Torn Apart: BOYD PHIRI
IT SEEMS everyday people are coming up with ways of how to raise money from strangers on the streets.
It’s not as if they are raising money to donate to doctors without borders or trying to donate it to flood victims. In short, they donate it to themselves.
Imagine a stranger greeting you on the streets with exaggerated excitement claiming that he knows you from somewhere.
The next moment he opens a can of woes which he wants you to immediately find a financial answer to.
Well, genuine beggars don’t bother to pretend that they know you from somewhere before they ask for money, but the new beggars are different.
I bet even ladies who are used to hearing men saying “I know you from somewhere” would be surprised to hear this expression targeted at men as well.
As you may have guessed by now, I’m one of those people who have been approached by strangers asking for money after claiming that they know me from way back.
“Mwaniziba, ndine Mwanza,” one man said to me one afternoon, meaning “Have you recognised me, it’s me Mwanza.”
He said it with such confidence that I began to feel a pang of guilt that “how could I not remember a man who knows me very well from way back?”
After his attempt to make me remember him, he started telling me a story about his sick mother at University Teaching Hospital (UTH), and how he walked from there to come into town to find his uncle who had promised to give him money to buy medicine for his mother.
Unfortunately, he did not find his uncle at the company he had hoped to find him. He claimed he found that the company where his purported uncle worked had relocated.
One surprising thing was that he said he had some money with him already amounting to K33 and that he only needed K7 from me to make it K40, which was required to buy the medicine.
He was quick to suggest that he was ready to show me the money he had raised so far but I told him that he shouldn’t bother.
But not all days are Sundays. I told him I had no money to help him though I sympathised with him.
Actually, he didn’t even wait for me to finish the sentence when he realised he was not going to get any help from me.
He consoled himself by saying that he would try elsewhere as his mother needed the medicine at UTH, where she was admitted.
After that encounter, days passed until one day I faced a similar situation, this time with a different ‘beggar’ on the same street.
I can’t remember what he said his name was, but his story was not different from that of the man I met previously.
He also claimed he walked from UTH to town and that he was short of K5 to buy medicine for his wife, who was admitted to UTH.
But it didn’t end there, weeks later I met another man with a similar story. Like the previous beggars, he also claimed he knew me from way back and ended up asking for money to buy medicine for his grandmother admitted to UTH.
This coincidence disturbed me. I thought maybe there were people who were trying to play some tricks on me.
But I was relieved later when a colleague of mine told me that he had been approached by the same characters before.
Not only did it make me laugh, but it reminded me of how cunning people have become nowadays.
They now use sickness to extort money from people. I guess they don’t want to use the conventional way of begging using a bowl on the streets.
Next time you meet a stranger on the streets talking about his wife at UTH and money to buy medicine, do not dip your hand in the pocket to help. It could be just another trickster from hospital.
Torn Apart: BOYD PHIRI