By Rohey Samba I stepped out of the van and started heading towards the house. I stumbled across Daa Nyabu, who has lived in that house along the main road for as long as I can remember. We exchanged hearty greetings and she recalled how long it takes to see me these days. “You are one big busy woman, nowadays,” she said fondly. “No. Not really. I’m not a big woman; I can never be big with you people. You are my kith; you helped raise, shower untainted love and guided my footsteps that helped me grow into what I am today. How can I be a big woman to you? Moreover, how busy can I get really, not to come over and say hello, once in a while?” This was exactly what I wanted to say as I tried my hardest not be defensive. But hey, I have had my fair share of trying to defend my actions and convince people against their views in the past. I cease to bother now. Nothing can change a preconceived mind anyway. And if truth be told, it had been a while; I mean a long while, since I last visited my hometown Farato. Growing up in the village has been an experience to remember, given there is so much one can remember from the ages of two to seven years. The simplicity of life, the genuineness and sometimes peering concern of inquisitive peasants have buoyed me along the way to the latter stages of my life. I recall the saying; ‘the child is the father of the man’ with a smile. Indeed, the mind of the child that I was placed into perspective all the love I grew up surrounded by, even after life happened to me. Nowadays, I worry a bit, when I am treated any differently because of my current situation in life. I wish things would remain the same, for indeed I am just a bigger child with the same mind and, uhm hum, a broader life experience. But education does that to people, especially if you have this big personality and a small dose of opinion on and about everything. People naturally shy from your inflated self-confidence and opinionated spirit. I wish I was a little different, but I have been like so since I was three, when I had a descriptive name for everyone behind their back. Daa Nyabu, was mbabba, meaning donkey! Why did I call her that? I don’t really know. My poor mum would give excuse upon excuse for my over-the-top personality when I was young and so different from everyone else, but unfortunately that personality which lost its footing for a while, riveted back into full force when I was old enough to make my own decisions. Frankly, it needs working on sometimes, especially in certain contexts, but as at now, I would not yield to appease a different mind for any reason. Life experiences have taught me to be more outgoing, meet more people, let my personality shine through to be of sound mind and spirit. I don’t have the means or skills to process sadness, or self-pity or even anger. I’d rather go out more, be with people who I can talk with freely without fear of being judged or being snitched on. I like the occasional gossip girl, the personable guy and of course, the spirited individual, guy or girl, who is just like me. These persons transform the sadness, self-pity and anger that I have faster than any therapy can heal. Otherwise, I am happiest confined in the recesses of my house, drinking too much coffee, which cannot be good for my health, and doing all the things that give me peace of mind-things like watching reality TV, reading a bestselling novel, or simply indulging in my kids’ activities, whatever they find interesting for the moment. Thus I got it. Daa Nyabu was right. I have been removed from my relatives for a while. I was in the happy frame of mind for far too long. After graciously accepting to her gentle reprimands, I left her with the promise to visit more often, and started across the narrow lane towards our family house. When I reached the big tree in the Jawo compound I got so emotional all of a sudden, I needed to hold onto the tree’s stem. The pent up emotions of the past few months came pouring over. The reality of my grandmother’s death sunk in. I have been ignoring it aggressively just like I have been ignoring all the other negative stuff that has transpired in the year 2016. I recalled why I came to visit in the first place. The night before I had felt the strong nostalgia of the past years so hard, I took the Baaba Maal CD I had burnt myself on YouTube to listen to over and over again. Demgalam, my mother tongue, blared loudly, just like I love my music to play, reminding me about a time when life was fun and enjoyable even though we had very little in the form of worldly possessions. I recalled the happy place, where it seemed that my aunties and my uncle would play Baaba Maal the whole day, brew ataya all the time and give me and my younger cousins the ataya remains sprinkled with sugar to eat after they were done brewing it. I recalled the laughter in the house, the joy in my grandparents’ eyes when we ran over to them to give them mango leaves, which we pretended was money and which they took with relish, praying for long lives for us to fulfil our aspirations for them. I recalled running around all the time, climbing trees, fighting over the silliest things with my cousin, Mariama, playing hide and seek, and playing pretend all the time; sometimes as a doctor, sometimes as a teacher or a mummy or a daddy. Always as the boss… It was such a full life. I understand now why animals hate to be caged, and I know why. Even as higher animals we feel the limitations, if we are housed up, closed up and pent up with anger or frustration or even the least talked about condition in The Gambia, depression. Normal human beings seek freedom in whatever means or form. We just have different ways of fighting to get hold of that freedom. Some fight any form attachment and/or relationship to their own detriment. The no strings attached phenomenon is both depressing and derived of morality. Fortunately, God-fearing people that we are as Gambians, we ought to find the means to fight pessimism without resorting to our animalistic instincts of decadence to save ourselves and the people we are meant to care about. We choose not to drink, engage in promiscuity or do drugs, because we are feeling stressed out or depressed. We persevere. I know for sure I can’t control someone else’s behaviour, be it my husband or be it my own child. I deign not to understand someone else’s character, for I don’t know mine wholly. Things don’t work out the way we wish all the time, but that’s what life is all about. If your own relatives ‘diss’ you, it becomes easy for others to do the same to you. Nothing becomes out of character. It is the sad truth. Nonetheless, I am inclined to believe the merit of recent decisions I have made in the tangent of my life. Breakups, especially with the people you care about, are always painful, but there is a saying we can be victims only once, the next time we are compliant fools. While I have no qualms with recently, for indeed it is a slice of time like any other, the loss I feel can only be good for the rest of my life. I believe better will come. I may have lost my grandma and the matriarch of the family. The house is devoid of laughter because my happy-go-lucky uncle is no more. Our lives are heading in different tangential directions all together, my cousins and mine. But nothing can and will replace the memories we have shared. Nothing can take back those life experiences. The past cannot be changed. And to usher in the New Year soon, I toast to a life well-lived and offer my endless gratitude to a grandma like no other, who was the glue that held the family together. Nothing will colour how I remember that gracious dame: Her hardworking streak, her passion for life and her no nonsense attitude. With that, I wiped my tears and left the stem of the big tree I was holding unto. My younger cousins who were gaily playing saw me approach and starting running towards me to embrace me, “Jahjaa Rokhy ar ree, Jahjaa Rokhy ar ree”. I smiled and walked towards them in a big embrace to the big house, the house where my navel was buried at Farato Village.]]>
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