Sunday, July 8, 2018

The blind side of my beatitude

“This is my testament. Tomorrow I may not walk among you. For I man, like many before me has to pass on.  I am not immortal, and this I have always known. As celestial is the eclipse of the end of time, tomorrow, I will walk away, far beyond the future. A distance, the past can not equal.” He paused, and I looked searchingly into his eyes. Trying to understand, a lesson I knew may be the last. He sighed, and I sat up.  Yonder into the deep blue skies, his eyes locked. Mine too, sought the depth of the deep blue skies. It can not be. It surely can not be. But it was. In the deep blue skies, I saw him.

From the depth of our silence, he continued.

“I may not have lived my existence to the fullest. I may not have been as good as many may have expected. And, indeed, I may not have achieved what many thought I would achieve. But, in my heart I am contended. I walked in meadows, dry brushes and patchy sands attesting to the footprints of those who heard my cries. I sought not echoes of understanding from others. But, if it be there were echoes of understanding, and nought was learnt, then let it be known, I too have my failings.

In this testament, I seek that you not look to the heavens seeking that which afflicts you, I seek that you look closely into your shadow, look over your shoulder and seek my understanding.

If it be that you relate to my understanding, I am sad. For how it be, we continue letting a truth that should create deeper blue skies for the children be shrouded in our own inability to walk among the free.

 Didn't, you hear that child yesterday calling out for someone to reach and touch her hand? You heard, but just like me, you said it is not my child. If it be it is not your child, how it be you too where a child.  Look inner yourself and reflect on whose child you were, then you will surely find that it was the child in you that was calling out to you.” He paused, looking down on his scraggy hands like he was counting the many years gone, toiling for a people.

“So what you say for yourself,” he asked.

And I answered.

“I grew up in a rather moderately well off family. In the early years, we did not lack for anything. We grew up as most urban kids did. The tribulations of our parents were their own. After all, there was always food on the table. That a people could go hungry was alien, until in later years. But then, it really did not happen to us. This I only witnessed. Could be if I too had been hungry, may be I could understand why a people can let themselves slide into an abyss of despair. Yes, why a people can let themselves slide into abject poverty, while the very people they voted for to govern and realise their aspirations line their pockets to utterly contemptible levels.

When, I was of school going age, again there was nothing lacking in my existence. The politician was there, but really the politician was merely the person who at Independence Day celebrations delayed the fun. The politician always seemed to enjoy talking to himself. It was mostly a him, then.

I never really could understand why the people afforded this fun-spoiler so much time. There they were looking up at the podium, gobbling even the foulest words that fell out of the foulest mouth. And did they clap!

Like thunder the ovation always was and the birds the skies they took. I guess the birds too really did not understand why a people could disturb so much peace just because the politician has opened his mouth. It never really occurred to me that this person who the people seemed to love so much could be the very person who in time the people come to hate so much. I believe I was one up from the people. After all, I already hated this person. But I guess it was all for the wrong reasons. Surely, I could have had more reasons, but really it did not matter.

The politician I recall used very strange words. Humanism, man at centre, was rather prevalent those days. Words that had no meaning to me. I was innocent as all children are. Then, there were the times, a new tall building came up, and the politician would again make an appearance. Of course, having a two storey building in your town was something exciting. And if it had lifts, then you should imagine how much fun us kids had!

Yes, my father would also often be there. Being a somebody in the town, he somehow had to make an appearance. And did we glow. That is my father up there.

Looking back, I believe I never really witnessed my father smile whenever next to the politician. Could be he always knew something. Must have been a secret. For why else did he not tell us what it is about the politician’s presence that did not make him smile?”

He raised his scrawny hand, you could count the veins. I paused.

“What you say is of the other, what I ask is of yourself,” he slowly said.

“Perhaps, my happiness is in seeing wrong in others. For of their wrong, I can speak well.” I replied.

He coughed, spittle dripping down his lips.

“My son. That is the blind side of your beatitude. Your happiness should lie in seeing the wrong in yourself. Your father did not smile in the presence of a politician, because in the politician he saw himself. A failing, an abyss of reason. Go now and redeem your beatitude.”

I sadly looked at him, stood up, and walked away. A tear fell, but I knew his last words were an altruism.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A panga for my grandmother

“Those of us who have only ever known life in a democracy, however flawed, would find it hard to imagine what living in a dictatorship and enduring the absolute loss of freedom really means”
-  Arundhati Roy (Not Again)

 MY grandmother recently turned 90 and if I thought I will be free of her inquiries on why the myriad political promises she has been hearing for nearly all her life-time have not come to roost,  I was very wrong. The old fellow now seems to have a keen interest in the political happenings in Northern Rhodesia. With every call, SMS I receive, I regret having bought a television set for her. Now she wants a panga!

Strange, because out there in Shangombo, she always tells me she is a citizen of Barotseland, and not Northern Rhodesia.

This is how, the panga demand came to be.

"Sonny! Please, come quickly. I am in big trouble."
"What, Nana?" I asked. My mind dancing around whether that third Baobab tree by the second bus stop, near the first Baobab tree at the Shangombo market is still standing. Who knows! Someone could have mistaken it for Mukula ornamental wood.  Else, it will be a tall order to locate her hamlet in the Barotse sands.

"Last night, there was a big crowd at my shebeen. Was a busy, profitable night. They danced and chanted some unknown psalms. I could not help, but join in the chanting as I served them." She paused. I waited. Really, forgot I meet her mobile talk time bill. And it is not cheap.

"Couldn't understand what they were on about, as they were using their own local language." Well, I could relate to that. Most Lozi speaking people can barely understand each other, when the other uses his or her own local language. Lozi is a national language, by the way.

"Imagine! I actually, joined in the chanting, when suddenly they stopped. You should have heard their heartbeats. Boom, boom, boo. Then, this elderly weasel that always drinks on credit pointed at me, and shouted. 'That is the witch killing us with her paraffin and battery acid laced seven days. Today, the witch will die. We need development, the seven days is making us always vote for the opposition'." A long pause again. Thick foul tobacco spittle must have hit the ground.

"Sonny! All this time they were actually chanting, 'today the witch will die, today the witch will die' meaning me. Please, bring a panga for me." And the phone cut.

Tried calling her back. But that jealousy girl, I hate so much, answered my call.

"Sorry. You have insufficient Jameson alcohol to make this call". My apologies, the tragic tale of the dance for Nana must have made Jameson intrude in my thoughts.

Perhaps, I really don't need to rush to Shangombo. My beloved grandmother is wise enough to know, you don't just join in a dance and chant without first asking what it is all about.

In hindsight, I laughed softly. Her world famous paraffin and battery acid laced seven days alcoholic brew is a marvel!


The brew actually removes cobwebs that prevent the gray cells upstairs from communicating properly. Now not surprised they believe she is a witch. Unfortunately, they need development served on a sizzling platter of rats in sindambi[1] soup. They surely must have heard someone saying, if you do not vote for the party in government there will be no development in your area.

Sic! This fellow thinks he uses money from his dear departed father’s hamlet. Anyway, that is a story for another day.

The point is, the paraffin and battery acid laced seven days always made them realize that tyranny is an erotic temptation, when the delusion of power is one's eiderdown.  They live apart from their sons rotting in prison for simply asserting that Barotseland is a State within a State.

In voting for the opposition, they were simply asserting that obedience of tyrannical rule is no different from the obedience of corpses; throw them in an ox-cart; turn them roughly in the morgue, chop them up in the guise of a post-mortem, not a protest will you hear. And more so that, development served on a sizzling platter of rats in sindambi soup only during an election is sophistry. After all, they have evidenced a people being pulverize to pulp, so that they accept the tomorrow promise of development!

Well, I am off to the nearest hardware shop to buy a panga for my beloved grandmother.  I really hope, I will not regret my decision. Tomorrow, I head off to Shangombo, to deliver the panga. I am sure she will proudly hang it under the Baobab tree in the centre of her hamlet, so that all can now see her new political affiliation.

I really love my grandmother. But, in the days to come, I am slowly seeing myself on fast twos, her in an ungainly sprint behind me with panga raised. At 90, how will she easily differentiate between her grandchildren and members of the opposition? Perhaps, I should tell her that a panga is violence, and that violence, is the nemesis of democratic rights?

Or that the law obligates a State, the executive and legislature, to do something for the citizenry, not just for those with a particular political affiliation? Hence that, the psalm of development served on a platter of rats in sindambi soup, only when one has a panga hanging outside their door is not right. It is immoral.

No. I will just have to seek solace in the gecko on my wall, and deliver the panga. I hear in Shangombo they still burn witches. Wouldn’t want that to happen to Nana.

But, before I hand it to her, I will remind her that she once said,
"Being in authority or power, or being close to authority or power, does not mean instruments of authority or power are one's toilet tissue. Even if it became so, one has to be careful as unwise use of toilet tissue can soil one's hand."

And further that,
"The denial and defense of rule of lawlessness, is no different from wondering why everyone you seek to greet refuses to touch your hand. It is simply because you soiled your hand after number two, but you deny the smell".

I am sure my grandmother is wise enough. Can’t wait. It surely cannot be a case of the Iron Age never really ending in some parts of the world. Were pangas not first invented in the Iron Age?

Via, veritas, vita.

[1] Sindambi is a Lozi traditional vegetable

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Thief outside the window

Off portraits, rat whiskers walking sticks and being God chosen.

I once read somewhere that, "a thief is always outside the window". No, I think I wrote that before the grey matter got clouded with my beloved grandmother's paraffin and battery acid laced seven days. 

Now tired of running to look outside the window whenever I hear a fire engine's siren. I always really want to jump out of the window and chase after our new Lego set of fire tenders, shouting "lisholi, lisholi". Catch, them and do a citizen's arrest. But, I don't do so. 

For, outside the window I also see a Kawambwa Tea Mukula tree, gold plated bitumen drums, sisal and rats. I end up getting spoilt for choice, as to which one I should chase.

"I will chase them, tomorrow", I always console myself. Yet I know, tomorrow I will simply walk among the tombstones in the graveyard of hope. Hoping someone else, not me, will do the chasing, shouting and arresting.

I really just hope, tomorrow those to come after me, will not be chasing me and shouting, "lisholi". For in my reticence, I am actually stealing their future.

Yes, in my reticence, I am also the thief among the thieves that only see thieves outside the window.

Ora pro nobis.


"Lisholi" means thief.