Do you gamble? Do I gamble?
Do people who gamble do it for fun? Do they do it as a means of survival when they no longer have any last option? What are the consequences of gambling? Is it moral? Is it okay to demonize young people who practice the vice? Before we vilify or condemn isn’t it okay to try and establish the reason for this madness and nuances of the lives they live?
It was on a Wednesday evening where I met Elias at Mints. Once in a while we usually linked up and traded stories and ideas. He was my childhood friend. So we go along way back. He’s a small bodied guy. An IT specialist, a small ball packed with massive amounts of energy. He’s soft spoken, sharp and loved gizmos. He’s the care free type of guy. He told me he knew a guy that he thought would have an interesting story for me that I might want to hear. I told him that I was ball, so long as his guy shows up. So we scheduled a Saturday meet up whereby Elias would show up with the guy. We split the bill and we each went our separate ways.
On Saturday morning he called me and told him that the guy was asking what time we would meet for a rendezvous. Three in the afternoon was fine. Fast forward a few hours later and we met at Shots Bar a few minutes past three. Elias didn’t care of what lay ahead before us, because what lay before us was Clan McGregor whiskey to be precise. Elias introduced the guy as Dan. Dan had a guitar bag strapped to his bag. We shook each other’s hands firmly and went straight to what brought us there.
Dan began by saying that he was 24 years old. He cleared campus about one and a half years ago. His girlfriend just had a baby. He said he did the right thing by bringing her to live with him in a flat in Mtwapa. He therefore had rent, electricity, water, garbage, food, baby clothes and medical bills to take care of. And of course we can add the miscellaneous expenses like airtime, transport, internet and the likes. He had no stable job. He carries his guitar around to play gigs in pubs and joints such as Jamboree to make ends meet. Like most of the businesses, this one was saturated, so he usually did not mint a lot of cash from it. He chuckles slightly and takes a sip from his glass of whiskey. All that time he had not taken a sip at all.
I asked him if he plies his music trade well. He said he would let me be the judge after I had listened to him play. He goes on by saying that he had his parents and siblings back home in shags. During the week he gets the please call me from his mother asking for money for this and that. Then he adds satirically, “bado pesa ya chama sijagusiwa hapo.”
“You know, the small monies that someone might be sick or one of his siblings needs something in school. The usual that you can’t trace.” He says.
He also gets the occasional beeps from mzee every week which he knows means, “Tuma kitu.” These are texts he can’t normally avoid. He takes another sip. It was getting lively by the hour. The car park had already began getting full. There was a big game on the screens going on. The crowd cheered wildly as each team tried to score against the other.
Dan knew whenever he sent his pops money, mzee would probably kunywa the money. But what can he do about it? We all do this with our folks. Especially those with folks living in ocha. May be out of guilt or whichever the case, but we still do it. He told me to add that to his list of responsibilities that required cash. Dan worked one evening at some joint in Mikindani and got his five grand by the end of the night. He went home and found out that the small packet of diapers he bought the previous day had finished because the baby had diarrhea. I asked if the child was sick at that point. He said teething issues had caused that. His girlfriend then told him in a very nice manner, “babes stima inabeep na gas imeisha.”
That meant supper had not been cooked. He dashed out to buy something for the family to eat and find gas before the clock struck midnight. By the end of the small dash outside he was down by 1200 shillings. His token meter had been beeping rather loudly at that time and it annoyed him. His mother had already given him his religious weekly call saying that money was needed urgently. He thought of asking for a friend that he is with in the band to send him some small coins on Mpesa. Two thousand or something close to that amount. He then remembered that he had Fulizad sometimes back. He abandoned that idea all together. That night he went to bed with his mind spinning faster than a full blown fan. He tossed and turned severally. He did not sleep.
He wondered how he could divide less than four thousand shillings between all those responsibilities. In the morning he woke up and took a stroll to buy basic commodities for the family. Milk, diapers, tissue paper and the likes. He tells me that he had another simcard which he used for emergency purposes. He loads the second simcard with gig money from last night which is less than three thousand and logged onto Betika/Betin/Sportpesa. The match was between Liverpool and Manchester United. Manchester were the favorite candidates sure to win that match from a quick analysis. He quick bets, heart pounding and crosses his fingers. He calls one of his buddies and asked him if there was a gig to play. He was nervous. Match time was here. He decided to watch the match from the comfort of his home.
At that moment Dan said he was nervous. The jitters were enough to intoxicate a hard man. His girlfriend asked him if he was okay. The match started he had been full of nerves, headaches, pounding veins and arteries. His mum had flashed during the match. He called her during half time and told her that he would do something about it. Two hours later the match had been over. Liverpool had given Manchester United a good drumming. He cursed out loud. The remaining money had gone just like that. He was in a sour mood that day. He recalled. He remembers saying that he got dramatic and agitated at the slightest moment.
Things got tough afterwards. He had to sought out the services of a shylock. Which he found it to be costly. I asked him if he still bets. He said sometimes. But he learnt not to throw all his money at it.
This is the sad reality of young men and college students out there. It might sound dramatic and improbable. Some of them are our friends and relatives. Life is tough for this guys who must procreate and enjoy life as the same as other people. Poor people and young people have the same privileges as anyone else. Things happen, life happens.
I went home that Saturday with a lot of questions in my mind. Why was social security so dead that mothers and fathers would have to rely on their barely started sons to cater for their economic needs is a problem in our country. Why is NSSF struggling, inaccessible or dead in some quarters? Why is it the same with medicare?
It is truly sad and mind boggling when one has to send money home for either medication or school fees yet our country has “free education” and CDF scholarships. And still such services do not get down to the common country man. Why don’t we have a social support for young mothers who can get diapers, vaccines, medication at a cheaper price? Yet everyday we hear billions and trillions being looted left, right, center and sideways. Where are we headed as a country? We have money but we simply don’t care for the young ones. Does it have to be this way that our parents live productive lives, but sink into poverty at old age? Necessitating our diverting funds to them is also baffling. In this capitalistic space we have created, when you are deemed to useless to create capital, you are dumped to the wild waste live out your existence. Out of sight.
So as young people we are forced to step in. This is you and me. This is us. Despite having reached the university level. Young people only have access to low waged jobs with no social security and medicare. Life can be rough. After being blacklisted on CRB for not paying back Mshwari loans, Tala, Branch and Timiza, the only way other way out for most is gambling.
I think majority of them are just trying to keep their heads above water. Trying to keep afloat in an environment where tokens are now expensive and everything keeps skyrocketing day by day. Trying to do the right thing in difficult financial situations. The language of pathology should be dropped. You can’t have privileged folks who have never known lack in their lives coming out and saying young people are gambling away their lives. No. They are gambling trying to fix the economy and social systems that were long killed by greed, avarice and capitalistic cannibalism.
The irony in it all is that they with the privileged folks companies, which is rigged. Cause the house always wins. So they are damned either way. A painful irony. They are trying to fix their lives yet they make the privileged richer and them, poorer. This is the price we pay for an already broken system. The price we pay for condoning corruption in our own country will soon eat us up.
If you find your self in a hole; it would be a futile attempt if you decide to dig further. Both are already dire situations. This is a view of the mirror in our society as a whole where we reward old people under the guise that, they have had experience and their work is tried and tested.
Meanwhile the youth will languish in absolute poverty resorting to poverty. A never ending cycle.