This one beggars belief

It had been a rare uneventful journey to work. I’d got to Bridge early, hopped into a trotro, dropped off at Ridge. No drama.

I was only a few steps away from the sanctuary of the office. My mind was in a million places. I was day dreaming again, flitting between thoughts of the past, future and the make-believe, when all of a sudden I felt a smaller hand grab mine. Looking down, I saw this cute little girl, one of the Chadian children. If she spoke Twi, it wasn’t evident, but then, the universal language of begging is not limited to known human linguistics. A coin exchanged hands. My good deed for the day done, I walked on with a spring in my step … till I saw who I believe was the kid’s father sitting with his legs crossed on the sidewalk sipping tea while he loaded credit onto his phone. I was boiling hotter than his kettle.

Too many times I’ve been taken in. Good intentioned, maybe, but surely, I’m being swindled on a daily basis! I don’t mean to look down on how the underprivileged get their daily bread, but I just can’t help feeling rather dumb sometimes.

I’ve heard all sorts of tales over the years.

There was the guy who stopped me just outside a fast food joint, said he was stranded. He had the saddest look. They always have some far-flung place that they’re headed to – the further the better –and they came to see some brother, and he wasn’t around, and … you get the picture. This guy said he didn’t want my money. (WHAT!) Yep, he was adamant about it. Said I should stand with him and wait for the trotro headed where he was going, pay the mate and go my way. Surely, he wasn’t serious. Stand with him for what? I handed him a note and wished him a nice life. It took me the best part of two days to figure out that that was the scam. Who wanted to wait with a total stranger just to pay his fare? Some weeks later, I met him again … with the same sales pitch. That’s me walking on.

It’s a career. It’s an art to be learnt, and each has carved their own niche. One guy came up to a trotro and made his presentation in flawless Queen’s English. I kid you not. It worked. He made me part with a coin. Ka-ching!

One guy would rather beg than be healed. He walked up unknowingly to an eye doctor in traffic and was begging for alms. Obviously, he was no biblical Blind Bartimius, ‘cos one look from the doctor and she had diagnosed his problem. There was hope for him. Hooray! She gave him her card and a note, and asked him to come see her. He’d got an appointment in the streets! That’s right, he never showed. Why see properly while you can beg? He was back the next day.

Years ago I met another who had a whole song to go along with his appeal for funds. “Hu me mmobo, na me ye mmobo …” (Have pity on me, because I am pitiful).  For real?! You wonder why he doesn’t put his creativity to better use. The person next to him was asking for money to buy koko. He still is. By now, he should have a lifetime’s supply.

Another dude, after I’d waved him off, challenged me to give him a reason why I wouldn’t give him money. I stared on stunned. I should just have told him to buzz off, but he clearly wasn’t going to leave without a fight. He was very comfortable to debate. In the end, I got him closer to his daily financial target. Ka-ching!

I heard these folks are pretty rich. Mansions, cars, kids abroad.  But then again, it’s probably all rumour. After all, how much can one make in coins, right? (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

Two events, though, softened my stance towards people who begged for help. The first was in Kumasi when I was a broke university student. I realized that the trip from Kejetia to Tech was ¢400 (a measly 4 Pesewas) more than I had. I couldn’t bear the indignity of asking the mate for mercy (I could already hear him in his moment of glory, “These university too-know people, they don’t have money blah blah blah.” He’d have a field day at my expense). I turned to my right and swallowed the lump that was in my throat. I told the lady sat next to me that I needed a bail-out. I’m surprised she could hear me, ‘cos I was so ashamed that I could barely speak.

However, the second one carries the cake; my biggest embarrassment to date. But to cut a long narrative short – and these are all the details I can give – very late one night, I held a half-gallon of petrol around the University of Ghana, wet from the drizzle, and red-faced with shame, asking passers-by for help to take a taxi to the spot where the car I was driving had left me marooned. Just like that. I told all those I approached how embarrassed I was to be doing this … and looking back, that sounds so much like the way all these men scattered around Accra start. It was a long painful walk back to the car.

However, I changed my mind again, and I’m now a regular old scrooge. It was after an encounter around Circle. This young man was frantic and distraught. He begged, “Brother, please help me. I can’t believe this; I’ve just been picked. I’m a student at Legon, and I need to go back, please …” My mind went back to my own date with disgrace when nobody helped me. I would make the difference in his life. No more would he have to bear the humiliation of begging to go back to school. The transaction was made. He thanked me profusely and went his way. Three months later, he was picked again and walked up to me, frantic and distraught, and begged, “Brother, please help me. I can’t believe this; I’ve just been picked. I’m a …” I could’ve shot the bloke. “Too bad, buddy, you’re on your own.”

Too many times I’ve been the fool. Not anymore. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to discern the conmen from those honestly in need, so, what do I do when I see a beggar these days on my daily commute? Walk on, walk on …

Asomasi.

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About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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43 Responses to This one beggars belief

  1. Can you believe I met that SAME guy with the “Brother, please help me. I can’t believe this; I’ve just been picked. I’m a student at Legon, and I need to go back, please …” at Circle?

    First time I gave him money. Second time I gave him a brush off. Third time I gave him the Word of God, and I haven’t seen him since.

  2. Ama says:

    I have to say, these make my day! : )

    I was once sat in a bus in Konongo lorry park when I saw the scariest-faced madman heading towards me. The bus was practically empty, there was nobody seated near me, and don’t ask me why but I was terrified. It wasn’t like he would be able to do anything to me if I didn’t mind him, but still, the fear! I did everything to avoid him, including “dropping” my hankie on the floor and bending to pick it up, but when I straightened up, there he was, with hand outstretched. In my blind panic I opened my purse and just poured all the coins in it out into his hand. I couldn’t even see what I had given him – I just wanted him gone! He stood there staring at the money with his lips pursed – obviously I was too stingy for his liking – but then he finally moved on and I thanked my God for saving me.

    Not too long after, back he ambled in my direction, holding his bag of koko. Such persecution! Why me?! Bodamfo yi pe se o gyegye me anopa yi! I tried to avoid eye contact again but with the same determination he walked up to my window. He stopped, and in the softest, gentlest, politest voice I have ever heard out of a madman, said “thank you” (perfect pronunciation, might I add, not “tenk yew” or anything like that) with a really beautiful shy little smile – albeit one that showed his horrible broken black and yellow teeth. Of all the outrageous things I was expecting from him, this topped the lot. Talk about unexpected. Talk about ashamed! I couldn’t believe my ears. “You’re welcome”, I managed to stutter, my heart strangely warmed, and away he went, obviously having made his “sales” for the day much more quickly than he had anticipated.

    Of all the good deeds I have ever tried to do, this one counts as one of the highlights. Even madmen can show gratitude! Wow!

    Keep walking my bruda, and no matter how hard you try to shake them, they will always walk right alongside you. YNWA!

  3. NS1 says:

    This nonsense is universal. I had a similar thing (to what you described abt… the person that wanted you to wait with him for the tro-tro) happen to me in NY. I insisted on escorting the person – who claimed to be starving – to a deli at the end of the block to buy her food [instead of giving her cash she could spend at her discretion]. When we got half-way down the block, I figured this was indeed a credible story, since she gladly followed, so I gave her the $$ and sent her on her way. As soon as I parted with my $$ bills, this chick made a quick U-turn! I was like “whoaaaa, the deli is that way…!” This fool looked me straight in the eye and responded “It’s my money now, you cant tell me what to do with it! Now leave me alone!” In a country with such a crazy legal system, there was absolutely nothing I could do. I thought to myself … “Only in NY” but apparently, this nonsense wider spread than i thought! I really like to help, and I’m sure I’ve passed many people with a genuine need by, just because of this idiot. Sucks…

  4. Guy Lou says:

    Ama: Your experience is touching. To my mind, it is one of those giving experiences that leave you with a feeling of fufillment when its done.

    NS1: I think in NY and indeed in the whole tri-state area, anyone who walks up to you and asks for money is most likely a junkie. The lady you talk about was probably hungry. But you see, once she had the money i bet she simply could not resist the allure of that “baking soda residue”.

    Kwaku : This piece is a master. Your possession of this uncanny ability to bring everyday issues to bear is surely awesome. I pray it comes in handy when explaining to that dream lady just how you feel for her.

  5. Selassie says:

    A nice remainder of just another day of feeling so good about rendering some good deed, and a few days later the deeds are thrown right into your face as being a victim of another conman.

    I guess we need some divine intuition to discern the conmen from those really in need, walk on, walk on, can’t be better advice, but there’s the catch, lets pray we don’t walk on without considering we just maybe walking past our blessing for the day. God have mercy…..

  6. Kwadan says:

    As for beggar experiences, I have had plenty. I was once approached by a beggar who claimed to be hungry and didnt have any money for food. I had just bought some koko and offered to give it to him, to my suprise he turned it down saying he was allergic to maize, i pointed out this was hausa koko but still refused my offer. A beggar with a choice

  7. Guy Lou says:

    I once allowed a JSS boy to hitchhike in my car. He had a really sorrowful story. He had lost his weekly allowance playing soccer and now he was stuck in Tema Community 3. In my car he told me his life story. In short his dad was irresponsible so now he had to put up with his sick granny in Ashaiman.
    I berated the dad and indeed all irresponsible men, dropped the guy off at Sakumono. Then i gave him 20 cedis. I felt i had done a really good deed. “God, I hope you have taken notice of that and recorded it just in case….”
    Oh blimey, i saw the same JSS student, standing at the same spot, wearing the same look and actively motioning to cars for a lift. I was amazed. I actually parked and took a long look at him using my rearview mirror.

    Who should we fear more: The armed robbers or the smart robbers??
    Next time you meet an 8 year old crying profusely about her lost lunch money plaese think twice before giving her that 5cedi note. You might meet her again the next week crying about her missing lunchmoney. It happened to me. In my mind, they are robbers. not beggars.

  8. Kwadan says:

    A man once came to our house with the same im hungry and have no money story, but this time there was a twist. He would accept the money only after you have given him some work to do. I told him its ok, gave him a cedi, but he insisted he works cos the bible says the hand that doesnt work must not eat. I was touched but told him there were no jobs, he saw the cars and offered to wash them, but they had already been washed, offered to wash any dirty clothes I had, but i had none, I ended up giving him a pile of shoes to polish and clean, which he gleefully did, and im sure he enjoyed the cup of tea I gave him as well. I guess they are all not bad, just so difficult to find the good nuts amongst a sack of rotten ones

    • Daixy says:

      The day my family moved into our home (back in 1999), we were offloading things into a house when someone came up to our gate. He was hungry from the looks of it. He gave my mom a story about moving back to GH from someplace and attempting to make it to his hometown but he was too broke.

      What I remember most is the frail look about him, like he was going to drop if we didn’t help. Next thing I knew, I was serving him some of the kenkey and fish my mother had packed for us. Lord knows no one cooks on moving day lol. Mom gave him some extra food and some money and bid him a safe journey home. It felt good, moving into a new neighbourhood and being helpful on the first day. I like to think it brought Blessings to our home.

      Now though, I’m too jaded and would most likely avoid his gaze and ask him to please go away.

      • Kwaku Dankwa says:

        Funny one there, Daixy! I guess after a while we all get a bit hardened, don’t we? It’s the genuine ones who suffer. Asem oo…

  9. miss mandy says:

    well,personally i think all these experiences are no news to any individual in Ghana here,because i think it is like a daily bread.but now because of the hardship in the economy some people have taken this begging attitude to a different level.
    two weeks ago,i had closed from work and on my normal appointment interview with one MD ,i had a call from a friend of mine,indicating that

    she had sent her little sister to Tema for like 5 hours and she is not back.
    she had gone into a shop and on her way home a young guy asked her for money and she refused and after for direction and before she could say jack, she was at GBC,Accra and everything was gone,her money,phone jewelry,watch and even foot wear.

    so this girl found some space to space and called her sister,so she went to pick her up.

    after two days i heard the same thing on a radio news item.
    this means that if they ask you for the money and you refuse,then it turns into something else.

    but i think this thing is really getting bad.

  10. moshi says:

    am speechless, not because it is new to me but rather sounds very familiar to me. the only thing i wish to do after hearing this stories is to get one of them and beat the hell out of him or her. i must admit there is only one guy that comes to mind, never would i forget his face. that circle guy. i was also almost in the same soup as his was(i mean broke), when he approached me with the same legon sh**. pardon me. but it had to get out. i wanted to doubt his story cos he mention the hall in which i resided on campus at that time and i thought to my self of his face, didnt look familiar to me at all, cos i thought i knew every face in that hall, but i gave him the benefit of the doubt, he was telling the truth.

    just another week passed, whiles walking in the traffic of human and trying to protect all my valuable walked up to me this same guy, he was able to cool me down considering the speed with which i was maneuvering amongst the crowd and requested of me money for his stranded sitatution, this time he wasnt his old usual sorry self. but rather he was devouring and munching an orange in the process. i didn’t make him finish his story when i lashed at him, werent you the same person i helped the other time. i think my intruding into his story gave hime the right to also do the same, massa, if you no go help me, watch you way then go. gosh you just imagine what i wanted to do if i had the chance. beat him or slap him.

    you know sometime your strength can not march up to certain individual at certain times but this time, i wouldnt have mind the consequences.

    now, i look on to them with a heart far from helping them, rather i turn to analyze them and how much they make more than me in a day.

    thanks for letting this out of me. was bitter for some time, though it ws an exaggeration

    • Kwadan says:

      Moshi, I once saw a beggar at the Accra girls traffic light counting a wad of notes,mixture of blues and reds) at 12 noon, i emphasize on the time. 12 NOON

    • joy says:

      i know how you feel and i empathize with you but sometimes you have to look on the flip side. The guy you are all talking about at circle is someone i know or i should say used to know, his problem is that he is a junkie and always needs money to get a fix, the issue here is that sometimes with no one to clean the streets of people like him, people like you are robbed. My philosophy about these beggars is that no matter how hard we try, there will always be ‘the poor’ amongst us so whenever you can, do all you can to alleviate other peoples’ burdens.

      • Lady Jaye says:

        um – if he is a junkie, that is all the more reason you shouldn’t give him money…. hello!

    • McAphui says:

      moshi, lets brake it down

      Description: dark dude, about 5ft 4inc, neat hair cut “shaped and all”, caring a clear bag, with diction and articulation so perfect you would think he works with the Royal Cort in Buckingham Palace .

      That guy should get off the streets and go do marketing or something, instead of just wasting this valuable skill. The annoying part is when you put it to him that you have helped him in the past he sees it fit to start an argument. what a shame

  11. Tosin says:

    Ok, I’ve taken time to read every experience everyone has shared, I can’t but say I’m amused by it all. First of all, K, I laugh at you with all my nerves, the case of a second time should never be entertained, I can’t imagine what I’d do to the person I meet “the second time” with the same fabulous story . . . but well, what can I really do? If the guy could say that to Moshi, what wouldn’t they say to me . . . not after I’d have poured a handful of sand in his mouth to give his orange a crispy taste!

    Jesus walked the streets daily, he met all sorts I can imagine, but there was never a story where someone came to him the second time, he addressed their issues on a permanent scale . . . but do you realize that Jesus never gave arms? I wonder why! The guy at Gate Beautiful didn’t have a choice whether or not to accept healing from Peter and John, “In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk” . . . it was a command, take it or leave it.

    So what do all these teach me, IT’S MY CHOICE! I can either be unconditionally generous even if the guy came with a bottle of Scotch in his hand; or I can stand and diagnose the root of his problem, give him my card and expect him in a decade or two; I can decide to conduct street-deliverance and cast out the savage demon from him with the faith of a mustard seed; or like K has decided to do, I can be Johnnie Walker and keep walking . . . what ever the case may be, since there ain’t gonna be a day beggars will be extinct, I got the choice to do as I please, as the HOLY SPIRIT leads!

  12. agyakomaa says:

    the guy whose wallet had been picked, did he smell of cigarette? the first day i meet him he was and he looked soo familiar. i brushed him off. the nest time, he came, i told him he shouldnt start again and he had the …..the ask me, “start what”. the next time, he was trying to get his sales from an innocent victim, and all i said was, ‘ei, you again”! if looks could kill, i would be dead by now. the innocent victim was soo grateful.

  13. Sydney says:

    The first fool is never a fool. I wonder what the 5th fool will say of himself. Have encountered the Legon Freak a couple of times around circle. Nice looking bloke though…. , but trust me , the guy knows his lines. Eloquent and very gentle.

    But the story about the little girl and his Dad sippping tea while loading a recharge card is a bum.Agin with the story of some of them having mansionns is not exagerated at all. Thers’s this guy in Acca central who who has about 4 communication centres all to his credit. he only acts mad and dirty. i once cauht him off gurd with about 4 sophisticated mobile phones. received two calls right at the glare.

    these things happen all around us. i guess we’all have to be watchful

    Kudos Man.

  14. Kwadan says:

    So this “Legon” student cant anyone film his act then press charges, im sure he can be charged with defrauding under false pretences.

  15. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Wow, looks like this brother from Legon has really got his whole gig worked out!

  16. Helen says:

    Hi Ku, there we go again. its been an experience but you need to listen to your instincts too.

    Kudos, you are doing well. just learnt two new words from your piece.
    all the best and looking out for the next one.

    congrats once again

    Helen

    o,kweku dankwa, that was really cool.it was a typical scenario of the Queen’s language on display.it’s a good thing u’ve started and absolutely better since u’ve not forgotten ur english phrases and idiomatic expressions.I could almost recommend u to Lawrence Darmani’Ha,Ha.Have a good time writing,guess i’ll join u on that side of the world soon.

    Nouna Matrivi
    Aunt Helen’s daughter

  17. Mambozoma says:

    Kwaku, another one I really enjoyed!!! Keep them coming man.

    I feel you on all these people who deceived you, and continue to deceive us all! But what hit home most was your own ‘begging’ experiences, because I’ve had 2 that stick out vividly in my mind! The first one wasn’t so dramatic, I left home for Legon from my aunty’s house in Adenta and somehow forgot my wallet in my room. As soon as the mate shouted ‘yeeeess’ I realized what I had done bcos the image of it on the table jumped into my mind, and I went ‘SHOOT!’. The guy sitting by me, without uttering a single word or even turning to look at me, slipped a 5000 cedis into my hands (this was like 8 years ago.) My ‘thank you’ was so shy and quiet, I was mortified! And I felt even worse bcos I expected him to be the typical ‘trotro guy sitting next to u’ and try to get my number, but he never even turned to look at me when he got out of the car. I was immensely grateful. My second experience was on the same route to Legon, I think I honestly didn’t have enough money or something, don’t quite remember the exact details but somehow I had managed to make it to Atomic junction and was wondering how I would go on, I had a lecture to go to I didn’t want to miss. After a couple of minutes, I strode off in the direction of the police woman who was directing the traffic, I had no idea why I chose her, but I did. After I told her about my desperate situation and how much I would need to get to Legon, (I think it was like 1000 old cedis) she said ‘thank GOD that’s all you need, bcos that’s all I have’. I felt so bad and yet so blessed! The poor woman! Walking back to the bus stop I noticed everyone there was staring so hard, I thought to myself ‘monnyim Nzima nyi a nani abre!’ I would LOOOOVE to meet these 2 people again somehow, they have no idea how much they helped this sister out! Enough to make me drop money in trotros hoping that someone who desperately needs it will find it! I can only hope no greedy person lays their hands on it, but I don’t control the world do I?

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Ouch. I’m cringing already. I mean, mine was at night at least! I’m sure God’ll bless them wherever they are, ‘cos at least, for the policewoman, it was ultimate sacrifice for a stranger.

  18. Kofi Opoku says:

    This got me giggling from the start to finish. Can’t believe you’ve stomached all these experiences. Damn!

  19. Kwame Boateng says:

    Hehehehehehehehehe….I laughed till my ribs hurt and I’m still laugh. I can so relate to this. There is another beggar infront of Barclays Bank circle, he is the most aggressive beggar I have ever come across and boy he is serious about his work. He calls you in a very commanding and authoritative tone…”MASSA MASSA BRA HA”! The first day he called me I was so shocked that I actually went over….Damn boy you are good keep them coming…THEY ARE SO HILARIOUS AND REAL!

  20. Raj says:

    oh i missed when it was fresh anyways better late than never for me to add my contribution. Well i have had similar encounters all over in Kumasi, Takoradi and here in Accra but the two most striking ones are first of all the man with the baby and a prescription who approached my hubby for help. My hubby turned the prescription to me to see if it was really genuine and when i saw amodiquinne on it i told him to go ahead and help since it was for the baby. he helps and we go our way. two days later we were approached by this man and his sick son with the same prescription and the same story line and we jst had to tell him our piece of mind and this man walks off with no shame.

    The second one was in Takoradi. My mum and i were sitting on the pouch in the afternoon. we saw someone approaching our compound and looking all bloody. we got scared and quickly offered our help before she finished her story of needing money urgently to pay for her hospital bill. when she left my mum being her curious self because the story did not add up, decided to follow her to the gate and see if what her next move was….to her surprise after the woman walked a few meters away from our house she hid in a nearby bush and took of the bloody POP from her body and dressed up and started walking off. My mum feeling cheated, started to shout hey, hey, hey but the smart woman just disappear into thin air.

  21. Aunty May says:

    Kwaku, today is the 24th but I just got done reading this one, and I mean it’s so funny and everything, and your own experience too, hahahaa

  22. Aunty May says:

    that’s life anyway

  23. Mr.Bigglez says:

    You know I have a blog on this same topic and the ‘legon’ dude at circle has the weakest hustle ever… no real legonite would stand at circle and beg for trotro fare back to campus, if he/she had to resort to begging the fact that he/she is a student of the nation’s premier university would be conviniently left out of the plea bargain.
    For those who think white folks dont do ‘azaa’, I remember a man who used hang around Golders Green in London who was eternally asking for 30p for the pay phone. Jeez where was he calling??? Alaska???

  24. saamytotwe says:

    this begging,now happens even in uk with the surge in eastern europeans.

  25. joy says:

    at Raj, boy you had me laughing till the tears run down my cheeks. i am still laughing as i type that was real funny. Did your mum think the lady would do the decent thing and turn back to give what she thought was a days’ pay well-earned? that really beats my imagination. This reminds me of the beggar my parents had the misfortune to encounter in traffic near airport. This one man was healthy as far as one could see and demanded the amount of five ghana cedis for enduring the cruel rays of the sun. My mum and dad could not help but laugh thinking it was a joke. He proceeded to hurl verbal abuse at them till the traffic light changed to a green and they could move on. Then there was the man who wanted to make an international call on my landline and when i told him i did not have IDD, he had the nerve to tell me that it was about time i got that service so under-priveleged people like him could make free calls. In Ghana all things are possible to him who begs. hahahahaha you guys just have me cracking up.

    • Raj says:

      Joy, am glad my experience got you laughing. but yours has had the same effect on me…whaow a beggar wanting to make an international call. like you said in “Ghana all things are possible to him who begs”. Thanks for sharing yours.

      @ Kwaku thanks for this wonderful blog….we are all being informed as well as having a good laugh reading. Kudos boy!!!

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