I wanted an improvement in my living conditions. I figured electing an effective chairman to head our resident’s association would be a good place to start.
I studied the candidates’ profiles and made a neat little table: pros and cons on one side, a tally of points on the other. I was on my way to an objective decision.
Then that little ‘unmentionable’ Adam happened. I don’t know how he talked me into it. Before I knew it, my list was forgotten, the vote was blindly cast, and now I fear I have to endure another year of poor living.
Here he sits, wasting away under the mango tree. His once white shirt has a yellow tinge, the outcome of too many washes in the village stream. His body tilts to the left when he walks. During his illustrious university career, this was known as the ‘academic angle’ (obtained by those who diligently borrowed and lugged heavy loads of books from the library on a regular basis). He cannot recall the last time he read anything other than the Good Book, and the angle is a result of a life in which everything must be got through hard manual labor.
It was not supposed to end like this, but how else could it have? He graduated with honors and joined the civil service. He did not make any deals under the table; and when everyone took afternoons off to go and run a business, he pushed files and waited for a promotion (which never came, because it had to be bought). When political alignment was required, he declared himself a servant of the people, neutral and impartial.
Much too late, he discovered that his pension was hardly enough to live on. Had he not built a small house on his father’s land, who knows what would have become of this Outlier, who chose to live an upright life?
Denial Our mayor just launched his bid for another five years in office. No matter that we peep through garbage heaps to see the sun every morning. That’s the only way we know the earth still turns on its axis, even as our city grinds to a halt.
Then we get stuck in traffic, heading to businesses that are posting negative growth. We pray we make it back home without getting robbed; there’s no guarantee doctors will be working today. No running water? Oh, that’s climate change. But our mayor is like Adam, his fast mouth will get him re-elected.
“A woman’s handbag is a mysterious dungeon. It’s the key to her real self; the prosaic answer to many poetic conceptions. A magician does not want to explain his tricks. There is an aura of taboo about a closed handbag. Every woman has an uneasy look if somebody glances into its sacred privacy,” reads a passage in an article titled ‘The Inside Story of a Handbag’ by Anita Daniel in The New York Times of January 21, 1945.
There was once a time, even in this country, long before terrorists roamed the earth, when a woman’s handbag was cloaked in mystery. Those days are long gone, and baring all to strangers during security checks has become the norm. Continue reading
I wrote this post in 2008, just after the post-election violence – my first attempts at making sense of ethnicity and what we’re always on about in this country. Reading through it now, I feel we’re on a treadmill – running, running, running, and not moving an inch. Plus I never knew the phrase ‘people from a certain community’ could have such a negative connotation! Continue reading