Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Auto-Teller Machine
Esther Liwonde

I was tired, hungry and sweating profusely. The three hours I had cycled from Chamama to Kasungu Boma had drained every ounce of energy I had in my body. I felt weak. My throat was literally dry; my breathing was rapid and laboured.

Kasungu Boma, it being a month end, was abuzz with activity. Vendors, minibus call boys, pick-pockets et al were all making hay. I beckoned a vendor to bring me water packed in small plastic bags and gestured with my finger I needed one.

“K20 each,” he said. I fumbled into my pocket and gave it to him.

“This K20 note is so raddled,” the vendor protested adding: “Give me another one. Just the colour shows it’s a K20. No one will accept this from me.”

“Just shut up man. The water is not even cold.” I said rudely while guzzling the water ravenously. “Actually it tastes like you have fetched it from a borehole,” I added. The vendor, shocked with my response, uttered no word. He simply walked back to where his merchandise was and sat down, looking at me scornfully. 

I did not mind him. Besides, that was the only money I had left in my pocket. I immediately shifted my attention to what had brought me to the Boma.

I had come to the Boma to withdraw money from the Auto–Teller Machine (ATM). ATMs were unfamiliar territory to me, a path l had never trodden.  A technology I had only been exposed to by the stories I had heard; how you insert a card into a machine, punch a secret number and then it vomits some cash. Thinking of all this, I began feeling butterflies in my stomach. Uneasiness engulfed me and I took a long deep breath.

The new Managing Director was to blame for all this. For seven years, I had been receiving my monthly salary by hand, delivered to me and my workmates in a khaki envelope by our lady accountant. But this new boss had come with his own ideas demanding every worker of Chamama Groundnuts Products to open a bank account. All this hassle and bustle, he was to blame.
Nervously, I felt for my ATM card and the dozen other ATM cards belonging to my workmates I had taken with me to withdraw their money too. This had been the arrangement from the time the new boss imposed the bank account issue that only one person would travel to the Boma to withdraw his money but also that of his colleagues. This time it was my turn. Their pin codes were written on a piece of paper and it was in my breast pocket.

I reached the bank. The ATM queue was long and moving at a snail’s pace. There were about forty people ahead of me. A well-built man in a dark blue suit before me was talking on his phone telling the other person on the other end of the line that he was in Blantyre. I just grimaced. A moment later, a woman passing by, putting on an outfit that accentuated her curves attracted the attention of every male on the queue who in turn looked at her lasciviously. Especially her wriggling behind made me forget that I was on a queue until someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder to move forward.

After about an hour or so, my turn finally came. My legs felt heavy as I walked to the ATM. My heart was pounding heavily and my hands were shaking slightly as I fetched the ATM cards from my pocket. I also took the piece of paper with pin codes from my breast pocket

As my turn to withdraw money from the ATM approached, a thousand panicky questions were buzzing in my head. I continuously wiped sweat from my brow and kept assuring myself that I could do it

As my turn to the ATM approached, I could not stop worrying. Each time I neared it something melted in me and I kept sweating even more. I tried to boost my confidence by telling myself I could do it but my confidence kept wavering to an extent that when my turn finally arrived, my hands were trembling slightly as I approached the ATM.

I stood facing the ATM not knowing what to do. I was blank. I looked desperately for a slot where I could insert my card but I did not see it.

“Do you need some help?” the dude who was beside me and now waiting for his turn asked. I nodded yes and he came hurriedly. He told me where to insert the card and then instructed me to punch in my PIN, which I did. He asked me the amount I wanted to withdraw and I said: “Everything that is there.”

He smiled, punched some buttons again and money came out. I collected it and deposited it in my back pocket.

However, the Good Samaritan looked astonished when I produced a bunch of ATMs from my pocket. I ignored his look and hurriedly took the paper with PINs from my breast pocket.

“Can you give me a chance to withdraw first?” he asked. There was a trace of annoyance in his voice.

I refused. He politely walked back to the queue a clear indicator that he was no longer willing to help me with the rest of the ATMs. I felt helpless but then I assured myself I could do it. I had seen and followed the steps he had taken me through.

The piece of paper with PINs was dump with my sweat. I noted to my dismay that some PINS had become barely visible. I still gathered courage and inserted one of my workmate’s cards. It refused. I attempted to insert if by force, it still refused.

“You are inserting it the wrong way,” a voice from the queue said. This confused me even more. I changed the card’s position and inserted again. I succeeded. I punched in the pin but the ATM said it was a wrong one. I punched again and again and at the third attempt, the card was eaten up.

“It has swallowed the card,” I said to nobody in particular but facing the direction of the queue.

“It has eaten the card,” I said again almost on the verge of tears. The dude who had helped me before came and assisted me with the remaining ATMs. He instructed me to go inside the bank to inform them of the card. What I was told displeased me. The lady I found at the enquiries said only the owner of the card could come to collect it. I tried explaining to her the arrangement with my workmates but she refused.

As I cycled back home, I was unclear how my workmate whose card had been eaten would take the news. It had been an unpleasant experience.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

There Is Need

I had braved the July chillness and travelled to Dedza from Lilongwe to see my uncle Kabudula who had been admitted at the district hospital following a bicycle accident he had the previous day. I had left my home in Area 24 at exactly 6 AM with an objective of reaching the hospital during the morning visiting period – an objective I never accomplished.

The engine of my old ramshackle Nissan Sentra unexpectedly just after I had crossed Diamphwi River stopped running. I did everything I knew to get it started again but after close to an hour of endless toiling, I still had not fixed the problem. My hands were oily, dirty and hurting and I was at the end of my wits. As I contemplated on calling my mechanic, absently I turned the key in the ignition and to my surprise the engine roared into life. I heaved a sigh, engaged gear and started off again.

At Chimbiya, I was in trouble again; this time with speed trap officers and I was charged K5000. I spent half an hour begging for leniency to a potbellied officer with a bloated face who kept telling me repeatedly in an impassive tone that I had to settle the fine. When reality hit me in the face that he would not bulge even if I pleaded until I was blue in the face, I sadly parted with the K5000 which was part of the money I had taken with me to give to my uncle.

It was until 10:45 AM that I reached the hospital a very tired person. I explained my predicament to a finely honed gorgeous looking nurse as to why I had delayed. She looked understanding, nodding her head in compassion at every word I uttered. But when I had finished, I was taken aback when she told me sadly that I could not be allowed in until the midday visiting period.

When I finally entered the ward, Kabudula’s sight immediately stirred sympathy in me. Part of his head had been swathed in bandages. Both his arms and left leg were in a plaster of Paris and hanging in the air. He was a figure in great pain. He forced a smile when he saw me.

“I’m glad to see you, son,” he said with a labored smile. He talked for sometime about the accident and just as I mulled over telling him to stop talking and have a rest, he asked me something which I did not anticipate he could do at the time. It was to do with Maggie, the girl I had been dating for a while.

“Ah, well…well…we partied ways,” I explained uncomfortably and added quickly: “Uncle, Maggie tended to give a lot of weight to opinions of her chronically single and bitter friends and I couldn’t live with that.”

“Oh, really?” he asked and took a long deep breath, shook his head in resignation and fired another question while signaling his wife to assist him drink some water. “What was the reason behind you leaving Grace? The one you dated before Maggie?”

“Well uncle, Grace felt I could not achieve anything I set out to do,” I explained and added: “Uncle, but I think this isn’t an appropriate place to discuss this subject.” Several patients and guardians had already started looking at us and I felt ashamed for him to be discussing that in a hospital.

Kabudula dismissed my observation with an annoyed glance and reminded me viciously ignoring whatever pain he might have been feeling: “The reason you left Christina was because prior to being in a relationship with you she had gone out with a truck driver.”

I nodded yes uneasily and he scoffed.

“Son, you’ve got a damn big problem,” he whined angrily and added bluntly: “I think you need to go to heaven and marry the angel you want. You’ve dated over ten girls and you want to tell me that you haven’t had your pick.” he rattled with a soupcon of derision in his voice.

“What is most annoying is that you’ve reasons to justify each termination,” he said, “There is no perfect person in this world, son. In this life kid, there are other things you just need to compromise. You don’t have to be that strict.”

I kept quiet as what he was saying began making sense to me. Perhaps I needed to separate fantasy from reality. I began imagining how insecure the world would have been if we were constantly surrounded by people who looked perfect, acted perfect, and never made mistakes. It would be difficult to say the least. Perhaps, he was right. I needed to compromise in some areas.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Old Boots

Kabudula – a childhood friend - immediately developed an aura of self importance about him when he opened an account with a bank that had just assumed its operations at a nearby town – some two or so kilometres from the village I had lived in since childhood.

He could brag at length about the interest his money was to generate and how the tellers whom he described as exquisite works of nature smiled at him every time he went to deposit his money.

“Seriously, Maleka, just looking at them finely honed cashiers, I’m struck with the painful realisation that I should have taken my time before marrying,” he had confessed one time with virile eloquence and added jokingly: “Dude, those cute tellers have beautiful faces I never tire looking at.”

Though, I had never nursed ambitions of opening a bank account, Kabudula’s endless sentiments began to sway me to be in favour of the notion. Without equivocation, I was someone who had grown up believing that banks were for the learned and rich folks and not for people like me who were not fluent with the pen. I had heard stories about the paper work you had to fill to open a bank account and whenever I mulled over that factor I was disheartened straightaway. Of course I was not such a complete half-wit: I could write my name correctly - even a letter when the need arose, but such a task was frustrating on my part as it literally took me the whole day and usually left me with a hurting hand. So whenever the idea of keeping money at the bank crept into my mind, I just laughed it off.

But come to think of it, Kabudula was no better than me. I was able to write down my name but Kabudula could not even spell his name. The only thing I had never bested him on was chasing women and in all sincerity, he had a tongue that women failed to resist. I still recalled how he had proved handy when my present wife was giving me a pretty hard time when I was chasing her. Now such a person had just opened a bank account and I felt nothing could stop me and I did not waste any time to tell Kabudula that I too wanted to have an account just like him.

My ecstasy was surely a plus the day Kabudula took me to the inside of the bank. There was a certain happiness in me I could not put into words and the smile I had on since I entered the bank never left my lips.

As I relished in this rare moment, I was stunned by the confused facial expression on Kabudula’s face that immediately set a bolt of alarm lighting in my chest. Besides escorting me to open an account, Kabudula had planned also to withdraw some money to sort out a financial mishap he had faced unexpectedly.

“What is it Kabudula,” I asked as I approached him.

“The total money I’ve been depositing since I opened my account is K12500,” he indicated not with the earlier enthusiasm that had enticed me to open an account instead he added with a heart breaking sadness: “But they say I can only take K10000 because some money remains with the bank as book balance and some has been deducted as bank charges. Maleka, I was in the dark about all this stuff. I need K12000 to solve my problems, dude.”

To describe Kabudula’s misfortune as a blessing in disguise would have been an understatement, but it just gave me an authentic reason never to entrust my money with a bank. I went back home and kept the money under my bed in my old worn out gumboots that I had stopped using some years back, however I forgot to tell my wife where I had kept the money.

Days passed and one muggy Saturday afternoon, I decided to check for the money when I realised that the gumboots where not where I had left them. Warning bells began ringing in my ears when I could not find the gumboots. I began sweating profusely and moved about the bedroom like a demented baboon and screamed my wife’s name. She came almost immediately looking bewildered as she could not comprehend what had befallen me.

“What happened to the old boots that were under the bed,” I queried desperately looking at her in the face. Tears had started to form in my eyes.

“I got rid of them,” she indicated uneasily, “I was cleaning this room this morning so I got rid of all stuff we didn’t need. They are in the garbage pit.”

I stomped out of the room like a deranged animal and headed to the garbage pit. I looked inside desperately and with huge anticipation and when my eyes saw one of the gumboots, a huge sigh of relief swept through my body. I stretched my hand and reached out for the old shoes and hurriedly looked inside. I felt like screaming with joy when I saw the money in one of the gumboots.

“Kabudula, what in hell is wrong with you, dear” my wife asked helplessly with her arms akimbo failing to comprehend my display of madness.

I did not respond, instead I grabbed her hand with the boots in my other hand and headed back to the house. Once in the house, I took a seat and clasped my head in both hands and said in resignation: “It was the money dear. I kept it in these gumboots and you got rid of them.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day of Reckoning

My heart skipped a beat and my eyes bulged in utter disbelief as I stared at the contents of the CD pack that lay before me. For a moment, I couldn’t breath. The shocking feeling that engulfed me was beyond words. My friend, Kabudula, who sat opposite, was equally shocked. He looked at me blankly with a sorrowful mien with his hand on her mouth.

“I’m damned,” I grumbled in despair and heartbreaking sadness. This time I managed to wipe nervously some perspiration from my face with the back of my hand. I still could not come to terms with what was before me.

“Oh, boy,” Kabudula mumbled his hand still on his mouth, “This is a complete disaster. How could this happen?”

I kept mum cursing silently. The realisation that I had given my pastor a CD pack that contained a collection of x-rated movies made me wretched. Finally, he would realise I was just a fraud and a real hypocrite. I was close to tears of humiliation.

I had travelled to America a month ago on official duties. This was just among the many journeys I had travelled abroad. There was something I used to do besides office duties whenever I travelled. I made it a habit to add to my secret arsenal of adult movies. Friends who were also into that stuff would sometimes advise me to purchase the merchandise on their behalf.

How I became addicted to adult movies, I had no clue but I had vowed never to terminate the indissoluble bond that existed between us. I had a variety of collections of magazines, VCDs and DVDs safely locked in a drawer in my bedroom and the key was always safely around with me. No one was aware of this except a blessed few. At church, I pretended to be such a good person and when it was my turn to preach, I did so with astonishment and I was a darling among the flock.

“Kabudula, you’re a devil in a cassock,” A friend one time who saw me preach chided me, “Do these people you’re admonishing that they’ll fly in hell if they sin know that you’re a custodian of x-rated movies.”

“Just imagine,” I had said laughing, “It’s really funny. They’re so clueless.”

So it happened that as I was planning for the journey, that I received a call from my pastor telling me to buy him some Christian music videos. He gave me a list of singers that he wanted.

“This will be done pastor,” I said hanging up. Kabudula, my friend had also asked me to buy him a collection of adult movies.

When I returned from America, I told the driver who had come to pick me at the airport to drop me at my pastor’s house. I did not find him. The houseboy told me he had gone to visit a certain family we prayed with. I left the pack with him telling him to give it to him. Then I called Kabudula and informed him to come and collect his movies when I realised the tremendous boon I had committed. I had switched the packs. The one meant for Kabudula had found its way at the pastor’s house.

“You have to spin a yarn that’ll get you safely out of this mess,” Kabudula advised, “You can blame the airline you flew in for switching your bag or maybe you took somebody else bag. He’ll believe you. He trusts you, Shakina.”

Kabudula was a right. A well woven lie could get me out. There was no reason to cry foul. The bag switch idea sounded flamboyant. I had to tell him that. But then this question kept re-echoing in my mind: why did this whole thing happen. Why had this clandestine activity been exposed? Maybe God wanted me to be a better person. I began feeling that only the truth could set me free.

I set off to his house in a haze. He received me as if nothing had happened.

“Have you seen the contents of the CD pack that I purchased for you,” I dropped my voice and looked away in shame.

“Not yet,” he said, “There was something that was restraining me from checking.”

“Yeah,” I said choked by the strength of my shame, “I want to confess that I have been living a fraud.” I started crying. “I feel great sorrow and shame for what I’ve done.”

“Brother, what is it that you have done?” he asked with concern and added with an authoritative voice. “Oh yes, if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”

I told him everything. How I was into it and the secret DVDs I kept, magazines, how I was a supplier and when I finished, I expected him to rebuke me for being such, for preaching as I did and yet involving myself in the very things I preached vehemently against. I expected him to scold me for being a stinking chameleon and rotten impostor, but instead he said:

“Christ died for sinners. I’ll be a cheat to tell you otherwise, brother Shakina,” he indicated, “The benefits of Christ's passions is intended not only for good people. His grace was meant for persons who deserved nothing? If it were for creatures who have not sinned, what was the need?”

Then he asked me to kneel down and he prayed. After he finished, his concluding remark was: “Never doubt God's promise on forgiveness. Doubt produces fear. It is also a great insult to God…if I don't trust you, it means I think you are a liar, and you can’t think that of God, right?”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

That Day Had Come

Mateso Kazembe

My husband’s deeds were killing me. To be precise, I was on the verge of going insane. I had prayed, begged and cried to God to change him back to what he used to be - loving and caring - but to no avail. With each passing day, he grew worse. He gave himself to drink than ever before and kept coming home late.

I reached a point where I began to question God’s inscrutable ways. As I considered the long hours I had devoted to prayer; the many times I had fasted and the myriad prayer requests I had submitted at church pleading with God to do something about him, I began to lose faith. My brethren’s assurances that God would eventually answer my prayers no longer enchanted me.

As I contemplated, I came to the conclusion that God was being entirely unfair with me. I had served him faithfully for many years and yet, He couldn’t honour that little query to bring back my husband’s sanity; instead, he had opted to ignore me completely. That thought made me bitter and I felt there was no need to worship Him anymore.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” I mumbled to myself bitterly, “He’s taken the bird. I’ve nothing. So what’s the need of praying?”

Some weeks passed and the pastor of my local assembly paid me a visit. Possibly, he had come to notice my erratic attendance of fellowship and wanted to find out why. He came with his wife and found me sobbing. My husband had beaten me for complaining over his actions. This was something he had never done all our married life and I was at pains to accept the reality of it.

“I’m so sorry sister Grace,” the pastor said after I had narrated what had happened, “But everything happens for a reason and sometimes it seems God isn’t listening to our pleas but by and by…”

“Well that I don’t need,” I interrupted him, “All I need is this to work out not somebody telling me everything happens for a reason. Pastor, I’m desperate for a miracle. My husband’s beaten me! Something he’s never done. At this pace, I won’t be surprised to hear he’s going after other women.”

The pastor’s face was grave as a professor of philosophy considering the riddle of the universe as he listened to me.

“Your frustrations are understandable my sister,” he concurred and then looked like saying more before his attention shifted to the posters and pictures I had put on the walls of the house. Almost everywhere in the house was a bible verse, or a religious poem or something biblical. This, I had done as a desperate attempt to make my husband change. The pastor appeared shocked.

“Sister, I think you need to cultivate a new attitude in the way you perceive your husband.” He paused for a moment and continued: “Sometimes the thing that makes a difference is attitude. Why don’t you stop pestering him to change about the way he lives? Try changing the way you talk to him... Also when I look at your house, there is no place for your husband to be recognized. Take down a lot of these Bible verses and also some of the pictures. Put up a few pictures that are associated with his life, I believe you might begin to see things take a drastic change.”

“But pastor, aren’t you supposed to be on my side?” I protested, “Why are you attacking me and taking sides with that pathetic drunkard? You’re such a great disappointment!”

“No! No! No! I have taken no sides,” he denied vehemently, “But sometimes as Christians our ideas and approach concerning certain perspectives are wrong. While Jesus loved sinners, we tend to do otherwise. You know the story about that harlot, don’t you? The one who washed his feet with her tears. Did Jesus say, hey harlot get off, I’m the Son of God. No. He didn’t. Just think of his disciples, would you consider He would go for such in spite of all the learned men of that age? Jesus loved sinners and treated them as His dearest friends. That way He won them. All I’m saying is instead of screaming at your husband to change his ways, why not just love him? Become his friend, sister Grace.”

After they had left, I began to contemplate that perhaps I had looked at it all wrong. Yes, I had pleaded, begged and cried but it always seemed like everything I did was just no good. Maybe, I had to try what he had suggested.

I took down the posters and pictures and stopped preaching and saying anything to him about going to church. I began calling him sweetheart. This surprised him at first, but eventually he began responding.

Four months later, he asked me with concern: “What have you done with all the pictures you took off the wall?” My answer was loaded with feigned disinterest: “Ah, you mean that. I put them in the bottom of the drawer. I figured you were tired of looking at them.”

“Oh,” he said in surprise, “Now dear, I’ve noticed you don’t ask me to go to church any more?” At this moment, I wanted to scream with joy. It had been ages since he called me that. I answered unable to conceal my joy: “Well, I figured I had asked you so much that I have worn out your patience.”

That night as I prayed, I thanked God for bringing back my husband. He had not changed for better completely, but he was on track. He was coming home on time. His visits to the pub were decreasing. I had faith he would become better. I apologised to God for my earlier despairing and begged him to grant me the wisdom on how to act when faced with similar situations.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Damn Tradition

[Published in the Weekend Nation of 25/04/09]

My journey to Ntaja to see my uncle-Kabudula-to inform him that I had found someone to marry was, without equivocation, awful. I had boarded a local bus from Zomba Depot and shared the double seat with a wino. Everything about him was nauseating. As well as his body odour and smell coming from his mouth being putrid, he dragged me into conversations I was never interested in a little bit.

“Hey mate, what’s your take on gay marriages?” He popped a question looking me in the face as the bus stopped at Chinamwali, “You know what, the way I see it God wasn’t stupid to create a woman, was He?” He coughed for a moment and added: “If pigs, dogs and even cockroaches respect the order God has given, why not man?”

I snubbed him by looking away to the window and touched my nose praying he would get my message that I was more disturbed with the fetid smell from his mouth than gay marriages, but it seemed my actions only fuelled him. As the bus approached Malosa, he was at it again.

“Do you think Malawi will ever win its fight against corruption,” he queried adding, “because if you were to ask me, my answer would be hell no! I mean you saw what happened at that police roadblock, right?” This time, I just grinned at his argument but kept my mouth zipped. It was until the bus reached Liwonde Depot, when he tapped me on the shoulder and begged to know if Zuma’s deed about taking a shower after having intercourse with an HIV positive woman prevented him from being infected, that I lost my cool.

“Dude, can you find someone to tell your hogwash,” I told him in the face: “Surely, I’ve got my own problems, but Zuma isn’t one of them, but you smelling like a pit-latrine. So please do me this little favour by closing your stinking mouth because that smell has been driving me nuts since Zomba.”

His mouth snapped open in surprise at my attack.

“I never noticed I was offending you, mister,” he squeaked a rude apology and chided with sarcasm, “I really appreciate your honesty scumbag, though I don’t like being likened to a pit-latrine, alright?” He emphasized his point jabbing my chest with his finger.

He derided me for the remainder of my journey. I wished I had used my personal vehicle. I was more than relieved when I reached Ntaja. The two hour journey looked like it had taken ages. As I disembarked from the bus, my mind was preoccupied with how I was to break the good news to Kabudula. I had no doubt he was going to be pleased considering he had preached to me countless times the importance of getting married.

I reached his home and was well received by my aunt. Kabudula was not at home. My aunt explained he had left that morning for the tavern and I was to expect him around midnight.

“At first, he only imbibed on weekends,” she indicated sadly, “But then he slipped into this pattern some months ago when he lost the primary elections. I’ve failed to talk him out of it.”

All this came as a surprise. This description did not fit the Kabudula I knew at all. He had been my quintessence of every good thing I could imagine. I had reached this far in life because of him.

But then at exactly 10 minutes after midnight, my aunt was vindicated. I heard Kabudula singing drunkenly approaching the house. The realisation that it was really him knocked me like a blow from a tomahawk. What had changed him? The loss? Having schooled me that a strong man takes adversities as they come in life and never concedes defeat, I felt ashamed of him. It was now my turn to make him see reason.

I immediately realised there was a problem. My custom never permitted kids to impart wisdom to adults. It was an abomination; there were other approaches I could do it. But then this whole thing was getting out of hand. I told myself with vigour not to stand aside and watch him going astray. I had to talk to him no matter the repercussions.

He reached the door and began beating it calling his wife to come and open. I rushed and opened the door. He was instantly shocked to see me. He gave me one appraising look before exclaiming: “Imran! When did you arrive, son?”

“This afternoon around 1 PM,” I said closing the door: “We need to talk uncle.”

“Take it easy, son,” he said brandishing his arm in the air, “Your father called and informed me that you’ve found a girl to marry. I was so proud of that news. I was worried stiff when you remained single. I kept on asking myself this question: is Imran okay? But you’ve proved it, kid. Let’s spare the nitty-gritty till morning, alright. Right now, I need a rest.” He began staggering to his bedroom.

“It’s not about me, uncle,” I said my heart racing, “It’s about the way you’re treating aunt.” He paused in his drunken step and turned to face me. His facial expression was that of annoyance.
“Imran, you can’t school me on how to run my family,” he pointed out angrily, “How ridiculous. Where are your manners, kid? I’ll inform your father about this. He won’t be pleased at all.”

“Uncle, you are a good person,” I said ignoring his threat, “You can’t let a loss in a primary election ruin your life. Your wife needs you at home. He misses your love.”

“This is rubbish. This woman will surely kill me and walk on my grave. What has this hyena told you, son?” He blurted out furiously, “What is it I don’t do in this house? I buy everything and give her plenty of monies. But what I hate is she doesn’t let me drink my beer in peace. I need tons of freedom, son.”

“But whatever the case,” I persisted, “Aunt did not marry you because of your monies. I believe she had that at her parent’s house. She married you because she loved you and you’re depriving her of that.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

Domestic Disturbance

By Mateso Kazembe
[published in the Weekend Nation of 07/03/09]

Something huge at Kabudula’s home was amiss. Everything, as he trudged into his house from work, indicated that there was a very big problem. His wife, Naliyera, had her head cupped in her hands with a gloomy expression covering her face. She had not heard the car and she was unaware that he was in the house. His daughter, Chisomo, managed a quick glance at him but swiftly looked away blinking away tears.

Kabudula felt panicky and was instantly engulfed with a helpless sensation. He had no clue of where to start from as a horde of questions buzzed in his head. What had happened? Who had died? Why hadn’t he been informed of the death if that was the case? Or may be Chisomo had goofed her MSCE examinations despite his numerous sermons admonishing her to work hard. He immediately dismissed both “schools of thought” when Chisomo came to him crashing on her knees, sobbing bitterly and begging for mercy. Her face was contorted. Streams of tears cascaded down her beautiful face. She had been crying for hours.

“Dad, I’m…I’m…so…so sorry,” she said meaning every word and came apart as if she had thrown a piston in one of the valves of her heart. She looked sick with guilt and Kabudula’s confusion was accelerated a plus. Naliyera now brought back to her senses by Chisomo’s actions, hastily stood up like someone who had sat on live coal and screamed: “You shouldn’t forgive this cockroach. She’s shamed this family and has to be punished.”

Kabudula was unsure of what to do or say. He was getting more confused and restless every additional second. He longed with ill-grace and impatience to know what had happened; just to get a tip of the iceberg of what this madness was all about but to no avail. Chisomo continued her sobs and Naliyera’s mouth was still zipped. He felt like screaming: “can somebody tell me what the hell is wrong here!” but thought against it. Instead, he turned to Chisomo and said: “It’s okay dear.” The only right thing he could do anyway and raised her up.

“Share with daddy your problem. I’m your father, not so? Your problems no matter how colossal are mine too. Say it darling, we’ll handle it together as a family.” Kabudula said with the best caring and considerate tone he could master and Chisomo was nodding her head like a little girl as he pronounced every word. Upon noting that this trick was working, he absently took a handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiped her tears which were still flowing. Naliyera was still silent but appeared more restless than ever before. Her mouth snapped open to say something but Kabudula looked at her with an expression of “you better keep your mouth shut” and she obeyed.

There followed a silence lucid as crystal. Chisomo had cooled and any moment she looked like talking and this was encouraging for Kabudula.

“I’m…I’m…I’m…” Chisomo broke the silence, stammered and looked down biting her index finger. Kabudula encouraged her to speak with an expression he had perfected over the years to extract vital information from people.

“I’m…I’m…pre…pregnant…dad,” she confessed with a sorrowful mien and Kabudula felt his heart melting. The shattering revelation struck him like a series of blows to the stomach. He was shocked to the marrow and for a moment, he could not blink or move a muscle trying to digest the dreadful news. He had heard that the first pain from a bullet wound was numbness, but strangely, he felt the same thing.

“Oh, my good Lord Jesus Christ!” he snorted helplessly, “Pregnant? Why Chisomo, why? Tell me you’re joking.” This time he laboured to produce the words. His daughter had just turned 15 and now she was pregnant. That hit him really hard. His dignity and pride were wounded.

“I told you she has to be punished, didn’t I? She’s absolutely disgraced this family. What didn’t we give this fool? Everything, didn’t we? But see what she’s done.” A bitter Naliyera lamented after eons of silence.

Anger came to Kabudula in black waves. Naliyera was right. Chisomo had bloated the family’s copybook with her act. He had tried as a parent to provide everything she needed to her, but she had opted to repay him with “this shame” -a shame that would pitilessly cripple his status. He, as a church elder, had chastened other parents mercilessly whose kids had fallen pregnant for deficient upbringing but today he was in a similar predicament. Chisomo had failed him terribly. Now, those people he had lambasted would enjoy every minute of this. This realisation drove him mad and bitter.

“Why did you do this, Chisomo?” He asked shaking his head sadly in incomprehension and commenced flouncing about the room gripped with a black rage. His thoughts were the confused orders of a ratted army as he felt too far eclipsed and alienated to be reasonable. A pain that even faith would never relieve bivouacked in his heart.

“I’ll show you that I’m really pissed.” He seethed prowling with raging fury, “I’ll make you wish you had never done this,” he promised shaking like a delirium patient and headed for the bedroom. He came back with a belt dangling in his right arm, but Chisomo had disappeared so was Naliyera.

“She…she bolted away when you went into the bedroom,” Naliyera informed him struggling to get her breath back. “I chased her but couldn’t catch her. I don’t know where she has gone to.”

“I don’t care,” Kabudula said. His breathing was rapid. “Wherever, she has gone let her rot. How dare she disgrace this family? How dare she?”

Three days passed; Kabudula was unconcerned not in the slightest sense of her whereabouts. He kept on saying “let her rot.” But after a week, his anger cooled down and uneasiness gripped him. Where was his daughter, he almost asked himself loudly. On the tenth day, he was more than desperate to know of her whereabouts.

“If not for you Chisomo would have been here,” he screamed an accusation at his wife as guilty-conscious struck him.

“Don’t shift that crap on me,” Naliyera retorted back, “you’re the one who threatened to beat her. Not me!”

“But you told me to punish her,” Kabudula defended himself and added in resignation: “Anyway, the thing is we both didn’t act wisely.”

“I’ve realised that kids sometimes do things you don’t except them to do,” he reasoned regretfully, “We acted as if her being pregnant was the end of everything.”

“I don’t care now what people will say,” Naliyera added with vigour, “but Chisomo needs our support more than anything in this world. She’s needs a companion. She needs someone to give her comfort and hope. I regret my earlier actions.” She confessed with virile eloquence.
“Let’s go and look for our kid,” Kabudula commanded at last