“If she wasn’t there this time, it would be the last time I attempt to buy akara from her.” This is what I thought as I strolled down to the akara spot a colleague had introduced me to. I first caught a whiff of this akara, when Tosin my colleague at work bought some and brought to the office. He was generous in offering to share with me, and in response, I told him I would be having just one, I didn’t want to shorten his ration. This one piece tasted so good that I had to set aside shame and ask for at least 3 more pieces. I was sold on them. I have always been weary about buying street food on the streets of Lagos, but this time I was ready to temporarily abandon my reservations and go hunting for this new found delight.
The first day we went to get the akara, we strutted down the street. I was already basking in the delectable akara balls. And as we approached the spot which my colleague had highlighted as where the akara woman doled out her akara, I was trying to process why the spot was in fact empty, with no signs of smoke or even splashed oil on the ground from the frying pot. In a moment, it dawned on us both that she had rounded off sales for the day. I took note of the time which was a few minutes past 9 and I muttered to myself, “this her akara must be hot (bean) cake”. We headed back to the office, we’d get her next time, i tried to keep a positive demeanor.
A few days passed, and I had forgotten about the delightful balls of akara, returning to my miserly diets of peanuts, chin chin and biscuits (oh how i’ve been condemned to always eating biscuits). But on this faithful Monday morning, I and Tosin, would pickup ourselves again and attempt to hunt some akara balls. Leaving the office earlier than we did previously, I was more convinced that we would be successful. We got to the spot and found the frying pot for the akara with oil in it. I thought to myself, the goodies can’t be afar off. Tosin asked the beautiful little girls – age 4 and 5, I presume, if there were any akara left. They met his question with a resounding and somewhat jolly “no”. Only if they knew the implication of this fact they were conveying so brazenly. I tried to get a hold of my emotions, and was ready to leave. I heard Tosin still asking them if they had fried yam. I wasn’t interested in fried yam; Ijapa did not get bald head for storing fried yam in his head. It was beguiling yum-yum akara that moved the cunning and smart Ijapa to abandon his wits and store hot akara in his cap – it’s this same akara that has now become evasively hard to acquire for me.
I was still inside the danfo early on another blessed day, when the thoughts of what to have for breakfast cast it’s vignette on my mind. I knew I wanted to have bread but wasn’t sure if I wanted to go the increasingly bland route of bread and butter. Even the bread I had been buying this past few weeks from the glorified bakeries on awolowo road, were more like edible towels to my taste buds. But I was going to try out a new option before reaching a conclusion on all bakeries on awolowo road.
The bread I selected seemed decent from face and feel value, so I was a bit confident of a pleasant experience this time. Next thoughts on my mind was whether to head straight to iya alakara’s spot, who’s name I found out to be hadjia or whether I should drop my carry-on at the office first. I decided on the latter, it would just be a minute I assured myself. As I approached the spot, it seemed empty from afar, and my emotional rhythm began to wither within. To counter this, I thought to myself, perhaps the almighty didn’t want me to partake of this akara after all. Maybe the akara would turn my stomach, and the spirits were trying to protect me. To my delight the woman was there, I had never seen her before, and I had never been so happy to meet a lady I didn’t know. She was seated and turning the akara in a casual but deft manner. Her two little kids were right beside her in their usual graceful demeanor. One spoke Hausa in such a delicate and sonorous tone. My merriment in the ongoings was cut shot by thoughts of how this little girls should in fact be in school, and I wondered how many more cases like this existed. I would eventually buy akara, 100 naira worth, Hadjia was kind to add an extra piece, securing my loyalty with her benevolence.
As I ate, I tried to set aside about five pieces for Tosin, so he too could relish in the delight of the akara balls. But I was weak-willed. Once it was 4 pieces left, I thought to myself, what’s the point, 4 is too little. So, I ate it all. I don’t know if he will read this, but if you are reading this Tosin, please consider this a note of confession and apology.