Hon. Hajji’s Bigger, Better

Mrs. Hajji was talking her husband’s ear off about the children. “Rose …this…. Paul ….that…. and Minysteria’s just rude.” Hon. Hajji didn’t indulge; he had already said what he needed to say about his children to his children. Not to say, he wasn’t bothered by the disappointment they had brought him; but rather he did not care to speak his wife on this matter as she would just fuel the fire. She was the eternal bad cop when it came to their Super Parenting Team; Hajji suspected that this was only because she would rather have all his attention to herself and all the wealth too. Hon. Hajji imagined how amazing it would be if his wife and children weren’t so spoilt; if they did not act as if privileges afforded to them were rights. Had they raised the children wrong? Or was it the pressure of being in the political eye for most of their formative years? He reminisced about the days when Paul, his son looked up to him and followed him everywhere possible. Now it seemed as if he strayed as far as he could from his father and his career path. He looked back fondly at the days when Roselyn had big ceiling-shattering dreams that did not involve her being naked or objectified. However, now it seemed that if it did not objectify her, she didn’t want it. Minnie was on the right track at least her career was; in a matter of fact that was the only thing going right in her life and Hajji suspected that her defects were much deeper than her siblings’.

 

These were not the children of a Career Politician; they were the children of an arrogant rich man. He unconsciously feared that his children and their failures were the main reason the party wouldn’t nominate him for the bigger better position he always pushed for. He had been in politics for almost 30 years now; 20 as a Member of Parliament with each election yielding better and better results but nothing higher.  He wanted to move on to bigger better things. Even though he held an enormous degree of power and influence, he had been limited to the same old constituency for 30 years. He felt like he was still someone’s henchman;  articulating orders that came from higher up. He still answered to the party. Like all first-timers, he had been honored to serve in any way at the beginning but 30 years of stifled policies and shot-down ideas left him with little honor and fleeting loyalty. He hadn’t decided on how he was going to break into this Bigger Better position yet but he knew for sure that he would have to fight a lot of adversity for it.

 

“Hon. Hajji! Hon. Hajji! Hon. Hajji!” It took Jabari three tries to get the Mheshimiwa’s attention, “I have the Party Chairman, Hon. Chacha for you on the line.”

Hajji immediately discerned that he was not in the right mindset to speak to the Party Chairman. “Tell him I’ll return his call after the charity event.”

“Yes, Sir. “ Jabari spoke calmly into his phone and turned to Hon. Hajji again. “He says it can’t wait.”

Hon. Hajji reached over for the phone, put his hand over the voice receptor and took a deep breath before putting it to his ear.

“Chacha! I didn’t think I’d hear from you until the next Fundraiser.”

“Ahaha! Hajji don’t kid me. We spoke last week. “The voice on the other side did not portray the playfulness of its statement. Hon. Chacha’s voice was stern and urgent.

Hon. Hajji’s eyes widened as he collected himself. He could tell that this was an important call. He asked dutifully,” What can I do for you, Mr. Chairman?”

“Your Annual Hajji Foundation Charity Event is today, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Now I may be divulging information that exceeds your rank but you are our most popular Member of Parliament in the area.”

“Last time I checked.” Hajji smiled a little.

“Well, we are far behind our projection targets for the General Election and we feel that only you would be able to boost us to where we need to be.”

“Chaaacha.” Hon. Hajji tried to level with the Party Chairman. “You know how I feel about talking politics at my Foundation’s events. In its 17 years, I have never.”

“This is not lost on me, Hajji. IT. IS. NOT. But President Kibaraka may not succeed in re-election if we don’t take some drastic measures. Ones that maybe we haven’t taken for 17 years or even more. “

“I don’t see how my remarks will tilt the scale.” Hon. Hajji was careful not to show too much of his apprehension. “Seeing as the president’s poll numbers fell right after the audits of those two government entities were released detailing deep-rooted corruption and rampant mismanagement. How did that even happen, Chacha?”

Hon. Hajji could feel the Party Chairman’s face turn bright red from the other side of the phone. His breathing was now heavy enough for Hajji to hear, lucidly.

“Now look here. You are either with the party or you are against it. You cannot straddle the fence and if you choose to, we will have to find you a new party to run with in the next general election. I call you with complements and praise and out of the benevolence and goodness of my heart, ask you, not tell you, to do something for me and you throw doctored audit reports and corruption claims in my face! Hajji, I must just say I am…. “

“I have offended you. I apologize. I will make a few remarks about our good ol’ president.” Hon. Hajji extinguished the fire before it turned into an inferno. A good politician knew when to compromise on his honor; that is if he wanted to remain a politician and an active one at that.

“You better.” Hon. Chacha hung up and Hajji passed the phone back to Jabari.

“How much longer, Jabari?”

“About 45 minutes”

Hon. Hajji turned to his wife, “How do you feel about an independent Member of Parliament for a husband.” His voice tried to convey perky and casual but came out jaded, just jaded. His wife was not known for concealing her immediate emotions; in fact it often worked to his disadvantage as his wife would openly sneer at press conference and ugly cry at politician’s funeral. She was photographer’s candy at any event they attended. However, Hon. Hajji loved that his wife wore her emotions on her sleeve, he could always tell what she was thinking; what she was feeling. Lying between them was simply not an option. It had kept them together for forty years and it would keep them together even longer, maybe even forever. But this time was different, her face went blank; no expression; no emotion; nothing.

“Martha? Did you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“And?? What do you think?”

“I don’t know……”

“Don’t know what??”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Henry! “ Martha raised her voice a notch.

“What does that mean? I want your opinion. I thought that was clear.”

“No; you either want me to talk you out of it like I’ve always done or you want me to act somewhat supportive while you throw away 30 years of building rapport and coming up in the party.” She looked Hon. Hajji dead in the eye, her stare piercing his soul, revealing years of dissatisfaction and discomfort working in the party, “So which one is it, Henry? “

“I’ve been back and forth about this and that call from the Conniving Chacha just sealed it. I can’t stay. Winning party or not. The rot is deep and the most rotten lead us like dictators. “Hon. Hajji sighed. “I’m not ungrateful; at least I didn’t mean to be. But this is the party that plucked me from university politics with big dreams and better promises. This is not the party that gave me a platform big enough to get elected and help me finally implement some of my ideas for development. Somewhere, some when, somehow the party began to rot from the head down leaving me surrounded by people with whom I do not share a common principle or dream. I want Bigger! I want Better! And if that is to come true, the party is not the best channel with which to do it.”

“I’m going to be blunt, Henry Hajji, because that is what you need from me right now.” She looked away while she continued. “This country was built by men like you, Henry. That is why the party saw something in you so many years ago and funded your campaigns. And Unlike that party, you are still the same man; wiser and bolder but still governed by the same integrity. That is not something many men in your position can say honestly. You have not allowed your principles to fall for the spoils of power, and that has made you the most popular man in this region. From where we sit, it looks like it all works in your favor. But while you were busy developing your principles and standing by them, the country, just like the party, changed; and not for the better. Look around Henry, that Conniving Chacha orchestrated the selling of his country to foreigners. What he didn’t sell, he privatized and kept for himself and his cronies. He placed a puppet at the top and began to pull his strings. You wouldn’t just be fighting the party opponent in the constituency if you were to run independent, you’d be fighting Chacha, the party, the president, the whole damn country! This may not be what you wanted to hear but it is every single bit true. Bigger and better, also means harder and bloodier, Henry. ”

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Hajji’s Children

The Mheshimiwa’s office was relatively empty today; not to say that no one sat waiting for him; the man was always on demand but less than the usual number sat patiently in those dingy metal seats awaiting his counsel. Jabari stared at the clock then at the door… then at the clock again. He twitched nervously. Boss was later than usual. Even though Jabari had only been working for Mheshimiwa Hajji for a few months, he could certainly say he knew all there was to know about the man, when it came to his professional life at least. He actually prided himself in the fact that he knew the boss enough that he would always be able to provide what the man needed before he knew to ask for it. Regarding the boss’ personal life, he wasn’t quite sure if he knew the man well enough. Or if there was really anything to know.

Jabari had a painful childhood. He didn’t realize it till much later in life when he was afforded the luxury of seeing children grow up loved, cared for and spoilt unconditionally. Jabari never had close family, not normal family anyway. He had vague recollections of people so selfish that they abandoned him. He was born in the exotic ‘coast’ of the country where the weather was hot and humid and everything else including the people were cool and easy going. His parents made a mistake. He wasn’t even sure they were fit enough to be afforded the title of parents, to him they were just two random human beings who happened to reproduce. They were two young ignoramuses who cared a notch too little for anything or anyone, especially themselves. They had that going for them the day they met, so they went ahead and made offspring like all ignoramuses do when they’re idle too long. They were both drug addicts; Jabari’s grandma always said that’s what ‘kept’ them together and away from their son, Jabari. They sent Jabari to live with his grandmother and his cousins instead. His maternal grandmother was lovely and old, too old to care for 11 children; they barely scathed by.

For about 8 years, Jabari lived in the utopia where he had 10 brothers and sisters and grandma was actually mama. Then, his mother came back to the village. People like her only did that for two things grandma said; for money or to die. Grandma didn’t have any money. ‘The life’ had finally caught up with her in a viral way. She was seriously unwell, Grandma explained. Jabari had gone back and forth hating her then loving her then pitying her and finally cursing her. When Jabari was 12 after finally forgiving her, he became the sole caretaker for his mother. His mother finally passed away from complications stemming from HIV/AIDS, something they only referred to then as “Mdudu”. That was the first time Jabari heard of it. It was the most painful he ever had to experience to the day. He had slowly begun to forgive her as any child would, only to watch her writhe in pain and lose her brutally soon after. He had never met his father. But that was a bridge he had burned immediately after her death; a bridge he could not, would not rebuild. To Jabari, his father had died with his mother and family was who you made it.

Jabari liked to think that Mheshimiwa Hajji was a good father, if not the best. That the man did his best considering his circumstances to ensure that his family was loved and cared for. Jabari liked to think he knew his family too on account of all the thoughtful gifts and cards he bought for them, silently, on behalf of the boss. He would finally get to meet Mheshimiwa Hajji’s family today. They would be arriving in less than ten minutes in the car service he hired for them; a separate car for each. That meant Mheshimiwa Hajji was late. He was never late. Something felt strange to Jabari. He shifted uneasily, glancing at the clock again. Through the door came, Hajji’s son, Paul. Paul dragged his feet lazily and slouched making himself look a lot shorter than he was. His eyes gave away his dread to be there. He walked straight past Jabari into his father’s office and immediately walked back out. “He’s late. Everyone’s late. But I’m supposed to be the ‘bad’ one. I should have stood him up.” He began to whine and rant to himself in the middle of the room as if no one else was there. Jabari was staring at him so hard that he almost didn’t notice Hon. Hajji’s older daughter, Roselyne walk in. She screeched when she saw her brother, taking him into his arm kissing on the cheek and forehead cheekily, and Jabari’s attention, as well as that of everyone else in the room, was diverted to her.

“Where is he?” She began, drawing away from her brother who was cringing from the public displays of affection he had just received from his sister.

“You know he yapped for thirty minutes when I told him I wasn’t coming. Now, where is he?”

“That’s your misdoing. You know charity events aren’t optional for the Hajji’s” He imitated his father as his sister burst out laughing. They laughed for a little over a whole minute before they noticed the half-full room staring at them. They kept quiet and stood in the middle of the room awkwardly, aware that the eyes of the constituents were on them. Jabari did not miss his cue.  He was by their side in seconds to direct them to a room where they would be more comfortable. He showed them to the meeting room down the hall then dutifully went back to his post.

“Mr Hajji, Miss Hajji…. Follow me! We have a room set up for you. Can I get you anything? Tea? Water? Juice? Soda? We even have porridge!” Jabari offered vehemently but they only murmured their refusals and walked past him into the meeting room across the hallway. The room was a grand boardroom with large elegant mahogany table standing in the middle of it. The room smelt of leather and polish.

The youngest daughter came into the waiting room next. Minnie walked straight into her father’s office too then came back out exclaiming, “I’m not late!” She was ecstatic for a few seconds before also realizing that the masses were staring at her. She then walked to Jabari and introduced herself in a rather professional manner before he showed her to the meeting room. She was the more humble and cultured of the three, Jabari could tell immediately. She was received far much less enthusiastically by her siblings than by the bystanders in the waiting room. It didn’t seem to bother her that her presence came with an air of tension with a hint of discomfort. The Hajji children gave each other a few awkward stares before Oldest Roselyne cracked the silence,

“So why are you here?” She said. Her voice was cross, almost mean.

“What do you mean?” Younger asked in reply with no animosity in her voice.

“Well, you said you didn’t need us! You remember, Paul?” Paul turned away, not wanting to get involved in what was about to turn into a full-on sister fight.

“I said I didn’t need you, Roselyne. Me and Paul are just fine, yes Paul? How’s aviation school?” Minnie deflected heavily while trying to bring her brother over to her side.

“Then leave! Leave us Hajji’s!” Roselyne began to raise her voice from the edge of her seat. She would have gotten up and backed up her words but Mrs. Hajji strutted violently into the room.

“Where is your father?” Silence

“Hmm. Roselyne! Apologize to Minysteria. Now!!”

“Muuuuuummmmm!” The girls whined in unison. Roselyne in protest of the apology, Minnie in protest of the use of her full name. Mrs. Hajji ignored them and walked over to her son.

“How’s Aviation school, Paul? Dropping out yet?”

“Actually, mum,” Paul stood to give her his seat, “Yes! I want to do theatre arts now.”

“Theatre Arts? Sounds familiar. Roselyne didn’t drop out of the same class a few years ago. What are you doing now?”

“I’m on the circuit now. Getting more gigs now. My agent says I’ll be vogue famous soon” Roselyne twirled gracefully as she stood.

“Circuit? You know I knew you’d be a call girl, Rose. I just wish your father hadn’t wasted so much on those three incomplete degrees to realize it. He could have just listened to me.”

“I’m a model, mum!” Roselyne sat back down. She had been struck down.

“Model? Hmmm” Mrs. Hajji poked. “And you Minysteria! I hear you are now a manager at 24. Impressive! Your goal was by 22, wasn’t it?” Minnie was the only one who didn’t take her mother too much to heart. They were the same; they could take it and dish it ten times over.

“Yes but, I lost those two years in that Catholic Disciplinary Programme you made me go to cause I called you chubby.” Roselyne and Paul giggled shyly behind their mother while Minnie and her mother locked into a death stare.

“And to think! I didn’t let them cane the delinquency out of you.” Mrs. Hajji said while pulling out a small mirror and her make-up purse out of her bag. Her children watched her quietly; all reflecting and regretting.

The meeting room door creaked open. Hon. Hajji’s presence drew the attention of the whole room. Everyone in his family shifted; He was here, it was now time to behave. He was in a better mood than usual. Maybe it was the annual charity; it always made him giddy to gun up good press.

“How’s the Hajji clan! Excited for our annual charity ball? Roselyne? Paul? Minn?”

“Yes, dad!” They faked enthusiasm in unison.

“And you my love? How are you? Excited?”

“Like you don’t already spy on me enough to know my feelings.” Mrs. Hajji didn’t look up from her mirror. She just continued to elegantly color her face with a brush.

“How are you, kids! Paul, School?” Hon Hajji ignored his wife’s callousness.

“We can talk about it after.”

“Now” Hon. Hajji insisted with a gruesome grin on his face.

“I’m thinking of dropping out of Aviation School. It’s just not for me. I want to try my hand at Theatre Arts!” Hon. Hajji’s mind must have replaced what his son said with white noise cause he ignored his son’s absurd request and went on to his oldest daughter,

“Rose! How is that job of yours? Any luck?” He must have also forgotten what Roselyne did with her life because he would never and had never approved.

“I’ve been trying,” Seeing the good mood her father was in, she moved closer. “I’m gonna be on a magazine cover. Soon” Hon. Hajji didn’t crack but usually, the thought of his daughter on print and not to the aid of his campaign repulsed him.

“Minnie! My Minnie Mouse! How’s the old desk job?” Minnie hopped with excitement. She had been waiting at least two months to tell her dad about her promotion. She imagined he’d be over the moon about it.

“I got promoted, Daddy. You are now looking at SetiNel’s newest youngest freshest manager.” Hon. Hajji turned to Minnie

“That’s wonderful, honey. But what is happening with your siblings?” He now turned and walked up to his son. Looking him directly in his eyes, their faces about to touch, he bellowed, “Theatre Arts? You? A man? Want to spend the rest of your life acting like a woman in plays? Putting oranges where your chest hair is? Is that what men do?” Paul was silent. “Is that what men do?”

“No.” He murmured under his breath.

“I will be paying tuition next week. You will redo that semester you spent thinking about theatre arts.” He turned to Rose whose face gave away that she was obviously thrown off by the sudden change in attitude her father was having.

“So you’re a prostitute now?”

“Mmmmh-hmmm” Mrs. Hajji affirmed.

“No daughter of mine will have her nakedness spread all over the magazines. You think I didn’t know about those nude campaigns you’ve been doing. I have personally had each and every one of them taken down.” He moved closer to her, she cowered. “Who taught you to be a harlot? Your mother is such a graceful lady. Then look at you! Naked! An MP’s daughter posing naked? On camera? Not this MP. Not my children. Over my dead body.”  Hon. Hajji breathed heavily, angrily while his children stared at him in fear; all except Minnie of course. She sat feeling mighty and unscathed. However, the truth is that she felt ignored. Her father only noticed her when she did something wrong. In which case, he would scold her and give her the silent treatment for a few weeks. He brushed off the achievements like they were nothing and he expected much better. She wanted to follow his footprints into politics but he had simply retorted, “You’re too loud even for a woman to ever make it as a politician. You say what you feel and think because you think everyone cares. But the men of this country, they like it when their women know their place. Quiet. In the kitchen or with the children. Your best bet is to birth a politician.”

Hon. Hajji’s nostrils had widened and his eyes reddened now. He got angrier and angrier just looking at the bad investments that called themselves his children. Minnie had just opened her mouth to speak out when a soft yet authoritative knock was heard at the door to the meeting room.

“Yes?” Hon. Hajji called out loudly. Jabari opened the door softly, immediately noticing the tension that ensued. He walked over to the MP, leaned in and murmured,

“The car to take you to the event is ready. If you don’t leave now, you’ll be late.”

“Thank you. “ Hon. Hajji politely to Jabari. He then turned to his children; his wife was now conveniently done with her makeup.

“I was not a spoilt child. Your mother, though a little spoilt now, was never over privileged or lazy.” Mrs. Hajji sneered. “I don’t know why you all act like nincompoops. You wouldn’t last a day in the world without me. You are all old enough to fend for yourselves yet you still live in MY MANSION! The Hajji Money train is now out of service. You all have an education, yes? Good luck.” He walked away dramatically. Mrs. Hajji made a patronizing noise before following him out of the room.

It was Minnie who broke the silence. “I guess we need new last names.”

Hon. Hajji’s Monday Meeting

The gentle Monday morning sun had begun peeping through the small old-fashioned windows in the hallway leading to Hon. Hajji’s office. Everyone on the queue began shifting slowly to the magnificently lit side of the hall way to warm themselves of the chilly morning. It was 9 am and scattered murmurs and muttered coughs could be heard springing up all over in the queue. Hon. Hajji’s hallway always looked like this on Monday morning and throughout the rest of the day. The narrow hallway was littered by a snake of people stretching down from one end of the building to the other. Monday was the day he dedicated to his constituents and their petty issues. Nothing was too small for the Monday meetings at the Mheshimiwa’s office. Everyone who needed Mheshimiwa’s attention had to come on Monday morning or wait another week to vent appropriately. Not everyone got a chance to see him, so the queue would begin forming at the crack of dawn as no one wanted to miss their opportunity to speak to the Mheshimiwa, to have him change their lives. Mothers held their babies close to their breasts to feed them, while the men held their chins looking around impatiently. A few street children lingered trying not to set the others off with their foul smell while pregnant teenagers sat quietly though uncomfortably on the cold cemented hallway; some staring at their protruded bellies sadly. But none left that queue.

Everyone in that queue wore a glum look on their faces. It wasn’t entirely discern-able if this was because of the stuffy smelly hallway that most had been standing in since dawn or because no one ever came to see the Mheshimiwa without having a monumental problem that they believed only his extensive wealth and all-mighty influence could solve. His askaris would arrive just before dawn to make sure the queue was straight and that the ‘lowly civilians did not erupt in a frenzy of violence and disorder’; Mheshimiwa’s words exactly. They also came in handy as many people often fainted in the queue. They always said Mheshimiwa’s office was the best place to fall ill as he would order his askaris to rush you to the public hospital and Mheshimiwa would clear all your bills too. Heaven for the ailing peasant!

That particular Monday morning, Hon. Hajji strolled into his office building at 12:15 pm exactly that afternoon. Everybody in the queue noticed it on account of being forced to stare at the enormous grandfather clock in the hall all morning; it played the most horrible bell ensemble on the hour, every hour. Women could be heard ululating and celebrating his arrival while some shifted uneasily readying their unworthy selves for his presence. Pregnant mothers stood up in a haste clutching their stomachs, to meet him while he shook hands perhaps catch a glimpse in his eye and rack up enough sympathy to raise their children on charity. The men on the other hand cleared their throats, stood up straight and tried to get a word in before he moved on to the next ‘victim’. Street children all swarmed around him while mothers held their sons and daughters back as they tried to join the filthy clan at Hon. Hajji’s feet. In that moment, at 12:15 on a hot Tuesday afternoon, every man, woman and child on Hon. Haji’s executive floor held the illuminating hope that Today Mheshimiwa would solve all their problems and begin their cycles of blessings and prosperity. All their hope and faith they put in him, every single one of them. He found quite cultic, to be honest, as if they fasted and prayed in his name and worshiped him with great song around their dinner tables (or mats) before they partook in what might be the last meal they ever had.

Nevertheless, Hon. Hajji knew very well, this was what politics was about. Where he was from, the only requirement for politicians was a band of fanatics. Public officials rarely got elected unless they built the largest ‘fan club’ usually with money and empty promises or they were endorsed by another politician’s large fan club; that cost a large sum too and even more loyalty. Hon. Hajji had built his voter army in the small rural community where he was born. His mother had always been a vocal part of the community and before she puffed her last she had made sure her influence flowed smoothly over to her firstborn son. Even so, he still had to keep buying it somehow like a magazine subscription; hence the enormous queue outside his office. He gave the crowd one last wave before he stepped into his office and slumped heavily into his seat. His assistant followed him closely, closing the door behind her.

“The governor called, he wants to see you today.” She began, with no salutations while Hon. Hajji used an antiseptic wipe to kill off everything he may have picked up shaking hands outside his office.

“Tell him I’ve got a million constituents at my door, he can wait with them if it pleases him or make an appointment.”

“The bridge project has stalled.” She continued, ignoring his disrespect to the governor

“What? How? Call that Njoroge and tell him if he doesn’t start soon. We will put out another tender. A real one this time! We both know he’d never win one of those”

“Yes, sir. Lastly, how many people do you think you will get around to seeing today?”

“How many did I see last week?”

“100, sir”

“Today, make it fifty. I want to be home early.”

She nodded and turned to let the first constituent in. Hon. Haji first walked over to his office safe. From it he retrieved four large bundles of cash notes and lined them up at the edge of his desk closest to him. He returned to his seat, closed his eyes and began to gather all his wit and patience for he was about to deal with a constituency’s problems. It was a malnourished middle-aged woman, with her three equally malnourished bashful children who interrupted his meditation as they stumbled through the doorway. Her children all stared at Hon. Hajji from behind their mother’s skirt; one she had been forced to patch one too many times. Hon. Hajji sat up in his leather recliner.

“Madam. What is your name? Would you like to have a seat?” She shook her head vigorously. Hon. Hajji knew she was not accepting the offer because she felt unworthy to sit right across from the Great Mheshimiwa Hajji; most of them did the same.

“Ok then. How can I help you, Mama?” He resorted to the native language, trying to make her feel equal, comfortable.

“Mheshimiwa,” She bowed even if she didn’t have to. She truly was not even meant to. “It’s my husband.”

“What about him can I help with?” Hon. Hajji already knew where this was going. It was always the same story in a way.

Her husband was an alcoholic, “My husband likes to drink,” She swallowed hard, she was embarrassed, “A lot!” He urged her with an energetic nod.

He rarely comes home, maybe never? “Mheshimiwa, me and the children have not seen him for five days now. Five! Five!! Mheshimiwa, five!! ” She waved her stretched-out palm in the air as if it were the weapon she’d use to ‘discipline’ her husband when he finally decided to return. Hon. Hajji spoke calmly, leaning in.

“Do you have a job, Mama?” She shifted uncomfortably

Of course, he wouldn’t let her work, “I once worked at a salon in our village making young girls look pretty. But I was very young then myself. When I had my firstborn son, my husband insisted I stay at home and look after him. He hasn’t allowed me to go back since.” She dropped her head and began to stare intensely at her feet. Her face was now burning with shame and guilt. She didn’t speak for a moment but Hon. Hajji already knew what she would say next.

Give her money, She wants money.  “Mheshimiwa! I am not a charity case. I am able and I know that. And very soon,” She pulled her eldest son from behind her, “this one here is going to be old enough to do casual work. And might I add, he is very strong for his age.” She went silent again, now staring at the top of her son’s head. Her eyes began to moisten. She rubbed a rogue tear away hastily when she noticed her other two children peep up at her from behind her skirt.

“Mheshimiwa,” she spoke softly now, “It is just that this man has left me all alone with three of his children and no source of income and we do not know when he will return. My children cry at night because they cannot sleep because they are hungry.” She moved closer to his desk so he could see her bitterness, he sat up to move further away, “We haven’t eaten for three days and two nights, Mheshimiwa. I am afraid I am not able to feed or care for my children. I am scared for their lives and their health.” Tears began to choke her when she saw Hon. Hajji pull out two notes from his first bundle.

“Mama, I know you are loyal to your husband. But you also said you are able. You must go out and find yourself another job, no matter what it is, no matter what they pay. You hear me, Mama??”

“Yes, Mheshimiwa” She replied without shifting her eyes from the two notes in his hands.

“Take this. Feed your children. It should keep you until you find work.” He handed her the money. Her lips curled so wide while she crumbled the notes and stuffed them deep in her enormous bosom. Her children instantaneously began dancing around knowing three days of torture had just ended.

***

“Send in the last one!” Hon. Hajji bellowed over the intercom to his assistant. He had seen so many people all day, he was getting grumpy and irritable. Not to mention, everybody who ever came to his office wanted something from him.

“Sir, There are still about 60 people left waiting for you.”

“No! One!” He stood up from his seat. “You hear me! I will only see one more. I’m bloody tired and they all stink! It smells worse than a cow pen here now.”

Seconds later, a young man dressed reasonably better than everyone at his office that day walked confidently into his office and stood right in front of him. Hon. Hajji was still concentrated on counting the money left on his desk when the young man began to speak.

“My name is Jabari and I have a proposition for you. May I have a seat?” First, Hon. Hajji was startled by this man, his pristine appearance, his choice of words, his crystal accent-free of the mother tongue interference and the young man’s English which was so polished that it surprised Hon. Hajji who had been forced to speak in mother tongue all day to accommodate the other constituents. Most of all how for the first time in a long time he could not tell what the young man needed from him.

“Yes, please. Sit. I am eager to hear from you now.”