Memoir

 

My Precious Ann,

I left for the Banjul International airport at 21:30, when I told you that I was going to work. I am sorry for not telling you the truth. I was to travel to Taiwan for a year. I never even told you that I had a scholarship from the Taiwanese government through a nomination made by my ministry. I was scared to tell you that I was to study Mandarin, the official Chinese language. I was so scared. My friends were teasing me and most of the time asking me why I need such a language in The Gambia. They always emphasize that it is ridiculous to study such a nuisance language. In addition, some were emphasizing that spending a year to learn Mandarin is a mere waste of time and resources.

I am sorry for not giving you the message at the right time as I did for others. I pre-empted wrongly. I did underestimate your three-year-old brain. I never knew it could smartly remove the chaff from the grain. I thought you would have acted in the same way as my friends. Nevertheless, I think I should get you by my side now. It is better late than never. I tried to convince them but they never took my explanation seriously. Please do listen to me keenly. Do you understand the world we are now into…a globalized complexity? The International relation is vigorously taking its part in bringing together the multifaceted nations and human breeds. It is showing all that participate in its upbringing that all the streams we have gushing into our veins, arteries, and capillaries have the same red fluid which in one way or another can save the life of another. As a human being, I believe, one should be prepared to accommodate his fellow being. One should be willing to give respect to another at all cost to your ego. One must be willing to at some point in time, turn to forage for another’s survival. This should be part of the basis of humanity. It is not merely a sign of weakness in you; instead, it is an ultimate strength. Believe me, Ann, it takes only a few to think this way. This kind of strength is very rare to come across your way. If you can leave Africa and travel all the way to Russia to study Russian language and culture or to Taiwan for the Mandarin language and culture, what tool of human tolerance would you then lack? Moreover, if you can tolerate and accommodate another person, how blessed are you then? My thoughts definitely alienate this way and so I hope you would, too.

Am sorry to deviate now because am eager to give you my account at the airport and my journey to Gui-shan, Taoyuan, Taiwan. I got to the airport with Philippe at exactly 21:33. I was to check-in at 21:30. Can you imagine what happened, no one was at the check-in desk. I got scared for I thought that I was late. Peeping at the little crowd around the main hall, I came to recognize some of the people that were to travel together with me. I instantly eased my temper. Do you know what happened, I even saw babies bidding farewell to their fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. I was guilty again. Gaa, Anda and you should have been there too. Missing each other for twelve months is not something to take lightly; especially those from your blood.

At 22:08, should I say GMT or Gambia May-be Time, check-in started. I checked-in and went to the VIP lounge to wait for my flight to Dakar. I waited there for a while and we were finally told to board. As I jerkily paced towards the Virgin Nigeria flight, my heart throbbed faster than it ever did before in my life. I began sweating but when I stepped my right foot on the stair leading to the entrance of the aircraft, I waded a little, paused my pace, and finally thought about an old adage from a college lecturer: that ‘all is well that ends well’.

I hastily swerved my eyes around to identify my seat, which I correctly did within minutes, and I took the opportunity to seat myself. I did not want anyone to notice the secret behind my eyes…the extreme fear melting me like ice left in the sun. Behind the plain-white lenses, my eyes scuttled to study the inside of the aircraft. A frequent traveler can easily identify me among the rest of the passengers. I was a real Jonny-just-coming- a real first-time traveler.

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“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board Virgin Nigeria aircraft.     The captain on board, Martin Boateng, and his crew will leave Banjul International Airport in five minutes’ time and safely land you at the Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport, Yoff, Dakar. I am Marion Simone and I will be communicating to you whenever there is something to be announced from the crew. So please relax, take your seat belts, buckle-up, and make sure that your seats are in the upright position. Cabin crew, check the positions of the passengers and see to it that they are all in order.” Actually, to be honest with you, I doubt whether I correctly gave you Marion’s transcript. Maybe I was right but anyways, it sounds like I gave you a fair transcription.

At 00:10, the aircraft headed for the rail. After a minute or two, I could hear the engine roaring and roaring. I began recalling what some of my friends used to tell me, that the most dangerous parts of traveling in an airplane are the take-off and landing. My heart pulsated more and more as the memory became clearer and clearer. I felt like saying no to the going. ‘I think I should stay. May be this is the end of me. What if we crash on the way, will my family see me again? Absa has only three months and will lose her father.’ When I noticed that the captain was on a serious business, he definitely meant to fly into the air, I tried to grab firmly any part of my seat that was at my reach. I closed my eyelids tightly and pretended to be sleeping. I began counting seconds left for my death but before I could realize anything, Boeteng had done it. The monster whooshed into the air, head up and rare, down. In minutes, it leveled up between light feathers of the cloud. Instantly, I became dizzy. I held onto the seat tightly and started reciting some verses…but am not sure from which holy book…all I know was I prayed that a God, watching over me in that branchless sky, will have mercy on me when I die along the way. The captain really meant to accomplish his business. We, within minutes, saw ourselves dribbling the pale blue clouds. Though we were in the midst of the rains, we were at ease because there was no sign of the pregnant clouds, no thunderbolts, or lightning too. Being suspended between the clouds and the sky, I dared not to peep through the windows.

Discomfort totally accompanied me as we meandered in the maneuvering clouds. Sitting by my flanks were two other men almost of my age. I could read the same menace in their solemn faces. Deep furrows defined the pre-excited solid faces. I could not even see any trace of their eye bulbs. They were all buried into their bulbs. Perhaps, they had fallen asleep. However, that thought was too fast to be trusted. Only five minutes into the air; then they must have been laden with a tremendous burden. I, without another thought, imitated them but to no avail. Mine were reluctant or should I say…so stubborn. At a seat right behind me, I could hear someone snoring with the best might. I peeped to take a glimpse of the creature. Not surprisingly, I confirmed it of being a ‘he’; and an almost round figure engraved in a great grand-boob. He was absolutely on his bed. His seat, inclined to sixty degrees. The way his thick muscled-lips were cupped emphasized the ingenuity of his carelessness of his present state. The brownish teeth betrayed their profanity. They were wide apart. I could imagine seeing dozens of reckless flies dining on the stains of the cola nut he had been cuddling when we boarded the flight in Banjul. Nevertheless, here, he had been saved of these fussy creatures for being in a flying craft.

Thirty-five minutes became thirty-five decades to me. I couldn’t imagine seeing the horrible beast standing on the ground again in its fullness, nor seeing myself breathing the same air ungracefully taken for the last thirty-one years. However, at a moment, at-last it occurred. It was down finally. Nevertheless, this time, I was dumbfounded. For it was too fast.

“Fasten your seat belts. We will land at the Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport in the next fifteen minutes. Hope you have enjoyed your journey with Virgin Nigeria. From the captain and his crew, we sincerely thank you for sharing our flight and we hope to share with you more of such ‘beautiful’ flights in the near future.” That was all I heard and the fifteen minutes turned to five seconds to me.

“Alhamdulillah! Alhamdulillah!” I rattled within myself. This time, I knew where I quoted that word from. The two men followed suit but loudly. “Alhamdulillah,” we all recited again, but this time, I stared into their eyes. I immediately saw in them the peace they lost at the beginning of the tough race. The stuffed faces disappeared. They were absolute, cute smiles.

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I really do not know what to tell you but perhaps it’s time now for me to open a new page in my life. I need to share my past and recent predicaments. Life is really a challenge and I faced it in so many areas. This makes it complicated for me to decide where to start, but I think I will look into my path to getting knowledge.

It all started in 1984, the date and month, I cannot actually remember. The reason for this, I think you do not need to ask now because you will come to understand later. Nonetheless, I can still tell you the day, and the color of my clothes I wore that day. I had on me a light blue shirt with a khaki trouser. Your grandfather sewed them for me.

It all happened on a week before my enrollment when I asked my dad to send me to school. His answer I cannot really judge whether it was a serious note or just a mere answer to a kid’s curiosity. He only said, “Yes, yes you will go”; when could that be, or whether it could actually be materialized, I was never sure of. Yet, I remained positive that I would certainly join a few of my friends. I will also learn as I wished. From that day on, I started to count the days left when I will start the endless journey. Every morning, I waited for him to ask me to go for the registration but the waiting seemed endless. The anticipation continued until the end of that week. I heard nothing from him.

Every day as I waited anxiously, I spent my days like many other kids. By the daytime, we played soccer on the streets or sometimes, especially in the summer, made small igloos from the sand. We called these small structures a “toad’s hut”. You might be wondering how we did it but I will tell you that it is very simple. We only used the wet sand on the street to cover our bare feet, and then with our bare hands, we would pat the sand to make it firm to the feet. Then we would take a stick and gave it a smooth surface. Gradually, with care, we would remove our feet to let the hut stand-alone. Sometimes, we will gather some dogs and go hunting for small games…from mice, squirrels, to hares on our lucky days. Depending on the number we caught, we will decide whether to grill them on naked, burning woods in the bush or to cook them at home. If we had few kills, we prepare a fire, skin the animal and then toss it in the burning ember to turn charred black. If we had large kills, we will each contribute a dalasi to buy ‘jumbo’ seasoning, onions and cooking oil and cook the meat in one of our friend’s backyards. Actually, this was how we all learned to cook. We will then share the pieces, from legs, ribs organs to the head but who gets what depends on age. The elders will take the best parts first leaving the bits with the younger ones. Happily, we will all add a few hard-found proteins to our diets.

By now, you might be wondering how we spent the night. The nights were the most memorable because every night seemed different from any other past night. We played different games depending on the size of the moon or the weather. In the absence of a moonlight, during summer, for instance, when every street was dark, we would restrict our movements to areas where we could see many people around. During this period, we would gather at a ‘bantaba’ and tell stories, especially of the hyena and rabbit or turtle. Everyone would be accorded a chance and any person who was not good at telling stories would be shunned at. I was always part of the unfortunate ones because I had no mother or grandma around to tell me stories. In addition, every night I would be embarrassed because the stories I tried to narrate were either too short or too lengthy to follow through and all with no moral teachings because they weren’t actual stories passed across generations. Sometimes I would try to copy others’ stories but the well versed among us would always stop me. They would remind me that they were not the real stories so I would immediately halt the narration. To my ease, they would pick them up from where I stopped and gave them the required polish and this, I never objected because it helped reduce the embarrassment I should have faced. In the dry season, especially when the weather got chilly at night, instead of going to the ‘bantaba’, we would gather around bonfires to narrate the same stories. The best nights were when we had full moons. The glittering skies lit all the corners of the village. By this time, you could even count the number of the stars. The concoction of the stars and the moon gave us more life. Every street was full of laughter, shouting, drumbeats. Everyone, children, and elders alike, stayed awake the whole night. We played more games, including ‘hide-and-seek’. As for the elders, these were times they mostly wed their second, third or fourth wives, especially after the harvest season. So we had lots of drumbeats and dancing.

These were my daily routines as a child not enrolled in school. Perhaps, mine was better because I was a boy. Aside from playing, what else had I? Perhaps the only complaint I could give was a few basic chores like fetching firewood for cooking and to help on the farm during the summer. One thing I was sure of was that as a boy, I had the chance to be educated one day. This was a different story for the girls. Only a few were sent to school and only a few went beyond the elementary level. Their lives were defined by many foes. There were many teenage pregnancies; series of child marriages; painful female genital mutilations; entire days toiling on domestic chores. They had less choice apart from these brute forces. They could not resist because as a girl, everyone thought those were their responsibilities…typical stereotypes. The chores were seen as fundamental for their future. They need to make good wives. If a girl wants to be considered good or if you want to have a ‘good marriage’, you must know how to cook, launder clothes and iron them well. You must learn to braid others. You must learn how to do embroidery. You must know how to pound millet and maize. You must know how to make palm oil or to squeeze oil from the palm kernel. Moreover, you must know how to gossip. I wonder whether you would like to be like them.

Oh sorry, I have wasted a lot of time telling you my childhood chores. I should not forget to continue with what happened in that morning of 1984. I just woke up and dressed up like any other ordinary day. However, this time I was determined to start my bumpy voyage. I needed not to remind him. I needed not to take permission from him either. All I had to do was to head straight to the school and for the rest; I had to leave it to destiny to decide. This time instead of a long waiting, it turned out well. As I entered the school ground, I saw everyone gathered under a mango tree. At first, I had no idea of what they were doing there but through the push I had from my instinct, I came to know that it was an assembly because of the first day of the week. The head master, a staunch middle-aged man with a protruded belly and a shiny bald head was stammering in front of the crowd. Actually, I had no idea of what he was saying and I bet others too were in comprehensive of him. I do not know whether it was the stammering or the natural makeup of children of my age that they could not concentrate. They were murmuring here and there. Some were leaving their queue to join others. Some were fighting and I could see some teachers with chains hitting them on their heads to stop either making noise or the fights. Without any deterrence or hesitation, I joined the gathering. To my surprise, a friend grabbed my shoulder from behind and pulled me around.

“Boy, what are you doing here? Who brought you? Are you starting now? Which class do you belong to?” He bombarded me with seemingly endless questions.

I had no idea of how to respond to the questions, especially the latter.

“What is a class?” I asked myself.

Honestly, on this day, I had no clue of what I was doing. I just stood by my friend with my eyes looking everywhere with dismay. To my relief from the confusion, a tall, lanky man approached me. At first, I had no thought of him, but when I saw his gray, afro hair, I immediately recognized him. He was one of my father’s friends. He always frequents my father’s convenient store. They always played draft together while others brewed ‘ataya’.

“Tokorr! Who brought you here? Where is your father?”

“I came alone,” I shyly answered.

“Oh, come with me after the assembly. I will take you to my class. Tomorrow you can come with your father for the formal registration.”

At this point, I could not wait any longer to be in the classroom. Sooner than I expected, the meeting finally ended and Mr. Badjan leads me to his classroom.

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Ann, do you still remember my friend, Innu? Oh, I forgot to tell you that he left to fetch for the Euro and this is a note he sent after arriving in Italy.

“Hi Tokorr,

Where do I start the narration, how we toiled in the burning fire of the Sahara desert, Libya, Our dingy in the heart of the Atlantic, or the dumpster diving in Italy? Anyways I will begin the treacherous journey through the desert.

 

There was this man, perhaps he has just aged past sixty or so. He was tall, slim man, not lanky, not dark-colored and not fair in complexion either, perhaps a bit brownish. His eyes widely gazed. The mouth formed, the thick, colorless liquid oozed down the corners of the sun-baked lips. His nose got covered with thick, dusty snot which gradually snaked through the shallow valley of his upper lip into his mouth. He couldn’t even care much about his state. He couldn’t detect the taste of the salt within the yellowish mesh, neither the depth of his relentless sleep. He had no time either. His bony rib cage pulsed but after dearer periods. And he snored like a pig with its snout buried in mud. This mixed melody of death and life could be heard by only one person, only me as the eye witness. I saw the solemnly pulsating ribs of the seemingly motionless creature, move in and out of the loose shirt. I watched him closely with all my strength as if we were not together for the past two weeks. His eye lids continuously blinked. The owl bulbs were tightly fixed on the surrendering man. The ultimatum was nearing but this time, no one cared about it. Its presence reminded none of the best that one could encore from death. Death itself is the last resort. It comes with rest, a phenomenon which man since the beginning of creation constantly longed for. It permits a man to sit back and see how his weary bones thwart for things that are unworthy.  When one is born, he eats and dies. What else, but eternal rest? When a man is born, he sweats and the sweat dries. What else but work only? When he eats, he perseveres and nothing of that which entered is seen in its real form. And when he dies, he sees not his own state anymore; but that timeless rest.

“Ello! Ello! Oh, don’t go,” My bleak voice echoed through the weak, voiceless, bare desert. The dust, the wind, and even the encroaching heat of the sun could all bear witness to the power behind the shrill, broken voice. All the strength I had was this translucent voice. There was no energy left in me; I couldn’t walk for a mile or two talk less of to carry a limpid body on my flat shoulders to the nearest village…if there was any known to me. We were in the middle of nowhere.

As I struggled to appease him, a faint but sharp cry echoed through my almost deaf ears. It was of Ello. I instantly listened to it carefully.“Water. Water. Wat…er. Wa…tre. Wat…,” the dotted words forced themselves from the saliva-less mouth. The muscles relaxed. His effort of restoring his breath dwindled. The eyes in their sunken sockets couldn’t move either. They remained so determined in their way of looking at the seemingly shapeless picture ahead of him in the open field.

“Water. Water. Wat…er. Wa…tre. Wat…,” the dotted words forced themselves from the saliva-less mouth. The muscles relaxed. His effort of restoring his breath dwindled. The eyes in their sunken sockets couldn’t move either. They remained so determined in their way of looking at the seemingly shapeless picture ahead of him in the open field.

Once more, he forced the word out but this time, with immense energy.

“Water, water, water,” the last call pitched in the open air like the sound made by a pebble thrown into a deep well.

Back home, there is water everywhere and every pint of it is drinkable. At their disposal, only a quarter of a liter was in their bottle.

I illicitly gazed at his motionless eyes and the dilated mouth waiting to quench his taste. He raised his head from where it stood to tend his brother and carefully looked at the horizon. He could see it nearing. Nothing but the far distance that couldn’t be calculated either. The noon sun formed images of men, trees, and houses. He calmly watched them move in an endless array. He still saw them but they suddenly disappeared into nothing; then he looked at the man lying by him but this time, he saw his own pattern. There was no difference between the two. Two fleshless bodies under the burning heat of the sun and in the screeching wind of the desert. At this point, I saw my mirage escaping into the ditch. The skin remained as the only flesh that could be felt on his rancid face. The fleshless, long hands touched nothing. Only frustration! His own diaphragm was moving but in a calculated pace. There was no descent moisture left in the ever slow moving breaths. His own throat remained mucus-less and could be heard trumpeting from a distance as he took deep endless breaths. And that reminded me of the only savior, the one Ello was longing for. “Water, water,”- I could hear my voice calling out but pitching Ello’s. Once again, I looked at the motionless eyes transfixed into mine. I looked at myself and saw another dead man lying by the other. Then my stolen eyes went straight to the only plastic container basking under the sun and watching our movements. A drop of sour liquid forced itself from a slit between my two cracked lips but my pale tongue was not in a better position to rescue me from losing such a pearl. I pushed it out like a flash of lightning. It flicked like that of a chameleon trapping a fly. But it was too late. The saliva had reached its destiny. It had touched the only bare, clear crystals surfacing the barren land. The sand hurriedly leached it like a sponge. It disappeared at once. I searched for it in the sand. Finally, I questioned the only active eye witness, the sun. My face was full of regret for losing such a gem, but I knew that the sun, even the blazing sun was in need of a quench. It leaves nothing untouched in this area. The baobab, the cactus, and even the neem tree all disappeared against time. The elephant, the lizard, and even the camel were nowhere to be spared. So, were our skins- the only two beings to taste our turns. Nature was calling and only death was the secured answer.

Without a waste of time, I suddenly put the opening of the bottle into my cupped mouth. My loose tongue grasped the liquid therein. The thick muscles of my neck tensed. In sight of this, Ello twitched his unprotected eyes. He forced himself up but the strength wasn’t there. This time, our eyes met for the last time. Was it a disappointment, a quarrel, a question or maybe an iota of a doubt? It was so brief. No one could imagine the message relayed by either. Was it a message of betrayal or of trust? Was it that of pain or of anger? Was it an act of disgust or of hope? No one knows well. But from the awesome sight, a perfect reading could be made; a sole message of ‘my soul first and nothing else. ’

Ello couldn’t act further. He remained where he lay with his two lips separated. Nothing, nothing but his ribs swelled and withdrew at a slow pace. The last breaths pulsated. Faintly, they were released. Calmly, they escaped the pressurized lungs into the warm, dry air. At this moment, the empty bottle in my hand dropped to the ground like a down feather of a bird swerving in the air. Its content had been drained. My quench was satisfied but my heart immediately pounced. It had happened. Gone, gone forever, I dropped to the ground to feel Ello’s heartbeat. Too late, late it was.

“You can’t do that. You can’t leave me alone,” I yelled. Warm tears drenched down my cheeks like a sap from a wounded pawpaw tree. They followed two marked lines like a meandering river.

“Don’t go,” I shouted once more and this time, my two lips remained repulsive while deep serrated furrows formed on his forehead. The eyeballs turned red and wet. The eyelids shrunk and my face became of a thwarted hut.

“Don’t be cynical Boy. We didn’t say this. You mean you can do this to me. Is this the game?

Ello’s previous tender body instantly turned stiff only with the exception of the dislocations all over his joints. Slowly, I bent over him to touch the lips. They resembled mine. Totally dry and white like cassava flour. They were all cracked like an agama lizard’s skin. I then touched the eyes with my right palm and they drifted away. They closed finally. The balls got covered. He slept at last. He rested finally and forever.

Carefully, I moved the head from his left hand and laid it on the bare, hot ground which was the best lining ever that could ever be available for us. I raised my head and looked ahead. I stared at the blurred distance awhile, and then something came into my mind. A golden opportunity has arrived. I dived straight for Ello’s pockets, searched all but there was no sign of money in them. I hastily pushed the limpid body head-down and grabbed the only sports bag resting silently on the dead man’s back. I snatched it away from him and furthered my search for buried treasures. I started first with the side purses but there was no sign of money. I then headed for the main purse and found two shirts, a pair of khaki jean trousers and a black nylon bag. Here again, I tensely searched into the purses of the jean trousers but only ended with another disappointment. In the nylon bag, I found a few grams of food – cherreh. I immediately added this food and the clothes to mine. I gazed once more into the distance and then moved for my final search. This time, I wanted the trousers. I undressed him and snaked my hand into the trousers and here, wrapped in a light, yellow plastic were a few bank notes neatly scrolled. They were US Dollars… As I grabbed these notes, I took a deep breath, then unleashed the scroll and hastily counted them. In my hands were ten pieces of hundred dollar notes. In jubilation, I yelled and everywhere was the echelons of my shrill voice.

Calmly, I finally bent towards one of the ears and muttered my final statement to him.

“Take this along. Listen to me carefully. I am a Gambian and you, a Senegalese, but know that we all wear the same blood, culture, God, and poverty. You are gone but forever I shall go. The race is never swift till when it is accomplished. Barca mba baxa.

In the desert, there was no spade better than the outrageous wind. It is this quality of the wind that enables it to clearly define the topographies of different cities, towns, and villages in this desert. Even this life-seizing desert; all over it are countless sand dunes, erg, and barchans. And it is here that it naturally designed Ello’s tomb, a 1.88m by 0.98m ridge which also became one of the barchans.

The ultimatum definitely began; I stood up and took out a sizable atlas from a purse. It was my only treasure to adore, it worth more than my heart – the World Atlas, the Columbus Atlas; no, the New Secondary Modern World Atlas. It was the only guidance. The only belonging apart from the mbudake – dry, powdered bread mixed with peanut butter and sugar; churah gerte– a mixture of grounded rice and groundnut; and gari. The food items were prepared by one of Biram Modou’s sisters; for the peanuts, they were from our most recent harvest. Perhaps it was my final time of knowing the pain of huddling with the hoe; my last year of sweating under the ever burning heat in Africa.

The handy map, the only resort, was to show me how to fetch the Euros; my only barn for the attainment of manhood. It is said that a man with a hole in his pocket is just a trash on the streets. There is much trash. These are the African men. They are all insane. They are chaff in the wind. They speak but are voiceless. No one hears them. Even by their own ears; they know not of what they even say. They walk naked but one sees the strength behind their strong thigh muscles; and those in their arms and chest. And some hurriedly walk past in black costumes. Even with the sun high up, they pace with the neckties floating in the air. The pungent sweats flow like waves in the sea. These are the African men. They are tireless. They have to suit the society. They have to satisfy it. The society’s ransom is high on them. They have to survive the heat. They are many men themselves. They are to live and those people too are to survive. They are men but with many mouths each. And these, they are to feed quietly or they will be seen clearly in the dark. They will be heard louder than their own footstep in a busy market. And they are to be pointed at for not being African men. This, they are all scared of. This, they’ve all sensed. Even the African child knows that. There is no formal school for it. It is the African society itself. A child knows what he had been tasked since he is to live with the blood relatives- mother, uncle, father, brother, sister, grandpa, and the stranger. They are all to live under the same thatched roof. They are to survive in the same tight hut.

I, too, knew that very well. I knew what that actually was; so the sun must bake me. And I will work and grow. And I will grow and work. And I will work and age. And I will age and die. And I will be tagged. I will be boldly notched with the African ring. And there, I will cherish the flavor in rest.

Biram Modou had been one of those children too. He is still an African born. The gray hairs on him do not matter much. He is still an African child. He had never been to a formal school neither was Maram. At least they were aware of the pain in the fact. They knew quite well. They had seen the transformations. Survival was a curse. And this they couldn’t bear to witness. Things were getting worst. A hundred dalasi can’t get a chewing stick or a chunk of bread. Oh! Even candles were nowhere to be seen. They melted like ice under the heat of the noon sun in the summer. And many men had gone back to tradition. They lit a fire in their houses in order to see their own shadows. It was better before for there were woods. But this time, they had to queue for dung; not that of the cow but the donkey for the former were so expensive. The hundred dalasi is for the next generation children to learn history from.

These say all about the couple. They were quite unlucky. In fact, people called them doma. That belief had transformed now. They are now known as the ‘one-eyed’. And it is this boy’s story I am trying to shape with my scaly hands and faded mind. But let me try, for I may be able to give a gist of it. Maram and Biram knew what transpired. They had been living together in a conurbation called Kerr Ardo. It is thirty years now. And they had in the past secured a torn mosquito net from Ya Yandeh, the only neighbor with a television and a radio. She served as their society’s mouthpiece and tutor. She knew all that happened in the country. And she was the only person who could be heard snoring in the summer months to the dismay of even the dogs that would always grumble at the traumatizing noise; for she had the only rusty iron roof in the neighborhood. And this rare house even has a special name. They called it ‘the drum of the rains’. It is in this house that all the children would gather. And even some elderly men and women. Especially on the ‘Goudi Hewal’ day when the only television station – the Rescuer TV, played music. They keenly gathered around the tiny pot and would watch the black and white screen with ease. To them, colored screens would be dreams of antiquity.

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