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City of Banjul
Monday, October 26, 2020

Letters to my daughters: We have a war to win

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With Rohey Samba

The call for unity sounds strangely in a time of upheaval, be it for a social class, family or even a nation. Far more perplexingly is this call for those who suffer from the upheaval and those who have not forgotten its origin – the lifespan of man is too short to forget!
Yet the war of our lives begins to end when we acknowledge the upheaval we feel within ourselves, especially when it comes from people or forces we can control by either cutting them off of ourselves…if that is what it takes to find the peace of God within, or by just grinding our teeth together and moving ahead. No one can hurt you unless you are willing.
Now, let me tumefy the already bloated message with a distended account of my own.
I fooled myself willingly. She came in strong, trying to show just how into me she was. Everybody else was pale in comparison. Figged out in her flashiest undertones, she made me believe her lie. The lie that she liked me. Very much.

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When everyone else ran to social media at the first opportunity to congratulate the other, seeking to ridicule or maybe just not thinking at all about the effect of their actions, she wound her way into my heart by half-heartedly condemning, and even getting into an altercation with the others.

On hindsight, it was too conspicuous. Too obvious. But I was in pain. A lot of pain. Pain blurs reason. It can make a genius turn into a fool.
To be candid, they were supposed to be one with each other, not one with me. The first red flag. I conveniently ignored it because I assigned all good qualities that I possess to be her character. I would have reacted the same way. I have been there before and done it for someone else. To great disapproval. But still, with my heart at rest. I thought she was just like me.

She continued to breeze her way into my heart. Serving as the buffer between me and my foe. Mediating. Counseling. All the while, passing by conveniently, mostly late at night from whatever errand she ran that day, expecting me to usher her home- a long way away. I drove her in the late night and allowed her to talk me down and tell me things that no one else dared tell me, other than her. She took advantage. So red flags ensued.
At one point, I am at the edge of a nervous breakdown. I need things for my unborn baby. She runs to bring things and sell at twice the market price. My friend gives me a nod off, and asks to turn them down.

“Go to Alvihaq. You will get them much cheaper than that,” he suggested.
I did. And indeed the prices are at a variance. I am at the cusp of knowing, but I am unwilling to see. I know the saying to be true, who envies cannot pity at the same time. She envied me. How could she feel pity for me? I still turned a blind eye. Willing myself not to be cynical. I’m not insecure after all.

In times of war, the women and the children become the unending cry but nowhere in history is it suggested that childhood or womanhood exempts one from danger. In fact, the contrary is true. In a broad sense, war is war, nobody is exempt from its devastation, more so in the figurative sense of the wars we fight within ourselves.

Ever divulged a secret to someone you trust and have that secret exposed? Imagine the shock, the pain and the humiliation you feel when you hear for the first time your supposed ‘secret’? What if that secret breaks up a family unit, a closed-knit setting or even a nation? To what end was the purpose of such revelation? Why?
After tens of other little things that inflicted indescribable amounts of psychic pain than the reverse, I lashed out. The relationship was getting toxic. “I just can’t talk to you about all of my problems,” I said once. I did not miss a bit. I was losing trust. Somehow, my problems, explained to her in confidence, were seeping through the well-guarded walls of my secrecy, created since I coined the poem – ‘mixing with people does not benefit beyond waste of time in gossip.’ I was hearing from others, what I had said to her. And her alone.
One day, just after I gave birth to your little brother, I came home in the evening to find you clothed in hijab dresses she has given to you, on a loan. You were already dressed up to the teeth and very well pleased with your new attires. “Mummy, see what aunty has brought for us. She says you pay later when you have money,” one of you said.

I paused, the tragic tiny voice chocking words I could not speak? I decided to walk away to the kitchen to prepare dinner for the family. Not one to steer clear off conflict, in fact, as someone who prides in saying everything she wants to say to anyone regardless, she walked up to me in the kitchen and said right in my face. “You don’t want me in your house today, do you?” she asked unconcerned by my demeanour.

I swallowed hard and busily ignored her confrontational tone. I would not have uttered a word. But lacking in social clues and perhaps mistaking my silence for weakness, she came on stronger. “I’m talking to you. Why are you ignoring me? Is it that you don’t want me to be here in your house today?” she persisted. She was trying to gaslight me, by diverting attention from her ignoble act of forcing me into buying dresses I did not demand. She wanted me to believe that I was the one being obnoxious. I was being moody.
I did not take the bait. By this time, I had had enough. So I turned around to meet her gaze, my voice sounding off, raised in rage, “My house! My house! Ah yes. I don’t. In fact, it will please me greatly if you leave my house right now.”

“And never, ever bring here things I did not ask for,” I added as she gaped at me stunned. She did not know who she was dealing with. But I was just warming up.
“I buy the things I like for myself and my kids. I am not infirm. I know Albert Market more than most. If you want to use someone, go find her elsewhere. I have had enough of your nonsense. Buying for D25 and trying to sell to me for D250! Who the hell, do you think I am anyway? A halfwit?” I subsided irate.
She muttered inaudible sounds as she marched off from my house while I still reeled from her audacity.

A few weeks earlier she had sent me WhatsApp images of dresses she was selling on rebate prices. I do not buy impulsively. And even where I do, they must have been very impressive and to my liking. I do not condone friendships with tailpieces that are premised on trade or exchanges other than genuine interest. I have figured out from experience that friendship and business do not match. One would definitely lose over the other.
But again, she had underestimated the power of my “No,” or perhaps even the level of my ire. Honestly, I don’t get mad easily. I am a big pot. I take long to boil. But when I boil, I spill over. Nothing stops that.

I may have handled the situation better. But it reaches a point in life when you cannot ignore when someone mistreats you so flagrantly. As somebody who does not fight other’s fights, I fight my fights well and roundly, leaving behind no pieces of myself to pick up later.

Well, the straw that broke the camel’s back with her could not have come sooner after our altercation. I had spoken my mind and done with the issue. When we met at a family occasion, I had all but thrown the fight behind me for good. Not so for her. Smiling throughout our encounter, she had during the interlude between being sent away from my house and the event, befriended my foe and told her my ‘secrets’. I knew. I always know.
But that was not all, when an improbable occurrence came to past, let’s just say when karma started protruding its fine head, my not-to-be-minced-words saw the light of day. Out of contempt and pure misrepresentation, she injured by casting aspersions and spreading calumniation. I had no regrets for saying what I said. I had been mistreated by people who spared no efforts to gain my trust and then break that trust by succumbing to the most lethal disease of the heart – envy.

For what can I say? When you compare? If you must compare. You must at least compare like with like. How can you compare gold with trash? Citing the aloofness of your own kin to a stranger’s influence. How can you give a lie so much weight that it crushes the truth? The truth being ubiquitous.

I had simply called a spade a spade. But I wish she had said it, the way I said it. Wishful thinking of course. In effect, never underestimate the pure ingenuity and relentless efforts of a frenemy to bring you down, what the Wolof would call ‘banj bu nurou soppeh.’
How many families, lives and nations are destroyed because of irrelevant, unnecessary and unwarranted exposures? How much devastation and upheaval is caused by such disclosures? Exposes? Revelations of people genuinely speaking their minds, who had been abused, suffered trauma, have dissenting views and so on and so forth? Trampling on their human rights, making them feel lesser than they are, are what these exposures do to them?

What condescension? How unfair?
Who is more human that their voice is more important than the other? How many people leave this world, not getting the first chance to explain themselves because a stronger and perhaps more ‘credible’ voice was raised before theirs, drowning theirs in an abyss of needless suffering.
But I survived.
So the morale here is this.
The tears of adulthood are bitter, my daughters. There is no one to console you when you shed them in the dark recesses of your room. The battles you will fight against hatred, envy and jealousy will define you more than any strife you will have to contend with.
Adulthood is lifting off the rosy, tinted spectacles of childhood from your eyes, little by little, and peering out at a world of rivalry, contention and fierce competition from those closest to you. People will only show genuine sympathy when they feel better or are better off than you. So you will have to learn to deal with you.

I survived because I am an independent woman. But more, because I have personal integrity and faith in the natural process of life. In this life, a lie never grows to be old. Besides, I have never supplicated to anything or anyone other than the Almighty God. My life and my sustenance are in His hands. So this war of our lives that sees us constantly battling misrepresentation, jealousy, ill intent and envy is one I am here to win. This is my preparation; absolute independence from anyone’s approbation. Mashallah!
I bring myself down to endure bravely, the horrors of slander, the impeding of progress, downright humiliation and worse still, blatant lies. Because I know when God is silent, He is preparing me for something bigger and always something better. Please understand and appreciate this, my daughters.

Without a salt of doubt, I have felt pain. Even in the midst of fore-fending hate, I have endured pain. With fortitude, bravery and kindness. Fine attributes used to describe fine deeds; but so difficult to muster when we seek to overcome hatred for each other and for those we are meant to love, namely family, friends and compatriots.
So if we want to transform the world and end all wars, we must truly understand that jealousy, envy or even hatred are all forms of weaknesses we must battle within every given day. Kindness and empathy must be brought to the fore to advance our humanly progress with true bravery. We only fight because we are alive. What a pity to die without knowing the value of life!
In all, the possibility of coincidence and the consequence of coincidence in our lives are the reasons why the Wolof would say, “Tombaey mor waral aye gaf”. Succinctly, coincidence is an encounter with fate. A fateful encounter is one we cannot possibly divert from ourselves. It is the reason friendship or enmity happens. Love or hatred blossoms…Coincidence is the harbinger of war. The war we fight within. A war we must win.

PS. Your Mother

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