Life: What a journey – CHARLES CHISALA
IT WAS one of those scorching-hot days of the week when temperatures were soaring to suffocating levels.
Even the agama lizards which enjoy basking in the sun were nowhere to be seen as they had taken refuge in trees, burrows and crevices.
I was at a car wash bay sipping a very cold fizzy drink as the workers gave my vehicle a spruce-up.
Some young men had come to while away their time at the bay with their friends, the car washers.
A woman was sitting in the middle. She worked in the nearby bar and would dash inside every now and then to serve customers before re-joining the youths.
The woman was drinking a lager in a big bottle attracting the envy of the young men who were constantly begging her to allow them to take a sip.
But she adamantly refused to share the poison castigating the beggars for being lazy.
“I am ashamed of you boys. How can you be begging beer from a woman when you are the ones who are supposed to be buying for me?” she said.
But one of the young men responded that there was nothing wrong with a woman buying beer for men if they did not have money.
“It’s only that today we don’t have money. Otherwise we would have bought for you as we have done in the past.
“When we have money we will also buy for you,” he said.
The young man censured the lady for refusing to share the beer when she was not the one who had bought it with her own money.
“You should not be so selfish madam. After all you did not buy it; it was a customer who bought it for you,” he whined.
This did not amuse the woman, who rounded on her accuser.
“You can say whatever you like but I will not give you any beer. Not a drop. What kind of men are you, who beg beer from women?” she said and took a swig from the giant lager bottle.
I saw one of the young hustlers swallow his saliva each time the woman swallowed the beer as if he was the one who was drinking.
His friends noticed and for a couple of minutes he was a target of crude jokes.
They mocked and taunted him for failing to control his thirst for beer.
And the woman rubbed it in, “He can continue to swallow after me; maybe he will get drunk. He is not even ashamed.”
The victim of the cruel taunting did not say anything, probably expecting the mean woman to have some sympathy and change her mind, but she remained adamant.
The woman told the guys to stop looking at her each time she took a swig or sip from the bottle.
In fact she made suggestion that they ask the man selling junta (small bottles of sprits in form of whiskey, brandy, rum, voldka and many others) to give them one on credit.
The infamous junta has taken the mostly jobless youths and those in informal trading as hawkers, street vendors and wheelbarrow pushers (baZamcab) because of affordability and wicked potency.
An average lager has between 5 and 11 percent alcohol while junta has up to 75 percent.
“At least with junta, one bottle is enough to get all of you drunk,” she said and laughed.
But one of the young people vehemently vowed never to drink junta again saying it had almost killed him.
He said he had gotten used to drinking only junta as other liquor had stopped intoxicating him until he developed serious respiratory complications.
“I nearly died. I will never touch junta again. It almost killed me. Even now I am still feeling pains in my chest,” he said.
He told his friends to stop drinking junta because the aim of the distillers was to kill the consumers.
The young man counselled, “The people who make junta are only interested in killing you. It is not good to drink junta because it has made some people mad while some have died.”
Another youth agreed with his friend and shared his own experience.
“I was feeling as if my chest was filled with hot vapour or smoke for several days after drinking the junta. It’s not good stuff and I am also planning to quit drinking it,” he said.
Someone defended the slow killer saying it was the only alcoholic he could afford and get drunk.
“With junta I only need K10 to get sloshed unlike these others on which you have to spend a lot of money to get drunk,” he said.
But he was out-argued by the rest who condemned the beverage as poison which should not have been allowed on the market.
A car washer joined the conversation and narrated how a youth in his neighbourhood had become a near-cabbage after being addicted to junta.
He said he would avoid the spirits because they were highly addictive.
It was difficult to tell if the youths would refuse to drink the stuff if someone had given it to them free.
Many youths and adults have for some reason found the junta to be irresistible.
I just hope the young man was honest when he said he had quit drinking the rubbish, for that is what it is.