Thursday, 1 December 2011

Our Askaris,Entrepreneurs Too!

They are the people thanks to whom we sleep peacefully at night,as snug as bugs under our rugs.They are the people thanks to whom our children play without a care in the world in the housing complex compound.They are also the people thanks to whom no visitor can ever arrive unannounced to our house,giving us a crucial five minutes to clear our usually messy living room!They are our Askaris!
The Kamusi ya Kiswahili-Kiingereza(the Swahili-English Dictionary) defines the word 'Askari'as a guard.(Yes,the alphabet K does seem to be predominant here,a la eKta Kapoor,Karan johar and raKesh roshan!But,I assure you the K syndrome is not a Kolonial legacy!)Askaris are ominipresent across East Africa and it is impossible to imagine our lives here without them.
They are a must have in all bungalows,in housing and commercial complexes,at the entrances of embassies and of course,like in India,outside malls, multiplexes and schools.They are outsourced from private security agencies and have smart,up to date uniforms,bringing to mind the guards outside Buckingham Palace,minus of course,the change of guard ceremony!When their shift gets over, they just sign out and leave,a vast improvement over the Kolonial system of marching up and down till even the onlookers start feeling exhausted.
Here,the Askaris are well trained and courteous, always making it a point to greet us even as their eyes expertly scan the interior of our car.They are fearless too and quickly rifle through bags,purses,boxes even the boot of the car,before giving us the all clear to move on in any commercial complex that we might happen to visit.Askaris will always be the first ones to be exposed to the danger,if any,and as they report for work each day,I always wonder what goes through their minds.After all,we live in uncertain and dangerous times,where man is out to get man.
The Askaris of our building have shown great entrepreneurship too as they have started keeping pre paid phone recharge cards,prepaid net recharge cards and even the daily newspaper!So whenever we need to recharge the phone we just need to run down to our front gate!A blessing indeed.And they have the recharge cards of the entire gamut of cell phone and net operators in all the possible denominations!And we,being slaves to modern technology,are really grateful to them.
My husband and I take a brisk walk in our compound every morning.We have two security gates,with a distance of approximately a hundred meters between the two.One day,while walking sedately as usual,we decided on the spur of the moment,to make a quick dash from one gate to another.We started running and when we reached the outer gate,we were surprised to hear loud laughter ringing out from the Askaris at both ends!They found the sight of two huge Indians running so funny that even they could not control themselves!That is when I realized that the people who we place next only to God for protecting us,are human after all!
Who won the race?Well,we both reached the finish line at exactly the same time!

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