(Continued from Stakeholders’ Wedding)
It is a bright and sunny morning, but Jediel is in a bad mood. He fought with his father earlier today about the cash that Musa was demanding. Having been unable to reach Yusufu on phone, Jediel had gone to his father to ask him to talk sense to his brothers and cousins. Esau, Jediel’s father, was surprised to know that Musa was demanding payment, but he nevertheless was of the opinion that Jediel should honor the elders and give them the money that they were asking for. Jediel was so furious that he threatened to call off the whole thing.
It is Maritha, Jediel’s mother, who saved the day. As usual, she stepped in and calmed the nerves. She did not support either of them directly, although it was quite obvious that she was disappointed in her husband. She called out Jediel for raising his voice against his father, and then told her husband that he should talk to his relatives and control their greed.
“Our son has always supported the extended family. When Musa’s son was getting married two years ago, did you ask Musa for money so that you could go and negotiate on his behalf? Aren’t we the ones who in fact supported them with money, money that we got from Jediel?”
Esau dared her to go and talk to Jediel’s uncles and convince them to back down on the demands for cash. She took up the challenge and called all of them to a meeting. The other five elders were actually surprised because they had not asked for anything, and they even declined the five hundred shillings that Jediel had offered. The ten thousand was Musa’s scheme to make himself some quick cash. He would have made a cool sixty thousand shillings. The other elders, including Esau, were outraged. Musa was removed from his position as the head of the delegation and replaced with Yusufu. Musa walked out in a huff and said he would skip the event.
Jediel is happy that a majority of his uncles are supporting him genuinely, but the fact that his own uncle tried to rip him off has left a bad taste in his mouth, and is the reason he is in a grumpy mood.
Jediel and Doreen met at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business in Lower Kabete. They were classmates, but the place where their relationship started was in the Christian Union. They started dating when they were in first year second semester, and by the time they got to fourth year, they had established themselves as one of the finest couples on campus.
They are both good looking, charming and photogenic. Hundreds of their photos exist on Instagram and Facebook, thanks to Doreen. Jediel bought her a smartphone when they were in second year, and since then she has fallen in love with social media. She posts photographs of herself multiple times a day. In addition to the phone, Jediel also used to buy her dresses and shoes so that she could look beautiful in those photos, but he stopped when she got a job. Now she buys her own clothes. Jediel usually doesn’t worry too much about his own appearance, but over the years Doreen has upgraded his style, although he is the one who paid for the upgrade.
Neither Jediel nor Doreen comes from a wealthy family, but Jediel has proved to be a suave businessman. When he received his HELB money for the first time while in first year, Jediel topped it up with savings he had made before joining campus and used the money to buy a brand new motorcycle. He gave it to a young man in his village. He knew that most owners of motorcycles demanded Kshs. 300 per day from their riders, but they would be in charge of repairs if the motorcycles broke down. But he also knew that most riders did not take care of the bikes, so the profits of the owners would be eaten up by repairs. He knew this because one the ways he had been hustling as he waited to go to campus was riding a motorcycle. He understood how they system worked.
To avoid the repairs trap, he negotiated an agreement with his rider. He would receive Kshs. 200 every day including Sundays, but the young man would be responsible for repairing the motorcycle if it got damaged. Since the motorcycle was new, the young man agreed. Jediel was sure that the young man would take care of it to avoid repairs.
To survive, Jediel started selling chapatis around campus. To his relief, he realised he was making enough to survive. He had to wait until the second semester to buy the motorcycle because HELB money is received in tranches, but he did not touch the money he had set aside for that purpose. He survived entirely by selling chapatis. Cooking was prohibited on campus, but the rule was not strictly enforced. Like other students, Jediel bought an electric coil cooker and used the University’s electricity to cook. He would cook at night and sell in the morning. He would hawk the chapatis door to door in the morning. The chapatis became so popular that by the second semester he was making enough money to survive and to spoil his new girlfriend, Doreen. He used his second year HELB money to purchase a second motorcycle.
He did not apply for HELB loan in third year and fourth year.
Jediel did not touch the money he was receiving daily from his two motorcycles. The MPESA number he gave the two young men was not his regular number, but a number he had specifically registered for that purpose. Every month he would send the money to his Sacco account. By the time he graduated, he had a tidy sum saved up in his Sacco account.
Jediel and Doreen graduated two years ago with Bachelor of Commerce degrees from the University of Nairobi. Doreen wanted to get married immediately, but Jediel held off. He argued that since they had not yet found a financial footing, they needed to establish themselves first. Doreen was jobless for nine months, before finally getting a job as an accountant at an IT firm. Jediel opened a restaurant immediately they cleared from campus, even before their graduation. The idea came upon him when he was in fourth year. He had been successfully selling chapatis around campus for close to four years, and he thought that he would do better as a businessman than a banker or accountant.
By the time they completed their studies, Jediel had already found a spot in Ruaka where he would set up a low end restaurant, popularly known as a kibanda. Ruaka was growing fast, and there were construction sites everywhere, so Jediel knew that a kibanda would do well. Immediately he wrote his final exam as an undergraduate commerce student, he started making plans to establish the kibanda. He leased the ground, got all the licenses and hired staff of four: two cooks and two waitresses. He is the one who cooks chapati early in the morning, and then retreats to the cash office for the rest of the day. To get the place up and running, he emptied his savings account and invested all the money into the kibanda. He also sold his two motorcycles to the two young men who had been riding them and added the money to his starting capital.
Since Doreen was jobless, he at one point half-jokingly asked if she would consider helping out at the kibanda, and she said that she would willingly offer her accounting skills at the cash office if he was willing to pay. It stung him a little because he was the one who was paying her rent, and was also paying for her food and other personal expenses. It was the first time he started wondering whether they are really a good match, the physical chemistry that exists between them notwithstanding.
This wedding has brought those feelings to the fore.
The restaurant has been doing well, even though it has been facing turbulence this month. But it has not doing well enough to support a 1.9 m wedding. Jediel has wondered many times whether he is making a mistake by marrying Doreen. It is obvious that the one thing that they will always fight about is money. Jediel is glad that he did not hire her at the restaurant, because then she would know exactly how much makes. He has discovered that his life is by far much easier when he downplays the amount of money he makes from the restaurant.
Jediel has thought about breaking up with Doreen many times, but that thought always fills him with guilt. They have come from so far. Besides, she is a good woman. He just needs to find a way to manage her financial indiscipline.
When Jediel and his delegation arrive at the home of his prospective-in-laws, they are twenty minutes late. At some point they were forced off the road because the President was passing by, hence the delay. But when they get to Doreen’s parent’s gate, they find it locked. A back and forth song between women ensues, and then Jediel’s mother, Maritha, pulls Yusufu aside. Yusufu then confers with the elders before calling Jediel aside.
“Son, these people want us to pay a penalty because we are late. They are demanding to be paid in order to open the gate.”
“They wanted fifty thousand, but your aunts have negotiated it down to forty. That song was actually a negotiation. I have talked to the elders, and they have contributed twenty. But we still need another twenty. Can I spend the emergency money that you had set aside?”
“Do we have an option?”
“Then go ahead.”
Yusufu counts the money, puts it in an envelope and hands the envelope to one of Jediel’s aunts. The songs resume. The gates are suddenly opened, and Jediel’s aunt gives the envelope to one of the women in Doreen’s parents’ compound. But they are not shown where to sit. The woman who was given the envelope starts another song, and Jediel can see the beginnings of anger on his mother’s face. He knows every expression on the face of this woman.
“What do they want now?” he whispers to Yusufu.
“They are saying that the food is cold and they don’t have firewood to warm it.”
“The song says that it takes fifty pieces of wood to light a fire, so that means they want fifty thousand. I don’t want to discourage you son, but I think we are going to have a very rough day today. Just brace yourself, and don’t lose your cool.”
Jediel rubs his temples and wishes he could get a cup of very hot and very strong coffee.
Image by Adeboro Odunlami from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/young-nigerian-man-nigeria-africa-3834272/
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