By Rohey Samba
Thank God you are born male. My first born son and one of the apples of my eyes.
My son, you will never know taysanteh, where a group of women will come around to humiliate you and give the lie to your ‘truth,’ motioned by someone you trust. You will never know what it means to have your pride hurt by such ridiculous and dishonourable acts. You will never have your capabilities questioned or mocked at, because you will have women hold your back not tear you down when you least expect it.
Men will value you and give you deserving respect because you are a man like themselves, even if you are not up to the task. You can choose to be mean, arrogant and inconsiderate without consequence. You can choose to be a jerk, a prick or whatever and get away with it, because society has your back. Society is what casts the characters, dehumanising one gender while favouring the other. All the people around me who choose to convince me otherwise can bid their time in the process.
…but let me not jump the gun.
This year’s tragedies have got me questioning a lot of things. Most of all, it has got me questioning this new Gambia’s obsession with the truth, which has prompted me to write…
The TRUTH! What truth? Which truth? Whose truth?
I’m going to give you a piece of my mind my son, in the hope that one day, when you are old enough, you will write back to me with that dominant dignity I see in you now, reinforced by the particular quavers of your own voice penned to a piece of paper just like this one. I would not mind if you disagree with me…I say so already at this moment of stasis, right here, right now…
I start by saying, the truth is as truthful as the person’s state of mind, his emotional well-being and his psychological state at the moment of his ‘truthfulness’. Any discerning person would ask about the ‘truth,’ such incisive questions as, “What was the intent, the object and the purpose of such action, deed or misdeed in the moment of ‘truth’?”
A small anecdote…
I had a particular episode last year, which I believe was the best thing ever that happened to me. Even though I consider it a chapter of my life time that I would delete completely from my book, it has reinforced my quest to leave the mundane subsistence I had once embraced to do something else altogether; a bold calling your daddy does not agree to, but one which I will urge till I find better or remain at home as a stay at home house wife, writer and advocate… So help me God.
Of the benefits accrued from this period of self-imposed repose is my ability to be with you as you recover from this dreadful disease that is affecting your mind, but which cannot affect your beautiful heart, and of course, my spending a lot of time with myself and my Rabb, which is my favourite thing to do. This has by no small measure helped me to re-evaluate myself and has propelled me towards a different path than I would have normally trailed.
Best of all, by the grace of Rabbana, I am able to afford the swell time together without worries about where the next meal will come from! I have worked for the past eighteen years of my 36 years on this earth, and I am not the worst off for it… Alhamdulillahi.
Bravery would have meant walking away after the boss threatened me before everyone else that he was going to sack me. I should have heeded his words uttered in what I could only say was a tone of menace and confronted my own weakness towards his erstwhile kindness that drew me to his unbending character of many years ago. But people change.
That none of the other units’ heads offered their support or challenged him when he wrote that rude email infuriated me. But that was just a tip of the iceberg. When the females joined ranks and thereafter privately sought me out to chastise me and even asked me to write an apology for standing up to challenge a wrong in the eye of God and humanity, the human rights they sought to address in our broken society…well, what cheek? Females!
Fact of the matter is, the cart was put before the horse in all accounts, and I was merely urging the tardy loiterer along the path of the most basic of human resources principles learned over 18 years of working in government, the right of reaction or reply, however grave the accusations and by whoever, before meting disciplinary action. My intention then was to generate major overhauls as an outrage to every institution’s commitment to equality for all of its workers, the preferred and the compromised.
After I got my glorified sacking, which pleased the ladies in no small measure as I have heard from the grapevine their absolute delight and derision, I received an illicit thrill from the jolt of hatred I felt for a system that allowed a one-man-show, which could god around with my respect and dignity. By the end of the week, the tribulation of my heart was complete. And for the second time in my adult life, this tranche of experience strengthened my resolve to never be beholden to another being’s whims, demands and hysteria….
You see, my son, I am an idealist. I don’t believe in fatalism, that odd mixture of shrewdness and simple credulity, which is the bane of our society. That human foibles might be too onerous on the pursuit of justice lays a grievous burden on the bearer of truth in rendering himself both truthful and useful to society.
I won’t go so far as to make the generalisation that Gambians as frauds in this write-up, for that would insult the very core of my Gambianness, as I am Gambian as any other, but I must admit here that, man and woman, collectively as a people, we are very stingy with the truth, unless it is in our favour.
Beset with a labyrinth of whims, caprices and ever-present impediments of forgetfulness and prejudices, we need to encounter a host of difficult and fearful adversaries within ourselves in the pursuit of truth and justice in order to thrive as a nation.
I digress …
I spent last year’s Christmas with one of my mother’s Aku relations. As you know, my mum was raised, tutored and brought up by an Aku family. This particular lady stood out in the crowd for me. Else I by the token of time succumb to a lapse of memory invariably associated with mankind, for indeed she passed away this very Tuesday, the 12th of February 2019, I shall address her kind personage, her superior taste and her accomplishments as apt to occasion.
I envied her superior elegance and address. Her generous spirit and her kindness. She inspired many of my writings including the infamous ‘Talk is cheap,” which got one of your daddy’s friends to ask whether we were still married.
She never raised her voice. Carrying with her the whole baggage of local gossip behind her back, no vile remark on her person was too sumptuous for her capacious swallow. Until the gathering dusk of the departing sun’s travel as evening falls, this lady was on her desk working as CEO of her own company.
On Christmas day, my mum called from Gamtel Farafenni to remind me about her pending invitation to celebrate Christmas with her at her new residence. After my customary visit to Banjul with my girls to watch the masquerades parading the streets, you were in Dakar for treatment, we went over to her new house in Pipeline and what a Christmas to remember.
My mouth watered as I looked upon, at first and later, divulged the sumptuous feast. Everything was well-prepared and laid out for all. I had arrived a little late when many of her other guests had already left but that was all the better for it gave us more alone time to chat about nothing and everything…
We talked about new Gambia and our hope that people will find it in themselves to tell the truth before the Truth Commission, which would begin in January 2019. We also got to talk about her diabetes, which was increasingly sapping away all of her strength.
With all the exterior toughness she projected, I spotted a hint of melancholy in the waggish good humour she held throughout our conversation. There was a family rift that had held strong over a year or so, each side claiming to be the connoisseur of the truth. As the daughter of my mother, I refused to take sides or acknowledge the split. Whose side? Whose truth? Which truth? What truth? Smdth…
When after two hours we decided that we had overstayed our welcome and started to leave, she literary begged that we stay a bit more. I looked upon her with a mixture of awe, admiration and good will and stayed on to learn from the snippets of knowledge and experience she had gathered over the years as a very successful CEO of her own company. Before we finally left, she packed lots of food items and drinks for the kids to carry along…
This formidable lady soon succumbed to her diabetes and was bedridden just a few weeks after Christmas. Due to high sugar levels that refused to plummet back to normal she was constantly in pain. Just a week prior to her death, she encountered a heartless relative, who called her directly on her cell phone and gave her the sharpest side of his tongue, insinuating that in spite of her wealth, which would avail her nothing, she would die and rot in hell for all the money in the world could not buy her life.
Such was the formidable blow to her spirit that she immediately called my mother, who was back at Farafenni, to ponder over her death, which I assume, until then, never chanced on her mind. According to my mum, she said simply after explaining her episode with her relative, “So Matou, I’m I really going to die?”
Now, after the incident that happened in Ghana with the relatives of Big Solo refusing to bury his corpse because of supposed wrongs he committed when he was alive, I thought I would never come across such real flesh and blood meanest of its kind ever again. I bet you that this isn’t an issue of communication, this is an issue of society – the way society sets one standard for men and an entirely different one for women.
Fact is, I have not seen any worthy examples of successful women, especially single ones, marked by their courage in pursuing and attaining unrivaled and resounding success. At the end of the day, there is always something to complain about them to discredit their capabilities and kill their spirits.
I find myself cycling in this realm called truth and I find no merits in its effects on women, especially. Never one to mince words, I find no mixture of pliability and perseverance, carrying the head of a successful woman high as ever in Gambian society. There is always the call to bow to pressure, to ignore slights and walk with the crowd… among the crowd.
This was not a woman to be thwarted in her pursuit for excellence. The relative who called to bring her down when she was bent did not break her. Her time had come. And he will follow suite when his time comes too, bowed beneath the slightest pressure of his cowardliness, his bitter grudges and his useless life, that contributed nothing to the progress humanity unlike hers…