It was the kind of afternoon better spent indoors—the sun inhospitably bidding farewell and the air getting colder as small but harsh gusts of wind catapult handfuls of dust into the air.
Many people filed the road, hurrying home to seek shelter in their shacks. Vendors packed their goods and loaded them onto bicycle taxis, calling it another lousy market day.
But our circle of men showed no sign of abandoning the usual rendez-vous at the string of shops we consider the navel of the ever busy ghetto market square.
Atcheya, the ghetto’s revered tailor, was hosting us under his low perching veranda, busy running his squeaky sewing machine.
The subject at hand was a local football match at a tired stadium 320 kilometres away. And moments into the topic, Atcheya, in his nature, abruptly ushered in a new topic.
‘Akuluakulu, koma mphepo imeneyi ungachigwire chiwala?’ He paused, tactically busying himself with examining the debris catapulted into the air by the gust.
We followed his eyes to the airborne big hearted birds of the ghetto struggling to maintain flight. It was ridiculous to think of spotting a grasshopper in the congested atmosphere.
Airborne thin plastic bags spun above rusty rooftops as if to celebrate a nation’s ‘failure’ to gag their existence.
‘Ndiponso fumbi lake limeneli, kapuku olo mende ungamuone pomwe walowera? Atcheya added.
We were unsure of the genesis of this matter.
‘Nkhani imeneyinso yachokera pati?’ Kamkwalala, the edgy Ghetto Pastor, was stunned, as usual, like he had just stuck his finger in a light socket.
‘Inu a Kamkwalala kodi simunamve? Akuti njala yathu sitadalire nsima yokha; tidyenso zoulukauluka komanso zokwawa!’ said Atcheya while cutting a twist of thread with his razor sharp incisors.
‘Kodi mmene chilala chagweramu, mendeyo adya chani? Alipo angataye madeya?’ Asked Magobo the lanky village truant, sipping the last of his high voltage brew.
Atcheya had ‘crookedly’ diverted the attention from the match as his team was being dragged to a draw by nameless league minnows. He went on and on with the matter of mice and grasshoppers, guarding the circle from coiling back to the game.
‘Njala yafikadi povuta. Koma mpaka tiiwale mipingo n’kuyamba kudya agwede?’ Atcheya stepped on the gas, and laughed mockingly.
It was then that my usually quiet neighbour cleared his throat and cut Atcheya’s free run dead.
‘Atcheya, kodi kudya amende kukhale nkhani?’ My neighbour took off with might, and we all straightened up to listen. It was when my neighbour lectured on how even other nations and regions have also discussed the bright side of turning to alternatives to avert hunger.
‘Ndiponso mbewa zikupezeka ndithu; paja zimadzisungira zakudya,’ my neighbour signed off.
Atcheya was raring to say something, but we knew all it would be just to distract us from facts raining from my neighbour.
Atcheya at least had to win this one—his team had been shamed to a draw by nameless youngsters!
He fidgeted in his chair, then announced we had to leave for he was about to close shop.