MANTALK: Hard times don’t last forever

Friday November 3 2017

When men are broke it feels like the end of the

When men are broke it feels like the end of the world, but there’s a silver lining in every cloud and a light at the end of every tunnel. PHOTO| FILE 

More by this Author

When men are broke it feels like the end of the world, but there’s a silver lining in every cloud and a light at the end of every tunnel.

There are men and women who don’t have an 8-5pm jobs. When you meet them they will tell you that they are consultants.

When you ask them what kind of consultants they are, they will say, “Oh, you know, this and that.”

There are some who are into clearing and forwarding. I have met very many consultants who are in clearing and forwarding recently and it makes me wonder if that’s where the money is and what all these people could possibly be clearing and forwarding.

Then there are scores of consultants who are into other things like rearing pigs or charcoal trade, importing motor vehicles, delivering pens to the Government or branding.

The next big thing after clearing and forwarding seems to be branding.

Not to forget ‘marketing solutions’, whatever that may be, and lastly, image consultants with their green trousers and yellow socks with birds on them. Whenever I’m introduced to someone and they ask me what I do I simply tell them that I’m in jua kali. Because I am. Then I observe them stare at my nails. Whatever the hustle, it’s not easy.

A big part of being in jua kali is that you have to learn to be broke. You have to learn to weather the rainy days. And being broke is especially harder for a man.

Any man, really. The men who are in jua kali, like me, will tell you that money comes in waves.


For a few months you will be making it, then for the next it will dry out. Then you will make it again, then it will dry out. Then you make it. Then it dries out.

Then… OK, you get the pattern. It’s a yoyo.

And it’s tougher at the beginning, before you learn the patterns. Everything irritates you when there is no business coming in.

One time business was so bad and I remember going to a mall to look for a screen protector for my cell phone and I saw this man wearing white socks.

I was so annoyed at him for no reason at all. I remember following him, going the wrong direction from the phone shop, and looking at his socks and wondering, “Who the hell is this wearing white socks like he’s part of the Jackson 5? Why would anyone wear white socks in this day and age? Doesn’t this guy have friends? Or relatives with a better sense of style? Does he have a mirror? Even a broken one?”

Being a broke man also means that your movements are restricted.

There is a saying in my mother tongue: The only person who showers is one who has a place to go. If you don’t have a place to go, you don’t shower. That’s how brokenness feels like, a shower-less existence where you have nowhere to go because leaving the house costs money.

Most importantly being broke also affects your relationship with the females.

Women will say they don’t mind a man who doesn’t have money, it’s the heart and drive that counts. But this also has an expiry date. By month four they will start getting pretty restless with your heart.

Hard times slowly strip one of his manhood. It also makes you sensitive.

If your woman picks the bill thrice, you start feeling shadows closing in on you. If she sighs over something totally unrelated to you, you will wonder if she is tired of holding you up.

Hard times also mean you can’t go to the bar because then people will have to buy you drinks, which is fine once or twice, but then after the third one they will start avoiding you because, really, you are a liability.

So you keep off and stay at home and watch a movie and when they call you invite you out you will say you broke a hip and is taking it easy or that you have H Pylori.

But hard times are a good thing. They help you learn who your friends are. It makes you appreciate saving for rainy days.

It keeps you in the house because sometimes that’s what you need, to stay put. It pushes you further, to do more, to innovate, to push the envelope, to try out new paths. It humbles you. It – I’m sure – also makes you wear white socks.

Good thing they don’t last forever.