For the title to make sense, we need to understand the meaning of the backslash (‘/’).
The first time I came across the backslash was in mathematics where it denoted the creation of a fraction. Thus ¾ is ‘3 quarters’ or ‘three over four’. Later in life, the backslash came to mean an option; either one or the other – never both. I would never have believed it had you told me that a fraction would have the same result as an option.
However, reflecting upon my most recent experiences with security guards in Nairobi, I am tempted to accept that ‘my security’ does in fact come over ‘my dignity’ and I cannot have the two simultaneously.
“Fungua!” is the askari’s way of asking if she may search my bag. I was tempted to say “No!” and just walk away, but like many a Kenyan, I firmly pressed down my dignity and opened my bag. However when just a few days later, with my dignity smarting, I went to the door of a supermarket and the askari did not even bother to speak to me. Rather, she pointed her magic ‘beepy’ wand between me and my bag in an attempt to get me to open it. My dignity reared its proud head and I walked away!
Amazingly, less than 100 metres away was a similar establishment with an askari who recognized me as a human being and spoke to me politely. I opened my bag and proceeded to shop for my wares.
To those establishments that fail to instruct their askaris that their valued customer has upgraded her self-esteem – too bad! I have decided to create my own little fantasy world where my slogan is:
‘My Security, My Dignity’