• Our dating, unlike your good old days is much more materialistic
• Many Indian locals imagine that all Africans are related
Last Sunday, the mother to a fellow foreign student here in India called me while weeping hysterically. She was in so much pain and her frustration knew no bounds.
‘Leon, it has been many months since I had a phone conversation with my son (lets, call him Bob). I feel so helpless , I haven’t eaten for days , whenever I send money to him he doesn’t even let me know if he received it or not . Please help me reach him,’ she said, in a very low helpless tone.
In my head, I realized it was only fair that I let her in on who Bob really is or at least has become.
Bob is an only child who lost his dad, a military man to war at a very young age .
He has been pursuing political science and is so passionate about it. I must admit I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with him on international affairs, the media and the future of Africa as a continent.
It shook her mom to the bone when I revealed to her that her prince who is supposed to graduate this month has not been attending class for the last two years.
She cried so bitterly that I could hear her struggling to breathe.
She couldn’t understand why this was happening yet she has been sending school fees and upkeep on time.
She confessed that her business is struggling and her son is all her hope.
He cut communication many months ago after sending her a Facebook message letting her know that he had lost his phone and was travelling to New Delhi to do some short course in digital marketing.
I had to come clean as I am an aspiring parent too even though this makes parenting seem such a herculean task.
The truth is that alcohol is very cheap in India and her son is drowning in it. Bob and the bottle are but head over heels in love if not Siamese of twins.
A six-pack of beer goes for 300 Rs which is about Sh437.
‘I did not know that he drinks, he has never told me,’ she responded in painstaking shock .
She told me he had assured her that he was going to graduate this April and that she had already saved for his ticket back home and was planning to receive him.
All I could hear over the phone were stentorian screams of pain and anguish.
Tears gradually rolled down my cheeks at this point. I could feel her pain.
The frustration of a loving mother whose only crime is to want the best for her only son whom she accorded complete trust.
She was not ready for what I was going to tell her next. There is a much bigger problem.
The first thing to do after getting accommodation as a foreign student in any country is applying for a residential permit at the police station.
This legal document indicates your house details, your intention of stay and is very vital.
It is renewed after a period or when you move into a new house.
For the last years her son has been living off his fellow African student’s houses after his landlord kicked him out for not paying rent.
He sold all his household items and is now left with a small tired old ram shackled brown bag in which he carries his clothes as he moves around Indian states nomadically in search of ‘ greener pastures ‘.
His residential permit expired in November 2018 and to renew it he has now to part with 300 dollars.
To add insult to Injury, his visa expired on 5th April 2019.
He is therefore considered illegal having not renewed it on time.
The penalty for this is 1000 dollars.
He could not make to renew it because he lacks two vital documents to support his application; the residential permit and a bona fide certificate from his institution of study which confirms to the authorities that he indeed is a student of the said institution.
I later found out from the institution that they sent a letter to the foreign police office declaring that Bob is no longer theirs after absconding school for 2 years in which he did not pay fees.
Bob’s mom froze when I also informed him that his son had accumulated huge debts among fellow students , shopkeepers , chicken sellers , restaurants , bars and lodgings amounting to about 150,000 Rs which is 220,000 Kenya Shillings .
A popular bar around, where he lived, ate and drank with white women is demanding 21,688 shillings after he was there for just 1 week.
They have filed an official complaint with the police who are looking for him.
A Chinese restaurant has also been knocking on doors of African students asking for him because he has been doing take-away s from there and hasn’t paid a dime.
You see out here, many Indian locals imagine that all Africans are related , so anything one does creates not only a perception but also determines how they relate with and view us.
You would also be amazed by the number of times Indians have stopped me in town to ask if I have Steve Tikolo’s phone number.
The famous and legendary batsman is perhaps the most popular Kenyan in India.
If the police get their hands on Bob, he will be arrested first for being in the country illegally.
He has to pay everyone every single penny he owes them.
If he fails to do so he will be jailed as he awaits a deportation and court process will take up to 6 months at least before he is actually dragged away in a cargo plane.
From what I gather, African jails are much better in terms of treatment and conditions than what is here.
This is the sad reality my friend Bob who is in the wind for now has to face.
How does a parent sort out such mess involving young people like us ?
Where do parents surely go wrong in all these?
Parents need to keep tabs on their kids, always.
Not only those studying abroad but even the ones within.
It is a very perilous time to be a young person.
We are a generation that wants the best life can offer very fast and want it all.
Some of you dear parents are even competing with us for our girlfriends.
We see you sneak into our hostels on Fridays as soon as the sun goes to bed.
In your posh cars, with promises of monies, iPhones and other goodies that we unfortunately cannot let go because we adore ‘quickies ‘.
We love comfort , prioritize fun and sure feel that you do not listen to us when we indicate that need to take gap years and breaks from campus because we get depressed , exhausted as we deal with societal pressure , your expectations , being broke and the courses that some of you force down our throats .
Our dating, unlike your good old days is much more materialistic (na hatupendi kuchoma bet).
We will shamelessly ‘fuliza’ tuition fees on boys and girls who are giving us the attention you deprive us of because seemingly you imagine that providing for us is all what parenting is about.
You have detained us in boarding school since class one and expect us to survive independently without the supervision we are used to. How ?
In my view all you can do apart from praying for us is help protect us from ourselves before we cause you nothing but pain and heartbreak.
Leon Lidigu is a student of journalism at Pacific University, India