Every holiday season scores of Kenyans retreat to their rural homes in a mass exodus that is reminiscent of ants retrieving tit bits of an unfortunate prey back to their lairs. The heavy laden buses full of passengers filled with nostalgic memories of them better days in the village, the ubiquitous mattresses rolled and tied, God forsaken furniture that has seen better times on the top rack; not forgetting the favorite exaggerative decorated black mamba bicycle firmly strapped at the back, trudge their way to the roots. One place that amazes me of all things in the villages is the shopping centre. The idyllic hamlet has countable shops with a distinct catalogue of who owns what known to all the people. It’s not common for one to be told ‘go to so and so’ and buy salt instead of go to the shops, because back there everything is personal.
He sits in his tiny stall under the stairs case in a converted store, staring into space lost in thought as he watches hundreds of customers flock into the shops, eateries, market , clinics and butcheries. Something is gnawing his mind and he is not comfortable with his thoughts. The village sign writer is the only entrepreneur who is connected to all the others for his services are required by all. He designed the bucheri hapa name for the meat traders, painted the menu on the wall at the local eatery with the common ‘chai shapati, chai bure, mandashi and ugali momo ;all in his master stroke of genius brush.
He single handedly designed the banner for tabibu herbal clinic that has seen the clinic teeming with patients. Iko dawa ya: wasi wasi, kisirani, jirani mbaya, mtihani ngumu na bahati nzuri. This array of ills have seen the village ‘Doctor’ grow and accumulate substantive amounts of wealth. Mama mbogas have had their stands decorated with very elaborate price tags screaming the price of fruits precariously perched at the top of the neat pile like a football referee handing out a card.
Business has never been the same to all the traders since the onset of sign writing and adverts. The customers have never been lost on choice. One strategic stop at the shopping centre and one can see all the wares at a glance and make a purchase stop without a hassle. Did I say business is good? Oh yes for all the traders but the sign writer. He has to wait for a new shop, vendor to come up for him to write and get his usually allotted pay or pray that the existing ones age for him to get a renovation order.
He makes calculated guesses of what the others could be making in a day and compares it with what he rakes in, and wonders whether it’s all worth it. The little imaginary angel floating above his head advises him to work harder and make a name for himself, for his talents are God given, but the temptations blur his reasoning; he devices ways of making the traders pay. They must know that he is the sign writer, they must know people. What if he delays the paintings, menus, price tags the whole lot and forces everyone ‘ to toe the line?’ he muses to himself. What if he charges them per customer visit or even better per item sold? What if he takes more time than necessary to paint the menus? What if he goes mteja when his clients need him most?
The whole village population has a role to play in the well being of all. The shopping centre is made vibrant by all the unique talents, efforts, dispositions and skills pooled together to give it a buzz. It pays to do what you are supposed to do to the best of your abilities. Our inputs are tributaries that stream in the main river and causes the flow . The sign writers input cannot be gain said but there is a very good reason why he isn’t the meat cutter, that’s how entities thrive or is it destiny?
The village shopping centre has more opportunities for business ideas, if possible the sign writer should step down and open a different shop rather weaken the stroke of his mighty brush that has made him so famous across the ridges. Let’s support each other in all ways possible by efficiently carrying out our duties without much ado. We have a nation to build.