YOU know the story: the man in the village hangs around the trading centre while his wife goes out to the garden early every morning to till the soil for crops that result in earnings that he eventually drinks away. While he is doing so evenings, she cooks food and lies in wait for his return, which eventually leads to children who increase her workload further till they are useful enough to fetch water or help grow crops.
The couple is constantly clothed in tattered, soiled clothes but the woman’s busuuti doubles as a blanket for the entire family at night. The children sometimes get clothes handed down from relatives in the city who leave behind a bag of old clothes every so often when they spend a week in the village for Christmas – which is also around the only time our village couple gets to taste beef or chicken.
The story is long, quite tedious and very depressing because it rarely leads to a “happily ever after”.
That lazy, inconsiderate, drunken man manipulating his hardworking, but resourceful and faithful wife is more often than not mean and sullen because of the bad hangover brought on by cheap alcohol, so he tends to shout and kick at the children and, sometimes, his wife. The entire family also happens to pick up odd diseases you normally associate with “poor people”.
Their life is despondent. When it rains, the roof leaks and the floor of their hovel gets flooded then muddy. And the diseases get worse – instead of flu, they get tuberculosis; instead of a cough, they get Pneumonia; instead of Syphillis, they get AIDS. Two out of their eight children die before the age of five, and four of them are stunted because of poor nutrition.
Again, it’s depressing and tedious even writing about this family.
When the man gets any money whatsoever he spends it on something considerably useless – like a new radio for listening to Chameleon’s latest, or a mobile phone to use to beep the city cousin. And alcohol, albeit that cheap alcohol that causes such a bad hangover – and that’s because he gets to drink more of it with a bit of muchomo, where he sometimes gives the waitress or alcohol woman an extra note to fondle her or more.
He doesn’t spend any of it to immunize the kids, or to stock up a first aid box, or to buy soap or disinfectant (LOL!)
Luckily, for many of us living in the city, that story is simply a myth because we don’t actually know anyone who lives that life or grew up that way – and we don’t really want to know them.
Except that we do in a sense: think of that hovel as a country. The woman and children its citizens, working hard every day but not getting to eat good food, wear good clothes or a roof above their heads that doesn’t leak in the rain.
And then the man spending his evenings drinking in plush hotels, driving 4WDs, buying up gadgets he doesn’t put to any serious use for his family, and not stocking up a first aid box for his family’s health.
Just thinking about this is tedious and depressing.