By Obinna Chukwuezie,
I went to the market to get soup condiments last Saturday. I had not made soup in a while, so I decided to make a try to see if my cooking skills are still intact and to prepare the kind of soup that body yearns for. Eating out everyday, and not what you want can be annoying.
At the market, I saw a shop with all the condiments that I need, except meat. So, shopping started- vegetable, spice, oil, ogiri and all other things that helps to transport “swallow” to it’s destination. Everything was going on fine until, I asked the Igbo woman to give me the bill. She announced the figure, suddenly, my smiling face turned sour. “Madam, how did you arrive at that figure?” I asked. In fact, “let us calculate the price one-by-one,” I demanded.
The woman obliged, then the calculation began. When she mentioned the price of the first item, I screamed, “Madam, how can you sell this item this price, last year, I bought it less than half the price you just mentioned!” The old woman smiled and answered, “my son, that was last year, things have CHANGEd. We no longer sell at that price. I even reduced the price for you to encourage you because it’s rare to find young men like you who come to buy soup condiments.”
Noticing that I was not satisfied with her explanation, she asked me to go round, and if I find the prices cheaper than hers, I can buy from there. So, I accepted her advice, I went round two other shops and asked the prices of those items, and found out that the first woman was being honest to me. I returned to her shop dejected.
“Madam, what do we do? The money that I have here is just one third of the bill that you gave me.” She smiled, “my son, you tried, but you need to try harder.”
How do I try harder when my pocket is empty, my stomach is empty, my bank account is empty, my kitchen is empty? I became an emergency economist. I stood for a while, and figured out a quick alternative. I announced to the woman that I am changing the choice of soup. She smiled in admiration and asked me how much I have in my pocket. I told her. We worked out a solution that my budget can carry. It was a difficult decision she had to make to enable me to cook soup.
While the woman was packaging my stuff, a little girl of not more than 7 years came. “I want to buy a cup of Egusi”, she said and displaying a N50 and N20 notes. “A cup is N100”, the woman said. The girl stood there, and refused to leave. “Madam, abeg help my mother, we dont have food and money”, the little girl said. My heart melted, I wished I could help, but I have just been helped and had no gut to ask the woman to extend her help to another. If she continue to help, how could she make profit?
After collecting my stuff, my feet was too heavy to leave. God so kind, the woman packaged a cup of Egusi for the little girl, and she was very happy, and I was very happy too. The woman who helped us was also happy. The little girl left tears in my eyes, when she knelt down and uttered, “God bless you mama.” The woman answered, “Amen.”
I thanked the woman over and over again for her benevolence. God used her to feed me and the family of the little girl.
I never imagined a time in Nigeria that you will go to market with few thousands and it cannot make a pot of soup for you. Our currency is becoming a mere piece of paper without value.
Chukwuezie is the Editor-in-Chief of Community Stories Nigeria (www.communitystories.ng). He writes from Abuja and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org