phone ringing, on the other side.
“But….what if it’s in the middle of the night? She wouldn’t like that.” said Woolie. Kamba immediately disconnected the call. Nobody had bothered to check what the time would be in Toronto.
It was 2.30 pm on a typically cold July in Nairobi. Babu, Woolie and Richard Kamba, the new staff member, were seated by the computer in Babu’s office. Also present was the young lawyer, Sangita. Despite the cold, Babu had flung open the window “to get some air circulating” in the small office. Now he googled ‘World Time Zones’ and discovered that Toronto was currently seven hours behind East Africa Time. Just then a pop up window on the screen announced an incoming Skype call.
Richard Kamba clicked on the answer button and suddenly, right there on their office computer, the quartet found themselves staring at Rubina, dressed in a bright blue dressing gown. The beaming Rubina stared right back at them at 7.30 am from her cosy little bedroom in the Province of Ontario. Babu and his office had entered the twenty-first century.
It was Richard Kamba, the new guy, who had come up with the novel (and as some would later say ill-advised) idea of calling Rubina on Skype to give her the good news. Sangita had been Rubina’s young protege at the law firm right up to Rubina’s departure to take up her teaching post in Canada. Sangita was sharp and articulate and meticulous in her work and Rubina had said that she would go far. Today, Sangita had won her first case: an acquittal for her client, a young man wrongly accused of murder.
The Skype call was now well under way and they had all exchanged pleasantries in that special un-synced way that is normal with Skype calls. It was clear that Rubina was extremely proud of her erstwhile student and she conveyed to Sangita her warmest congratulations and wished her well. Sangita was ecstatic. She told Rubina how the case had been mishandled by the police. An innocent man had been charged with killing his employer and stealing a radio.
The case itself had made headlines in the country because it was alleged that the accused had gone to a house and stolen a radio after attacking the victim whom he had left dying in the bathroom. Sangita had obtained post mortem and other reports that showed that the poor man had suffered from long term acute constipation.
On the fateful evening the gentleman who lived alone, had arrived home at around six-thirty and headed straight for the bathroom. His urgency was so intense that he had not even managed to shut his front door properly. It was whilst struggling in the bathroom that he had suffered a fatal heart attack. The accused man, who worked as an odd-job-man-cum-driver for the victim claimed that he had found the front door open and assumed that the gentleman had left it open so that he could pick up the kitchen radio which was faulty, as per their previous arrangement. The accused was quite well-known as an amateur repair man who fixed radios, stereos and mobile phones in the neighbourhood. He had taken the radio and gone home, unaware that the victim was in distress.
Sangita had clearly demonstrated that the accused had no case to answer and the Judge had ruled for an acquittal ordering the prisoner’s immediate release.
Woolie was enjoying the proceedings immensely and he asked Rubina to excuse him while he went in search of tea. She had laughed and said he could go. The rest of them remained seated and continued chatting with Rubina. They enquired after her new job, her Uni, her one-bedroom flat with en-suite bathroom, her friends, her life.
It all seemed very strange that someone so far away could appear right in front of you – so close that you almost felt you could touch them. Rubina felt it too as she looked beyond them, at the walls in Babu’s office, the painting, the large open window. She imagined that she could feel the breeze coming through.
As the office people looked on, a door in the far wall in Rubina’s room opened to reveal what appeared to be the en-suite bathroom. A tall man emerged, naked but for the bright yellow towel wrapped round his waist. He walked along to the full-length mirror on the wardrobe door and casually unwrapped the towel which he used to rub his blond hair vigorously. He was totally unaware of the viewers in the small office in the County of Nairobi. It took a moment for Rubina to realise what had happened. She asked them to excuse her, said that she would speak to them later and terminated the call.
Woolie came back shortly after with four large mugs of steaming hot chocolate and half a dozen mandazi from the shop downstairs. The shop staff had given him the loan of a tray so that he would only have to make one trip.