Tanki was our major shopping complex. There were as many as seven, eight shops there, but the one we always went to was kantin Sambo. Shehu and I. His things were more expensive and it always took longer for him to attend to customers because of the number of people waiting, but we always went there. Maa beat, cajoled and begged us not to go there, but it didn’t work. His bread most of the time would have been getting stale, but Shehu would buy them like that. If there was time, Maa made him return them, only for him to take another one from the same shop. Maa had to give up. She wondered though, if we went there because our grandfather’s brother was Sambo. (as if we cared who was whom).

The first death I ever witnessed (or understood) was that of Saratu. We were more or less age mates. We fought, we played, we kept malice. She was our next door neighbour.

We had this habit of baring our doors and refusing one another entry into our homes if we fought. The fight could be for any flimsy reason, even a look that one didn’t like. If that happened, the discourse went like this:

“koma, bazaki Shiga a gidan mu ba, ba jiya kin harare ni ba?”

Sometimes mums had to weigh in, because we didn’t care if you were on an errand. But sure enough, it happened again, for tomorrow Saratu would bar their own door, simply because I barred ours yesterday.

She fell ill for a while and she would only lay in her stepmother’s room. She missed a lot of school, but she got better one day and even came out to watch us play. And then just like that I heard the elders saying “Ashe saukin tafiya ne”. Saratu died. That meant we would never see her again. I don’t remember crying, but I know we missed her. I might have regretted some of those times I refused to let her into our house. Did that matter?. I can’t say. She was gone. And her step mother was inconsolable.

Life got back to normal and we talked about Saratu a little less every day.

I don’t know how Maa came about plenty Omo and milk one time and decided to sell. Yes, I hawked one more time in Sokoto. This time around with Amina. I think I thought I had something to prove, having hawked once before, I thought I had exclusive right to knowing the ropes. So as soon as we left home with both our trays laden with Omo and Milk, I told Amina to go her way as I intended to beat her at it. I went towards Gwiwa and I was lucky that even before I entered the area proper, I had emptied my tray. I was happy, as was Maa, but Amina wasn’t that lucky, she came back with a little less than what she took out. And I could not stop making reference to that. “ai na sayar, Amina bata yi ciniki ba”. Until Maa threatened to shut me up.

The next day we went again. In my bid to outdo my sister again, I went further than I did the first day and my worry became not selling my Omo and Milk but how to find my way back from the remote area of Gwiwa that I found myself at. With my laden tray I cried my heart out, for I was really really lost!

I hadn’t realised that the road I took was just a footpath, and I could not, for the life of me, recognise any landmarks. To make matters worse, there were only a few huts around there and absolutely no human presence. I walked and cried. Walked and cried. I was too scared to stop and all of a sudden, I saw the familiar red untarred road from the east side of our Doka road, and I saw Amina with her empty tray making her way home. I had never been happier. We got back home together, me not the least bothered that I hadn’t made any sales, Amina ecstatic. Maa took one look at me and asked me to take my tray inside.

Neither Amina nor I ever went hawking again.

Wonder now what she did with all that Omo and Milk.


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