Playing with beads

Author: Talib Gibran

I used to like GRTS a lot. No, the only time I actually liked GRTS was when I was on news reading contract with the national broadcaster but the only time I read news was when everyone was asleep. Basically I read it to myself because even the cameraman on duty would fix the camera straight and get busy on something else more important than my five-minute cameo that no one would bother to watch anyway. With Fangbili annulling election results and Ado ultimately fleeing, I also terminated that contract of reading news to myself or when everyone was asleep. Well, no one really cared because no one really noticed I was gone except myself and Sabs who would take credit for taking me there.

But things have changed a little at GRTS; Ado got rid of Jones who was hired to cause confusion during the impasse and replaced him with Sillah who also graciously replaced His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alh Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Bansa with His Excellency Adama Barrow in the headlines. I like CheckPoint. The host is smart, steady and does his homework. For Kerr Fatou, not so much. The team started well and they were hard on Hamat who constantly ordered them to stop interrupting him while he constantly interrupted them and vice versa but totally subdued at State House. They just chatted with Ado who, for the first time apparently, took advantage of someone.

BBC Five Live was my favorite radio programme during Fangbili’s siege of little Kambia because there wasn’t anything exciting on radio stations. No hard news. Nothing, except the croaky voices of Radio Gambia’s oldies reverberating on West Coast Radio at 1pm. I was later told they had to do that otherwise Fangbili would revoke their broadcast licences. The only joy I got on radios was listening to Russell Fuller on Saturdays and Lee James on Sundays. Gambian radios were good at only sports and, maybe, music which saw a proliferation of deejays and sports presenters. My favourite was Sara Camara when he was at KWT until he became the Special One with his protégé taking it a mile further, the Super Special One. It’s nothing personal; I just don’t like special ones, starting with the head of special ones, José Mourinho. Please stop saying it is 10am in our studios; your studio has no time. Rather, it is 10am in Banjul.

Now everyone is good at everything. You would notice it with the growing number of experts, prominent among which is Star FM’s economics ‘expert’ who describes others, who are actually experts, as so-called economics experts. This has hit some nerves among early morning listeners who took to social media and, you know, demand he shut his mouth…. But what are you gonna do, huh? One of the downsides of freedom of speech is rubbish gets spewed around like gas even when the speaker knows it is rubbish. Ado this, Ado that. The grey-haired socialist was criticised for being the first to criticise Ado; even an anonymous press release criticised him. Now everyone jumps into the fray.

Ado gets criticised for appointing a minister, gets criticised for appointing an adviser, gets criticised for staying in Fajara, gets criticised for blocking the traffic going for Friday prayers but Africell was praised for doing the same by staging a free Youssou N’Dour show at Traffic Lights for over three hours. After seeing what happened there, I wish each day was Friday so Ado could block the traffic….and we get stuck in it. What’s wrong with us? Could it be the low-stakes nature of our own drizzly little post-dictatorial island? Fangbili would throw biscuits for his hungry followers and before they could scramble for it, he would run them over but we were quiet. Let this dude institutionalise Barrocracy! Oops! I should stop there…considering Ado’s recent records… You know, FTJ, SK Njie, Mamma Kandeh, Dr Ceesay, who knows the next catch.

When I was a kid in a semi-island settlement in Foni, I and indeed many other kids used to perch around one wise woman, Neneh. Not Neneh MacDouall-Gaye. There was time to go to school, to play, to work but there was also time for her stories. By nightfall, when only elders and owls would idle the village, we would race to Neneh’s house for another episode of her powerful stories. This woman, probably the wisest God has ever blessed the village with, would narrate stories to us. Yes she was unlettered but her native intelligence was no match to anyone’s; her composure during narration as she would look at everyone at least every 30 seconds, hypnotising cadence and riveting storytelling skills would capture everyone. Keen and passionate for more, no sooner Neneh said taalin taalin, than we would say taalin deema; even though not all the stories end well.

When the episode ended and it was time to go to bed, I would replay everything in my little head and even express anger at any villain in the story. Neneh would tell different stories each day without repeating any; she would only repeat when a story is so penetrating that we demand it another evening. She was Fortuna redux; a true emblem of wisdom and finesse! Year after year, until we grew up and another batch came, she would never disappoint. Imagine someone with that kind of gift; that ability to shape kids with fictional narratives steeped with perseverance, respect and determination. She could have been an award-winning writer if she ever got the chance to attend school.

Well, I know you must have waited for me to start talking about beads. Better still, you must have seen Fangbili trying to show some pepper eyes to the former North African king, colonel. In the midst of African misleaders, colonel refused to let enfant terrible be without poking, teasing and pulling his prayer beads asking: “Are these really necessary? I know The Gambia is far but you don’t have to make noise to get God’s attention. You don’t have to carry kilos of beads, wrapping them around your virgin sword, your arm and whatnot.” No, those are my words. No, those are my readings of the encounter on the photo. I can bet my last dime if I have actually repeated the slain king’s exact words, there would have been an extraordinary African summit to mediate between Colonel Gaddafi and Retired Colonel Jammeh.

Ask anyone who was at the airport when Fangbili was seeing Gambia for the last time about the most outstanding thing apart from the sea of tears poured by loyalists, the person would tell you that it was the dangling of his spiritual beads as he disappeared into darkness. We would have had millions if we had taken those beads for what they are: a freight, which he should pay and queue to see them belt out of the carousel like any other luggage. But forget his beads and forget any other bead, the ones used for chanting or the ones used for seduction because you won’t see it in this article again.

Until a few minutes ago, this essay had something redux as a title but, then, I realized it would sound exactly like Sheriff’s. Someone already wondered if Talib Gibran is one of Sheriff’s many aliases which is—coining Obama’s words—either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke. Few weeks ago, I wrote a searing and a painfully honest account of my experience; from childhood to adulthood with the only difference being the rather attractive beards after so many years on this earth. This little fella has been an unsolved mystery even for those I work with but not everyone marveled at the essay. But for those who understand literature—the power of the mind to mould bricks, dig foundation, build a castle in water and live there sadly-ever-after-would know writing is therapy. I have read dozens of books and write-ups about people who got kidnapped, raped, tortured and they describe the incidents in the most excruciating of manners, piece by piece and painting that picture for the reader to see what the writer went through.

I stand to be corrected but I don’t think there is any torture more painful than rape and if the victims could honestly write about it (and by doing so relive it), I would write about mine a million times over. If that would change what people think about me, then so be it. Rape breaks you beyond repair; no one ever recovers. If you think my life experience growing up was terrific and shouldn’t be published, take a minute to read Michelle Hattingh’s I’m the Girl who Was Raped; her unbelievably horrific rape experience that happened the very day she presented her thesis on men’s perceptions about rape. Writing is generosity; you should thank your stars for having the opportunity to know what someone went through all their lives aptly and succinctly written in just under 2000 words. I admit it was a little tense….and that is why this one is lighter than light.
Happy birth-date to me…

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