By Mundia Ngumi

It was getting to dusk. This day, I was not in a hurry as usual. I had sworn to start taking things easy, maybe because of age and so, I walked leisurely and confidently on the pathway in the city, not worrying much about time.

Twenty years or so, I had beaten this same pathway, morning and evening trying to beat time, both for reporting to work in the morning, and to make it home early before traffic jam builds, in the evening.

Having laboured this much, the most I could account for was; a happy landlord, promptly paid; a happy head teacher with a good school fee paying parent and a good shopper at our nearest supermarket.

Now, age was creeping, I was hastily approaching 40, the fourth floor, but I could not truly call for any asset going by my name and the old jalopy was still on loan. After 20 years of hard labour and meager salary increments, it was time for a true audit and get in touch with myself.

That’s how my pace slowed at my workplace, I became more rude and acquired a new don’t care attitude. I had taken work so seriously, as a matter of life and death. I didn’t know that I’m dispensable and can be sacked any minute and be replaced instantaneously, and none, even my most valued boss would give a damn whether I survive after that or not.

As I paced leisurely home, I saw Mama Onyango packing her wares ready to go home. She used to supply us with Tilapia and ugali in the office at Sh 250.
She was all alone.
I didn’t mind my office position, nor the dingy nature of Mama Onyangos open cafe, I had to put my pride down and my innermost soul told me to sit there and chat with her.

Me: Umebakisha chai!
Mama: Ndio, karibu mkubwa
Me: Niwekee. How is business and jua kali iko vipi?
Mama: Si mzuriii na sio mbaya.I have managed finishing my  house in Ruai and my children are going to school comfortably. Two in secondary and one in primary. Mzee aliniacha akaenda kuoa mwingine… I thank God.

I almost dropped my cup of tea, knowing very well that my two primary school kids had fees arrears.

Me: Tell me mama, how much do you make per day?

Mama: Unaona boss, mimi sikufichi.
I sell 100 Tilapia’s each sh200 per day and similar units of ugali at sh50.
That is sh25,000 daily. My profit is sh15,000 daily. I haven’t counted tea and mandazis.
Me : Asante sana.

I gulped up my tea and disappeared into the crowd.  I walked faster than usual, angry, disappointed, more focused and lethal to any retrogressive idea that would pull me backwards.

Quick calculation yielded a profit of over sh300,000 for Mama Onyango per month.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the last time the office saw me. I amassed my little resources hit into juakali industry in a huff, not worried whether I make it or not.

If Mama Onyango can make it, who am I?

A new me, boldened, toughened, sharpened, rejuvenated, and walked out of Mama Onyango’s cafe that day, never to be same again.




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