A Happy Day

We sang the ‘happy birthday’ song in unison. My heart filled with emotion as I looked at my little ones’ faces bursting with excitement. I looked around silently muttering a prayer of thanksgiving to God as I saw them surrounded by family and friends. These were people who matter to them, people who have helped me babysit, seen us through thick and thin. Indeed, motherhood is a gift straight from the divine. I watched as my children blew out the candles amidst claps and cheers from people around them. The others silently wishing that it was their special day, that they were the centre of attention. Children have a subtle way of reminding others that it’s their big day. The one day when they can get away with anything. And sometimes as parents we let them be; after all it’s just the one day before the other one comes along. The children could not wait to have their pieces of cake before they scattered off and resumed playing, jumping on the bouncy castles and trampolines, driving go –Karts in the popular indoor activity centre.

With each passing birthday of my children, I realise how fleeting time is, with the force of adulthood continually tagging at me. With each passing year I realise I’m not ready for a new definition, a new growth. You see, time just happens and you look back and it suddenly dawns on you that you have not done half the things you’d wished to have achieved by then. So I decide to make new resolutions, fresh ambitions and desires and hope that somehow this time they shall come to fruition. In this instance I shall push them to that little corner of my mind, that safe place that we all and vow to attend to them. Now…for now, let me share in their delight. Birthday parties are such a craze nowadays. Mine were spent (if we ever remembered) going down to the market. Market days were held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Its where everything happened, like a carnival of sorts. It was the hub of the village and I loved going there. The walk was long but worth it. It was not often we were allowed there but on special occasions such as this, that was overlooked. This would be spent with my siblings and friends. We would set off early just so we could make the most of the day. It was my 10th birthday and I had planned to go to the market that Saturday. What a beautiful morning it was, one of those days one takes their time to appreciate the beauty of nature. Dawn had just broken, the sun slowly creeping in. Its lingering rays barely peering through the horizon, as its shadows cast a crimson backdrop. It was a picturesque view, like something straight from a postcard. It was truly a sight to behold, coupled by the appearance of the morning dew. The small drops hanging on to the ends of the leaves and grass, oozing such purity and delicacy. The dew on the cobweb made a beautiful pattern, clearly showing off the spider’s expertise and attention to detail. Oh, how I loved the feeling of dew on my bare feet.

We soon got to the market. It had just gone 7 a.m but it was abuzz with activities. The smell of herbs and spices filled the air, they were so carefully arranged showing off their vibrant colours. Each stall stacked with something different, something interesting, with vendors shouting from all corners for customers to have a look at what they have got. The little alley ways resembled a maze, each one connected to the next and before you know it, you were lost in this jungle. The salty stench of fish filled the air; we decided to go check out the stall. We loved looking at all the different types of fish, there was always a new species, one we’d never seen before. I followed on, my mind so totally engrossed that I did not hear the bicycle bell ring. When I finally did, I turned just in time to see a man barrelling towards me. I quickly darted to the side, knocking over a fruit display. They covered the ground and were quickly crushed by the hustling passersby with few given a second chance as they pushed past the distraught stand owner. The smell of citrus filled my nostrils as the man shouted at me while shaking his fist vigorously. I began to sweat, my brain telling me to take to my heels. I stepped on a loose rock, stumbling, I bumped into the man ahead of me. He turned to glare at me for a moment before making his way to the vegetables stalls. By this time my siblings and friends were literally dying of laughter. I stuck my tongue out at them as I shoved my way through a horde of people surrounding something. Curiosity got the better of me, I had to get a glimpse of whatever’s going on no matter what. I pushed my way forward and what I came face to face with was the loveliest bride, adorned in the most beautiful attire I had ever seen, she had a veil over her head. A group of women were singing and dancing around her, congratulating her as she walked along on the pieces of cloths they had placed on the ground.  They continued like so for around 10 minutes before we saw the groom walking down the street towards her with a group of men singing for him too. This was the grande finale of the passage rite, meaning the bride could now officially enter the married women’s world. The bride and groom met, he unveiled her, showing off her intricate hairdo. Ululations filled the air and everyone was welcome to join in the song and dance. I did not hesitate for a minute. There was the exchange of gifts between the in-laws, emotions running high. Soon, it was food time, the best part. We ate to our fill before calling it a day.

For me, there were no cards, no cake, no fancy dress party, no presents (my kids would be horrified at the thought of that), no expenses incurred, but somehow we still had fun, entertainment and food. Truly a memorable day.

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Death

Death

When Truphena was told that her son had Celebral Palsy and that he may never walk, the world around her came crushing down. She had never felt so alone, felt so out of her depth like she did now. She looked at the little being lying on the hospital bed so helpless, not at all aware of what the future lay for him. Things were going to be very different not just for him, but for her too. She picked him up and held him in her arms, tears trickling down her cheeks as she felt a gush of affection she’d never felt before. She didn’t hear the rest of what the doctor said to her, it all sounded like a distant murmur. When she left the hospital later that day, she knew all they had was each other and she vowed to do everything she could to protect him.

See Truphena was only 17 when she found out that she was pregnant. She was barely an adult and all of a sudden she was faced with the responsibility of taking care of another human being. She was shunned by everyone around her, even her parents did not spare her. She had to drop out of school. The future seemed bleak, loneliness threatened to swallow every part of her entity until all was left was a shell that was too numb to feel the pain anymore. Loneliness became the only dependable friend. She came from a village where giving birth out of wedlock was considered shameful, it was a taboo. She was now an outcast, with no-one to educate her on what to expect during pregnancy. She pretty much carried on with her pregnancy without attending any ante-natal classes. She had to grow up quick, become independent. She worked odd jobs to sustain herself and in preparation for the new arrival. So when she found out about the baby’s condition she decided to leave for the city to seek medical attention.

The next months were spent with her going from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, her hopes had been raised so many times and her heart broken just as much. She had spent so much money and time; trips to the hospital had become her daily routine. Every penny she could scrape together was spent on his consultations and medication. He was always on her back; she carried him everywhere even when she balanced the basket of mangoes on her head as she sold them to travellers. She had walked those narrow hospital corridors and witnessed so much agony; there were women with cancer, men in their last stages of H.I.V, children battling terminal disease; there was pain; disease; people struggling with their ailing bodies. The place always had a pungent smell of disinfectant that stayed with her long after she left the building.

As the days trudged on, his condition worsened. Truphena seized every opportunity to spend as much time as she could with her son. She sung to him every night till he fell asleep. She could not fathom the thought of life without him, he was her best friend. She did not lose hope even on that fateful morning. She was carrying on as usual when all of a sudden he began vomiting vehemently. She quickly rushed him to the nearest hospital. The impact of the nausea made his body jerk as shivers ran through him. She had this nagging feeling at the pit of her stomach, he did not look good, he was in total pain. His breathing became heavy and laboured, his eyes glazed over. He tried to cough but could not. There was a priest, doing his rounds. The doctor signalled to him to come over. He was dressed in an immaculately white rob which made him appear divine. She placed her son on her lap as the priest took some form of oil and made the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead. Truphena closed her eyes. There were groans of pain, a baby’s cry of pain, a mother’s despair, the whole world on her shoulder. This was a heavy cross to bear of humanity and their failing bodies.

It’s alright to be different

Tembo was surrounded by a rowdy gang of boys; they would not let him get past them. He was hurrying home after school as he could not wait to tell his mum the good news. He had just aced his exams, he was top of his class again, actually top of his year group. He was the model pupil, his teachers liked him, his mother adored him, and he was the envy of his fellow peers. He was what they would describe as a ‘gifted child.’ He thought his day was going to end on a high, how wrong he had been. At the moment it seemed it could not get any worse. The boys made fun of him; they were much taller, much stronger than him. He had no hope of escaping even if he tried to. They looked determined to make his life miserable. He looked at each and every one of their faces as they trampled on him with their insulting words, blow after blow. They pushed him around calling him all sorts of names. He asked them to stop, no, begged them to stop, but it all fell on deaf ears. He felt someone’s hand pinch him, another punched him in the stomach. It was all getting out of control real fast, he closed his eyes and waited for the worst to happen. He still had his eyes closed when he heard a stern voice tell them to stop. He opened them to see the local shopkeeper approach on his bicycle. The boys scuttled away before he got any closer.
‘Are you alright Tembo? Did they hurt you?’ He asked. ‘No.’ He replied. But the truth was he felt a deeper pain than the punch he had received on his belly. They had bruised his ego, hurt his feelings and ruined his day. But he was the sort of person who just carried on no matter how hard things were. He seldom showed his unhappiness, he had mastered this over the years. Up till now he just did not understand why he had to be picked on for something that was not his fault. See, Tembo was born with a deformity, a cleft pallet they called it. All through his childhood, ever since he could remember kids always found him a fascination hence could not resist to make fun of him. He had forced himself to get accustomed to it. His mother had always been his rock, she always assured him that he was special, that he was her little gift. They walked on, he was lost in own his thoughts as the shopkeeper whistled chirpily beside him while he pushed his bike up the hill. They soon got home and his mother was surprised to see him escorted by the older man. He let her know that he had found him in a scuffle with some boys. She thanked him and he was soon on his way. Tembo assured his mum that he was alright. He did not want to worry her; he saw how hard she worked for the both of them. ‘Look mum,’ he revealed his report card to her. She was too excited to notice it was a bit crumpled and a little ripped. One of the boys must have got hold of it while they pushed him around. She assumed it was his carelessness. As his mum embraced him once more, he closed his eyes to hold back his tears…..
Unfortunately, bullying is a vice that our children one time or the other may come across. If not nipped in the bud it may leave scars that are too deep to heal. To be honest, it is one of my biggest fears, that one day my child will come home and tell me that someone bullied them. Well, I hope they tell me and not suffer in silence. But how does one react? Do you get angry with yourself for not being there to protect them or do you get angry at the other party for they should have known better than be nasty to another human being? It makes one wonder what kind of brutal pleasure these people get from this mindless act. I hope that before they pounce on someone either because of how they look, or how they talk or just because they do not like them that they take a moment to think and realise the damage they may cause by their actions.

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