Malformed and Rejected!

Picture: ROSA VERLOOP I sat in my room and remembered a young boy I once knew. I will call him Junior. Junior was the first son of his parents. They had been blessed with four girls before Junior was born. Being African, his father didn’t feel like a man until he had his son. I don’t know what it was like at his birth because I met Junior when he was about 4. Junior was malformed. His head seemed too heavy for his tiny body, resulting in a permanent slouch when he sat; which was all he could do. His arms and legs were tiny and never seemed to catch up with the rest of his body as he grew. His eyes were bulgy and he had a drool most of the time. That was all most people saw. As a result, he was always on a chair or propped with pillows. I saw a side to Junior that astounded me. He was veryintelligent! He could hold brilliant conversations, with only slight slurring of his words. He was like Stephen Hawking…without the futuristic wheelchair. He was also very respectful and courteous; a trait that gets me every time. One day I stumbled upon his report cards and found he was the best student in his class. I expressed my amazement and his mum, full of pride and joy, told me that he had always been the top student in his class; excelling way above other regular students. This was my confirmation that Junior had the mind of a genius trapped in a malformed body. Somehow, I didn’t feel bad for him. I believed that his mind was the most important thing about him and I was proud to know him. Soon enough, his mother was pregnant again. When she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Junior’s father was more than elated. He threw the biggest naming ceremony for his son and was merry for days. When it was his 1st birthday, oh my! You should have seen the fanfare! When Junior was about 8 and his brother 3, I was witness to something that shocked the socks off me. Junior’s dad returned from work that day and his second son ran to him with the enthusiasm that defined his childhood, screaming ‘Daddy Welcome!’ As soon he flew in the air for a hug, Junior’s father lifted him above his head and said, ‘Thank you my only son’. I balked! Only son?! Only son?! It was at that moment that I saw Junior crawling to welcome his father. He was within hearing distance of his father when those words were uttered. He froze where he was, child as he was, but understanding the full impact of those words. And like a child, he still said his welcomes…wishing….hoping….for that toss into the air and that acknowledgement. Junior’s father mumbled a response and went into his room. My heart broke…just as I am sure Junior’s did. He was malformed from birth, which was no fault of his. And that malformation led his father to reject him in the most hurtful of ways. For his father, his beautiful mind was not enough to overlook his mangled body. I left the house. That was the last day I saw Junior. The next time I heard of him, it was about his burial. He had been 13 when he died. I remember being sad and depressed at his painful life. I remembered his courtesy and his brilliance. I remembered how he always tried to help himself, in spite of his malformed body. I remembered his crooked smile that makes me think of the song by J.Cole. Best of all, I remembered his spirit. I heard his father cried at the funeral. I heard the tears wouldn’t stop. But I couldn’t help but wonder; did he cry in sorrow because he had lost a son or did he cry in joy because he now, truly, had one son?

The Maryland Bridge Hawker

The Maryland Bridge Hawker.Image: Chibuike Casmir Lagos traffic is horrible! That is a fact. I am sure that anyone who lives or has visited Lagos one time or another can attest to this fact. It is also true that when there is that ugly traffic jam, there is almost nothing you wouldn’t see. It could be a fighting agbero, an impatient driver, the surprising ways people meander through traffic or that hawker that would chase a bus just so he can sell a bottle of fizzy drinks for ₦100. Usually, traffic in Lagos is a bedlam of activities, a combination of awful smells, an absolute drag and a time-wasting event! With all that craziness, there is that time when you get to see a genuine source of inspiration! I did. Let me tell you what happened. I was on my way home with my new friends – Tonia and Chibuike aka Chibyke. It was rush hour and most of the roads were tight. We were chatting, laughing and basically having fun in the car. We had dropped Chidi (another new friend) off a while back so we were goofing around. All the crazy stuff was just our way of coping with the horrible traffic. When we got to Maryland Bridge, we felt like we had hit the worst of the jam. I was right behind Tonia and was looking out of the window on my left. Tonia reduced the volume of the stereo which had Beyonce telling us to ‘Run the World’. She did it so she could ask a question. Chibyke’s response to Tonia’s question made me laugh out loud and turn to them. That was when I noticed him. The hawker showing his wares. He was a hawker who sold socks and handkerchief. It wasn’t the items I noticed; it was his hand…or the lack of it. He balanced the sock rack on the stub where his right hand used to be. In his good hand, he held the handkerchief and other items. He was standing at our car and seemed to be beckoning me; seemed to be willing me to continue staring. I didn’t blink. I didn’t know when I blurted, ‘I need his picture so I can write a story about him.’ Chibyke, being the sharp guy that he is, wound the glass down and called him. He asked me to take pictures as he purchased some items. I picked up Tonia’s phone but my hands were shaking so badly that I couldn’t focus. So many thoughts were going through my head; what if he got mad? What if he asked us to pay him for the pictures? What if he was a lout guised as a hawker? I was so worried…I couldn’t even take one shot! Tonia kept asking if I had taken the shots. I said no. She snatched the phone from me while Chibyke continued hassling. When Chibyke asked if the socks were original, the man said he only sold original and he was on that bridge every day. He went further to say that if we didn’t like the socks, we could come back and he would change them. He was such an effusive marketer that even I was tempted to buy a sock. But all this drama was so Tonia could get good pictures. She would tell Chibyke to bend for a clearer shot and the way he would do it wouldn’t give us away. She took many pictures but they just didn’t have the essence I wanted. Chibyke, seeing my frustration, paid the hawker for the socks he didn’t need and then said, ‘Guy, ehen. Make I tell you something. My friends like you well well as you dey do your work and they want write your story. Abeg, you go fit allow make we take your picture?’ The hawker smiled and said yes. I breathed a much needed sigh of relief. Chibyke took the pictures and just as we were about to ask his name, the traffic jam broke and Tonia had to drive in! Balancing his handkerchiefs so he can sell his socks.  I was so inspired by the man. I know everyone hustles in Lagos but I was surprised that a man with disabilities had mastered the art of balance to function as one without. The way he switched the handkerchiefs to his neck, using his shoulder as prop and still managing to interact was wonderful! I am sure many people have seen people with worse disabilities doing better but this was new to me. You see, because I grew up in the Northern part of Nigeria, I am used to seeing people with disabilities begging. They use their disabilities as an excuse to beg…and to sometimes guilt you into giving them money. I hate to see people beg! I am totally abhorred by it. I believe people should work and earn their living; no matter how small it is. There is honor in work and ONLY disrespect in begging. So you can imagine my elation at seeing this man work! He couldn’t be making more than ₦2000 or ₦5000 per day and most times, that would just be to recover his capital. But he told us he was there every day trying to make ends meet. This should be a lesson to all the ‘big boys and girls’ who laze about saying there are no jobs. If a man with disabilities can wake up every day to ensure he is not dependent on anyone, what bloody excuse do you have with your whole body?! I am hoping to find him again and probably get a full interview; when I finally get my nerves straightened out. I want to find out his name, his story, how he lost his hand and what motivates him every day to ignore his disability and go out to make that money. If you ever pass the Maryland Bridge and see him, buy a sock or a handkerchief. Help him to be better! Help him earn his living!

Quick Links

Find Us:

Beaufort Court Estate,

Lugbe, Abuja.

Call Us: