By Laker Winfred L
How are the heavens?! Are you soaring on them clouds? Are you and Kwara still a couple? Or do the rules of earthly marriages don’t work up there? Is heaven really like they preach about down here below? Do you guys sloth about all day with no chores, no bills and no pains but endless singing of hallelujahs?
Do you see Kwara or you have no memory of him whatsoever? I do hope you see him. I do hope you remember him. Even in heaven, I do believe he still needs you. I hope there’s no smoking up there too, I still worry about his lungs. And I hope he is not getting into trouble with the cherubs in charge of music, choreography and dance. I know his earth dance moves were wanting while he lived here down below. You were never amused by his failure to dance well.
Sometime this year, we had the courtship ritual, again. This was the most emotional time for me Maa. There were a number of suitors. I wrote Kwara about it. Knowing him, I am sure he didn’t update you. He was probably too busy in some heavenly kafunda drinking illegal potent heavenly gin with his buddies.
You should know, a groom was chosen for me after the courtship ritual came to a close. They, our elders, are yet to crown the one whose proposal I must accept. It’s some 40 something sunsets away from now. Before I accept my reality, and settle into this marriage, I should have you know about the suitors that never made it and the one that did.
So here we go!
One was young. Very young. He had just got out of school. He courted me with a megaphone. He used to stick his index finger in the air with such youthful gusto while saying oyeeeeeee during the dance! That was supposedly his motto. You should have seen how we all caught on this oyeeeeee excitement! We used it even where it wasn’t relevant! He smiled a lot too. A wide smile. Sometimes he smiled too much, but, I loved that about him. He brought youthful zing, lots of melodrama and humor into the race for my hand.
No one in our lands had ever done what he did to court me! No one! He drew my attention when he ran like a lajwar, a youthful gazelle, to present his courtship agenda to the elders. He made sure I knew about him. He made sure I saw him. My brothers treated him with bits and pieces of disrespect. They thought he was not good enough for me. That he was too young. That he would turn me into a cougar. That the faraway lands would laugh at us! Imagine! Isn’t age just a number Grandma? Just digits?
Anyway, once he got really, really angry with my brothers and he literally sat down in the middle of the village path! I was happy to see he had some rage bone in him! Shouldn’t a woman know how her suitor looks like when angry, drunk or constipated? What do you say, grandma? Would he have defended me from the prying cougar call-outs of my future in-laws and enemies? Enough about this guy!
There was a woman! Yes! A woman! The only woman in the race to court me! She has the most amazing eyes. Bright. Big. Unsunny eyes. They’re serious eyes. They’re bold eyes. The kind you cannot look into for long when telling a lie. Sometimes I think I was afraid of her. She looks imposing. She dresses up well. If she were to lead a nation, she would lead it with a firm hand. She spoke with a certain rare and mysterious boldness. My worries and fears aside, I liked that she planted herself amongst the men in the race for my gorgeous hand. She didn’t go through though. I still like her. I still follow on the talk concerning her. Maybe she will serve in the village council or something in the future. Maybe some day she will rule and lead our people. Who knows!
Another suitor, whose name I forget, used to move around the village square at awkward hours and in the strangest of ways. Sometimes he pursued me while on a bicycle. Sometimes he talked to me while in the rear end of his car; it’s boot open like the guys stealthily selling uncertified herbal remedies on the streets. I don’t know why he did that. But he was in the race for my hand.
Why he was in the courtship race I don’t know. I didn’t get it even. He seemed too unserious. I wondered whether he would put food on the table. Whether kwa ukweli he could hold the kweri dyang, the ox-plough appropriately and keep the oxen in line when the rains came. Would he be able to successfully plough my father’s simsim garden? Only the gods know! The elders turned him away. They said they didn’t want unserious sons-in-law.
There was one curious suitor, the oldest in the race. He has been courting me for 3 solid decennium. He wont relent. He owns a bus. Loves sunflower yellow and said he would drive me into the future. He brought me bright yellow things, bright yellow roses, bright yellow dresses, bright anything yellow and all. He promised me an expanse of bright yellow banana plantations.
I worried whether obe twero gwoka. Whether obe rii. I worried if he had the energy for a young bride like me. How long would he keep me happy? The roses and things yellow, would they keep coming? I thought he would retire from the courtship ritual this time round since he has been in it too long but he did not.
The elders insisted he plays too. My brothers gave him regal treatment. They never dared to even touch the air surrounding the space engulfing him. They went the extra mile to make sure his courting route was as clean and smooth like the bottom of a newborn baby. I saw a lot of dongo wang ogwal when it came to him. He won. He has my hand now. He got the vote. The numbers.
I have put my worries in the hands of the gods. Let them deal with the issues I see in this marriage. It’s their doing. Have God above know too. That this marriage has been laid into His most powerful hands as well.
Bright, no, smart, was another suitor. He used to be in our legion of warriors. A general, they call him. He is humble too. Can’t insult an annoying fly. He can’t call a roach for what it is. I worried because the clansmen didn’t seem to understand intelligent people. They still don’t.
I worried they would not give him the dowry assessment, yet I was in awe of his intelligence! I loved the contents of his brain Maa-Madit! I also worried that my clansmen would pay him no mind. They said intelligent people cannot survive on our lands. That its too tough and he is not assertive enough. Alas, he didn’t make it! He lost! They confirmed my fears and gave him the wrong date to pick his assessment. He came two days late.
There was a second warrior too. I have not seen him lately. He walked about with this arrogant pride. He was tall and bold. He had this curious shade of attitude. Once the palace guards angered him and he spewed strong Kiswahili words I couldn’t understand along their way.
I liked the attitude. It’s a sign he could stand up for me. The clansmen ignored him the entire courtship time. And he wouldn’t talk to them either. He wouldn’t even listen to our la go-between, our la oo. What could I do? He wouldn’t speak up for me so the elders let him go! I too let him go!
There is a man from the upper side of the Nile. A fine man! Oh you should have heard him speak leb loka! His Luganda is impeccable. You should hear him speak his English. It is superb. The words stride off his tongue like the Hollywood stars walk the red carpet. His humor is amazing too. Laughter is good for every marriage, no? I still like to listen to him whenever he speaks in the village square. And no, I am not looking for trouble.
His tongue, this Nilotic! Oh Mama! His tongue is sharper than a butcher’s knife and spares no one! He carried along this strange hoe during the courtship dance. I feared the idea of a hoe. Shouldn’t we have moved on to the Massey Ferguson tractors the white man speaks of? Just one hoe would not sustain us. Laughter is great but it cannot fill our bellies like kwon–bel does. So, I let the elders decide! They turned him away too!
Did I tell you about the one who is a preacher of the white man’s religion? He is not only knowledgeable in the Mzungu‘s God but also spoke with the utmost kindness in his speeches. He mentioned God here and he mentioned God there as he courted me. He talked about integrity and all those values we learn at the village church. Isn’t that what every woman wants, Grandma? A kind man? A man who knows God, fears God and values His ways? I didn’t hear from him towards the end though. He left the courtship trail without telling me.
The village scribes were silent on his goings and comings too. I had no information whatsoever. Shall a woman accept a marriage proposal when a man rations himself this much at the beginning of courtship? Should I have sought him out? Tell me, Grandma. What sign would you have given me? He ghosted me. So I said no.
Another suitor came from the rich oil lands of the west. Lands whose hills are lined with miles and miles of lash green tea plantations. The kind of tea plantations that look like the Creator planted Himself and sprinkled with an extra dash of hallelujah freshness. His voice is thick and sharp. He speaks the English language like he was born in the belly of outside countries. He is bold too. My brothers didn’t seem to mind him.
This one loves the Lord too, a whole lot. I had seen him in the past do crazy things in relation to this mar, this love for the Good Lord. Should it have been a yes for him? Or you wouldn’t have approved? Tell me?!
Ah! There was my roaring suitor too! He lives, breathes and loves blue! My favorite color! When my brothers took his shoes at the first courtship initiation dance, he decided he would court me barefoot. Can you believe that?! He went into the books of history of our beautiful lands for running for my hand without his fine pair of black shoes!
Every ordinary day he spoke to me in a normal tone. But whenever he held a microphone! Haaah! Iyee keni! Maa, he would roooaaar! He would really bworo mapaaaat. The preachers of the white man’s religion on our streets and sidewalks have got nothing on him. His baritone was heavy, slow, husky, and lazy. It’s was his unique trait.
My brothers treated him badly though. He was beaten and sprayed with kalara madwong it was heartbreaking. Once he was sprayed so bad he looked white and pale like a night-runner, a latal, caught by dawn right in the middle of the market square. He didn’t get my hand though. My concern is, will he get his shoes back now that the race is over? What do you see from up there? He should get his shoes back at least.
And finally there was the one that sings. The one that promised me a thousand vibrant sunsets! He croons so well. He is gifted with the spirit of musicality. He is lanky. He is tall. Walks with a bounce. Wears fine nice fitting clothes, and came with an umbrella. He said I shouldn’t worry about the rains ahead. Said he had come to bring change and keep me warm. To protect me from the harsh rains of singleton that had been hitting my roof.
This guy literally came out of no where Grandma! Nowhere! If my brothers had not maltreated him, I wouldn’t have noticed him. I wouldn’t have paid him any curiosity. He caused quite a stir Daada na. He was like a worrying whirlwind, swirling constantly in the horizon and threatening the children and chickens in a homestead.
My brothers took a bad liking to him like too much white ants to the belly. They beat him. They accused him. They blocked him. They arrested him. They chased him. His entourage paid too; dearly.They were taken to the village jela. Some lost limbs. Some lost lives. Some did not return.
Him and the barefoot suitor experienced a whole lot of bad in the hands of my brothers. From kalara, sleeping along the village paths, being diverted to remote routes to caution from the council elders. But he soldiered on. He continued to sing! But he didn’t make it! The clansmen did otherwise.
I asked grandfather who to vote for. But I guess he was too busy hanging out, he forgot to send me a heavenly sign. I should have asked you. You always had the answers. I now need help with how to bring our marriage to fruition. Send me signs. Send me good vibes. Send me some halleluiahs!
If you are not too busy up there, please do watch our initiation ceremony. There will be good food and sugar free juice I suppose. I promise not to be a drunken wife.
An ki mar,