It is getting late, about 7:30 PM. The gateman shouts out to the last person to get out. The gates are then closed; the market gates. The vendors however do not go home; they relay their commodities for purchase along the road by the market, using tadoobas as light. About ¾ of them are women; the rest are children. Items on display are mainly foodstuffs, almost entirely.
Across the road is a cinema hall, at least by the town standard. There are young ladies roasting maize for sale. Young men loiter about, some flirting with these young ladies. Two women carrying empty baskets, one with a baby on her back, approach the maize sellers and place their orders. They are however informed that all the nearly ready ones have already been booked. A shot of panic cuts across their faces. The one with the baby mentions something about getting punches if she reaches home late. Her friend however has a different story; she is already way too late and is going to get beaten anyway. She needs to get something for the children who she believes are now starving back home. From their conversation, I realized they are also vendors in the market and have been working all day without rest.
I crossed back to the side of the market to buy some pancakes. Another woman attempts to get service before me although I had paid first. Realizing my unease with the act, she apologizes then goes ahead to mention something about getting beaten for reaching home late. She then turns to another woman behind her, possibly her colleague, and tells her how she’s survived getting beaten for the last one week due to good sales that has enabled her provide enough for her husband’s glass of ALCOHOL! These stories did not shock me, but three testimonies of victims within 10 minutes are not for the faint hearted. In my head, I kept trying to understand how they talked these matters with such ease, though they are of a sex considered to be weak emotionally. It seemed though they had accepted this condition as their fate.
I am not one to take matters so deep at heart, but I did. Not because their stories were touching, there are worse stories I’ve heard. I allowed the woman to get served first, to which she joked about preferring me for a husband. Her colleague at the back however said something about all men being the same; harsh to their wives and sweet to the other ladies. As though she had agreed to that, she gave a hysterical laugh and told me these words, translated of course, “I have a small daughter, she dreams of becoming a doctor. If I give her to you, I give you my heart. Can you guarantee me that you may treat her as a doctor would treat a heart. I believe she will lose me as her heart and you will be her new heart, as you educated people say “sweet heart”?” Her colleague gave a hysterical laugh and she joined in as they walked away.
That got me thinking… well, I am still thinking.