Caricamento in corso
I racconti del Premio Energheia Africa Teller

Love conquers_Fanis Odhiambo

amore4_Africa Teller 2003.

 

It had been a hot and long dusty day for Mr. Hasira and all he could

think of was a cool home brewed drink under his favourite mango tree.

As he sat under the shade of the tree with his cool drink in hand, Mr.

Hasira looked around him to see the other villagers running around

preparing to settle down for the evening. He had this expression on

his face that made him seem like the chief elder, when he was just but

an ordinary villager.

It was the location of the tree that gave him an aura of superiority

since it was at the heart of the village. This allowed him to practically

see what all the villagers were doing, as a hawk would look at the

chicks from up above.

Mr. Hasira was a man who had seen many days and nights, he had

seen many depart to the ancestors and many come into the world. He

was a man who believed in working hard and he never had a lot to tell

but the few words he spoke were engraved into the heart of the

recipient for a long time. The reason why Mr. Hasira’s few words had

so much impact to the listener was because they always had a tinge of

anger in them and he hardly chose his words. He was one man who

rarely smiled and always had something bad to say about everyone

and everything. He was as bitter as bile and not many could stomach

him lest for his two grand children who were the only family he had.

Mr. Hasira had outlived his wife and his three children who died due

to a season of famine that killed many in the village. This surprised

many villagers, as he was the only one among the elderly who was

not affected by the famine. He never went hungry despite the fact that

his family starved and eventually died leaving him with his two little

grandchildren, Nguvu and Imani.

Many of the villagers claimed that Mr. Hasira survived the famine

because before the famine got to its severe stage in the village, Mr.

Hasira made a pact with a witch from the far lands beyond the

horizon from a place where no one had ever gone.

Despite the fact that many want to believe this tale there is no

evidence to prove it and no one ever witnessed what actually

happened lest for one old man who also survived the famine but he

can neither talk nor see yet he knows what usually goes on in the

village.

Nguvu grew up to be a skilful hunter and a strong warrior with

strengths that are feared by all. His sister Imani, two years his junior,

is of a dark chocolate complexion, with eyes sparkling brighter than

the stars and a body that would put a skillfully mould gourd to

complete shame.

Mr. Hasira’s grandchildren always made sure that their grandfather

lacked nothing. They always ignored the villagers who tried to badmouth

their grandfather. As far as they were concerned he saved them

from the famine and he made sure their needs were met. He also

ensured that they grew up to be respectable and loving. He taught

them to love both old and young, wise and fools alike with no

segregation whatsoever.

The Mr. Hasira that was known to them was not the same old man

that was known to the villagers. People always said that he had put

them under his spell, which he got from the witch. This never seemed

to bother Nguvu and Imani, as they knew better than to listen to talk

carried and dispersed by the wind.

The bond that existed between the grandchildren and their

grandfather was one that had endured the test of time and was envied

by many families in the village.

Life was good for Mr. Hasira and his grandchildren. They never

argued and they never wept.

One evening as Mr. Hasira was relaxing under his mango tree as he

would every evening, a villager came running towards his hut to

summon him.

“Mr. Hasira please come quickly a miracle has just taken place”. The

outburst of the villager was heard by Imani and Nguvu who were

busy preparing for supper at the back of their hut and caused them to

come running to see what was going on.

With a heavy and yet soothing voice Nguvu asked, “What is the

commotion all about? What miracle is this you are talking about and

what are the villagers hustling about?” “Nguvu you have to come and

see for yourself. The blind and dumb old man can talk and he asked

to see your grandfather only…”

“What? Are you insane, that man has been unable to speak for years!”

Exclaimed Imani, who by now headed towards the direction of

attraction.

“Wait”, said Nguvu “why does he want to see my grandfather?”

“We will only get to know if your grandfather accompanies us”,

replied the villager.

Mr. Hasira was unmoved by the actions that were surrounding him.

He stood up weakly and his grandchildren who knew their

grandfather well are the only ones who noticed this. Nguvu went to

help his grandfather up as Imani tagged behind. The three of them

walked slowly towards the vast crowd of villagers that had gathered

to witness the miracle.

There was a lot of murmuring as Mr. Hasira and his grandchildren

approached the old man’s house with precaution as they did not know

what to expect nor what was in store for them. Nguvu acted as a

strong pillar that his grandfather could lean on and Imani acted as his

source of hope and faith that he could lean on.

“Mr. Hasira I am glad you have come. I can see the years have been

good to you. You look strong”. Said the old man with a creaky voice.

The old man’s statement put many to awe, as he had been known to

be blind yet he spoke as one who could see.

All except Mr. Hasira stared with their jaws agape, and for several

minutes the place was so silent that heartbeats could be heard

thumping away creating an unknown rhythm.

Mr. Hasira tried to put a brave face but his also caved in not because

the old man could speak or see, but because the time had come.

“Grandpa, you look like you want to say something” said Nguvu

while holding up his grandfather with a firm arm wrapped around

his waist.

In a whisper with a tone so soft, Mr. Hasira said, “the time has come.

Everyone leave, I need to talk to the old man alone. Go, now”

For a moment everyone held their breadth as they waited for insults

to roll out of his mouth, but none was uttered. This caused all the

villagers to disperse without a word. Nguvu and Imani stayed behind

with their grandfather in the poorly lit hut that smelt of so much dust.

Propping himself up, the old man said, “The time has come Mr.

Hasira. I need to depart in peace with no more lies and secrets in my

heart. Please, tell them, as I do not have a lot of time. Nguvu, Imani,

please sit down and let your grandfather begin”.

“Begin to do what? What is going on, how is it that you can see, talk

and you even know who we are, who are you?” asked Imani with her

sparkling eyes darting from the old man to her grandfather. Nguvu had

no strength to say anything his legs willingly agreed to give in and he

found himself a spot on the dirt ground to rest his shocked body and

soul waiting for the answers to questions that tossed in his head.

“Quiet down Imani and let me begin”, said her grandfather who had

his eyes fixed on the ground. “It all happened many years ago and I

know by the time I am trough both of you will hate me but I had to do

it”. Mr. Hasira looked around for a place where he could rest his

fatigued body, and he found one, a distance from his grandchildren

and the old man. All eyes were fixed on him waiting for him to

continue.

“The day had been hotter than any day the two of you have ever

experienced”, he continued as he turned to look at his grandchildren.

“The year had not been good and no rain had fallen. The land was dry

and many animals had migrated in search of food. Our food stores

were empty and there was nothing to eat. The village elders met to

discuss the solution, as there was no sign of rainfall. As we sat under

what used to be a mango tree that had dried up, on the same spot

where I love to sit to date, the elders decided that two men should be

sent to the far lands beyond the horizon, a place where no one had

ever gone. The two to be chosen happened to be this old man and I.

Having been chosen by the elders to perform a task was great honour

and though we were weak and knew of the danger that awaited us on

our journey, we obliged.

As we said goodbye to our families and friends not knowing if we

would see them again we left. I left one of my daughters expecting

you, Nguvu. It was a painful departure but I had to go. There was no

point in staying behind to see my family and other villagers starve

when there could be a solution where I was sent.

As we left with only spears in our weak hands, we heard the cries of

our wailing families bidding us safety.

We travelled for days with no one and nothing in sight, not even a

firefly in the night. The places we went to were desolate and the smell

of death lurked in the air.

Everyday we walked, we became weaker and we could no longer

carry our spears so we left them on the way. We walked with no

direction hanging on to the hope that we would find life even if it was

going to be a single green grass. Yet all we saw was dirt and dry land.

We lost track of days after walking for a fortnight and the soles of our

feet had broken out in sores that hindered us from walking. Our lips

had cracked into gaping wounds and our bodies were emaciated

beyond recognition.

Since we could not walk we pulled ourselves forward using our

hands, until our hands were bruised and cut with sharp stones and

gravel”.

The night had dawned and the owl could be heard hooting from a

nearby tree. Sadness filled the village despite the events that had

transpired during the afternoon. The villagers were in their huts

waiting for a new day with a new atmosphere apart from those who

tried to sneak near the old man’s hut to hear Mr. Hasira’s tale, but

they were too scared to draw near hence they could not hear a single

word.

In the dimly lit room, the only voice that whispered in the dark was

the sad voice of Mr. Hasira, as he continued with his sad tale with no

interruption.

“As that day turned into a cold night, we could not pull ourselves any

further and we lost hope in reaching the land beyond the horizon”.

We lay down to die when out of nowhere we heard thunder and saw a

flash of lightning that almost blinded us. We could not believe our

eyes and ears. We were ecstatic and we forgot the wounds on our

soles as we arose and I looked towards the heaven. For a few minutes

we waited and there was no more thunder and no more lightning. Our

hopes failed us again but immediately we settled down to await death;

big, cold drops fell from the sky. It was raining and we opened our

mouths to take in the special liquid we had not tasted for days. With

outstretched hands we lay on the ground and laughed like little

children as we let the rain soak us to the marrow, as we were already

bones. No sooner had we enjoyed the rare commodity than it stopped

abruptly as it had started. We looked at each other with astonishment

and we could not explain what had transpired. Then out of the

shadows came a figure that looked like an animal and yet spoke like a

human. This figure said to us, “Do you want that rain to fall in your

village and bring you a harvest saving you from the starvation that

continues to kill your people?”

With weak voices we replied and said, “Yes we do. Can you help us?”

“Indeed I can help. I have already given you a taste of what I can do

and yet you still question? Are you willing to pay the price?” We

looked at each other for a while debating what to do and for the sake

of our families we both agreed. Therefore this figure continued.

“For rain to fall in your village and save your families from death you

have to promise me a grandchild each. This grandchild should be sent to

me after many years when the time is right”. When my friend here heard

the terms he immediately declined saying, “I would rather die than

sacrifice my grandchild to you a beast with no name”. At his utterances,

the beast grew mad and roared with furry and out of fear I agreed to its

terms so as to save my family, my village and us from death.

“Since you, Mr. Hasira have agreed to my terms, I will send rain

and your village will be saved. As for your friend I will spare his

life but he will watch as his family dies one by one and he will not

be able to save them. From today he will not be able to see or speak.

The day he will speak will be a sign that the time has come for you

to send your first-born grandchild to me”.

With that Imani immediately turned to her brother and hugged him as

though her life depended on him as tears rolled down her cheeks.

Nguvu lost all the strength he had and he felt faint. Words failed him

and he did not know how to react. All he could do was murmur. “I am

sorry Nguvu I never imagined this day would come, I am sorry”.

With these words Mr. Hasira looked down out of shame.

The old man groaned in pain and he knew time had come for him to

depart to the land of his ancestors. He looked at Nguvu and with his

last breath said, “Nguvu, do the right thing. Do what your heart tells

you to do”. The old man’s limbs dropped to the ground and he was

gone. Silence filled the tiny dimly lit hut.

“Grandfather what have you done? Why did you do it?” Imani asked

amid sobs and anger. With pain in his voice Nguvu said, “No Imani,

do not accuse him. He did it to save our family and this old man as

well as us. It is fate”. Nguvu heard the old man’s voice whisper to

him again saying, “Nguvu, do the right thing. Do what your heart tells

you to do”. Nguvu obeyed the old man and he followed his heart. He

went approached his grandfather and with love in his hands he lifted

him up and embraced him tightly as he whispered, “I still love you

grandfather and I understand”. Tears rolled freely from Mr. Hasira’s

eyes and he embraced his grandson. Imani joined them and hugged

her grandfather and brother. As they held in tight embrace, Mr. Hasira

said, “I have something else to tell you”.

Both Imani and Nguvu moved back and listened. “That beast told us that

should my grandchildren choose to forgive me and love me even after

they found out the truth, then the curse would be broken by that love.

Thank you for forgiving me and choosing to love me at your own will”.

The trio rejoiced and embraced as they planned the old man’s burial

that would take place the next day. Love had saved them from pain

and despair and their bond grew even stronger.