Mama Njeri looked at the price tag on the supermarket shelf unbelievingly.
Ksh 146. This was the new price of a 2kg packet of maize.
‘Excuse me,’Mama Njeri called a bored looking supermarket attendant with a faded blue overcoat.
‘How much is a 2kg packet of maize flour?’
He pointed at the price tag and said in a matter-of-fact way, ‘one hundred and forty six shillings.’
She looked at him wide-eyed, scared, like he was merciless gunman aiming an AK-47 at her.
‘One hundred and forty six shillings,’ she repeated quietly in an unbelieving mumble that only her could hear. Just two months earlier, she had come to the same supermarket and stood at this same spot. But back then, the price tag on the dusty shelf read differently.
Only two months ago. Seventy three shillings. And now, Ksh 146. Double. In two months. Yet her salary as a receptionist in a downtown pharmacist hadn’t doubled. It was still nine thousand shillings.
She looked at the price tag again and she saw her three daughters, Njeri, Ciiru and Soni, who were aged eleven, nine and six respectively.
Njeri was bright for her age. She was index 3 in her class 8 at Buruburu 1 Primary School. In two months time, she would be sitting for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. Her mother was sure that Njeri would pass her exams with flying colors and earn admission to Alliance Girls High School. The admission letter would come with a list of things to be bought and fees to be paid. And it was up to her to find the money.
Mama Njeri was standing in front of the maize flour shelf like a robot. Her brown eyes were still transfixed on the price tag.
As she gazed at the hiked figure, she saw the smiling face of Ciru her second daughter. What a happy nine year old! Ciiru was the sunshine of the family, always smiling. Every time Mama Njeri looked at her second born daughter, she always felt a flicker of joy in her heart.
Ciiru’s father had been a happy man too. She should have married him but he had a wife. He was such a happy man, ever laughing. Even when he told her that their affair had to end, he did so with a smile. The same smile that she always saw in her daughter Ciiu. The affair might have been a mistake but Ciiru wasn’t. Her daughter deserved the best in life. The very best.
Mama Njeri saw the figure again and released a deep, troubled sigh. Two months was all it had taken for the price to double. The cost of living was becoming too high, slipping beyond her nine-thousand shillings salary.
She looked again at the new price and saw the face of Soni her last born. That girl could sing. She sang when she woke up in the morning, sang when she ate and sang before she slept. These days, her favourite song was Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry.’ Before then, it had been Willy Paul and Gloria Muliro’s ‘Sitolia.’ It was clear to all who knew her that Soni had a musical gift and would one day be a great singer. But only if that gift was nurtured. It was up to her mother to ensure that her daughter’s gift was nurtured. And that would cost money.
She was the guardian, protector and provider of her three amazing daughters. They were her dreams come true and it was up to her to make their dreams come true. But translating dreams into reality cost money. Money that was now becoming increasingly scarce due to skyrocketing prices.
She looked one final time at the price tag and with a heavy heart picked one packet, instead of two.