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This bleak September

‘Assalamu alaikum, you are truly engrossed Hassana. Can you believe that I have stood here for two minutes and watched you work and not once…

‘Assalamu alaikum, you are truly engrossed Hassana. Can you believe that I have stood here for two minutes and watched you work and not once did you raise your head to look up? Masha Allah, what dedication to duty.’ I observed, walking into my friend’s office to sit opposite her.

‘Wa alaikummussalam, you are welcome Hajiya Bint.’ She replied, raising her hand up to shake mine.
‘Indeed, I was engrossed but it wasn’t in work. It’s in sheer calculation. As you can see, I am on the calculator of my smartphone.’ She added, showing me her phone’s screen.
‘I see, that must be some real cool cash, to have got you so absorbed in it’s calculation.’ I joked.

‘I don’t know what you mean by cool Bint, but there’s been nothing easy about what I’ve been doing for the last one hour. Its been a tedious exercise. But let me get you something to drink from the fridge. I shouldn’t bore you with my tales of woe.’ She offered, rising up to her feet.

‘No please, don’t bother about getting me a drink, I’m fasting. You know it’s the blessed first ten days of Dhul Hajj. I’m trying to get what I can of their blessings.’ I answered, gesturing to her to sit back.
‘Masha Allah, I am fasting too. May Almighty Allah accept it from us.’ Hassana said sitting down.
‘So what were you calculating so ardently you didnt feel my presence?’ I asked.

‘You know it’s that time of the year Bint, when school fees have to be paid. This year food also has to be bought as well as the ram and the fuel. So that is what I have been cracking my brain over.’ She explained

‘But surely you dont need to do that all alone, and during your office hours too. Budgeting for school fees and housekeeping is something you should do while sitting next to your husband, in the comfort of your home.’ I advised.
‘And why should I do that?’ Hassana asked.

‘So you two can pull resources together and allocate them where necessary.’ I replied.
‘What if only I will be picking the bills. Is there any need to wait till I get home to plan my budget?’ She asked.
‘I dont understand. What do you mean by that? Are you divorced or separated?’ I asked in confusion.

‘No, Bint. My marriage is intact but my husband has been without salary for the past six months. For the first time since we married, I am glad that I work for the private sector. He and his colleagues in government employ are all suffering from this economic recession. As a result I’ve been left to pick every bill in our house. This is why I have been here for the last one hour planning what goes where. I have to decide what percentage of school fees I can pay so I can have some to spare for food and now sallah ram. I also have to factor in the car fuel, since it’s the only way we move around. By the time I am through with all these, there will be nothing more in the account.’ She lamented.

‘Oh, I’m really sorry to hear this. But surely you have some savings to fall back on. I mean you’ve been a full- fledged manager in a big and successful company like this one. You couldn’t have been blowing up all your salary every month like some new and junior employee.’ I argued.

‘Yes, I had savings Bint but we fell back on them in the last four months. My husband’s savings lasted only two months because things are so expensive and we have five kids and other dependents to feed and provide for. I took over the care of our whole house four months ago. Without a kobo from him, it means all my savings had to go. This month I have only my salary to budget with. And it so happens that it is the beginning of the school session as well as the month of Eid il Kabir. In other words this September is in every sense a financially bleak September. That was why I was so busy trying to juggle what I earned around our various needs and didn’t even notice you when you came.’ Hassana concluded.

‘How sad, I am truly sorry to hear this. It really confirms what the government is saying about the country being in a recession. I feel particularly pained when I remember those men and women who rise up every morning to go to work only to end up without salary at the end of the month. Anyway I hope, like the President said, this economic recession will soon end and the economy will bounce back. I sincerely hope that his government is doing something serious towards that end. Otherwise I can’t see how Nigerians can survive this continuing hardship. I’d like to offer you a sallah ram as my personnel palliative towards easing your bleak September. Luckily I have two, one was given to me by Tahir and the other I bought myself. With this one item out of the way maybe you won’t have to overstretch your resources.’ I said, smiling.

‘Oh, how kind of you’ Hassana responded, smiling back. ‘Thanks very much Bint, I truly appreciate your generous gesture. I also hope the government will find ways to solve the problem of unpaid salaries before it leads to something worse.’ She prayed.


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