Sitsofe (Part 4) continued from previous edition…
Few minutes later, they arrived at the very spot Tulasi had told Soglo to meet him. Tulasi had been there waiting for them. Leaving Sitsofe with the box still on his head, Papa Soglo and Tulasi secluded themselves to have some chit-chat behind an uncompleted building.
After 15 minutes of their meeting, Tulasi thanked Papa Soglo and handed a considerable amount of money in a white envelope over to Papa Soglo. After shaking hands, they parted ways.
Papa Soglo counted the money comfortably as he made his way back home. Tulasi and Sitsofe then set off. On their way, Sitsofe had still not recovered from the grief that had visited his life. He began sobbing but Tulasi warned him to control his emotions. The journey to Vakpome was a very long one.
Apart from spending three hours in a vehicle and an hour’s walk through a thick forest, they would have to also cross the River Volta by canoe to get to Vakpome. As they sat in a canoe paddled by two young teenagers, Sitsofe was extremely afraid for he had not travelled by water since his birth.
The fear kept hunting him until they got to their final destination. On arrival, they were met by some children who were swimming in the river. The children readily approached the incoming canoe and helped carry Sitsofe’s items to the house.
The fishing village looked very serene and calm. It was occupied by about 1,500 families whose main occupation was fishing with minority of the population engaged in farming activities.
Most of the prominent fishermen at Vakpome were into child slavery and Tulasi was not in exclusion. With about 15 children working with him whose ages ranged between seven and 17 years, Tulasi had no pity for recalcitrant children. Almost all his “children” either had sores and scars on their arms, legs, foreheads on their backs.
The children were barred from visitors to strangers and to ensure they never attempted doing that; Tulasi had secretly selected some of the children to act as spies on their colleagues. Spies who reported their colleagues for breaking any of the rules were rewarded with a large quantity of food.
Children who broke these rules were either starved the whole day or beaten with the paddle of a canoe. When it was time for fishing, the children were put into groups of three for each canoe and the group that had a biggest catch was often rewarded with some fishes.
However, groups that returned with low catch were given little food to eat that day. Usually, the children would go for fishing at 12 midnight and return at 12 midday. The children were in tattered clothes with no footwear. Wednesdays were set aside for mending nets.
The following day was a fresh moment for Sitsofe at Vakpome. He woke up hungry because he had had little to eat the previous evening. Throughout the journey, he had nothing to eat until he arrived at Vakpome.
The food, which was given to him by the wife of Tulasi, was nothing to write home about. Tulasi had woken him up together with the other children. They spent their nights in a congested hut which served also as store room for the fishing equipment.
Sitsofe was introduced to the other boys. The reactions of the boys when they were being introduced to Sitsofe were indifferent. Tulasi consequently assigned one of the boys to mentor Sitsofe. He was the eldest of the boys and the first to have been poached by Tulasi.
He was six years old when Tulasi took him from Yeji, another fishing community. Gani, as they called him, had lived with Tulasi for 10 years. At 16, he looked older than his age.
He was a stammerer and, therefore, had no patience for the younger ones who found it difficult to learn the work. Most often, he bullied them under the watchful eyes of Tulasi.
…to be continued