AMAKA sat closely behind the pot of rice cooking atop the charcoal stove. Having heard from her friend Nneoma of the theft of a woman’s kerosene stove and the pot of food  cooking on it days back, she resolved to leave nothing to chance, especially not her family’s stomach, considering her house was just one out of seven other flats in the compound.

She would ordinarily have not bothered about anything like this. She would have sat comfortably in the small kitchen of the one bedroom apartment she lived in with six other family members

But then, her mother had been firm about the daily rise in the price of kerosene, the fuel of the poor man’s fire. From 170 naira to 200 naira. Who knows to what height it would ascend again!

“I cannot continue buying kerosene of 500 naira every three days o. Where the money to dey buy am? Half bag of charcoal is 700 naira and it will last for long, compared to this kerosene”. Her mother had announced.

Amaka had voiced her disapproval. The heat of the smoke, the health implications of inhaling the smoke, the stress of pulling out air from the lungs through the mouth or waving the hand fan back and forth to catalyse the coals to action, were her arguments against the adoption of a charcoal powered burner.

Her disapproval had been disregarded, her voice lost in her mother’s determination. Not even her ‘God will provide’ maxim softened the heart of her mother.

Charcoal it will be. Charcoal it is now.

Lost in thought, Amaka was oblivious of the whistling rice boiling in the aluminium pot. To her, nothing was changing in her family. Things seemed to worsen daily like the economy of Nigeria. Increased prices in foodstuff meant reduced food consumed, reduced quality ingredients to prepare their meals.

So much for change, she thought.

When the change talk began, people were ecstatic, like churchmen who awaited a miracle.  They thought it a relief from the pangs of lack and corruption, they thought it a breath of fresh air amidst a stale stuffy atmosphere.

She had been completely indifferent. She thought the change advocates not different from those who had the crown on. To her, they were the same people, only they had a different party and nomenclature.

Soon, like a viral disease turned epidemic, she got infected and basked in the euphoria of change. She believed despite the gnawing doubts in her heart, she hoped in spite of despair that had been an accompanying servant of every government they had seen.

Now, she is sure she had been wrong to have believed, had been foolish to have hoped. Her family could no longer afford the stone free expensive,minimum wage surpassed foreign rice and have resorted to the sandy, stone filled, poorly processed but cheap local rice. Now it is charcoal. Maybe those who use gas will soon adopt kerosene due to the skyrocketing increase in the price of gas.

Change now means falling down the ladder of one’s standard of living, of whining and complaining.

The burning smell of the cooking rice brought Amaka back to the present. She immediately carried the pot inside the house and kept the pot that contained a naked stew, that is without any piece of meat or fish (fresh or dried) on the charcoal stove.

Although change had not been friendly, her family had been surviving nonetheless, never going to bed with an empty stomach to be fed upon by the worms. For these small favours and blessings she remained grateful. That there are other people who have been ravaged by hunger and forsaken  by the god of goodluck as  a consequence of change made her even more grateful that there is still a survival link to be clicked on by her family.

As her family ate  dinner quietly and expressionless, she was glad there was a charcoal who had become a problem solver.

How the little  unwanted things are now the giants upon which life is lived!


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