The name of this place is Ijora Badia, but all over the news they call us Badia-East, and we are not sad with it. We live in a waterlogged community by the railway. Badia East community lay at the middle of two major roads, and in this middle, lay light bushes and empty swamps. The air was a mixture of train noise and car horns ranting the whole atmosphere.
We are a community of artisans and people who live by the result of their physical strength. We are also slum dwellers because we found out the English dictionary has defined it that way, slum, and it is no lie. Our houses are never block; just makeshifts, a combination of dead zinc sheets and plywood standing in elegant squares like organized cabinets. The earth under these cabinets are no longer sand or red earth rather. They are a collection of waste. Since the land is waterlogged, we needed to fill it in a way, so that it doesn’t seem we are just so directly on top of water. We did not fill it with sand. This place was not a sandy place, so what we did was waste-fill. We live atop waste, literarily, junks and crunches of plastic bags in their most decayed forms.
We have been living here all along. Many of us would say we have been here all our lives. Nature brought us into this space that we found ourselves and we had to do the process of adaptation, which was the only option available.
We all might not be physically strong, but we know we are strong. We have gone through many that mouths can no longer pronounce and eyes can’t see. We have seen good and bad and evil alike as the devil would see. Upon all deaths that have happened amidst hunger, pain and sickness, killing our fathers and our mothers and brothers and sisters, we have been strong as ever. We have stood and sat in strength as a way of maintaining all these pains.
Recently, for more than three years, we have suffered more. Many times we are threatened with red marks on the body of our homes as a sign that the government will come soon. The government authorities have always threatened to evict us off Badia East. By the red marks, it simply means that one day, the bulldozers would come and clean us off; including our waste-filled earth that has nothing to offer. The red marks has never come and gone in a mild way, something follows.
The last eviction story happened early morning in the rain and we ran all the way to secure our properties before our house went down in cracks and pieces. A man died. Many women were injured. Children got missing. That night, we all slept in the open, allowing ourselves to be drained by drizzles, swallowed by cold and murdered by mosquitoes. That was the same night our father disappeared, and while searching for him, our six months old baby sister breathed her last in the crook of my mother’s arms.
After this terror of a day, we all had to return back to our lives in pieces, picking remnants of our belongings in tiny fragments. We set up new cabinets, now a smaller one that can be moved and unmoved. It didn’t need to be a permanent structure. It was made for the purpose of moving. If the bulldozers come again, we would not lose many things, and our new small house would be so tiny for the bulldozers to target them.
The government had said that they want to replace us with a swanky housing estate that not even a single family in Badia East can afford, but that would be inhumane, we would have no place to go to, so we disagree. Although a majority of us had fled off Badia East because of the regular eviction threats, but we are still here. The children, though out of school, still come out to play with all the joy they have inherited from nature. The entrance to the community still has its air filled with aromas of stew and beans, roasted plantain and groundnuts. We still smile, but we are still in fear. We do not know when the bulldozers will come again.