It’s often that I’d go spend time at some of the most unlikely places in the world, chatting with some of the most hopeless and destitute people, those kinds capitalism calls the necessary poor needed by the system to work.
Very often our broken chats lurk into territories I used to think are the exclusivity of the self appointed panafricanists or broken folks in the Diaspora turning to social for miseration.
Last week, I was at a sodabi (palm wine spirit) bar, and afterwards to a tchouk (sorghum beer) bar.
At some point our topic turned to be why are we so broken in Togo.
I said ‘because of we the men. We spend all our money drinking and buying lottery tickets’
‘We drink because we are miserable. We are not miserable because we drink. Without sodabi, what would we be? I think you don’t understand. Sodabi is not the problem. Misery and lack of openings is the problem. Do you understand?’ responded a guy.
‘Well said brother’, applauded another guy. ‘Sodabi helps with the stress of our life. Take away sodabi, maybe I’d become a thief or a murderer. God gave sodabi to the poor, so that he would live long enough to spot an opportunity. Otherwise, just ask the government to hang us all tomorrow morning at the market place.’ he continued.
‘One more drink for our fellow.’ hailed a guy.
‘wow… Unbelievable, Sodabi makes some people smart deh. Have you listen to my fellow. He speaks like a university graduate. He said the government should hang us. I agree. But they should hand this guy and that guy first as an example for the rest of us. They drink too much.’ said another guy.
A big laughter exploded.
‘Why me?’ asked one of the guy designated to be hanged. ‘mM wife will cry to much, I don’t want her to suffer.’ he completed.
Another big laughter followed.
‘Don’t worry about her. Your neighbor kodjo would care about her tears, and… ass’ said another guy.
We all laughed out loud, cheerful.
‘My father told me we are poor because of laziness and because we are stupid. I don’t know if my father is right, but it’s true that there are some lazy people here, and furthermore I think you are all… stupid… except myself’ said a guy while bottomupping his glass of Holy sodabi.
‘oboboboyi… Let make sure we know all the lazy people in this assembly of peers… Let designate them one by one. I hate lazy people. It’s five hours we are sitting hard here. I think some have to leave. Concerning myself, I have no home, so I can stay a bit longer’…
Laughters burst out of control.
‘My buddies, you can’t be serious a whole day. We have a guest (pointing at me) and you are behaving like alcoholics in a village. Aren’t we all now civilized people living in the city?’ a guy pondered without blinking.
‘Hahaha… Is Lolo too already civilized? He came from the village only last week?’
‘We now have electricity in the village. We are now civilized too. There are even white people in the village. Stupid people!!! Leave me alone’. protested the likely guy whose name is Lolo.
‘White? What are they doing in your village?’ asked a guy.
‘To develop the village. Don’t you know what white come to do here?’ vehemented Lolo.
‘One day, I’d like to eat that development when it’d be ready. It might be tasty. Do you know when the development would be finished? I miss life in the village.’ mused a guy.
‘Me too, I’d like to eat that development when ready’ I said.
‘Why God, why God do you surround me with so many stupid people? Development is not akume (maize dish here), it’s civilisation, good manners, electricity, water, road, nice building, etc. It means, we will be like white people, not black and poor. By the way I’m going to yovode (white people land) next week. Who would carry my luggages to the airport?’ said a guy with a funny face.
Hahaha, we all laughed.
‘Who is going to yovode? You? Makula… , Makula… (I’m dying of laughter), when they would run you the alcohol test at the airport, no one would allow you into the plane. By the way, what would you wear? You don’t have a suit, and your bafana (plastic bags) won’t be allowed to the plane.’ said a guy.
‘Look, lazy and alcoholic people, I’m going home. My new girlfriend might be waiting for me.’ said a taciturn guy while trying to stand up.
‘Girl friend!!!’ yelled the group.
‘Your dog is waiting for you instead. You, pocket less, money less, bike less, which girl would give you. Guys let bring him home. His girlfriend might beat him up on return.’ suggest a guy while trying to stand up too.
They all rised up, exited the brown curtain, took each other by shoulder and hip and intone a chant: ‘Life is good when you have friends. But you have true friends only when you are poor. I want to be rich, powerful, but I won’t have true friends anymore. Tell me why are my friends so poor? Is it because I’m poor or because poor are so friendly. Don’t drink sodabi. Sodabi is not good. Drink sodabi, but don’t chant on the street. Happy happy happy today, but where is my wife? Where are my kids? Sodabi took them away and here am I, lonely with the most stupid people in town. Sodabi I drink. Tchoukoutou I drink. If you don’t like that, my lord give me rat poison. Sodabi I drink, tchoukoutou I drink.’
The chanting folk disappeared in the nascent darkness while I headed to another drinking bar.