Friday, October 1, 2010

How my Hawking Stint in Kibera slum ended.

The houses bowed together ominously as if conniving in a secret deal. The little lane between them was littered with garbage.....

During the just concluded long holidays I tried to venture into small scale business to supplement my college pocket money. My bid to gain white collar employment hit a snug. Being idle at home I thought of hawking household items around estates in Nairobi.

With little savings, I rented an improvised cart attached cart attached with wire mesh. Most goods were displayed on the mesh as I moved from door to door selling my wares. Mostly I was accompanied by my two best friends Ken Korir and Joseph Wachira.

My stint with hawking though ended prematurely a month ago when I met conmen.

As I recollect, raising early and leaving my friends behind was my first mistake as there was no one to offer security. It was a beautiful Saturday as the freshness of the dawn replaced the stale night in Kosovo area of the sprawling Kibera region.

As the morn bustle and chatter chased the clinging night I arranged my wares in anticipation of a great sale. After few sales I ventured into a lonely stretch n the estate.

The houses bowed together ominously as if conniving in a secret deal. The little lane between them was littered with garbage. Ducks and pigs had a free rein in rummaging through the open sewers. I rang my bicycle bell and called out my wares.

“Thermos! Aiyaah! sufuria! Pegs! Thermos!” Cling. Cling “Sema bei kuuliza ni bure” (It’s free to ask the price, just talk)

My calls attracted a group of youths playing a game of draught and idling next to a forlorn looking scrap of a Peugeot station wagon. One, the oldest with a grizzly beard like a coconut husk called on me.

“niaje boyee (hi buddy) what do you sell?” he asked in a creaky jovial voice.

“I have the best thermos, sufuria set, spoons, knife……” I offered and realized that the all crew was attentive.

“Mama Ciku needed a thermo flask” offered a youth.

From inside a nearby dark hovel Mama Ciku confirmed the request and asked for a 1.8 liter flask.

A small boy was sent to take the flask and he dashed away into the dark house.
I murmured a silent prayer as my heart pounded with expectations.

The business spirit with a knack of a salesman bit and I quickly offered four sets of sufuria. After haggling with the youth with the grizzly beard, we settled on a price of Ksh. 850 in Mama Ciku was to take the thermos.

“I know she will love the offer, the flak was beautiful” Sid the ring leader as I parted way with the sufurias, another boy dashed in the dark house, with the sufurias in tow.

I murmured a silent prayer, again.

After ten minutes I started to get restless since the boys hadn’t come out. I pleasantly told the spokesman to tell Mama Ciku, the voice, to pay me for I need to go. I was assured of the pay and told to be patient.

Fifteen minutes later I got anxious as ideas of being conned played in my mind. I rubbed the thought off because of the good nurture of my customer.

Meanwhile the erstwhile attentive troupe ignored me and continued playing draught indifferently. I observed I could better have been Skinner, the invincible man. By now, a little alarmed I insisted on the pay.

Smiling sarcastically the coconut husk face said “I will go check on what is delaying your pay, just relax I will be back.”

To be sincere he left the draught game halfway and went in the shack. It was the last time I saw a beard which looked like it has been shaved by shears.

Now I became panicked and alarmed, I told the rest that I wanted my pay. When I got adamant about getting my business money back they resorted to ignoring me completely.

“unabore kizee, jipange ndani umsake huyo boi ukamdai, na upunguza pang’ang’a (You are a vexation, go in after the boy and stop being a nuisance)” someone told me irritably in sheng.

It was then that it dawn on me that have been conned plain and simple. I was fixed before a charging train on a bridge over cliff. Going after my pay, I had the risk of I being mugged and I would surely kiss my unattended ware goodbye.

Sweat trickled on my back and the shirt stuck on me like a second skin. I felt a jab and choked in emotions of hopelessness. As I turned away dejected the motley crew burst out in a mirthless laughter.

“Anytime you’re welcomed back and thanks a lot.” Someone called amid the din. I didn’t acknowledge it. I walked away pretending not to hear.

*Sufuria- Swahili for cooking pan

1 comment:

  1. I really liked your story. Real, personal, and powerful. Sounds like a big learning experience.