You could barely see the lines on her almost white palm- stretched out in front of her semi-bent, semi-steady frame. She almost always had a big scarf around her neck and the look in her eyes never changed.
I felt myself reaching out to grasp her but had to stifle the urge. Compassion could be easily misinterpreted on the streets of Lagos.
I had grown used to seeing her every day at the bus stop. As people hurried past, she moved slowly through the crowd, steadied by her left hand on the back side of her waist; holding herself just erect enough to see the surging multitude of Lagosians briskly zooming off to work or wherever else they had to be that early in the day.
“E s’anu mi”, she muttered in Yoruba (the dominant language in the south-west region of Nigeria). Every day, same words, same posture, same environment. Occasionally, a sympathetic passerby squeezed some washed out, lower denominations of the naira into her frail, trembling hand and hurried along without a second to spare for her prayers of divine blessings, protection and reward for their kindness.
I looked and couldn’t help but imagine her life when she was just 20. Obviously she wasn’t born this way (or was she?). What happened along the way? At what point in her life did that shift occur? How was this beautiful older woman (she must have been a beautiful lady in her 20s as the present wrinkles didn’t fully succeed in masking that) spending her days when she was 25? I’ve tried to shake it but it’s been near impossible. Was it a lack of opportunity? Information? Help? What really happened? Hmmm…
In her daily plea for help, I hear a different sound. I hear the sound of a woman seeking, not really help, but survival. Her appeals were not to help her quit the pitiable lifestyle but to get through the day- to be back another day, with the same look, same dress, same line- e s’anu mi.
I wonder how many young people like me, in their 20’s are unconsciously towing this same line.
I wonder how many are seeking help to survive rather than help to get out of the mess altogether and lead a truly enviable life.
I wonder how many are seeking ‘help’ from relatives just so they could afford the same clothes, accessories or techie gadgets as their friends instead of seeking help towards financial independence. I wonder how many are seeking ‘help’ to keep up the false image of success and accomplishment, when there’s no foundation beneath it all.
I wonder how many are hoping to be spoon-fed into success. I wonder how many are still ‘hoping’ and waiting for things and people completely outside their control to get them started on their journey.
I’m wondering- do they really want help, or do they just want to survive at the expense of another?
And I’m still wondering…
P.S: Please pardon my spelling in the title just in case i got it wrong. None of my yoruba friends around at the time of publication could guarantee the exact spelling *covers face for friends*loll…