In the just ended Easter holiday, I traveled upcountry to spend time with my family. Little did I know I would be subjected to harassment from village folk who perceive city dwellers to be donors.
There exists a misconception among the rural folk that their counterparts who dwell in the city are living in comfort. They assume that when one is from the city, his wallet is fat with money. And like customers lining at the ATM to withdraw money, the rural folk all line up to withdraw money from city dwellers. Whereas I can forgive the illiterate and aged who might not be aware of the reality of the city life, I find it extremely difficult when those who should be in the know, knowingly pretend otherwise.
For starters, good life in the city is a mirage. It involves doing casual jobs to meet house rent, food and transport and occasionally remitting a few coins to the family back home. Some city dwellers live in much hardship than their rural counterparts. But when they manage to raise the bus fare to visit their rural homes, it turns out to be the harassment of their lifetime. Without sounding offensive, some of our people in Western Kenya are professional beggars in full time begging occupation. The begging syndrome is taking its toll among our people. Discovering this weakness, politicians are having a field day manipulating their votes.
Just immediately the bus brakes, a man from the ever-idle crowd of able- bodied men at the bus stage rushes to you, expecting to snatch a piece of hot cake from the city. He will shake your hand vigorously and inform you how he had dreamt of you coming home in his sleep the previous night. He will then offer to help carry your luggage even when it is a small folder. Without knowing, you have an escort as you head home. On the way, others will accost you with village news briefs, mostly to do with recent deaths. They are oblivious of the fact that with the infiltration of mobile phones, such news reached you immediately they occurred. When your escort has set the right mood, he will ambush you by narrating a moving fictitious story on how his family of eight has not seen corn meal for the last three days. As images of starving and emaciated kids flash through your mind, you are touched and reach for your wallet. It is very annoying when you later meet the person dead drunk, staggering home and unable to recognize you.
Women have their different style of mugging. They will come to offer prayers for your safe journey. This is fine, only that a keen observer will notice that some of them make the wrong sign of the cross. After the word AMEN, you will be expected to give a good offering to this group that has been kind enough to petition the deities for your safety.
The extended family members will also pitch tent at your home making you feel like an aspiring member of parliament. Telling them that you have no money is futile. They will inquire if you came on foot from the city. They will only desert you after milking you dry. You are lucky to still have money for your return ticket. Many are known to borrow money from local village banks or sell some property to raise fare to resume work.
I now know why most low and middle income earning city folks dread going home. It is very important for people to embrace the culture of meaningful and honest work and try to do anything constructive to earn a living. Begging is not only dehumanizing, but proof that one is not employing all his mental faculties positively.
Begging will never produce sustainable development. It is demeaning and enslaving. We only need to look at Africa, a continent that remains shackled in poverty and foreign control after 50 years of aid. We should learn to solve our own problems without looking for outside intervention.
By Mukhobi Muteshi
Editor, Khayega Times
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