Hero Name: “Mai Shayi”
Translated: “Tea Owner”
Decoy Occupation: 24 Hour Breakfast ‘eatery’ Owner
Aim: Fill the belly of the hungry citizen
Special Powers: Brews tea in the most dangerous and awesome manner while frying eggs and cutting bread simultaneously. Makes the best noodles. Fills the belly of the hungry citizen at a dirt cheap price.
Arch Enemies: Major Eateries, Restaurants, Task Force
Before the inky blue black skies of night succumb to the overpowering rays of the sun, and at the muezzin’s call to prayer, his fire comes on, and a massive pot, usually made from coarse thin metal, filled to the brim with water sits atop it. He hurriedly does his ‘alwala’; the cleansing ritual before prayers and hurries off to the mosque.
At the end of ‘salat’, he hurries back to his workshop to begin his heroic duties for the day. Almost immediately after his return, his stall, usually a large compartmentalized table with benches around it, is besieged by people of all ages and gender, and indeed, class.
Bread, eggs, coccoa, noodles, tea, coffee, milk, tinned sardines, tinned mackerels. Food products with high contents of carbs, gluten, and oil, and almost deficient in protein and every other nutrients are what’s on the menu. The orders pour in haphazardly
There is hardly a semblance of structure in the management system of the mai shayi’s empire. If he has a helper or two, they all work at the same rate, no one sits back and gives the other orders, the plan is to serve as many people as possible in the shortest possible time. Many a time, it is common place to see the irked customer who claims to have placed an order before everyone else arrived, including the mai shayi himself.
It is a beauty watching the mai shayi at work, especially when he brews a piping hot cup of tea and attempts to cool it using an age long method of cooling passed down from generation to generation, utilized by people from the back alleys of Kano in Nigeria, to the five star resorts of Bali in Indonesia. He holds the cup with the hot tea in one hand and an empty cup in another, then he pours the content from the filled cup to the empty cup, and repeats the process as many times as needed, increasing the distance between both cups, then he serves the tea which by now has foam on top of it to the customer who most times still burns his tongue on the first sip.
Hygiene is a myth in most stalls. Plates and cups are usually washed in one massive basin of water, which isn’t changed until the germs can be seen floating in the water because they died.
Yet, there is a feel of brotherliness in these stalls. Everyone drinks from the same kind of cup and eats from the same kind of plate. The discussions range from political to sports, entertainment to the downright bizarre, and yes, there’s gossip. The patrons’ comments are usually hilarious, and occasionally the stoned junkie stumbles in and provides comic relief for some customers and outright irritation for others.
You will get all of this drama, and a filled belly, starting at a price as low as seventy naira, that’s N70 (about 50 cents to the American and about 30p to the Brit).
In the middle of it all is the never tiring Mai Shayi who stays true to his cause. Like the line in the Nigerian Youth Service Corps anthem states; under the sun or in the rain, with dedication and selfles… Erm.
Anyways, every morning and evening (and for the upgraded version, 24 hours of the day), seven days a week he will serve meals to those who can’t afford luxury in a dog eat dog world yet deserve a taste of what they deem enjoyment, and to those who can afford luxury but choose to mingle with the masses probably due to nostalgia, or as a result of being adventurous.
If our earlier definition of success as the accomplishment of a said goal, and how that said goal affects everyone else is anything to go by, then the Mai Shayi is to be celebrated, for a world without him is a world endangered.
HEROES OF HUSHVILLE