When grey hair works in one’s favour

Fadzayi Maposah Correspondent

There are so many pointers to life in the high density suburbs. In the morning there will be someone usually a lady who sells floor polish in its various colours who calls out her arrival and the wares that she has.

When I stayed in one of Marondera’s high density suburbs and I heard her call out while I was still in bed, it was most likely that the girls and I would be late for school and work.

Once we were late, it meant flared tempers and a lot of impatience. So I always wanted to hear her voice when I had started on the morning tasks so that we would get to where we needed to be on time and still with our energy intact!

Then like clock-work, before the 7am news bulletin on radio would be a man selling sweeping brooms in various shapes and sizes and more floor polish. Next to come would be a vegetable vendor pushing his cart while chanting what he had in stock. The girls and I had to be out of the house before he got to our gate!

Later I was to learn that throughout the day, there would be different people selling something or looking for something for barter trade.

They were consistent, always within plus or minus five minutes of their time. The fact that they would walk down the street on a daily basis with their wares taught me something about patience and hope. I am sure that there were days when no one bought any of their wares, but they would come back again the next day and the next day pinning hope against hope that the day would be better than the previous one.

The fact that they did not give up vending told me that business was good. It was not all smooth sailing but some days were better than others. Maybe it becomes more of a habit…

The vendors sell anything from floor polish, brooms, vegetables, clothes pegs, bread and buckets. Then there are those who barter trade second hand clothes for food. The vendors see the various tenants in the suburb as potential customers who can change their fortunes.

Apart from the vendors, the other colourful side of life in the high density suburb is the amount of social interaction that takes place. Some of the social interaction is positive in that one can hear bubbly voices and laughter. It can also be negative social interaction. This kind of interaction is typified by loud shouts or raised voices, screams and calls for help.

Now in most high density suburbs home owners have put walls around their homes. Many years ago the majority of the houses had small fences that one could see through the majority of the drama that is happening in the streets. Occasionally a home-made soccer ball strayed from the boys who were preparing themselves for the soccer league into yards and either the it was returned without much drama or the ball is withheld.

Then the teams would change their football pitch to more “friendly” homesteads.

There is one thing that I learnt and always observed about the ghetto, you can always tell which homes are most accommodating just by observing where the street football is played.

You can also see where the street kitchen is, that is where the little girls cook and bake their mud cakes.

There is always some story in the high density suburb. It is a melting pot, brewing and “publishing” hot newspapers that are sold to anyone willing to take the news.

I still maintain that everyone needs a ghetto experience. Just knowing and seeing what life is like there is an important lesson.

One person left or dropped a soiled sanitary ware near a foot path that residents use as an exit from one street. One of the residents, a female discovered the sanitary ware, put it in a plastic bag and then together with another female energetic street member called for a meeting! Some people are just born leaders. Almost immediately there was a crowd around the women and the package.

If there is any one place that I know has the capability to disseminate information fast, it is the ghetto. There is no need to call for a meeting, once people start gathering that is enough to get others, more than a quorum! Almost instantly!

The woman with the package then said she wanted to see representatives from houses where possible suspects could be from. As my companion and I watched we could only think that if we were still in school and had to write an essay with the topic: The day I will never forget, we were confident that we would have aced the essay!

Just in one day we had witnessed a girl burning sanitary ware in a tin, been told off by one mother, almost labelled potential witches now we were witnessing females being summoned to a crucial “sanitary ware” ad-hoc meeting.

When someone questioned the self-appointed leader how she was going to find the culprit, the self-appointed leader said the meeting was meant as a warning to those who did not know how to properly dispose of what they had used.

My companion and I looked at each other. We were curious to see how the meeting would unfold although we did not stay in the street. The woman looked in our direction as she assessed the turn-out, then with a smile on her mask less face addressing us said “Ana Gogo (Grandmothers), there is no need to attend you already have aching legs and you are past the age of the issue at hand! Do not stress yourselves.”

We walked away after a friendly wave. In one day, our greying hair had worked in our favour and against us.

I am still curious to know how that meeting was handled…

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