Salima arrives at the home from school. She hoped to be cuddled in her father’s arms. Thrown onto the sofa for a fun show that was to last an eternity. At least it would feel so. Like all days. Unusually, though, this day home was quiet. No one was waiting.
Except on the sofa was her half-naked mom. With spatters of tears in her eyes, opened her arms for a lovely embrace. She drew her breath and fought back the tears as she ponders their prospects as a family.
How does she tell her that her lovely, caring dad was going to prison? Guilty to charges of being a thief. The jaw-broken lamentation of a soon-to-be single mother, worrying about the future of a loving daughter! The burden of such existence. The child, innocent as she is confused, sat of her mother’s lap. Eyes glaring into the uncertain future. The void in air, in her chest— as the missing hug of a father.
Your dad, the mother muttered in between sobs, was taken to prison. On the shoulder of the lovely child felt the weight of entire world, with all its mountains. Eyes to the brim with tears. Why? This, as she screamed her lungs to the floor. Who, now, gives her money for the pancake that ‘aunty’ sells at school?
She hates just about everyone. And everything. In her little mind, she struggles to understand. Compassion of a father suddenly replaced by gripping darkness, as though she was being soaked into a black hole.
Some miles apart is another child. Swandi. His old man is drowning. Except, this is not at the sea. It is on a hospital bed. Swandi watched as he gasped for air with collapsed lungs. No oxygen at the clinic. Money meant to create such facilities was the ones stolen by Salima’s father. Swandi cursed the world. He wept for help.
In a faraway reality, an advocate sat, pondering “what do I do with this”. It was his job that was to bring tears rolling Salima’s face but to ensure Swandi gets justice. Of course, not that Salima will, or can understand. And he did.
Who makes Salima understand? The pride of a father who taught a child that lying is bad. Thieving is bad. You must work hard and be good to others. In the single hour they had to interact before leaving for his new home, he knelt to equal her height, and poured what felt like a ton of breath into her little ears. “I am innocent,” he said.
Two homes are now broken. Two kids will grow up knowing it is a dog-eat-dog world. Or as Jah Alex sang in a song that clearly came before its time, hani mang mo domo, mo si domo.
The advocate, with all his humanity coming to bear, sank his head in self-reflection. ‘Perhaps, all this is unnecessary,’ he said. But only to himself. Except, Swandi doesn’t think so.
See nyo kurungho moo fitino leh ti! Even after justice, there is injustice. At least, Salima thinks so.
Might I say, us too, we have emotions. Just that we chose to be an advocate. And our constituency, we must serve. Serve, we must …
Mustapha K Darboe