The growing hardship: what an everyday Gambian man would tell you if you asked him

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By Musa Touray
Sandu Kuwonku

Every day I wake up to the troubling thought of how I will get my breakfast and that of those under my watch. I am poorer than I was some years back when I was better-off and could afford some necessities for myself with little or no economic consequences. Now, bread and butter has forcefully become my morning dietary fixity. I consume it not with a cup of tea, for it costs at least ten dalasis. I live on this scanty amount of food every day to appease—but not to fill—my  stomach and to stave off the noise it often makes when I’m famished, in order to save myself from subtle embarrassment.

It would be insensitive to attribute the cause of my dilemma to myself. The whole world sees my efforts, although only a few acknowledge it. I travel far and wide in pursuit of any available job that outpays my so-called privileged one, and is enough to at least cater for uninterrupted three square meals for my family. In my wild goose chase for even laborious contracts, I scurry to any zone I suspect would be booming.

I have long lost the luxury of eating to satisfaction. I rather endure hunger than see my wife, children, and relatives hungry. This is why I am not selective in the jobs I do. I’m ready to take up any job so long it is legal and devoid of racket. I can’t afford to suffer here and also face punishment for wrongdoing in the next realm where, according to our Scripture, true life exists. I am poor in a material sense but rich—if not the richest—in divine support.

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I used to be a civil servant but my salary was too modest to foot all my bills. Unfortunately, I was growing in responsibility and had to engage into something better and more productive. Married with numerous kids and putting into cognizance the unbearable cost of living, little over four thousand dalasis is too small an amount to suffice me and my family. Hence the need to go head over heels and take up any job I see or smell!

If not for my landlord’s understanding and empathy he would have given me an eviction notice months ago, and I would be homeless together with my family. He knew that my previous job—if can be so called—couldn’t get me out of the financial bondage of increasing debts,  yet he has come off as generous and understanding, for which I owe him a lifetime worth of gratitude. In him I’m lucky to have met rare kindness and patience exhibited by landlords.

Certainly, I’m not living the life I envisaged while I was young. It’s far from it. I can’t decipher the irony that defines a naturally endowed country reeling in food uncertainties. I projected it would have abounding food supply in store and corner the international market in the sales of its locally grown produce. Our soil and rivers are not harnessed to their full extent. And the masses continue living in a paradoxical fertile desert.

My children are at a volatile point of their schooling career, can give up going to school any moments from now. If the status quo persists they will have to join me in the hustle, and eventually their dreams of becoming educated elite in the future will be pie-in-the-sky. The noble trait of education in our family would look endangered.

If the severity of the growing hardship passes through the roof as days pass by, non-existence would be a better option. Excuse and ignore the seeming suicidal signification of the statement. It is mere cause for an unsupposed comparativity. This unintended significative  indulgence shows how grave the situation is. The current state of things is apparently ominous of troubled and trying hours ahead.

So let’s brace up!