You should see the way he handles his bike, like it’s a golden goose. It actually is. He peddles vigorously but passionately. By the way he grips the handles, you can tell he treasures it. It is more evident when there is a customer at the back, on the cushioned saddle. Somewhere under the saddle, there is a speaker from where his favourite genre of music emanates. Reggae. Whatever he doesn’t know about bike riding is not worth knowing.
His mates call him Ras despite his bald head. He is completely bald. They say you do not need dreadlocks to be a Rastafarian. Am yet to see his soul.
Every sunrise Ras washes and wipes his bike, oils what needs to be oiled and sets off. He sets of headed no-where. He has no destination. He rides in search of those with a destination and a few coins to get them there. He cycles around in search of customers. Most mornings he listens to a morning radio show. That and hope keep him going. When he spots a potential customer, he cycles up to them, agree on a price, wait for them to get on the saddle and they are off. Ras does not discriminate. He carries school children, men headed to work or even very very big women headed to the market. As long as the price is right, he carries anyone. Some may even request him to switch radio stations which he obediently does.
Ras is not a big man. He is quite skinny and short. But judging by his work, he is strong. After several trips, he heads to a nearby kibanda (kiosk) for a cup of porridge or a piece of sugarcane.
On a not so good day, his golden goose may develop a problem, but nothing his repair man can not fix. From a punctured tire, loose handle to noisy joints, his repair man can fix them all. At a fee of course. Some times it on credit because Ras is a man of his word.
On a bad bay, Ras may get into trouble with municipal council officers who always seem to be spoiling for a fight. Never with the Traffic Police. He always rides on the correct side of the road. The council officers are a ruthless bunch. If Ras rides so much into town, they kidnap his golden goose. Not even his cheeky smile or words can get his golden goose out. Only a ransom of a thousand shillings. A thousand shillings from a man who collects coins from his customers. A thousand shillings from a Rastafarian who has to recharge on porridge every once in a while. Somehow he always gets reunited with his golden goose. At times not fit for work after being mishandled by the officers. There is very little Ras can do about the harassment other than vent to his mates over a cup of porridge. Life goes on . He believes nothing lasts forever.
On a cursed day, Ras may get hit by a motorist. It could be anything from a motorbike, saloon car to a truck. Ras has been lucky that he always gets back up. At times its his fault, other times it’s the motorists fault. Every time he is knocked down, he first checks on his customer- if he has one-, then his bike and finally himself. At times they negotiate calmly after the incident, others times the trade unprintable words, either way they always solve the dispute. Life goes on. Ras has seen some of his mates die from such incidents. It always terrifies him. Makes him feel vulnerable and unsafe. It makes him pray a lot. After a while he calms down and makes a tale of it. But he never forgets. Least he forget.
At the end of a good or not-so-good day, Ras heads home to his family. He is a husband and a father of two sons. He does his best to be the best of both. When it’s rough he sends them to his mothers home home in the country side until things cool off. All he has is him and his golden goose that is yet to lay golden eggs.
For Ras and his mates, council officers and accidents do not deter them. They are out to make a living . They do not have the luxury of choices. But they do it like its the best job ever. Long live the golden goose.
sound track: One headlight – Wall Flowers