A Journey with Baba by Maame Akua Koduah

Charlie, I’ll see you on Monday.’

No shaking kraa. I see say you get girl you dey wan visit at home.’

Ano get girl oo.’

Dey there. I dey wedge you. The whole world, ibi you wey you get girls pass everyone.’

My roommate, Edwin, laughed after making this remark. I watched him as he picked a Sakumono Junction taxi.

I made my way to the Tema Motorway car at the station near the well known Accra Mall, hoping it would get full on time. I was really hungry and had badly missed Mama’s cooking. I had been perching on my roommates stew for some days and though the stew as not the best, when you are hungry as well as broke, you had no choice.

Within five minutes, the car was full which made me happy. I could practically smell the chicken gravy from my mother’s kitchen. I started to salivate as I anticipated eating the gravy with vegetable rice and kelewele.

And just as I looked up, I beheld him. Baba Jagara. A mate who was known for his quick and violent temper, booming voice, very muscular structure as well as a taste for very bright colourful clothes and an interesting body scent. On this particular day, he was wearing a neon green shirt with a multicoloured pair of shorts. A bright red bandana with yellow polka dots was tied around his head. I learnt from a friend some time back that he had beaten a fellow mate who had dared challenge him openly. This poor mate had to be rushed to the 37 Military Hospital and had received stitches. He had broken teeth as well as a broken nose.

Goodness!

I could not believe he was going to be the mate for this trotro I had happily sat in.

As the car got to the tollbooth, the mate started taking his money.

‘Yessss, front seat,’ he began.

I saw the woman sitting next to him wrinkle her nose and take out a handkerchief as the mate’s breath reached the recesses of her soul.

Sitting at the very back, I knew it would take a bit of time before I had to pay my fare. I spent the next few minutes fantasizing about the food I was going to eat and how I would wash it down with a chilled bottle of Coke.

Before I realized, I had fallen into a deep sleep. I had not been well rested because I had been pulling all-nighters for my mid semester exams.

YES. I AM ONE OF THOSE STUDENTS WHO WAIT TILL THE LAST MINUTE TO LEARN.

And yes, I would keep on doing so.

So anyway, I was not well rested and that was why I dozed off.

‘Master, it’s left with 20 pesewas.’

These were the words that woke me up.

One thing I would say for Baba Jagara was that his English was on point.

Baba Jagara was talking to a man sitting directly in front of me.

‘Mate, it’s Gh 1.50 oo.’

‘Ehh, are you challenging me? Do you know how long this trotro has been plying this route? Bring the 20 pesewas now!’

The whole car suddenly became extremely quiet. I am very sure that most people in the case, like me, had heard of the famous Baba Jagara.

The unfortunate recipient of these harsh words, after spotting the menacing expression on the mate’s face, gave him the money.

And now, Baba Jagara was coming to the backseat. By this time, we were nearing the end of the journey.

I started searching through my pocket for money. I found nothing.

No worries, I thought to myself. I’ll just check in my bag.

I checked inside the bag slowly and then frantically as my hands were not connecting with any coins or notes.

I turned my bag upside down and all that dropped was a 10 pesewa coin. I stared in dismay at it.

What was I going to do? I thought.

My heart started palpitating.

I started imagining all kinds of horrendous things.

Baba Jagara would probably lift me into the air and throw me down. I could even feel the pain shooting through my body as I envisaged my body hitting the ground.

Worse, he could challenge me to a duel. I knew I stood no chance if that happened. For all my talk on eating a lot, I was as skinny as broomstick. My friends in school had always encouraged me to go to the gym with them; one was even taking karate. I always laughed at them stating that whenever I would be in trouble, they would be around to defend me. Baba Jagara was extremely well built and compared to him, I was nothing.

I started biting my fingernails, praying for a miracle. Baba Jagara had taken money from every other passenger by this time and taken his seat. I was waiting for him to turn around and ask for his money from me.

Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and trickled down my face. I took out my handkerchief to dab at the sweat.

Thankfully, the car arrived at its final destination without the mate asking me for the fare. I got down quickly and started the short walk home.

It was less than thirty seconds later when I heard that dreaded booming voice.

‘Hey, you! Come back!’

I thought about running away but I was no athlete. The only option I had was to turn back and meet my fate.

I walked back slowly, dreading the encounter I was going to have with the mate. I am very sure I was walking like my sister during her first tryout in her heels. That day had been fantastic, I had had so much fun laughing at her as she teetered and tottered in her heels.

I finally reached Baba Jagara who was standing in front of the trotro talking to the driver. He turned to me and handed me my handkerchief.

‘You left your handkerchief in the car when you alighted.’

‘Th- th- thank you,’ I stammered, stretching out my hands to take it.

‘You are welcome. Take better care of your things,’ he said and sat in the trotro.

I nodded wordlessly and attempted a smile.

My legs turned to jelly as I thought about what had just happened and what could have happened.

I could not believe my luck. I promised myself to start going to the gym and taking karate as I walked home finally.

However, as I sat behind the mountain of vegetable rice and chicken gravy with a bottle of Coke at the side, all such thoughts vanished. I made a mental note to buy the kelewele after eating to watch with a movie later.

After all, if I had been lucky once, I would surely get lucky again.

In your dreams, my conscience said.