By Tabitha Marion
In Kazibora Town, people wake to busy mornings and stay too busy, creating massive income from everyday hustle. This was the case some months past, today, the story changes. Mtende, a cobbler at Kazibora Town at his usual corner where he carries out his daily duties of shinning and mending shoes, sees how things have changed. He recalls how busy days used to end with people fighting for matatus to take them to their destinations while now people close their businesses and take on foot covering distances to get to where they are going because of high transport costs.
Mtende looks around and spots hawkers who sell goods to travellers knocking at car windows with no people inside. The hopelessness on their faces makes him shrink in his seat in terror, thinking of what happens to their families if that is the only source of income. He sadly turns his eyes away and looks at fruit vendors burning in the hot evening sun, trying to sell. The agony, wrath and misery prick his heart and stir up torrents that disturb his inner peace.
In distress, Mtende holds his head between his hands and stands up. He wants to shout, but he does not have the voice. He wants to cry, but no tear falls. He packs up his tools, closes his shade and begins to walk. On the streets, Mtende passes several beggars asking for alms. Some want food, medicine- as they look ill- while others, clothing would do them justice. Hand-tied, he walks on, feeling pity. He boards a matatu, the conductors shouting that the transport cost seventy shillings when it was thirty shillings before. He dips his hand in his pocket and takes out only twenty shillings. Silently he turns and walks away, his head hanging. He joins the rest of the people on foot, trekking to their homes.
Mtende thinks through how his work paid well enough to cater for his family needs. He could take his children to school, feed them properly and save up. Right now, hungry children wait for him at home. Children who need a listening ear from their hurting parents. Children who need shelter, clothing, costly books, and other items for the school curriculum, and above all, food to keep them strong and going. But where does he get all that?
This is the state of thousands of Kenyans whose voices are yet to be heard. The society has turned from “dwelling in unity, peace and liberty” to “a man eat man” society because the economy is too tight to accommodate all. The hard times are not only hard physically; it exists in the minds of people, their hearts and their souls. The agony of trying so hard to put a meal on the table or to fend for families is draining people of peace, energy, and the willingness to persevere.
It is well put that “desperate times call for desperate measures.” The validity is witnessed when mothers take the lives of their young ones in the name of ‘I cannot provide for them in such tough moments’. Children are dropping out of school because their parents cannot afford to cater for school and basic needs at once. The times we are in calls for the government to intervene and elevate living standards. Progress and development for a nation are good, but if it involves straining its people, it is in for a downfall. I quote Winston Churchill, “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”