niI rushed into the staff bus at about 7.45pm, grateful to have gotten the last seat, which was right next to the driver. The chair wasn’t horribly comfortable, and I knew it was only a matter of minutes before my butt began to protest, but at least it was on the only place in the over-crowded bus that didn’t require squeezing. My seat was quite interesting; I had a wide screen view of the road, which meant I could learn the route from VI to Anthony via Ojuelegba, which might be useful when I finally get a car (yay!). But till the bus moved at 8, I had to sit and wait, swatting at the invisible insects that were trying to do damage to my (sexy) legs.
That’s when I saw something that caught my attention. It wasn’t really out of the ordinary for a day in Lagos, but there was just something … oddly sad about it.
A girl, probably not more than 12 or 13, was quietly drifting around the car park, an almost-completely-empty tray of those boiled groundnuts on her head. She didn’t seem to be making too much of an effort to verbally advertise her wares. Instead, she just continued to move about… left to right… back and forth, silently observing the well-dressed men and women that were waiting for their buses to fill up and go. Each time a new person came into the park, she would move in that person’s direction, obviously in the hope that the person would see her and want to buy the last batch of her groudnuts. I felt like just buying the last of her goods, so she could go home.
I had a few thoughts just then. Why should someone so young be out this late? If she was as good as done selling, why didn’t she just go home? Did she really have to sell what was probably not more than N20 or N30’s worth of nuts before she could go home, after parading the streets all day?
It was depressing as I observed it then. This mostly invisible entity that is part of our daily lives. Really young children, up before dawn and up till the ungodly hours, selling and supporting their families. Most of the times, their parents alive and well. Just poor. Or lazy.
It irks me immensely when I see adults, especially beggars and hawkers, sending kids that are just about old enough to count to 100 to the streets and expressways, risking their lives, health and education while they sit nearby under some umbrella or something, watching; or in some cases, out of sight in the safety of their shops or homes.
I understand that poverty is rampant. So is ignorance. And such things make me realize that the government isn’t doing enough to outlaw child labor. Or poverty while we’re at it. The rich keep getting richer, charities are unheard of, and the lower class is suffering.
I mean, I don’t want to get political or anything, it’s something I strive to avoid on my blog… But this is an issue that’s close to my heart. I genuinely get MISERABLE when I see a certain set of people on the streets.
One time, I was on my way to Agbara (some people should try passing that route one day and see the state some people live in), and I got off one of my buses. It was late, and I was hurrying to find the next bus. That’s when I saw this woman, as I walked. She was kinda old, like 40-ish, very mother-y, but her clothes were dirty and she was sun-darkened and she just stood on the side of the road aside from the human traffic, and the look on her face broke my heart. She looked distraught… no, almost hopeless, for lack of better words, and she just stood there, appealing to every one that passed. She then made this gesture, putting her fingers together and pointing to her mouth, like she was hungry. I was suffering a bit myself, and had just about enough to get home, so I couldn’t indulge her. And as I continued to see her until I walked past I swear I felt this huge heaviness load up on me, and all kinds of thoughts rampaged me again. ‘She’s someone’s MOTHER’, ‘Imagine if that was YOUR mother’, ‘She looks so destitute’… It was a creepy moment, and it lasted for about 10 minutes after I saw her. All I could think of was, if only had a little more to help her out…
Same thing applies to some market women I see, selling little, cheap things like candles and stuff late at night, their candle-thingies shadowing their features, knowing full well that even if they sold all their stuff that night, it probably won’t keep them for 3 or 4 days.
Maybe I’m imagining it. Maybe I’m just so easily emotional about some things that I over-dramatize a situation in my head. But I know it isn’t. Hoprefully one day I’l be able to do a lot more about it.
On the flipside, there are some people that garner no sympathy at all:
We’re in a bus, and it stops at a junction to wait for opposing traffic. All of a sudden, I hear this man say: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I have come to appeal to you. I am hungry. And I want to eat. I am not asking for a car or a house, just N30 rice with N20 beans, with one piece of N20 fish, and a sachet of pure water. The woman that sells it is down the road. Look. It is not much.’ Because of my blind eye, it takes a moment to realize the guy is OUTSIDE the bus. When no-one answers, he says: ‘Is it because I am not claiming church? Look-‘ and he repeats his request again. He goes on demanding why we were ignoring him, that he’s not asking for much, and finally, out of frustration someone gives him N100, and it takes him a moment to boot, but he thanks us and goes off. After an odd silence, everyone starts laughing at the guy’s demanding audacity. Nigerians.