One Woman Apart.



It was almost possible that the Sun was burning at nearly 40°C in Lagos that hot afternoon. I had been combing the major street of Opebi in search of a particular office address. 

I was near frustration, but still holding up. My throat was patched from the wicked heat this fateful day, and there was no where to find plastic bottled water. 

Then my eyes caught sight of her -- it wasn't unusual. She was carrying a baby, maybe a year old or thereabout; dressed in rags, looking hungry, tired and malnourished. 

I watched as she tried to stop every passersby begging alms. Obviously, doing this on a busy Opebi road is risky enough, not to mention the discomfort -- not only for herself, but also for the innocent baby. 

Of course, who cared. People had more serious engagements. They walked on, brushed passed her like she wasn't even there. I don't know how long I stood there mopping. But I began to wonder if she enjoyed doing this or just couldn't do otherwise. 

I soon set about my business, and eventually caught a bus to Ikeja. And lo, the driver behind the wheels is another woman. Disparity in same sex -- I thought. One dependent; the other independent. 

And what made the difference: not much for their looks, except for their drives. So it got me thinking: while one woman thought her help could come from the alms she got from passersby, and I wonder how often that is; the other thinks she could command her help by rendering a service in a male dominated area and get paid for it. 

Both choice have their risks, but these are different, too. Whereas the beggarly woman stands the risk of exposure to dehydration under that hot atmosphere, even with her baby; they equally drained of energy and could become victims of a careless driver. 

The other woman -- the one behind the steering -- is susceptible to face the harsh condition of commercial driving in Lagos State. Worst still, she could run into direct confrontation with the regular area boys extorting commercial drivers with illegitimate fees.  

Once I alighted from the bus I began to see the real stories. Both are women; both have responsibilities; but how each chose to tackle hers is what made the difference. 
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© I Must Talk | Gloria Okezie-Okafor
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