Before I had my own car, I used to use public transport, the buses, the combis and sometimes taxis. The thing I miss the most about using public transport is the human interaction. I miss the stories I used to hear on the bus, the drama I witnessed on the streets, the occasional but oh-so-endearing unusual acts of kindness by the touts but mostly the loud music and the competing voices and chatter of the crowd on the bus.
I got a chance to experience that again as I journeyed across the country to visit family over the festive season. On one of the buses I took, there was a man. At first it was just his interjectory comments on everything he saw that fascinated me. “That cow is too thin. The owners must be so greedy, they even finish the grass for the cows!” “That man is too fat, how can one look so fat during the rainy season, he must be lazy too!” “That field must belong to a lazy person, not even a small sign that any cultivation will take place!”
Then the stories moved to women.
“I love women. I treat my wife very well. I do not allow her to work in the field. I invest all my money into buying herbicides to kill the weeds. I can’t have her working in the fields all day long, breaking her back and then expect her to break her back at night again” Kikiki, the whole bus giggled.
Then the stories moved to domestic violence.
“I think men who beat up their wives are stupid. A man should never beat up his wife.”
He is gender sensitive, I thought.
Then, “But I learnt the hard way. I beat up my wife. She had sold our beasts without consulting me. I had gone off to town to buy seed. Then as as soon as I got off the bus, I heard about it by the people at the shops. When I got home I was so angry I just slapped her. She tried to explain and I slapped her again, hard.”
“She got me arrested. I spent 8 days in police cells. The lice!!! Hmmm jail is not a place for any human being.”
“Kikiki,” more giggling form the people on the bus.
“But I promise you, once a woman reports you to the police she is no longer your wife. She is the police’s wife. I divorced her soon after I got out, told her to pack her things and leave. How could she get me arrested?”
“Now I have a new wife. I don’t beat her, but maybe one day if she makes me really angry I may lose my temper and beat her. Umm but I love her too much to lose her…”
And the bus drove on….