By Amarachi Okpunobi
I am Chindu. I am born, raised and made of the street. I do not know my age, all I can tell is that I am getting taller and growing hairs in weird places around my body. I was told that I had no parents ,neither brothers nor sisters. That was what they told me and I believed them. I guess it’s needless doubting such a sad and pathetic story of a little kid. I sleep under the buses in the park. Every morning, I am woken up by the sound of a very big bell that rings in a mighty Church near the park. In the early hours of the morning, people will go into the church and few hours later, they are out and the day breaks. I have no hope of going into such gathering of people. Had it been that I was a beggar, I may have stood by the gate side and asked for alms or maybe a cleaner or any such thing like that but I am none of them. I am not a normal kid, I am only a street kid.
I began to see life in a clearer view years back when I realized that I was actually alone on this place called earth. I knew not my parents or any relations. I found myself in the street, living in the street. Maybe I am that child that had been abandoned by a poor or a desperate mother who also belongs to the street. Maybe, a child that nature has decided to show the face of cruelty. Stories had it that I was a little kid when a mad woman found me in her abode, and nobody could tell of who dropped me. Few months later after I began walking and learning how to use my auditory abilities, I was told she was sent to the land beyond by a vehicle who had failed break as she was about to cross the road leaving me walking slowly behind her. I had always wished that I was crushed alongside with her, that way I won’t have to tell sad stories like this but I am Chindu, I lived on.
The street is not a place anyone would wish for. It is not a pleasant place to dream of. Made of the street, I have heard and seen so many street-like things happening. You wouldn’t dare to witness them, scary and ugly things. I survived from picking wasted food in the pack to begging and to carrying loads for those fragile ladies who are born not with silver spoon rather with golden spoon. Some, I end up picking their pockets. You may judge me, that’s ok. But, before drawing a conclusion about me, try to wear my shoe and feel how much it hurts. These classy ladies I believe are those ones who run the street from their comfortable homes. I bet such people makes money at a flip of their fingers.
It is so sad and frustrating that the park where I passed my night has become an easy and fast route for a quickie. The street walkers pay the security men and most times, these men insist on getting their own portion of the night dish before granting their permission. I have no problem with this, but the jerking of the vehicles and the noisy groaning and moaning of the both parties in the empty vehicles gave me sleepless nights and always left my eyes dancing de ja vu. I do not judge these men and women who have decided to give me sleepless nights even under the cold. I have come to learn that we all will always have an excuse to give at every action we make even when we know it’s not enough to justify us. Who then will judge whether a reason you have is valid enough to make a stupid decision? That is life for you and me. It’s a personal business. You make your decisions and choices. Any other interference doesn’t matter without your permission.
Talking about the ugly things that happen, quickie is no way measured to some others I have seen. So many molestations, so many sexual harzards. There was this night I had an eye sore. One that really left tears in my eyes is the case if Idimma. A young girl, almost the same height as me. I was sure I had seen her during the day hawking groundnuts and cashew nuts. I had sat under the bridge waiting for sleep to call but it seemed like the heavens had shut the gate of sleep. I sat down watching vehicles zoom in different directions in a very high speed. I imagined how one of them must have crushed my foster mother. My mind wallowed in emptiness but still filled with great dreams. What if I was born in one of those families that have luxury? What if I was even born to one of those hawkers who roam during the day and night. I imagined being in that big screen where every passerby would at least see my face and make a compulsory halt. Maybe I would be the governor, senator or even the president. I journeyed in the world of fantasy with big dreams. The tears and fainting cries of Idimma and the raging voices of some angry and heartless men drove me back to reality.
‘She still dey do gra gra’? a coarse and angry voice from under the bridge barked.
‘You know dey happy say able men like us wan service you’? another snapped.
Idimma pleaded to be set free but the men gripped her tight.
I watched the first guy strip his trouser and somewhat that looked like a boxers and pressed forward and backward on Idimma. Over and over again he jerked on her while other guys hailed him. Time after time the guys did same thing like the other but in different position.
I saw everything. I watched in tears and shouted. But I never heard myself. My voice seemed to have flown away to the skies and hot tears drooped down my feet. I had these goose pimples that filled my body like chicken pox and disappeared few minutes later. I began to wonder how wicked men have become. I remembered a pastor that preaches in the park. He would always say that in creation, man was made innocent and kind, caring and good. But men grew to be wicked and heartless, devilish and devious. Then God sent fire and destroyed their city. The Pastor would say that God will soon destroy the world just like before and take away the righteous. I kept to my heart and thought where these bad men would go if God comes to destroy the world and where I will be too.
You get luck say we no dey wicked, you for lick akamu, the first guy said with a fake unpleasant smile.
Idimma remained that way and cried. She tried to stand and fell back again after the guys had their turns of her flesh. I wanted to be of help, but couldn’t find the courage to tell her I witnessed everything. I found solace in my legs and went back to my sleeping place.
I have lived in the street and I have survived. I am not poor, neither am I rich. All I know is that each day I will make money. You can again judge me. It still doesn’t change the fact that I am Chindu, the street boy. Wondering how I make my money? Of course those classy ladies do not give enough to live with, so the boy has to survive. I have this man that comes to the park every week with counterfeit currency of One thousand Naira Notes and I pay him from the money I make from other means. What I do is this, in the afternoon when the road is stuffed with people, I buy a drink pay with one of the money. Before the week runs out, I must have gotten more than the money I paid to get those counterfeit. You may think of me a lucky boy but I am not. I was almost beaten to hell the other day by some angry passersby. I had bought my drink and paid, just immediately the woman called me back and gave me back the money. I denied ever seeing that kind of me. Believe you me, it was only God that saved me from them. Before I could figure out a way of escape, they pounced on me and that created a scene. That day remains history to me. On the contrary, I did not stop. It only made me to be more careful, that is street.
I have also seen blood. Trailers crushing human beings like ants. People killing people in the cause of fighting. Jungle justice! People burning people to ashes. Dead people dropped on the highway without identification. So many ugly things.
The street is truly not a place to be. It makes one wicked, cruel, empty and useless. It tears one and leaves one with nothing. The kids in here suffer the most. We steal, fight and do whatever we can to survive. The goal of all our struggles is to see tomorrow. We are not born bad or naughty kids. The street made us that way. It hurts me most that some eat from palatable plates while some eats from the dungs. But that I have also come to learn is life. It does not treat all equally. Fate does not help too, sometimes it becomes a fickle mistress. The government also have their part to play to bring that light to us. I am not handicapped but I am from the street. To whom it may concern, not only those kids who are seen hawking or handicapped need help. We all need help. From our neighbours and the whole world. We all need help.
I wish to wear good clothes, I wish to be loved and cared for. So many of us have our bodies intact but mentally handicapped. We need hope. That hope that shines a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, I have survived and I will survive. Some do not survive, just like my foster mother. We die in pains, horror and we are born again into the same street.
My name is Chindu, God of Life. People call me Ndu-life. Born and made from the street. I am street!