One day my cousin convinced me to invest my meager salary in a joint cabbage-growing project with him in Mandoya. Everything went on very smoothly and the cabbages grew fatter and fatter every day. Everybody was literally salivating when they saw them!
The harvesting day came and my cousin, Githogothi, who is a village buffoon, convinced me again to dig deeper into my already exhausted pocket and hire a truck to transport the obese cabbages to Marigiti market in Nairobi. He told me excitedly that each cabbage would undoubtedly fetch a minimum of Ksh. 25. A quick calculation in my head told me that we were going to be stinking rich by the end of the day! Off we drove our cabbages to Marigiti!
The traffic police milked us handsomely along the way but that did not bother us. Who could not see we were carrying gold at the back of the truck? In fact I remember giving one cop Ksh. 500, even though he had asked for 100!
As dawn was cracking, our very old Canter truck, overflowing with juicy Mandoya cabbages, wheezed its way into Marigiti Market. I must say I personally knew nothing about the damn place, and I later came to realize that my cousin knew nothing either! So we just opened the boot of the truck and waited for customers, of course after paying the city council the required charges. At least somebody had hinted to me that you don’t pour your cabbages on the ground; you sell them when still in the truck. Within no time, a giant of a market woman came our way. In fact, she gave me an impression of a hippo walking on two legs! And she did not even ask us how much each cabbage was going for!
“Ten shillings!” she announced. I looked at her over the rims of my goggles and tried to push my flat chest and stomach forward to create the impression of a sonko.
“Twenty-five shillings is the least we can take,” I retorted matter-of-factly. The “hippo” laughed thunderously, exposing numerous gaps in her dental formula, and muscles and fat substances trembled and shook vigorously all over her body. I remember fearing that something may fall down on the ground anytime! In fact, I couldn’t help but join in the laughter even though I didn’t know what was funny.
“Are you sure you won’t take ten shillings?” she repeated. I shook my head vigorously. She walked away laughing aloud and other market people now joined her and they started cackling and guffawing. What the hell was the problem? My cousin had no idea.
From afar, I saw the same fat woman engage in a heated debate with some three young men, and all the time pointing in our direction. I smiled to myself thinking that maybe she had accepted our price…but wapi? The three thuggish men came and stood a few metres from our merchandise and started talking about our cabbages.
“These cabbages look like the ones grown at Mwiki using sewage water,” one of the fellows said, loud enough for everyone within the radius of 50 metres to hear. “In fact, I can feel the smell of sewage around here!” said the second thug, holding his nose and making ugly faces.
“Wa wa wa wa, are those snails I am seeing on those cabbages?” remarked the third, craning his neck towards us and feigning shock.
I was thunderstruck! Every time a prospective customer came towards us, the three thugs would release a tirade of exaggerated attacks on our cabbages, and the customer would literally scamper away from us! It was now 2 p.m. and not a single cabbage had been bought! I was now panicking because we had no plans of spending the night in Nairobi, not forgetting the perishable nature of our merchandise. What were we going to do?
Just then, a fourth youngish man came to me and pulled me aside. “My friend,” he started, “since I can see you are a hustler like me, trying to build yourself, let me help you. You see those three thugs? They are called price spoilers. Their work is to tarnish the quality of a product so that buyers can either pay low prices or ignore them completely. My advice to you is this: Sell your cabbages to me at seven shillings, or you will go back home with them”.
“No way!” I shouted and glared back at him. “OK…suit yourself.” And he walked away. 3 o’clock…. 4 o’clock…5 o’clock… no sales…and the spoilers continued discrediting our cabbages! I called my cousin aside and gave him several proverbs: Asiyekubali kushindwa, si mshindani. Mtaka cha mvunguni, sharti ainame. Nguku ya gukua, ni kihuruto. Better half a loaf than nothing.
So at exactly six o’clock I went a-hunting for the hippo of a woman. When she saw me coming, she started trembling again with laughter. I told her she can now take the cabbages at ten bob each. The funny thing was that she was with the “Good Samaritan,” the fourth young man who wanted to buy at seven shillings!
“Ten bob?” she asked sarcastically. “That was the offer for the morning hours! Right now you are lucky that I will give you five shillings for each. Do you want the money or do you want to go and wait a little more?”
What could you have done if you were the one? I preferred to sell them to her and forget the whole business of cabbage farming. It’s needless to say that we made a hundred percent loss. Today when I see a cabbage, I’m tempted to kick it away very far! And from that experience, I learnt that we live in a ruthless man-eat-man society!