What is a veil, a wrapper or even an old dress … but an articulated memory!


By Rohey Samba I heard it as if it were a bolt from the blue. Vibrant, upbeat music coming from a nearby church on a Sunday afternoon. It went melodiously, ‘This is the land of my birth, this is Jamaica, my Jamaica, this is the land of my birth… I had not noticed the sound until then. It was some minutes after five O’clock. I was walking briskly around my house as I recited the Lazim. A practicing Talibe Sheikh, I noticed for the first time last year that I had too much time in my hands. And what was I doing with that time? Well, guess what? Watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Miami among other things… Now this is not a bad thing. I’d watch KUWTK any given time or day, choosing E! over any other cable channel. But let’s face it; this was doing nothing productive to my mental health. Whereas zikr would strengthen me mentally whilst satisfying my spiritual needs, and walking around on my own two feet when reciting my widr would strengthen me physically, what really was lazing around watching reality TV going to do for me? The choice to engage full time my widr and become a full Talibe Sheikh was no choice at all. It was a life changer. To give context to my overt transformation, I had no longer found social media interesting since ‘#GambiaHasDecided’ and ex-president Yahya Jammeh gone on exile. The rants and raves and incessant bickering on social media had all but killed my joy for the cyber platform. But there was worse. The ostentations. The pressing need to pry on other people’s lives, friends, foes and frenemies alike, to satisfy my own prurience… I had realized that most of my old friends, all over the world, who I had had a relationship with in the past, were doing their own thing, unrelated and at times, ‘unrelatable’ to my existing situation. Trying to force a relationship with some of them was like hoisting a noose over my head in an attempted mental suicide, a dirge so laborious it was actually not worth my while. At least, not any more. Time and space had made us distant stooges of occupation contending the prized ‘preeminence’ over the other, as if we were meant to be at par simply because we were at the same level in a classroom once upon a time. In the real world, this does not happen. My late grandmother would say, “Everybody has their assigned role to play in this world’s stage. Some are meant to teach and others to learn from others. That’s just the ways of the world.” One day someone would post on my wall, “Hey Rohey, long time. You have changed so much!” referring to a generic picture of me trying to look my very best for the world to see. I would chuckle in reference to the post, “As if I was meant to thrive as the Tomboy you once knew me to be.” Yet, I’d play with the ugly tinges of this venomous post on me, sometimes sent innocently with no malice intended, and write back gushingly, “Oh thanks,” with the gall of my insincerity gurgling from my throat in that brief and disingenuous riposte. If only words could speak for themselves, they would declare, what a deceitful ma’am, the cyber space has made of my madam! The next time, I would write on someone else’s wall, “Lovely pic sis. You are looking beautiful!” just to be kind to the “Ugly Ones” fellow writer, Amran Gaye, once wrote about so endearingly on The Standard, which almost killed me with laughter for its philosophical veracity, I must add. You know how when you try to hide your own face with too much makeup, which ends up making you look like a professional “Simba” or something of that sort? Well, now I’m up talking, the worse form of conversation in English language, which is becoming very common in our artistic society nowadays. I hear young poets up talk, spoken word performances up talked? Well, what’s to punctuations and beautiful down talk?   Artistes be natural, like really! So coming back to my point, I realized that I was interested in my ‘old’ friends only to measure my superiority over them, and I suspect they were doing the same to gauge their own supremacy and how far they had excelled me. Smdth… Since I am too conscious of my actions to deliberately unfriend or delete anyone who has done nothing wrong to me, I allowed many of them to delete me over time from their accounts as a result of my unresponsiveness and/or lack of comments on their posts or whatever. Finally, I decided after #Gambia Has Decided to just ignore the platform for the sake of my own sanity! So here I was walking briskly around the house doing my Lazim. Aunty May, my little sister was roasting home grown corn, my other little sister and house help Aisha Jarjue had grown in my backyard and tended to until it was good eat. God bless this wonderful sister! Little Makumba was particularly well-behaved in spite of missing his afternoon nap. He was chortling and laughing out as Aisha pulled faces with him. The girls were playing nearby whilst challenging each other as to who would grab the first roasted corn. I knew Aunty May would be partial to Aja and make her win the challenge, just as I knew Bobo would stand up for herself and cry so loud that Aja would yield the roasted corn over to her. Very predictable kids are, aren’t they? So when I completed my Lazim, I asked in mild surprise, “Is the music coming from the church?’ “Yes Mama. It’s been playing since morning. Didn’t you hear it?” Aja asked. ‘I did not notice music playing at all,” I replied. “How could you not have noticed,” Bobo enquired in an amazed 5 year old kid’s voice with eyes opened wide in askance. Bobo has definite views about what should and shouldn’t be and does not hesitate to voice it. Instead of humoring her thinly veiled credulity, I neutralized my voice to discourage her persistence. “I just did not hear it. But at least now I do,” I added quickly before I headed to the main house to replace my long garb and veil with shorts and a tee shirt, my usual home costume. Walking towards the main house, I began to mime the song loudly. It reminded me of my young and very beautiful mother as she cooked during the weekends in the late 1980s, when I was a little girl. She would listen and sing along to very loud music, mainly La Isla Bonita by Madonna, By the Rivers From Babylon by Boney, Life oh life by Cher, from Radio Syd. I remembered her singing, ‘Beautiful face is not scarce in this world, where a girl loves a boy and a boy…Loves a girl!’ And that wonderful Spanish guitar fusing in with a blend of sounds that still ravel and enchant me. I did not know the words then. But now that I know, I think La Isla Bonita is one of the finest songs ever… I remembered also the rich baritone voice of Joe Barry over Radio Syd, soaring and captivating to hear, and a whole new sense of nostalgia pervaded my senses all over, making me yearn for something…anything I could grasp in that little flicker of memory the church music stirred in me. Memories are the remnants of experience that no circumstance, situation or person can take away from us, however powerful. They are a test of our faculties. A slice of special significance triggered by sound, sight, scent or even touch. Memories remind us of our humanity and the humanity of our departed ones we hold dear long after they are gone. What is a veil, a wrapper or even an old dress left by the departed, cherished and retained for keeps by a loved one, but an articulated memory. Yet, long after the whiff of scent is gone of the dead, long after the remnant of his/her favorite perfume rises into thin air, memories remain. Memories of them vivid in our mind’s eye, reminding us that they once existed and also that we will one day become like them, memories. Perceptively, there is peace in recognizing the sound of one’s environment. The mind nurtures the soul into accepting its eccentricities as a matter of cause. The most powerful tool in the creation of man, the mind can trick us into hearing or unhearing stuff by a mere switch of feat. We are what our minds make of us. What it makes us believe to be real. I chuckled once again, as I repeated Bobo’s incredulous voice, “How could you not have noticed?” Well, my little one, how couldn’t I not have noticed? You tell me SisterSpeak readers… You tell me!]]>