Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Waitara Gid
Njoki, a girl quite diverse, who frowned on things her mother said, had grown to have a lack of social skills and had very few friends and found them also to be insufferable since she was always ashamed of what they knew about their family. She had a classically disturbed childhood. Family troubles and abuse, devastating shyness and mood swings gave her a life of solitude. She liked to bolt herself in the bedroom and if going out it was only to the church and back. At the house of worship she one day prayed for her parents to divorce and she would go to live with the Wanjiku’s then before saying amen she said sorry just in case she had said anything offensive. Most were the times when she found herself having such clandestine entreaty which left her no better because of their accusable stuffing. But she was the embodiment of morality in essence so when she secretly felt gratified to see her parents at a thrashing, a pang of guilt took her conscience. And still she had not learnt to love solitude. She was very good with her pencil and would draw flowers and dogs, her favourite animal and she would want to show the pictures to someone. But there was no one, she lived alone.
Suddenly there were outrageous rumours about Njoki’s family getting her a husband. Surprisingly Njoki herself heard it, from all other quarters Nyakeru her seven year old sister and very few others knew of it.
The following day, Njoki sat on a stone in the village court, her sister Nyakeru and a pal were frolicking beside her and boys and girls were playing a local fashion of rugby they called Gonya some yards away. It was a very rough and vigorous game and Njoki never had the strength to participate but she engaged herself hilariously as a spectator. This time she did not find hilarity in it for her mind was a receptor of worries and adding insult to injury some boys in the game ridiculously pointed at the bride-to-be.
She watched her contemporaries play and greatly admired the liberty and carefree denotable in them.
It came to an abrupt end when some mothers came with muheheti sticks to drive their skiving sons and daughters who were supposed to be either in the farm or looking for firewood and water and others had some heavy chores waiting for them at home. They were all driven away and Njoki was left alone in the empty field, her mother had ignored her, she thought she heard her tell her to sleep there. Njoki heard her sister’s faint sharp voice calling at a distance and turning she saw Nyakeru walking beside their mother at a distance and a resolution hit her that she should see the dutiful men.
She jerked up and ran away. She did not stop and did not really know exactly what she was doing, she just ran. Some visions of figures resembling men chased her wanting to catch her and marry her. Tears swept from her eyes to the ears. She held her dress at the hem, wiped tears with her wrist and back of the palm. Njoki ran and in the least caring of the menace of a girl running far from home at dusk and alone. Her destination was the vicarage.
“What you might not know is that at thirteen she is not a mature woman,” the vicar tried to convince Njoki’s parents. “She will need to be in a position to tell what and whys and wherefores of her marriage. She can’t right now, probably by the time she is twenty, that is when she would have gone through several phases of development.” Inevitably no matter what jargon he used it all fell on averse ears. His home science class should have been conducted somewhere else, otherwise this was not a seminar. He had gone to them after he had been touched by Njoki’s story.
“Why then don’t you take her with you pastor?” Mama Njoki sarcastically suggested.
The white vicar felt like retorting, ‘if that’s your wish guv,’ but he knew better than to traffic his imperial rejoinders in to Africa.
“Or let us put it this way,” he tried to be conservative which was indispensable if he wished to win, “Supposing your girl finished school, for right now she does not have the capacity to marry and consent is needed from not only the parents but from the prospective spouses too….”
“And who told you the man is not mature? And besides, it was his first wife who said she needs a helper, this is Africa and do not try to compel your European mumbo jumbo into our minds.”
He talked in their native though with a difficult accent.
“You think,” went on Mrs. Waithaka, “You are cleverer than us but you cannot deduce an iota of our customs.”
“What I was saying is this. The girl will still get married to the man of your wish….”
“Then what was your point of coming here?” The stubborn woman could not let one finish without her breaking in on it.
“But she….sheeee….” this was no mean fit for the Whiteman and he felt like throwing in the towel “….she needs an education. As Christians Mrs. Waithaka, you should consider….”
“I don’t deny, I’m a Christian, eh! But what happens when one is a Christian? Nothing! Girls still get married.”
The Whiteman after a long struggle did not manage to rescue the girl.
The man from a distant country lay in his library at the vicarage and felt like two things, one to go back and try his luck again or the second to pack his things and head back to Australia which Mrs. Waithaka called Europe. He had had several others, but this was the most puzzling challenge he had to deal with. And it had come too late when already he had been accepted by the natives that he was not different from them, he too was a human being and could not outshine everyone else all the time, sometimes he had been the worst judge and they had seen it. The issue at hand was not trivial like others he had to handle in the past years especially when he was treated as superior. This time instead of listening to him keenly in the manner they did when he landed on their land, they laughed at his bickering.
A win was essential if he wished to keep his flock in the congregation. He experienced a slight sense of guilt and distaste about himself for failure and such a clergyman like him was unheard of to tag along the wishes of others particularly if they tend to lean to egoism. He wiped some sweat off his eyebrows and in the mirror he saw those dark rings round his eyes, frustration he had always dreaded had crept in.
© Waitara Gid 2013
Word: Drawing. Trigger: Among my likes on facebook there is ‘DRAWING PENCIL’ and there was a time the artist was teaching in public how to draw. At the end, the test for the students was to draw some people who posed at a podium almost similar to the one on the photo.