“Come on men, tell me what’s going on?”
“Teacher it was my dad.”
“What about your dad.”
“Well he asked me to do it the first time and now he is asking me to do it again.”
During the drive from the college to the factory, Mr.Ndueso observed that Fahd always slept on the bus and when they got to the training room at the plant, he could barely hold it together. He would be snoozing intermittently.
He was lagging behind on his work and the trainer had taken note of the fact that he was barely hanging in there.
Ndueso pulled him out the first time and had a word with him. His excuse was,he was very tired because he drove all the way to Dalma Island the night before to go get some food stuffs from his dad’s farm and had to drive back the same night, a distance of over 500km. The teacher thought – why did he have to make the return trip, the same night. The red flag was up. He will have to keep an eye on this kid, he thought.
On a normal day Fahd was a very likeable person. He was cheerful and happy. He loved learning and talking about the technical aspect of his learning. Mr. Ndueso remembered vividly after returning from their first visit to the plant, how Fahd was so excited. He couldn’t stop talking about the ladle arc, the bottom tapping, the high temperatures of the molten steel, the continuous casting machine, the cooling bay, etc. He was so fascinated at the manganese ores and other materials that were poured into the furnace for smelting, that he couldn’t stop talking about it. At the conference room, he was the main trainee asking tons of questions and attempting to answer all the questions by the trainer. The mentors were genuinely excited for him. His teacher Mr. Ndueso knew that when a man strikes what he likes to do and does not mind doing that anytime, any day, that person has struck a gold mine. Fahd had struck the mine.
On the way back from the plant, his teacher and mentor, Mr. Ndueso was sitting next to him on the bus. Fahd was day dreaming all the way. When they stopped at the gas station to get some bite, Mr. Ndueso tapped Fahd to wake up. He woke up and Fahd didn’t want to get off the bus.
“Isn’t it fascinating that all the buildings, bridges and skyscrapers in this country are held together by steel?”
“Absolutely” Mr. Ndueso responded.
“These plants according to the instructor produces enough steel to support all the construction work in this country and also for export. Can you beat that?”
“That’s right” Mr. Ndueso agreed with him.
The excitement in his voice was so infectious.
“The market is huge and the potential is great as well. I think I will be very fulfilled in the steel making plant and I will do my best to ensure that I get a job here and grow with the company.”
“Superb!” his teacher agreed.
“By the way Fahd, you have been coming late in the mornings, is there any particular reason for this? I also notice that anytime you get on the bus, you sleep straightaway” Mr. Ndueso queried him.
“Teacher, my story is long. What you say is true. Every morning I have to drop off my wife at work before I come to school.”
“Are you married?”
“Yes I am married and I have a baby girl. After dropping off my wife, I have to drop off my baby at the babysitter, downtown and then drive up to college for sstudies. So in the morning, I do about a 120 kilometres.”
“Wow, that’s a lot. That could be tiring.”
“Now, you see, why I am always tired. As soon as I enter the bus to the plant I fall asleep because my day starts at 5am”.
“Now I understand” Mr. Ndueso said.
“That is just one part of the story. After college, I have to drive to downtown and pick up my wife from work and then we go to the baby sitter to collect my baby and then drive home. Another one hundred and twenty k.”
“But why did you marry so early?” Mr. Ndueso asked him.
“Teacher, it wasn’t me. It was my father. He tricked me. Now he wants to trick me again.”
“What! I mean how did he trick you?”
“Well, he told me that I should marry, that it is a good thing to marry. I told him but I have to finish my education first. He said, he will support me while I am studying till until I graduate and get a job. So, I went ahead and married. He sponsored the wedding. After the wedding, that was it. I was on my own. Now I have to do everything on my own.”
“Have you reminded him of the promise he gave you?”
“Yes I have and he told me that I am now a man.”
“Now he is asking me to take a second wife. And I told him, no way. I am struggling with the first one and you want me to marry a second one. Like he did before, he said, he will sponsor it and support me.”
“But have you considered getting a car for your wife? So that it can reduce your driving?”
“She doesn’t have a license.”
“What about getting her to register for classes to get a license?”
“Teacher I couldn’t afford that now, because I am not yet working and the stipend the government gives me is not enough.”
“But you said she is working? Can’t she chip in some help?”
“Well, according to our culture, the man has to take care of the wife and her money is her money not mine. If she wants to buy a car, then that’s fine. But I cannot force her to buy a car.”
“Of course not, anywhere in the world, you cannot force anybody to do anything. However, you can dialogue it out.”
“That’s’ truth. But teacher I am too tired. She does not want to buy a car, she does not want to even learn how to drive, she wakes up in the morning, get dressed and gets the baby ready and I have to drive from Al Falah all the way to down town to drop her and the baby off, drive from there to college and park my car and join the bus to the factory for my training.”
The teacher couldn’t help but feel so sorry for Fahd and even more so, the prison walls that culture has built around him, and furthermore, the prison walls that his wife has put him into.