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“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” ― Aristotle

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” ― Hélder Câmara, Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings

There was no food in the house. No item of food. No single grain of garri, rice, no oil or pepper, no fish or meat, no beans or nuts and any vegetable or spices. Nothing, except water. Abike rummaged through the house, which turned out nothing. She searched the nooks and crannies looking for non-existent victuals. She knew there was no food and it had been so for the past forty -eight hours. It was Saturday morning. She, however, had to search. There was no option but search for food anywhere she could get it seeing the three pairs of eyes waiting eagerly for her to supply what they would eat and silently asking her unanswerable questions.

Why do you suffer us so? Why give birth to us when you cannot feed us? Where is your famed mother’s milk of kindness? Is this the way we are going to die? Where is our father? Can’t he supply our needs? We are hungry, are you going to let us die? Where is your compassion? Won’t you give us food?

Abike looked out of the window at the narrow street filled with “instalmentally” built gigantic, multi storeyed buildings, like many leaning towers of Pisa. Formerly two stories initially, as Lagos Island became congested and balloons and the land diminish, landlords started mounting one storey above the other stories without caring for building or planning laws. The result: mishmash of many leaning towers of Pisa or Igunnukos* line-ups. If allowed, people would have built houses on the streets. The narrow streets were filled with people twenty-four hours seven days of the week. At 1.30 am in the night, you could get hot steaming food from Lagos Island eateries. The Island is a land of noise. Noise from vehicles intermingled with that of the record sellers’ loud speakers and the speakers of the innumerable and uncountable mosques and churches dotting the Island’s landscape. People’s pitter-patter walking sounds all times of the day completed the cacophony.

Gazing into the horizon, Abike recognised the dirt, overflowing refuse bins and stinking gutters that were never emptied or rarely emptied once. Every four or six weeks, the Lagos State charade titled ‘Environmental Sanitation Day’ is performed every month’s last Saturday; the day when, every activity stopped for four hours in the morning for supposedly environmental cleaning. She had been inured to the smell, the same way a typical Lagos Islander was not aware of the odour including that of the gutter commonly dug under most rooms in the Island’s old section. Looking back into the room she wondered what she would do for her children not to die of hunger. A look at the narrow strip called a room revealed two right-angled beds, wall hangers, with the thick curtain separating the beds from the little space remaining in the room. The room though choking was well arranged and neat. Something she owed to her upbringing and background. Her mother forced her to learn all aspects of house keeping in spite of the tons of palace servants. As her mother was wont to say, ‘your being a princess does not cancel your being a woman’. To her mother, a woman’s home is a reflection of herself and her soul. So Abike was forced to clean, wash, scrub and cook well. Looking at the room again, tears started dropping bringing remembrance.

No, you cannot do that

Why not?

Have you forgotten your background?

What about it?

You are unlike any other girl. You are special.

So, I can’t fall in love like any other girl or is it that I can only fall in love with special people?

Yes, you are a princess. You are not any other girl

But… but Princess fall in love. Why should I be different?

Your responsibilities. Your authority and the weight of community expectations. You are unlike any other person. You are an only child and Princess of a popular and well-known King.

So those responsibilities are more important than my needs, my personal expectations and feelings?

Yes, that’s the way the world is. You are a Princess and you are different

I don’t want to be different. Take your difference

She had walked out on her mother going into her large, luxuriously furnished room in the palace sulking. Minutes later, her mother knocked and entered her room.

Abike dear, it isn’t that I don’t understand what you are going through. I do.

No you don’t. If you do, you won’t be against my choice

I do, my dear I do

No you don’t, you can’t, have you ever…

Ever fell in love? Yes I had once but…

But what?

Abike, falling in love is good but marriage needs consideration before plunging in.

What considerations?

Abike, you remembered Olajumoke in the story don’t you?

(IMAGES from PixaBay)

                                                                                                                                           (To Be Continued)

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