Life: What a journey – CHARLES CHISALA
AS USUAL the callboys were shouting, cajoling prospective travellers to the Chongwe route loading point at Lusaka’s bustling City Market.A Rosa bus was loading, and seemed to be almost full when a man in his late 50s appeared.
He was huffing, puffing and grimacing under the weight of a heavy giant Ukwa bag on his left shoulder.
We learned that he was a peasant farmer, and that he had just sold farm produce and two goats at Chibolya Small Livestock Market.
Apparently, he had spent part of the money he had earned from the transactions on some goodies to take back home.
A new small radio set he was carrying on top of the Ukwa bag told it all.
The man quickly bought the ticket and paid for the luggage.
Some people who were already inside recognised him and exchanged greetings with him.
While the callboys were busy with other customers the man heaved the huge Ukwa bag and entered the bus with it.
After finding an empty seat he settled down and put the bag on his laps while holding it with both arms.
The red Ukwa bag was so big that it completely hid his perspiring face.
But he didn’t seem to bother. Someone tried to persuade him to hand the bag over to the conductor so that he could put it in the luggage hold at the back.
To the woman’s surprise the man reacted angrily, accusing her of trying to deceive him into surrendering his precious bag to thieves, sending a ripple of laughter across the bus.
Some passengers seized the opportunity to taunt him. How about a little fun!
“Shikulu (grandfather), that thing will kill you before we reach Chongwe,” a young woman who had equally come to sell farm produce counselled him.
Another passenger, a man in his mid-30s, proposed that he put the heavy and bulging Ukwa bag on the ‘bondix’, but he was adamant.
‘Daddy, you can put the bag on top of the ‘bondix’ and sit near it since you don’t want to take your eyes off it,” he said.
The ‘daddy’ vigorously shook his head to signify his refusal.
When the bus was about to start off the conductor and two callboys saw the huge Ukwa bag, its owner’s face completely hidden from their sight.
“Shikulu, we don’t allow passengers to sit in the bus while holding such big parcels. You are inconveniencing other people and yourself,” the conductor said politely.
After a protracted argument the callboys and the conductor threatened to throw the man out of the bus without a refund.
It did the trick. He staggered towards the door with the heavy Ukwa bag.
When he reached the door, he put it on the ground, then jumped over it to get off the bus.
The two callboys and the conductor tried to lift it so that they could take it to the back of the bus and put it in the luggage hold, but he quickly grabbed a corner with both hands and clung to it with all his energy.
A tug-of-war ensued between the hustlers and the farmer as a horde of other callboys cheered.
When the hustlers looked closely they discovered that the Ukwa bag had two medium-size cylinder padlocks dangling from one of its corners of the bag. He had locked the zip.
They pointed at the locks and started laughing.
One callboy started calling others.
“Ba Mule, iseni bakaamba, iseni museke nseko kuno [Mr Mule, come here; come and laugh at this],” he shouted as three to five more callboys hurried towards the bus.
The conductor tried to persuade the man to let go of the bag, but he wouldn’t.
He assured, “Shikulu, tatulemibile cola iyo, tulefwaya fye ukubika kunuma pakuti mwikale bwino [grandfather, we don’t intend to steal your bag but just want to put it at the back so that you can sit comfortably].”
A female fruit vendor chipped in: “Sibazamvela, bakumunzi nibobvuta maningi [he won’t listen to you because villagers are very difficult people].”
There was more laughter.
A call boy asked the man what he was carrying in the bag for him to guard it so fiercely.
“Shikulu, ninshi musendele umumwine mucola [grandfather, what is it you are carrying in this bag]?” he asked.
Another kaponya quipped, “Limbi muli amaseti yabantu [maybe he is carrying human organs].”
The man was alarmed at the ominous suggestion.
“No, no, no, no! I can’t. How can I carry human parts? You would have seen the blood stains,” he said.
But the callboys insisted that he could be carrying human sets (human organs, in Lusaka street parlance), which could be why he didn’t want the Ukwa bag to be put in the luggage hold of the bus.
A tall and muscular callboy stood over the man as he squatted while holding the corner of the bag tightly with both hands.
“Shikulu, we will call the police to come and arrest you if you don’t allow the conductor to put your bag at the back.
“It is clear that you are carrying something in this bag,” he warned.
The threat worked! The man let go of the bag but followed the conductor and the callboys closely as they half-dragged it to the rear of the Rosa.
As they put the bag in the hold, he was standing closely behind them.
After securing the bag and closing the hatch of the luggage hold in his presence, the tall callboy turned, faced the farmer and said:
“Shikulu, aya amaloko mubikile ku cola teti yabombe nangu fimo. Abalumendo ngabalefwaya kuti baimya fye icola conse kumo namaloko basenda [grandfather, those locks are useless because if the thieves here want to steal, they can just lift the whole bag, including the locks],” he said triggering a new wave of laughter.
As the bus pulled out of the station, the callboys and conductors were waving, whistling and shouting “Faza, faza [father, father]!” at the farmer, who was seated not far from the door, and he waved back.
Life: What a journey – CHARLES CHISALA