Wednesday, May 6, 2009


A woman walks into a market place with her long list
and plans on bargaining on the price of every item on that market list.
Are women just managers or do we
just love to play the cat and mouse game with sellers
when we go to the market?

Most men will probably defer from women in the
shopping sphere. Maybe I stand to be corrected, do we have guys out there
becoming schooled in the labourious process of market
place bargaining?

This is one question I always asked myself
right from the time when I was eleven years old,
compulsorily sun tanning under the blistering
afternoon heat while performing the weekly ritual of
shopping for household needs and foodstuffs with my
mother in the popular Bolade market situated just by
the ever busy Oshodi expressway till I was old enough to realize that I am yet to get an answer.
I would watch as my mother
and the traders haggled prices back and forth like
participants of a ping pong game.
"How much be dis Okazi?" (For those of you that are
not familiar with this very tasty vegetable, ask your
friends from the East or South-East).
My mother would ask the vegetable woman whose face
was so dark and paper thin, I could see fragile tiny
veins running in their haphazard manner. The seller
picks the bundle of vegetable and turns it like she is
seeing it for the first time, long lines criss
crossing her forehead as she tries to concentrate on
the math running through her mind.
"I go sell am for you, for just four hundred naira"
she says after what seems like eternity.
My mother's snort of indignation shortly follows this
announcement. A snort I admired loyally, I always tried to no avail to copy the
dramatic expression and nasal sound my mother emitted
when she didn't believe what you were telling her but
failed miserably. So it therefore was a source of envy
to me. I tried to use it albeit dismally to show my friends I was not easy to fool the same
way my mother shows anyone up to mischief that she was not an
easy game. After the snort came the look of disdain.
She picks the same vegetable and turns it over as the
seller had done but she holds it in the way I had seen her do to the
dirty clothes I forgot to include in the Saturday
laundry (I can't tell the vegetable woman that, can
I? She is my mother after all) and then my mother
"Hundred Naira"
My knees almost give way beneath me. The difference
in bargain is so astounding that I begin to wish two
things but as I look around the market, I see that
the fates are not with me. One, the ground is too
muddy for me to wish for it to open up and swallow me.
Two, to back away from my mother like I don't know her
just in case there is an offending blow thrown in our
direction will only land me in an aluminum bowl of
slithering catfish. Petrified, I wait for all hell
to break loose but to my utter amazement; the woman
remains calm and even smiles in an indulgent manner.
Then she begins the annoying inspecting ritual as she lifts the vegetable and
turns it this way and that. I follow her hand movements, beginning to
feel sorry for that poor vegetable. I fervently thanked God I
wasn't it.
"Ah madam, you know say things don too dear" (A
Nigerian expression for the word expensive) she says looking so crestfallen I actually nod in agreement willing my mother to take her sobriety into consideration but my mother shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly and pulls
me away from the woman's table. I am beginning to sigh
in relief when we both hear the vegetable woman
"Aunty! Aunty!"
Uh oh I say to myself. "Umari, let's go back" my
mother says to me with a reassuring pat on my shoulder.
We trudge back to the woman. By
now, my sympathies are not with her. I practically
glare at her but there is a resigned smile on her face
and she touches the vegetable almost reverently.
"Na because na you o!" she tells my mother with gusto as she begins to look for a newspaper to wrap the vegetable. Once the vegetable is perfectly wrapped she hands it over to my mother who
smiles sympathetically back but calmly collects the vegetable and stuffs it into
the market basket I hold up obediently for her.
Then suddenly the storm passes and the two women exchange niceties as they have both reached a consensus,
my mum promising to come back again. Now I watch a
passing young girl with a bucket on her head as she
"cool minerals, cool minerals". I watch her enthralled by the contents of her bucket but she is oblivious to my expectant stares.
I know this will be my reward
for enduring the strange ritual of market place
bargaining that we go through repeatedly until my
mother has ticked the last item off her long list with
a satisfied nod.
Years later, my family relocates to Abuja, the
Nigerian federal capital territory. In this new millennium, my mother has developed an even newer routine by
somehow managing to use her convincing powers to cajole
my very traditionalist father that splitting the
market chores just lessened her burden as the stress
was becoming too much for her. I understand.
I just can't imagine the number of times she has been
performing this feat ever since she got married.
So my father gives in to his wife’s demand like the gentleman that he is and this time my
only sister Maureen who already is a teen a ripe for
market training is only too happy to hop into my
father's car to go get the meat (Note the difference!!!).
I watch and sigh, how times have
Twenty minutes later, my sister saunters back into the
kitchen carrying two large polythene bags.
"This one meat, this one chicken" she says holding
one bag up after the other. She empties the meat into
a bowl in the sink proceeds to wash it.
"I like going to the market with daddy" My sister
enthuses from the sink "If he asks, how much and they
tell him two thousand, he just pays. Ba wahala" (
Hausa for "No problem")
My mother only shakes her head as she stirs the
contents of the pot on the cooker. She knows my sister
is referring to her market bargaining exploits.
"You people think I enjoy stress eh?" she asks facing my sister and I momentarily
"Ah Mummy, I think you do" Maureen tells her with a big grin.
"Where is Daddy?" I ask my sister
"I think he said he was going for a meeting"
I smile to myself. Having survived the horrors of
shopping, my father has quickly hurried off to massage his
ego with the 'Boys' so as to remind himself that his
manhood was not damaged by performing what he strictly
believes is for the 'Girls'. I watch my mother busy
herself around the kitchen; there is a smile on her
face. I am thinking that she is thinking 'Now he knows
just a wee part of what shopping entails'.

Times are fast changing and a lot of people in this
generation will be getting very modern in their
marriages and hopefully the womenfolk will be getting
some help from their men in the shopping area.
But it always strikes me to the core to witness the finesse with
which the average Nigerian woman will maneuver her way
around the price of an item until she has it safely
stashed away in her bag or market basket while the men
will most probably pay on demand (Did I hear the guys
say, 'not all of us will pay on demand'?). Are we
women very price conscious as a result of being home
This all brings me to the initial question,
Were we created to shop and bargain?

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