The moment you set your eyes on Margaret Aswani, you instinctively take a second long glance, just to be sure.
Laid back, polite and with a warm toothy smile, you can easily confuse Aswani for First Lady Margaret Kenyatta. And they even share a name!
Aswani has been turning many heads in the city, including those of traffic police officers who frequently salute her.
However, her arrival at Pishon Restaurant is what has got ‘mafans’ downing endless mugs of tea with ngwaci instead of quaffing alcohol. Pishon is located at the junction of Dubois and Latema roads in Nairobi.
It is here that Aswani spends her days, either serving curious customers or supervising operations at a tiny kitchen at a corner of the eatery. Sometimes she doubles up as the cashier.
“I’ve been working here for less than a month. I joined a relative in the restaurant business sometimes back. Before that, I was a small-scale farmer in Kitale. We started with a small eatery on River Road that had only four tables, then we shifted here,” Aswani said.
She says the new joint is more spacious, with a capacity to seat more than 60 people. Here, patrons are treated to a rich array of traditional delicacies, including sweet potatoes,arrow roots and fermented porridge.
Customers can also enjoy yellow beans, njahii, and chicken among others; here a steaming plate of food ranges anywhere from Sh30 to Sh300.
“For the short time I have been here, customers have been calling me ‘First Lady’, while some call me Margaret, unaware that that is actually my name,” Aswani quips, adding that: “Some customers advice that I should consider relocating to an upmarket neighbourhood.”
True to her customers’ speculations, the businesswoman and the First Lady share a lot in common. They both sport short, grey hair, spectacles and a dashing smile. They both hail from Gatundu, are of mixed races and each has three children – a daughter and two sons.
“My mum comes from Gatundu and my father was British. However, Margaret Kenyatta and I are not related in any way,” she said.
The First Lady’s father, Dr Njuguna Gakuo, was the first African managing director of Kenya Railways after taking over from GPG Mackay in 1964.
He also taught African studies for three years at Delhi University after earning his BA and MA degrees in commerce from the Delhi School of Business in 1955.
He later returned to the country with a doctorate cap and a German wife, the mother of Margaret.