GRACE TO GRASS

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Photo: courtesy

Bottomline: Gambling was a rich man’s play till the entry of online gambling which is open to all as opposed to the traditional casino gambling which was a preserve of the rich.Sports betting has proven overtime to be a poor man’s pain and a rich man’s profit

On my way home after a busy day running necessary errands in the city, I rarely go to the city unless when it is very necessary. As I strolled home after alighting at the bus stop, down here we call it a stage. An aroma of roasted maize provoked my appetite forcing me to make an impromptu stop over at one of the many roast-maize stands in the neighborhood.

It had been a while since my teeth were put to test on their sharpness on matters grinding in a chewing exercise, I don’t remember the last time I chewed maize or sugarcane.So I joined the already long human that was building up waiting for their maize of choice to be charcoal customized to their specific heat temperatures.

The human traffic at the stand mostly comprised of middle aged women and men in their sunset years, this was not a sponsor meet up point by the way. I later learnt from Tosh (at least that’s how they were calling him) roasted maize had numerous health benefits not limited preserving healthy skin,lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, during pregnancy, energy enhancer, miracle for those who are underweight and reducing the risk of anemia.

Now I understood the customers demographics, many were there thanks to medical recommendations from their personal doctors to mitigate or avert a potential medical condition.

Tosh was too polished and well informed I could tell from the way he handled his clientele so I thought unemployment forced him to heat condition monocotyledons uniformly for a living. In this country thanks to the ever rising unemployment levels finding a university graduate doing those odd menial graduate ‘trainee’ jobs isn’t news. Last time a first class honors holder in bachelor’s degree in economics and statistics Ruth Jemutai was doing menial jobs back at her village in Baringo only for her plight to be highlighted by the media.

We all know of that graduate friend or relative somewhere who is selling insurance,brokering sand,vending water, teaching at a local high school as an untrained teacher, extorting matatus and touting with a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Science and Statistics or those difficult courses we pursue at university level where getting supplementaries is normal yet they managed a clean second class honors upper division.

A few metres from his stand there was a group of motorbike riders busy analyzing the Midweek jackpot in their bid to be the country’s next millionaire. They were arguing amongst themselves each trying to come up with a list of 13 possible outcomes that are likely to propel them out of poverty.

“They do this every Monday and Tuesday for the midweek jackpot and from Thursday to Saturday mid morning when they analyze the mega jackpot. No one ever wins only two of them have managed to get bonuses which they blew away on women and alcohol.” You know how these ‘nduthi’ people (Motorbike riders) have a high affinity to skirts and alcohol as a leisure activity. Even when they win huge amounts of money their lives remain the same, only disappearing for a few days after they have won the cash before coming back with stories of how they don’t know where money they won disappeared to.

Most of them are employed by businessmen who hire out motorbikes expecting Ksh 500 everyday which is peanuts considering the amounts they make thanks to the pervasiveness of the motor bikes in the transport industry. Some make close to Ksh 3,000 a  day but live in abject poverty thanks to gambling. Imagine someone taking part in all those quick money making platforms from Lotto, Tatua, Sportpesa, Betin to Betpawa.

Listen to me young man I too had gambling problems that made me lose everything I had in life from family to investments. During my daily interactions with customers many of whom have continuously questioned why I appear to be well informed yet am roasting maize on the roadside. I never like talking about the circumstances that catapulted me to my present situation.

What started as a simple way to make cash having been introduced by a friend to sports betting I started out placing bets with small amounts. My first bets were coming through as I rarely lost, then the devil started talking as I listened carefully to his marching orders. Before I knew it I was placing bets with more than Ksh 100,000 a day. At first the returns continued to trickle in as the money doubled after just 90 minutes of ‘patience’.

It was a good investment, my wife questioned where the money was coming from being the christian she was I couldn’t mention anything close to gambling. I told her it was from some business deals I did sometime back. As lame as the answer was she let it go without follow up questions on the nature of the business though her face had many question marks.

Things took a turn when I started to lose bets I thought were ‘sure’ bets back to back ‘kweli mpira hudunda’ football has unpredictable outcomes. The more I lost the more the urge to increase my stakes boiled inside me. Driven by emotions and not reason I continued to place more bets to recover what I lost. I kept on losing back to back until I started gambling with our entire life savings, when the savings were depleted I jumped ship to school funds. We had a private school in Pipeline estate,Nairobi which was doing well it was valued to close to Ksh 4 million.

My wife started noticing behavioral changes, I became angry over nonsensical issues spending more time in bars as I followed matches closely waiting for my investments to mature, some came through most didn’t. Before I could realise I had started taking alcohol to see me through the midnight and 2 am South American soccer fixtures. Little did I realise I was drifting away from my family completely becoming a stranger.

My wife at one point confronted me about my spending when she realized our savings account was drained,cash from the school account had been withdrawn and some electronics were missing from the house. This confrontation was heated as we verbally exchanged abuses, since I wasn’t winning this shouting competition I hit her to shut her up of which she did only for her to wake up the following day packed her bags as she took off with the children.

I had no time to go after her, there are many women outside here who are looking for men to take up their surnames, so I consoled myself. Furthermore there were more pressing financial issues that need to be sorted out through additional investments and proper analysis of upcoming games, this time there will be no room for mistakes.

Her exit from my life was the final nail in my coffin, the school was bankrupt as the bank towed two Nissan Matatus which were school vans as parents pulled out their children from my school considering the deteriorating academic levels. I could not pay the teachers thus they left in droves, the school was officially under receivership so it had to close down. An investment built over years through shear sweat,pain and struggle had gone down the drain in no time.

Photo Courtesy of The Star, Kenya
A file photo of betting machines at an establishment in Juja town, Kiambu county.

This addiction made me to sell all my electronics including my phone at a through away price as I orchestrated a major comeback which never materialized. Everything was lost I moved from a two bedroom house in Tassia estate, Embakasi to a single room in Pipeline which I struggled with rent. My life had taken an unexpected turn, I even started gambling in those Chinese coin operated gambling machines since I couldn’t afford online sports betting.

With no income generating activity, no money to gamble I turned to friends and relatives for financial bail outs to bankroll my already scaled down gambling activities with a promise of paying up soon, a promise I never honored thus I was shunned away. Trying to contact my wife proved futile,like a bird she had flown away she never wanted anything to do with me hiding my children away.

I turned to menial jobs to make ends meet, this was my turning point thats why am here selling roasted maize. Never again will I turn to gambling as a way of getting quick money, you too should keep away from gambling activities there is no shortcut to riches.

Gambling companies only show you the glamorous side of the story they want you to buy whereby a few people have won ‘small’ amounts of cash running in millions not the other ugly side of the story where millions have lost billions struggling to finance this addiction. Have you seen any support centre for people with gambling addiction in this country? But we have mental institutions everywhere to deal with mental illnesses !!!

Our short cut mentality to riches provides fertile breeding ground for the gambling industry to thrive in this country with new gambling companies sprouting everyday. Media adverts today have 90% gambling content with gambling companies competing to outshine each other suffocating radio stations, television networks, websites, blogs, magazines and newspapers with their ‘Overnight Millionaires tales’ and other short stories.

Out of 10 billboards in this country seven are advertising gambling activities, two are marketing alcoholic drinks and that remaining one is for the remaining sectors of our economy. How do you expect hardworking youths yet their continuous exposure to gambling messages has zombified them already?

Like religion gambling offers hope, in a society where youths don’t fit anywhere politically,socially and economically they turn to gambling which offers hope for upward economic and social mobility when you win the jackpot, maybe you will gain political superiority if you wish to get into politics. In this country one can’t be elected to any political office with empty pockets.

Almost forgot to mention I told him to “keep change’ (balance) to promote his hustle as I walked home grinding the maize pondering how devastating gambling can turn one’s life inside out…….

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