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A mosaic of life in the hood

OVER the years I have mustered the curiosity of having to look at life differently – of course, for the purpose of painting a mental picture of situations in the minds of readers.
Perhaps, with nostalgic flashes of my days as one of the art students at Lusaka’s Kamwala Secondary School, the curious fact about my disposition in this scheme of things emerges.
The first day in an art class at junior secondary school we learnt that art is life – at least as novices, we took it as our working definition of art.
This formed part of my understanding of life during my time at the school as an art student, a talent which I later substituted with writing after graduating.
Indeed, life is everything – from someone defying the law by pissing on a “DON’T URINATE HERE” sign-post to a stalky man grimacing under the pain of a hot morsel of nsima on the throat at a seedy restaurant.
Vandalising sign-posts is bad enough, but peeing on them is another thing all together.
If you travel a lot, you would notice slight differences in the colour of these sign-posts. If you live in the hood, you would find that most of them are stained with urine, even when the message is clear, “DON’T URINATE HERE”.
It’s as if most culprits fancy relieving themselves up against such locations and residents of the pub-heavy areas are made to keep on fighting back against ‘free pee-ers’.
And why are men always looking for some target? A wall, a bush, a pole – always some object. Are they dogs spreading their scent, claiming their territory?
Of course, urinating indiscriminately in the streets is not like stopping for a meal at a seedy restaurant at Lusaka’s Soweto Market.
Obviously, if you’re in the area and hungry, you would be compelled to stop by and give these folks some business.
You would find customers continually bothering a waiter for bevra (complimentary portion of food) in a restaurant.
Some would be asking that the air conditioning be turned on because it’s too hot inside. But when you look around the corrugated iron sheet shacks they call restaurants, you would see no air condition facility.
Perhaps, some would make such demands out of desperation to find a way of cooling down a hot restaurant.
You see, if you decide to have lunch at a market restaurant, you must be ready for embarrassing moments.
Hot nsima can be pretty painful on the throat, especially if you eat gluttonously in an apparent act of protest over delayed service from waiters overwhelmed with calls for bevra from other clients.
If you see a customer gazing into empty space with teary eyes as if observing a minute of silence, don’t think he is thinking about xenophobia.
Quickly call for a glass of water before someone drinks water meant for washing hands.
This experience can be annoying because while forcing a hot morsel of nsima to cool down your throat, other customers would be calling for bevra already.
You don’t want to be told that there is no bevra, and while you pose for a minute, there would always be an idiot asking you if he could get your left-over food.
“Bosi, mwa kuta nidye nsima iyi?” he would say, meaning “Boss, can I get your nshima if you are full?”
There are, it should be said, worse things can happen to you if you eat food from some of these seedy restaurants.
While they suit your pocket, K2 to K5 a plate, you risk suffering from diarrhoea caused by bad food.
Sometimes life would present weird situations – like a prostitute stealing a client’s underwear and taking it to a witchdoctor to cast a spell on him for failing to pay for the service.
Not that there is a likelihood of him being made to go back and pay, but as witchdoctors go, this would mean taking away the erring client’s libido.
In the same vein, I hear some wives have devised a plan to start using sniffer dogs to locate their men who hide in dark corners of bars and night clubs with sex workers.
Quite an ambitious programme.
But the sex workers would not go down without a fight. This is why they are stealing underwears from unsuspecting clients and consulting witchdoctors on what to do with them.
But the whole thing makes me wander. Instead of fighting over one common thing, why not agree on a private public partnership – I mean if polygamy is the way to go?
Imagine having 50 wives, 50 mothers-in-law, 50 fathers-in-law and countless other in-laws? What a great family that would be and life would go on.

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