As cynical as I am I am usually saddened whenever I pass close to a beggar and just like that I imagined myself looking at the world from that point of view.
“Saidia, saidia maskini!”
Oh my God, is no one going to have pity on me today?
“Saidia, tafadhali! Thank you, thank you! God bless you!”
This must be my lucky day: he actually game me a twenty-shilling coin. Most people give me five-shilling coins and one-shilling coins or when they really feel generous a whole whooping ten-shilling is sometimes dropped into my rusted tin cup. Others actually spit at me in disgust and I cannot blame them, I am a disgusting sight: my eyes are bloodshot, my face is charcoal black from being bedaubed by soot and all the fumes from the cars that pass by ; my skin has become scaly like that of a reptile. There is mucus flowing and I mean flowing down my nostrils but I have no handkerchief to clean it up. My clothes are torn and stained with the food that I rummaged from garbage bins at dawn today. The sad thing is that I was not always like this.
I was a good student in high school, but I dropped out in Form Two because I was offered a job which I just could not refuse. We had been staging a play to raise money to construct a new physics lab in the school. Many dignitaries and celebrities were invited in addition to our parents and well wishers. On the final day, a man and his wife asked to talk to me. They were talent scouts for a film company and they were keen on getting me to star in a film their organization was planning to produce in the near future. They said they were ready to pay me a minimum of fifty thousand DOLLARS!
Which human being in their right mind would pass up such an offer on such a short notice?
Uhmmm…answer me WHOM!!
Just like I thought Noone!
The only hitch was that I would have to drop out of school. I loved school but I loved money better which made this offer even the more too tempting. It had always been a struggle to pay my school fees since I was an orphan and the bursary that I got was never enough. In any case, what harm was there in being an actor? It is an occupation like any other and maybe I would be soon acting with the likes of Leonardo de Caprio.
I must confess that I still felt guilty about leaving school at the end of that term, but I soon got over any remorse that had troubled me at first: filming the movie was fun and everyone thought I was an excellent actor. Once the movie was released, it was a blockbuster. I was soon signing contracts with other studios and had to engage an agent. I had undoubtedly started climbing up the ladder of fame and fortune and I was rubbing shoulders with rich and famous…. Hold on! Here comes a kind-looking lady…
“Saidia maskini! Ahsante sana!”
Another twenty-shilling coin? Hallelujah!
But where was I? Oh yes… Life was very good for me. I had many friends, a good house, servants, cars… everything you dream you want in life. A friend of mine then introduced me to the world of gambling and drinking. Thank God I never took the drugs but then it still took a toll on me. At first, I was scared of risking my money but once I got the hang of it, I plunged recklessly into any kind of gamble until Lady Luck decided she was no more on my side. I lost more and more heavily and soon that one bottle of Henessy turned into a crate of endless drinking. Soon, everything I had earned was gone and there I was without funds, without friends and without a job. No film agency was ready to trust the dipsomaniac I had become. I resorted to the only way I could get money: begging. No more fancy clothes, jewellery, drinks at the club, mansion in Muthaiga and don’t u dare forget the Nairobi babes… just the cold pavement and the begging cup in my hand.
Life is hard out here in the street. We have nothing to shelter us from harsh weather conditions, no ready cash for food and hardly any clothes to wear. The society is not ready to help either. It would be nice if they put up a shelter for us the homeless. With a roof over our heads, we could possibly get involved in money generating projects. The money we would make could suffice for our food and clothing. Volunteer teachers could possibly be found to teach the children… Eventually, we might be able to start our own enterprises…
The general public should not really look down on us when they come across us in the streets. We are humans after all, just like anybody else, only that life has not gone well for us. All we wish is to be helped to pull ourselves out of the desperate state in which we have fallen.
So, when you come across me on the street, please, do not spit on me; do not sneer at me! Give me a break and spare me a shilling or two… even a banana will do. But now I have to get back to work…
“Saidia, saidia maskini! Ahsante! Saidia…”