There are many shortcuts I take home, but I have noticed something on one of them: in the morning there is an old man in rags with little tumours all over his skin but by evening a younger man takes his place. A younger man with a swollen bandaged leg; with one hand he drives flies away from his leg while with the other he begs for alms.
On the pedestrian bridge in Anthony, there’s a woman, able-bodied, who sits by the steps of the bridge with a baby boy and girl, begging. On that same bridge there is a guy whose hands end at the elbows, another whose legs are paralysed, both of them sweep the bridge, especially when it rains, then they greet pedestrians and pray for them with outstretched limbs and expectant eyes. At Palmgrove there’s a man, a cripple, who is always there. I have wondered how early he comes and how late he goes home.
At Onipanu, Fadeyi, Jibowu, Yaba. Every bus stop has its own resident beggar. The sick, injured, blind, and the poor. Then there are the twins-bearing women, who balance twin babies on their sides with expertise while chasing after cars. There are also the little Arab-looking children who walk around with little bowls.
On Sunday I saw the twins-bearing women at Ikeja and anger welled up inside me. I cussed at them, lazy women go and do something. Later I became sad as I thought about the kids kept in the sun all day.
You see, people with paralysed lower bodies crawling on the floor, with missing body parts hopping to catch up with Lagos. Women who have survived acid attacks and then those whose minds couldn’t take the stress that is Lagos, roaming around in rags.
There is no going around Lagos without seeing beggars, they are everywhere but when was the last time you gave alms to a beggar? We stay in the comfort of cars with ACs where we have perfected the art of ‘unlooking’ when we see them. We make comments about how they should go and work and I don’t blame anyone who thinks this way. Late last year I read about beggars who earn N10,000 per day. But. . .
On Thursday, a bus conductor was hanging on to a bus with quarter of an arm shouting out for passengers. Same day, a middle aged woman was bent, hands almost on the same level with her legs. Her back was hollow, she was carrying a child, begging.
Lagos will break your heart into a million pieces, but please don’t let the scammers stop you from putting, even if it’s a tiny smile, on someone’s face.