A letter to my grandpa, Maama Gorkor, about the tired cries of my fading joy

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By Rohey Samba Dear Maama Gorkor, For all intents ad purposes, would it be the most ridiculous thing to say to you today that my deep-seated mistrust for the dog-eat-dog world has finally caught up with the eager beaver I have become, thanks to the women I fight for every waking day of my life in the name of feminism, gender equality, women empowerment…and so on and so forth? Smdth… Isn’t it the most ironic coincidence Maama, that the man I have idolised for lifting me up when I was at the lowest ebb in my life, will aid and abet a walking paper that would thrust all my insecurities right into my face, all over again, and cause my drapetomania? That this man is the tail that wags the dog decisively? Accept my lack of courtesies or any preamble of some sort. Preambles and courtesies never held much for you any ways. The first, unfortunately, is detestable and affected according to your standards, while the latter, seemingly fake and sumptuous to you. So oblige me, as I make no excuses at all for not saying how are you and how are you faring at the upper end of the lowest sun. Well, it’s been eighteen years since you left us. Eighteen years since I last wrote to you about you, when I was eighteen years old Gramps. Or should I evoke your endearing name, Maama Gorkor, which you always asserted strongly to stall any attempts on our part, the part of your grandchildren that is, to call you by the name, Baba. Today, I am a dressed up Amazon with a splint in my leg where women have lodged in iron pieces and crooked needles and every bit of shit under the sun. My fellow women! The splint is hurting me deeply. Everywhere I go, I keep finding them, these women; lingering to prick in more iron bits into my hurting leg. They don’t have a particular shape, colour or form. Except that they are not white. The white women, I get along with excellently. The yellow ones, the brown ones, and the very black ones…not so much. I don’t know why. I seek to process why, today, by writing to you, my Maama Gorkor. Please humour my bragging, cheeky mode of address; I can’t help it this time around… You are entitled to my rapt devotion, a gift to you from me after so many years of lingering silence between us, yet I beg your indulgence to allow me a few short lines of condolences to a hero in Senegambia, Sidy Lamine Niasse, astute writer, religious prodigy and CEO of Walfadjri media group, who passed away this week. A few men have marked me for their courage, leadership and personal integrity. Sidy Lamine Niasse was one such man. Beyond the cracking static noise of radio signals carrying over broadcast waves from the distant land of Senegal, I struggled in the late ’90s to listen to Radio Walfadjri in the early mornings. Much of my spiritual growth was garnered from listening to his radio and Radio Dunya. But it was his fearlessness, characterised by self-knowledge and enlightened, if not ‘too progressive’ views that made the man stand out of the crowd for me. He took on young men and women, and gave them big positions of responsibility as well as voices to lead their respective units, early on in his work life. One such person was then 25-year old rasta girl, Aisatou Diop Fall, who he made director of programmes of Walf TV at that tender age. Self-assured but yielding, he never debarred his employees from implementing their concrete proposals into actions. He gave his employees the confidence to lead and build on their dreams. This is what made Walfadjri a resourceful centre of excellence for most of the illustrious media personalities in Senegal today. But Sidy Lamine was not afraid to rock the boat by telling his truth, the universal language that runs counter to feebleness, unwarranted fears and ascribed social norms. He fought for justice, for stability, against corruption, poor governance and blind faith in religious affairs; you name it, and he has probably talked about it. In fact, Sidy Lamine Niasse was one of a kind. Please send my love to him in the light of “Nasiril Haqqi Bil Haqqi,” the light that made him greater than the average man beside him ever will be… I don’t care about positions Maama; I seek only to be relevant in this life to boost my prospects of happiness and inner peace. Yes, we are as happy as we are able to make other people happy. Indeed, my cadetship training in Ghana has taught me mental discipline and how to ignore physical fatigue. But that’s the snag…I had to learn to keep me happy. So I learnt to happy myself by being relevant to society. This has brought me immense joy in return, teaching me to be kind and respectful, even to those who do not deserve my respect or kindness… I ran my head into a noose recently, by considering a position that was doomed from the word go. I have never been treated with so much disrespect, petit quibbles, derision, qualms and reserves. I was never given a chance to deliver before I was publicly censured and chastened. This has tormented my confidence and has all but threatened to kill this joy I have cultivated over many years. Maama I seek not your sympathy. You know I can handle my own… but by God, I have never felt so little in this life. Nature has intended that on this occasion, I will be outsmarted, choreographed to contain impulses with a nice letter of explanation when I was just a pleasant phone call away. This trick, stale as last year’s bun, is acceptable only in the retarded one’s imagination. I am no retard Maama Gorkor. But you know that, don’t you? Every specialist was once a novice who learnt on the job when presented with the opportunity, after accumulating a wealth of experience or education over the years. If effective writing is what communication is all about; being able to persuade, inspire and educate the masses among other things, then I will borrow from my honourable fellow writer and well-respected motivational speaker, Momodou Sabally, The Gambia’s Pen, and call myself, The Gambia’s Communicator-in-Chief. You always told me that we can’t invent experience. We can’t cook up knowledge. We don’t learn intuition. And we sure as hell, can’t teach leadership. We pick up some skills. We learn others over many years of practice. Others we are born with… And you are so right! I have earned my respect by hard work and dedication, just as you have taught me. If learning is what it takes, I did my part when I needed to. I have lived life consciously, not as a soulless routine with random spurts of reckless behaviour here and there. I have always come to the understanding that I am not, me, alone. I am a representative of my mother, my father, my sisters and my brothers and all the rest of my family, including the generations before me and those after me. When I fail I fail everybody and every one of them fails along with me. When I succeed. It is everyone’s success. This has been my biggest motivator. Oh yes. This is it. And this is why I hate to fail! Whenever and wherever there has been fraudulent representation, or willful concealment of some former life, no action for defamation would be upheld. I am glad to announce to you that, eighteen years after you kicked the bucket to gather light, I have been favoured by God and not faltered once in my resolve to be a dignified, respectable and respectful human being. Just the way you nudged me to be. I have suffered considerably from disappointment, pain and loss. Yet I choose to nurse my wounds privately never allowing past experiences to stand in the way of my good cheer or better judgment. Moreover, I don’t understand when people behave as if their pain is greater or their sense of loss more acute than the others because of…because of what? Smdth… Men don’t know what to do with me. Yourself, you never liked educated women much, did you? Chuckles… You said the world was shattered when formal education reached the doorsteps of women. I will allow you that concession because somehow you are right. Still, I will recall how you walked from Farato to the edge of Brikama just to catch a sneak peek at my mum’s familial, your only educated daughter, so that you would be assured that she was really okay and faring well. On the sole plea of satisfying your curiosity about my mother’s status, you taught me your deepest appreciation for educated women. But there is more. You wanted, no, you pleaded with me to get an education. And at your deathbed, that was your death wish whispered to the heavens right into my ears. I knew hence that should I falter in my education, you were only required to condemn me by a whisper or a nudge to my conscience from the Heavens above. You are a psychic, speaking to another one just like you. Yet the pricks were ready for me again. But they are not going to stop my stride towards my goal, Maama. They cannot stop me. I am going to limp up, hold myself up and if need be, cut off my splintered leg… but I am going to reach my goal. I am not going to live an ordinary life and die like the common man. You told me so. And more than ever today, I believe so too. This pain will pass. Time is the best healer on this occasion. And I shall bide my time. If my intention to help was meant to fulfill a higher calling, God knows. If it were not, God knows too. These women will not define the rest of my life. They shall remain the thorns in my left leg, which will assist my limp till I reach my final destination. A little annoyance from time to time that I can overcome…nothing debilitating! Moreover, I promise not to take so long to write to you again Maama Gorkor. In nine years time at least, I shall write a glorified letter, not of complaint but of great achievement that you will be proud of, as my family behind me, and generations of my family ahead of me, shall be. Rest in peace forevermore Maama.]]>