A bench and the street


The streets of Addis are ever evolving and we all have something to say about it. Here's a snippet of mine.

“ስታድየም… ስታድየም በወንበር,” he pleaded. The long line of people stared into his eyes with gaze that screamed that they were too cool to set foot in his dismal bus. I hopped into the ቅጥቅጥ, taxi is no different anyways. Once I settled in, I pulled out my phone and started reading an excerpt of a book a friend sent me. But this only started an episode of nausea and headaches. I scolded myself, “Don’t read in the car, for goodness sake”. In an attempt to do away with the nausea, I decided to get a sambusa and sit on one of the benches in front of Meskel Adebabay. I love these rare moments where I sit on a public bench, observe my fellow city mates and feel like a philosopher contemplating upon the existence of mankind (Lol I am no thinker in any sort of way). I guess I was so consumed by ‘philosophizing’ that I did not follow my mealtime etiquette; some guy passing by dubbed me “ትርፌ”. As I was devouring my sambusa, an old lady [I am fighting the Habeshan urge to say እሳቸው in English]; wrinkled skin spanning her exhausted face and wearing a yellow blanket, which I am assuming signifies some religious stature, swiftly pulled down her pants under some tree, relieved herself and continued her voyage. I was a bit amazed. But then the deep green of the tree and the magnitude of its growth inspired within me a question. What did the beautiful trees along the streets of Addis grow on? Pee? Spit? Undue blood and bones, which are evidently prevalent on the Ethiopian soil? For some of us, little do we know what it feeds upon, the lush street is an ideal sign of our great advancements. Is it so, however, while for others it is a cozy space to rest their heads under, a lavatory, a place of despondence as the sun sets and the night life of Addis begins? That is for the reader to judge. But maybe this incongruous Yin and Yang will never go away. No amount of benevolence will suffice to cover the emotional, economic and social cracks we face. Shall we then sit back and enjoy our own lives, oblivious to the suffering across our doorsteps. Or are we to be pushed to altruism, unable to enjoy or even feel guilty of the luxuries at our disposal? Where exactly is the candid middle ground? Take a walk around Megenagna and at least 10 kids with dusty clothes, filthy hair and ashen lips will utter “እናት ዳቦ ግዢልኝ. . . እናት አንድ ብር ስጪኝ”. And in all honesty, my usual response is the good old ‘looking straight ahead as if you can’t hear or speak’. As if their pleas are so insignificant to me that I deem them invisible. I do so thinking the money will only go to someone else and these kids will come back tomorrow, destitute as ever, in a perpetual quest for another አንድ ብር. Maybe that is just my subconscious attempt to conceal my greed and the coldness of my heart. What am I carving in their tiny minds in an attempt to ‘curb the industry behind’, however, is that among the multitude of people passing by every minute, no one acknowledges the cute little children they are, despite their curdy exterior. For if they were well bathed and clothed, no one would pass by without giving a kiss or a hug. Maybe a little smile might help more than any cash ever could. Perhaps a gentle kiss will go a long way in reaffirming their childhood. Not every day, but every now and then it is good for the soul to restore another. I was pulled out of this sea of thought I sunk into when some guy from Enat Bank asked if I had an account. The old lady long gone by then…

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