With Rohey Samba
Where do broken hearts go? Can they find there way home? Back to the open arms of a love that’s waiting there… The lyrics of this famed Whitney Houston song, if it is anything to go by, reminds us of the futility of living in the past in so far as love is concerned. As long as there are humans living on this earth, there are going to be broken hearts. This is just a matter of fact.
So can we mend broken hearts by willing them into silence? Or do we allow them to overtake and break everything we aspire to be in our lives. Well, Musu managed to achieve tranquility by throwing the past into the dustbin of silence. And this is her story.
She was young and promising. Pretty modern for her times. She had the entrepreneur skills of a business tycoon brought about by her attachment to the artful things in life. She was an excellent cook, hairdresser and seamstress by the age of ten. A kind of wonderkid who made her own living by the age of fifteen through selling porridge for breakfast, braiding hair in the afternoons and sewing stylist garments for her friends when the occasion demanded. Musu was a household name in her community.
It was during the prime of her activities that she met Amadou. Amadou was a native of a nearby country who came to visit relatives in The Gambia. It happened that his relatives lived next door to Bintou’s family home. The occasion of their first encounter was at Bintou’s gate early in the morning when her came out to sell her porridge after fajr prayers. At first, Amadou was stuck by her graceful beauty and then her assiduous character. He wanted to marry her at all cost and take her home with him.
There was one slag however. Though they were both from the same Malinké tribe, their dialects were different. Moreover, it was very uncommon to have cross-country marriages in those times. Transportation was hard, with poor and non-existent roads more prevalent than not. In effect, it took six days altogether to reach Amadou’s own country, thus the reticence of Musu’s parents in consenting to his marriage proposal to their daughter.
But love, like tides, has no boundaries. In the battle of love between the heart and the mind, the mind may give all the reasons there are not to engage but the heart will ultimately win the price of love because the heart controls the head, where the mind resides. Thus Musu on being approached by the charming and quiet young man with the funny dialect, allowed her heart to rule her head.
Now there was nothing outstanding in Amadou’s bearing, not his intellect nor his character was much to commend him to a lady’s favour. Small in stature and not half as smart-witted as Musu’s other pretenders, for they were many who came to seek her hand in marriage, that she should smile at Amadou’s suit was most baffling. Her family, especially, were struck with consternation. Yet their pertinence that she should not get married was met with her insistence that she loved him, and wanted only him. Nothing absolutely could sully her insistence.
Here at last was a fine reason to explore the world and not be confined in the limited knowledge of her land of birth. Marriage to Amadou offered her the opportunity to travel and explore the world, which as a woman, the strictures of her society would not have afforded her even if she lived for a million years.
Beyond the complicity of her passion for travels was the atavistic pull of her eminence as a citizen of the world. She knew she was different the first time she had the awakenings of a young woman. Her dreams took her places by night. Places she wanted to explore. The lanes of travel she threaded in the hairs she braided and in the clothes she sewed. There was no fighting fate. The confines of her small town were limiting in their very own realms. She was destined to leave her own country for the other. She was prepared for the long haul.
The first transports which love inspires in the face of resistance are inexplicable. Neither the torrents of fear, nor the menaces of scare can withhold it. Of course, talk was rife after the proposal was first made to the extent that Amadou’s fate in their marriage began to falter. But Musu showed a different metal altogether. She made it known to anyone who cared to listen that she was perfectly free to dispose of her hand to any man she fell in love with. And thus was the final say. For she had made up her mind longer than any of her detractors were bound to know or understand.
The marriage ceremony came to pass two weeks after it was first proposed. Two days later, the young couple were driven to the garage in a ‘casambarr’ to be transported to Amadou’s homeland some six days travel away. It had been Musu’s childhood long ambition to travel to other parts of the world and know different places. As the chance presented itself before her own eyes, her excitement knew no bounds.
Appositely, Musu carried her womanly virtue unstained to the consummation of her nuptials on her wedding night. That was a big achievement apparently in Amadou’s village. Her virgin’s wrapper unbeknown to her was transported along with Amadou’s other possessions, which he presented upon arrival with his new bride to his mother. Word spread and a fitting celebration according to the customs of her new community was done. Musu had made a very good first impression in the very affluent household of her in-laws and that was something she needed for her own peace of mind, at least for the while.
Amadou’s parents were pretty rich compared to their neighbours. They maintained a high status in the social ladder of their community. Musu, being an artful girl, who preferred to earn by the sweat of her toil, found it very difficult to adjust to their affluent living standards. A month after her installation into the community, she started braiding the hairs of young women like herself. Word spread and before long, she was one of the most celebrated hairdressers in the community.
Occasionally, she would sew a dress for the young women she had taken a liking to, adding the accolade of seamstress to her reputation. As a complaisant wife, who was expert cook, excellent hairdresser and a very good seamstress, she raised the ratings of her husband in the eyes of the community. More so, when child after child of hers, was borne male. Amadou’s love for his wife knew no bounds. The exotic wife with the strange accent had made her mark in his own community.
But Musu’s dominance was destined to be brief. To the consternation of her husband, Amadou, his mother began to harbour a secret grudge against his wife. At first, she raised harmless questions about her spending too much time braiding other girls than taking care of her household. Then it was about her children being too spoilt and impudent. And finally, it was that she was a foreigner, she did not like the food she cooked. The underlining menace was plain to Amadou’s ear. His mother had spoken and Amadou was expected to make a reply soonest.
Unknown to Musu, Amadou’s family wealth was ill gotten from human sacrifices. Theirs was a family, which did not toil to make a living, but rather made sacrifices to a god she never heard about or anticipated. Amadou was not slow to realise that by his mother’s imputations, the sun of his wife had set. They had sacrificed the wives of his other brothers in order to attain their level of wealth; his would not be treated any differently. It was the choice to choose between love and wealth. And surely without faltering, Amadou decided on wealth. Thus Musu’s fate was sealed.
But not everyone in the family acceded to the deed. Bineta, Amadou’s youngest sister and the cadet of the family had taken a liking to his brother’s exotic wife. Powerless against the ill intentions of her family towards the innocent Musu, she made the ultimate sacrifice by deciding on the day prior to her execution to inform her about the mission and to aide her flight from their township.
Musu who had accumulated quite a bit of cash from her trade made straight for The Gambia in the dead of the night accompanied by her three sons, with the assistance of Bineta. The life she had dreamed of in the foreign land faded into ether as she headed east along the cool dark night, riding on donkey carts, in the back of farm trucks, lorries and finally in a rickety ‘casambarr’, that took her back home to The Gambia in ten days of weary travel instead of six.
Her heart torn into pieces by Amadou’s deception coupled with anger against her own self for her own naivety, she took to the calling of silence. As she reached her final destination, she pocketed every mishap, every hatred and all the fear she faced on returning home in the box of silence. She never told anyone her story. It was too painful to narrate, and her sons were too young to understand her plight or narrate her misadventure.
Essentially, she maintained her silence until her first born was old enough to ask after his father. Then she told him everything and obtained a promise from him never to re-tell the story. But somehow in the shreds of time, I heard. That’s why I have chosen to write about it, in this series on broken hearts…to inform, educate and help us travel together through the travails of human existence…you and I!