PARADISE IN PRISON (A tale by Arrey Echi)
‘I am a king. I mean who sleeps in such comfortable surroundings? With servants on the go rushing to do their bidding? A King to be sure’.
Moh’Mandem had a smile on his face as he tossed this way and that on his bunk bed. The loud bang of the bell slowly penetrated his sleep fogged brain and brought him to the land of wakefulness. With a sigh, he dragged his leg off the bed, struggling to hang on to the last vestiges of what brought up the smile. Turning his head left and right, it downed on him that he had just experienced one of those fanciful dreams that momentarily takes his mind away from the reality that is his today.
You see, he was one of those people who left his country Cameroon with such high hopes of making it big in Europe .After all, based on stories and pictures of people living abroad, why should he keep suffering when he can experience heaven on earth? And thus on that one memorable day, after his family did everything possible to make his dream come true, he was soaring the skies with promises of sending home bucks as soon as possible.
The thrill of the first few months wore off and life became increasingly difficult and stressful. The friend who helped accommodate him was becoming distant. Even merger jobs were hard to come by. After roaming the streets for months on end, Moh’Mandem had his own experience to Damascus as scales practically felt off his eyes. The blinders were out and he saw the harsh realities of the other side of ‘bush’ life carefully concealed by the seeming glamour and glitter of it all.
‘Saaah this palaver bush na wa oh!’
Finding himself suddenly on the streets one day with nowhere to lay his head and exposed, the beauty of nature was lost to him, his primary focus now survival. Doubling his jackets gives people the impression he looked like an overfed rabbit. But a closer look shows him to taunt and withdrew with this blank look on his face. With hunger pangs grunting at his stomach, he accepted the first job that came to him. Throwing caution to the wind and ignoring that sixth sense that always got him off troubles, the idea of quick cash was quite appealing.
Months roll by and the struggle for survival intensified as he had to keep dodging and keeping his head above-board lest he be trampled upon. He found a certain thrill in dealing with danger but also refused to dwell on the deep-seated fear lodged half way between his heart and stomach and thus with a false bravado he pressed on until that one fateful day when cold irons clasped his hands and he was whisked off to jail for selling and peddling drugs.
And here is where the dreams started. At least, he was assured of a place to sleep and food in his stomach. He could call his people back home and give them the impression all was well and why not? All seemed well in his world. From the cold stone slabs for bed with grunting hunger in his stomach to bunk beds and plates of food, this place looked like Paradise to him.