There are nights when, for lack of better things to do, I find myself dreaming of peaceful and welcoming streets in this damnation of ours. I dream of spectacular sunsets and warm night breezes and nights where I can see the beauty of the moon and stars in the sky. Sometimes in those dreams I am a towering creature with giant rolls of eyes that rotate over my head and see everything, and an authority which dwellers of this forsakenness revere with all might. Sometimes I am a dwarf, a nobody, but caught in the assurance that I am home and home is good. My soul hovers around assured that as long it is not peeing, dreaming is good. And in this good I see the good of our place.
Yet the city remains what it was in 1496: an untidy, noisy jungle with concrete heights where hearts should have stood. I wake up every day to a ruthless span of havoc committed to trampling on anyone and anything for survival. Full of emptiness, cracks and shit. People crawling from their night hideouts like jiggers every morning and crawling back to hide from the night every nightfall with frustration, insults, hunger, pain and inability drawn on their foreheads. And the smell! Do they ever smell, these people?
If you came with a smell camera here you would capture all sorts of terrible stuff. You would smell greed. You would smell loans. You would smell mortgage. Gun powder. Abortion. Disease. Palm readers. Diviners. Cops. Worry. Brokers. Lawyers. Liars.
Thieves. Smoke. Jews. Slavery. Cons. Indians. Adrenalin. Men.
All in one breath.
These streets smell everything that can be smelled on a lazy Sunday afternoon like now. Yet they are our home today. We might tread on the endless roads and dream all dreams, but one fact we cannot run away from is the simple reality that this is home. That, as much as we still walk around and show off to our friends over what we have acquired and amassed. Sing with me this song:
Saa sita yulire
Khwenya khutsia ingo
Inzala ili munda…x100
Twelve oclock is come
We want to go home
Let’s bid farewell to Teacher
Hunger is in the stomach
When I joined nursery school at Musenda, now Mukambi Baptist Primary, this was the song Mwalimu Everline (auto-correct says Eveline) taught us for a whole year. I remember how counting was some piece of hill and how I would eventually jump into the sky with my small voice whenever she broke into the song. Nothing much in it perhaps, but so much still. And then today before I began writing this I thought about it and cried. Okay, I didn’t wail or shed a tear but still a mourner would not get more solemn – that’s how men with beards cry. If you once were a sharp student you’ll often get nostalgic with that teacher. Yet this was far from nostalgia. It was the realisation of the passing time and how helpless we are in the face of Time. Just yesterday you sang a happy song and today it is no longer there. What is there instead is the truth that between yesterday and today are twenty-eight solid years gone, and that tomorrow remains uncertain.
Every time I’m crossing the Central Business District going to Patel I think hard about me and Time. Knocking myself in the ribs of tough warriors fighting for space on the road. Against robbers. Against fools. To, and from serving the Indian brat. What do I get in return? Peanuts. Peanuts to last me the evening so that tomorrow morning I yawn rushing back to the slave yard to sell my muscle and life. Then some survey will come and say we are a hardworking nation in the right track of progress. They will survey the ever-changing skyline, the carpeted roads, gun imports, technology in use; and they will rank us best developed in the region and the elite among our neighbours will get jealous and criticise their governments for not getting it right like us.
When I dream I see quiet streets where people walk at their pace and have enough time to hold hands, embrace and wait for others. Where women smile back. Where laughter rings in the air and where pain is given time to heal. Then I wake up and find these roads where humanity is bound.
These endless roads leading to no destination are our progress. Filled with humanity bound in the rush to defeat Time without knowing what a war with Time is.
There are people who were to meet here today but now they lie in their graves. There are people who crossed these streets this morning but have now been reduced to shadows of their names, folded and thrown in the bin of trash history. They were here with us, now they are mere concepts that will not be left to germinate even a mushroom. They went clutching at progress. Now we progress and leave them behind and we won’t apologise.
I too don’t know where this story is going. When I was still a college slave we had this professor who had undirectioned tales. He nonetheless preached lots of development jargon and went back to his office to wait for salary at the end of every month. Chedotum, the late, made it his mantra that Africans are poor because they are poor, and the evidence of them being poor is their economies’ overdependence on agriculture, because which developed nation depends on agriculture? He used to talk of GDP, MDGs, WFP, and everything else one must forget in the first year after college. I must say I enjoyed his lectures. At least till the time I set my first foot out of school and discovered that sixteen years can be wasted listening to epic bullshit.
Isn’t food agricultural?
Whereas there could be such a thing known as development, today as I cross the city back to my hole I realise that our development remains a series of numbers conjured up by greedy thieves so we can remain feeders to the world’s capitalist empire. Buildings will be erected, roads constructed and Kalashnikovs imported at friendly prices. Our foreign policy will fit into the World Order, our international ranking will rise and we will qualify for World Bank loans and foreign aid. Progress.
Then political rallies will be held after five years and we shall shout ourselves hoarse to return into office our dear leaders, or to elect afresh those promising to bring more of the progress.
Then one day we shall die. At the Cross Over we shall look back and assess our lives. What were our problems? Food. Water. The basics. What solved them? Nothing. Where was food? In the soil. Where were our hearts? Overseas. We had wealth? Yes. We had health? No. What did we buy? Roads. War. Dependence. Slavery. Taste. God. Progress.
I dream of the Day when we meet God and he forgives us our sins. When the sun that shines over the seas and waters, the beasts of the jungle, devils, mountains, all find favour in their Lord.
Patel and his wife must taste the wrath of Fire for all the wages they’ve cut from us, the insults they’ve insulted us, the racism they’ve meted out on us, the lashes they have lashed us and all the bad things they prayed against us.