I am taking a stroll in the lazy afternoon sunshine, enjoying watching my overstatedly long shadow mimic my stride.
Then I meet this middle aged man carrying a big old fashioned stereo.
He has a boy, about six years old, by his side.
‘Achimwene, ndithandizeni yasopo,’says the man.
Startled, I askfor a repeat of what he has just said.
‘Ndiika nyimbo ndipo mwanayu amenya dansi. Inu mukatipatsa kangachepe ife lero tikadya. Mwaiona imeneyo Biggy?’ he says as he puts the stereo on the ground.
I watch him as he fishes out a small plastic bottle from his saggy and greased jacket’s inner pocket. From it he takes a deep sip of some foul smelling alcohol, contorting his face like a squeezed lemon as feels the scathing liquor make it down his throat.
He then slips the bottle back into the pocket and forces a smile, showing me his teeth that are begging for a long overdue duel with a toothbrush.
The barefooted boy, holding a piece of sugarcane which certainly looks like was just picked from some mound of waste along the way, is all the while steadying himself for a gig.
‘Ababa apa pokha koma tikalandira mundigulireko chakudya. Ndili ndi njala,’ says the young boy, so miserably my intestines turn with wrath.
I look at the boy and in his eyes I see desperation. No capacity to unhook himself from the prongs of his father’s wishes.
And here is this silly man, making money out of the boy’s sweat and enjoying swigs of alcohol in between the boy’s dance turns. And the boy is crying for a bite that never comes.
According to the boy, the father has made it a routine to take him around for a ‘dance circus.’
But how much can you reason with such a tanked up father?
‘Mumakhala kuti?’ I gather some sanity to at least gauge how far the barefooted boy has come from.
‘Kwa Senti,’ retorts the father, taking another shot of his flaming pick-me-up.
‘Umapita kusukulu?’I ask the little chap.
‘Adzakhala ovina,’ responds the father.
‘Mayi ako alikuti?’ I try to look straight at the boy, somehow to show the loud mouth the question has nothing to do with him.
‘Ndili ndi mitala. Uyuyu niwaku banja laling’ono,’ goes the father, continuing to irritate me.
I feel like slapping the man. I feel like ‘doing something.’ But what can you do with this drunken soul?
He then presses a button on his old stereo, and out of it blares Jah Prayzah’s Mdhara Vachauya.
Vakanetsa unoti mdara vacha uyaa haa
Mudhara wachoishumbai noruma ahaa
Unyerere uchingosha inaa haa
Unyerere uchingosha ina ahaa
His cracked hands loudly clapping like two pieces of wood, the man breaks into dance himself. His hard and cracked soles scrape against the hard floor through holes in his slippers.
I tell the man my mind on his treatment of the kid and I quickly walk away.
In the growing distance are the fading insults from the man’s rotten mouth, ‘reminding’ me the child is his and I have no right over how he takes care of his business.
I let his rant pass for just another of that many instants that require no response.
In my head are thoughts about how many more of such children are caught in the jaws of irresponsible fathers. n