For Nam, my friend.

You might know her as 3frenchens, contributor and editor on this site.

I know her as Namrata, a close friend who over and over has shown me what it means to be kind, and for whom I will do anything, make any sacrifice.

Today is her birthday.

This is for her.

*************

I do not often feel a sense of loss, but I do now. My memory card crashed some time ago, and I can no longer find your pictures. I had only one of us together, taken at Capto’s wedding, and now it’s gone there’s a hole in my chest. But a lack of pictures does not diminish you in my heart. Those memories are clear, stark, embossed on my heart, impressed in my mind.

My memories of you are warm, cheery, glowing with my happiness and your tinkling, sincere laughter. I remember you dancing to Jasi in the back of my car. I remember the long discussions on love and Christianity and prayer, and how your Bible rested at the head of your bed. I remember you on ShopRite queues, and your absolutely delicious jollof. I remember you with Ms Karen, and the frissons I felt as you told your story. I remember you in Barcelos, and holding my brother as he cried and I ran around. You are kind and wonderful and a special, remarkable lady, Namrata, and I am blessed to know you and be your friend.

The memories almost make up for how much I miss you. Almost, but not quite. I miss you something powerful. It’s almost a physical ache. You would think the passage of time will soothe, but it doesn’t. I speak 5 languages, and I cannot fully express how much I miss you in any one of them. Absence might indeed make the heart grow fonder, but the void it leaves is cavernous.

I wished I had started to be your friend much earlier. If I knew then what I know now, on that day with the red teddy bear in Foodco, I would have seized the chance. We had but a short time to be in the same physical space, but what a time it was! It’s true what they say: quality beats quantity everyday.

I want to say thank you. For being my friend. For Enugu. For stopping me from losing my faith. For Sunday lunches in your room. For showing me a better way. For UCH A&E, wherein, for the umpteenth time, you showed me what love is. For praying for me. For Ranchosblog. For Abu Dhabi. For everything.

I have prayed for you, Namrata, and God knows I meant every word. He sees my heart, and he knows I have nothing but the very best wishes for you. When He begins to manifest and show Himself in and for you, receive it with thanksgiving. Because He will bless you. He is a just and fair God, and He will do far more for you than you’ve done for me, far more for you than you expect or imagine. So be ready, be prepared, for His awesomeness.

May God’s light shine upon you and light your way. May men go out of their way to favour you. May the works of your hand, the fruits of your lips, everything you do be blessed. May God be happy with you. May the blessings of Abraham be yours, world without end. May Jesus come through for you. May God keep us till we meet again.

Happy birthday, dear Namrata. I love you.

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2017, or something about eggs. 

I ate two boiled eggs today.

If you don’t know me, this will not sound like much of a deal. If you know me, you would have realized by now what a giant step this was for me.

For as long as I have known, I have hated boiled eggs. A hard-boiled egg stinks, the yolk is the disgusting yellow colour of a tetracycline capsule, and boiled eggs do not lend themselves to garnishing and efizi in the way, say, an omelet does. I have had arguments with girlfriends, refused to touch meals and salads, and vomited at table because of boiled eggs. 

But I ate two boiled eggs today. Because I have committed to facing the things that scare me and doing things I do not like, if it will lead to me breaking new grounds and  hitting more goals. Eating an egg is not much, but it is a metaphor for something deeper, something much more serious.

Compliments of the season, and a happy 2017 to you. Those boundaries? You will break them. Those heights? You will scale them. Those eggs? You will eat them, and in doing so discover that while you still don’t like them, you no longer feel as nauseated. Progress, no?
Here’s to 2017. Onwards and upwards.

 

THIS LIFE IS A POT OF BEANS.

2103hrs. 6th October, 2016. Port-Harcourt, Nigeria.

 

Aunty Nene was family, although we had no genes in common. She worked for my aunt. She came in every morning and stayed till around 5pm, cooking and cleaning and providing company. When I visited my aunt, I often went to her house. She was there when I was born (the last time I was in Enugu, she pointed out the hospital I was born in), and had watched my cousins, siblings and myself grow up with the fondness and pride an old Japanese lady takes in her bonsai plants.

***

I think about death a lot, in a philosophical, academic way. Do the dying know they are dying? How does it feel on the other side? Is dying better than living? People condemned to die fascinate me. If you knew the hour and minute destined for your death, how would you approach it? What would you do differently?

The worst thing about death is its impact on those left behind. The dead are gone, and what happens here does not concern them. We are left to mourn their demise, celebrate their lives, sorrow and weep and accept grudgingly that we will not see them again.

The joint worst thing about death is how final it is. It is irreversible, a giant period sign at the end of life.

The next worst thing about death is how abrupt, how sudden it often is.

***

My mother called me about 30 minutes ago. I was lying in the dark, debating whether to sleep or not.

‘I noo n’ulo?’

‘Yes.’

“Aunty Oby kpoolum kita. O si na Grandma kporo ya, na Aunty Nene nwuru this afternoon.’

‘What?!!!”

‘They were watching TV and she shouted “my head, isi’m”, and the next thing she was dead. Grandma is in shock. O daghi a zaa phone.’

***

Death’s suddenness struck with my uncle. One minute he was standing to his full 6ft7in height and planning the future. The next he was lying on his back in the hospital, complaining of malaria symptoms. 2 days later, he was a corpse.

It has struck again with Aunty Nene. I can only hope she felt no pain.

Goodbye, Aunty Nene. You were one of the most caring, selfless people I have ever met. I hope you find peace on the other side.

 

A Short Treatise on Friendship.

A few days ago, I clashed with my friend of 15 years. It was rather messy and was very public, but thankfully it was a misunderstanding that has now been cleared up. When the matter was settled and things were back to normal, I remembered this post. I wrote it 2 years ago, and it is me thinking of what friendship means to me. 

I consider friendship one of life’s greatest gifts. Good friends are hard to find, and are often the difference between a great life and a bland one. But what makes a good friend? I do not know, and I promise to let you know when I find out. What I DO know is what makes a bad friend.

******* 

 

On 10th December 2014, I was in Ibadan, the penultimate leg of my 5-day, 5-city, cross-country travels, part of my Ajala Travels® persona. I was exhausted from the trip of the day before, but I dragged myself to the campus of the University of Ibadan. I was looking forward to seeing a dear friend and sister, someone I hadn’t seen in a while, and not even the hounds of hell could have held me back. In spite of how I felt, it was a good day: the sun was shining, the air was crisp, and my stomach was full of some excellent jollof rice and moinmoin. I was excited and happy, and was looking forward to having a great day.

 

You see, I’m a friendly guy. I take after Proverbs 18:24a and show myself friendly, ergo, I have quite a few friends. Because of this, while I was on the university campus, I ran across another old friend. One thing led to another, and I was presented with the quite astonishing bit of news that I was a heavy smoker. I was not only informed that I was a human chimney capable of processing and releasing copious amounts of cigarette smoke, In addition, I received information that it was thought by the general populace that I was partaking in the illicit pleasures and dubious happiness associated with and obtained from burning the dried leaves of the shrub known botanically as Cannabis sativa. I was also reliably advised that I was, in addition, quite the drinker, in spite of all my protestations that I had not tasted a drop of alcohol since December 28, 2009.

 

It was an extraordinary, earth-shattering piece of news, shaking all I knew to its very foundations. It was like me discovering that I was really Angelina Jolie’s younger brother and the complexion of my skin was really only a minor inconvenience that could be fixed by lifting the skin at my fingertips and peeling off the overlying layer of black to reveal the Caucasian underneath. A few minutes previously, I had been convinced that I had never lifted a stick of cigarette to my lips in my life, but as she continued talking, I began to have doubts. Here was unimpeachable evidence from an utterly trustworthy, impeccable source who had no doubts whatsoever she had seen me taking a few deep puffs behind the wheel as I drove, and I began to question my convictions. Could it be that, in a moment of weakness, I had unconsciously taken a few puffs of the good stuff? Could it be that, in that fuzzy state between drowsiness and full sleep, I had repeatedly lifted a bottle of premium quality whisky to my lips and then downed it?

 

A quick survey of some of my friends revealed that they were privy to the same information I had received, and most of them had believed it for months. I started to believe they were right. You see, the Chinese say that if many people call you a horse, it may be time to buy a saddle. All of a sudden, all the pointed glances, roundabout questions and knowing nods I had been receiving made sense. I had been wondering why so many people I hadn’t talked to in a while suddenly felt the need to check up on me and inquire about my life and my relationship with God. I had thought it was because I had the best friends in the world, people who, despite the challenges of distance and busy-ness, had not forgotten me. As I stood on the sun-drenched tarmac of the parking lot, I received clarification: some of the people I called friends were actually complete idiots.

 

“A good friend should, on receiving stories about you, defend, correct, or confront you.”

 

You see, my problem was not the accusation. I have been accused of much worse in my stay on earth, and so it didn’t really get to me. My real problem was that so many people I thought of as friends had heard of (and/or spread) the rumor for months, and not one person among the hearers and spreaders thought it necessary to bring it to my notice or challenge me to my face. I can’t possibly imagine why. I look like everyone’s chubby, friendly uncle, and even my mortal enemies agree I’m a good listener. I cannot imagine why no one wanted to come and say stuff to my face.

 

It is said that I keep to myself and do not let people get close to me. This explains a lot. Among many others, it explains why certain ‘friends’ couldn’t NOT imagine me as an igbo smoker. It explains why they did not burst into uncontrollable laughter upon receiving such asinine, albeit juicy, bits of information. It is because they do not know me. Among my inner circle, any such gist would have been met with the waves of dismissal and derisive laughter it deserved.

 

This is neither denial nor explanation. I could go on and on, but I want to keep this under 1,200 words, so I’ll summarize here.

  1. You have more idiot friends than you imagine.
  2. Any ‘friend’ that does not confront, defend or correct you when s/he hears gist about you is proof you need new friends.
  3. The ones that confront, defend or correct you are your real friends. Keep them close. If they do it to your face, marry them, same sex or not.
  4. Some of your friends will spread stories about you, but since they are not very close to you, it will be gist about the kind of things you can never do, lacking in factual accuracy. Some of your idiot friends will believe the stories. Ignore both spreader and believer. Their suits are not alright.
  5. Your real friends know the kind of things you can or cannot do, and will filter gist accordingly.
  6. Looking friendly is not guarantee enough that people will want to tell you things about yourself. Also, it doesn’t help you get a girlfriend, which is why I have decided to grow a beard and look more sinister.

 

That will be all.

Namaste.

Knock knock.

Bablo: Hello everyone, and welcome.

Nam: No, your eyes are not deceiving you. It really is us.

Bablo: You can’t greet ba?

Nam: Why are you shouting?

Bablo: See this one. You people, it’s Nam that knows why we have not been here since last year o.

Nam: So it is me you want to blame?

Bablo: Better start explaining to us why this blog was inactive for so long.

Nam:

Unlooks

Unlooks steadfastly

Bablo: Talk. People are waiting.  

Nam: 

stand up comedy cant explain

Erm….

Bablo: SMH. Just look at yourself.

Nam: We will make it up to you, you hear? Send us your bank account numbers.

Bablo: We wil…wait, what?

Nam: *ignores me and starts hugging people and sharing crisp N1000 notes.* 

Bablo: What’s all this, Jackie?

Nam: IMG_20160608_022405_265

Bablo: It’s like you have you not heard that the economy is tough.

Nam: No, I have not heard. Money is not a problem.

Bablo: Oshey, Sarkodie.

Nam: We are sha back.

Bablo: Like Terminator.

Nam: Like a mother from the market.

Bablo: Like the Prodigal Son to his father’s house after his sufferhead sojourns.

Nam: Like gastric acid regurgitated from your belly.

Bablo: Urgh. Such a nerd.

Nam: -_-

Bablo: You had to spoil it.

Nam: It’s not my fault.

Bablo: Os courfe.

Nam: Guys, we’ve missed you.

Bablo: Yes, indeed. We really did miss you.

Nam: And we will make it up to you.

Bablo: As long as it doesn’t involve bank accounts, I am all up for making up.

Nam: SMH. Broke man.

Bablo: Thanks. 

Nam: Thank you guys for commenting and asking and keeping in touch.

Bablo: It was very touching. Pun intended. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts.

Nam: This time we will do better and not run off.

Bablo: We ain’t going nowhere. We promise.

Nam: We’ll be seeing you around.

Bablo: Like next weekend, when a post will go up.

FOR MY DAD ON FATHER’S DAY.

Fatherhood is mostly a thankless job.

As I grow older, I realize this more and more. A lot more praise and gratitude is given to mothers, and their sacrifices are lauded and proclaimed from the rooftops. While I do not have a problem with that, seeing as mothers already have 3 days a year to be appreciated, I will try and keep the focus on fathers today.

Fatherhood is a lifelong, underappreciated job. So much of what fathers do is treated with (not quite) disdain (as a certain sort of comfortable indifference). Fathers are not allowed to blow their trumpets- they are not doing anything special; they are only doing what they are expected to do. A man’s responsibility is to his family, and unlike Nigerian politicians, he is not supposed to demand for a parade and celebratory fireworks simply for fulfilling expectations.

For the most part, fathers do not mind. The onus on a man to provide for his family does not depend on the feedback he receives from them, and so they just put their backs to the task at hand and work to provide for their families.

On days like this, I reflect on how heavy the burden that is fatherhood really is. I am working and earning a living, and with each passing day, I appreciate just how much sacrifice my father had to make to provide for us. There is only so much that can be done with a paycheck, no matter how robust, and paying bills has opened my eyes to the fact that a man often has to ignore his desires and needs so his family is comfortable and not open to ridicule.

It gets even more overwhelming with the realization that fathers are not only head providers, they are heads of the home. That means a father is the head support-giver, the head driver, the in-house handyman, the one who takes the tough decisions, the one who negotiates with armed robbers for the lives of his family, the one who provides a marker for his children, the one who plots the course for the affairs of the family, the spiritual leader in the home, and so much more.

All this with almost no appreciation or recognition. It is true what they say. To be a man (and even more gravely, to be a father) is not a day’s job.

This is for our fathers. We do not always appreciate or acknowledge the extent of what you have to go through for us, but on this day, Father’s Day, we solemnly salute your struggles and sacrifice. We do not always give you the honour and gratitude you deserve, but today, we raise glasses and chins and celebrate you, thankful for what you have done and the roles you have played in our lives. We do not always agree with your decisions and actions, but we who bear your name are today standing under your flag, here to tell you that when the going gets tough, you can keep counting on our support.

We believe in your government.

This is for my father.

They say that by the time a man realizes that his father was right about most things, he already has a son who thinks he is wrong about most things. I have the good fortune of both not having a child yet and appreciating that you were right about a lot of things early on.

We are simultaneously alike and different, two men who are enigmas to everyone else, that are multi-capable and extremely versatile, and will do what it takes, keeping with our principles and conscience, to achieve goals and get results.

I want to say thank you. Every day, as I journey further into this time-space continuum that is life, I appreciate how much of a burden you had to bear for us. Thank you for providing, for guiding, for praying for, for loving in your own way.

Thank you for supporting me, even though you don’t always agree with my decisions. Wole wrote something that is in line with what I feel, and I will paste it here.

…a mother’s love and care is something special, but a father’s support is worth more than a trailer load of diamonds.”

People say I take after you, and pride swells in my breast. You have taught me how to take charge, how to bear responsibility, and that is something that I treasure greatly. When you call me to check up on the house while you’re away, I feel that warm glow that comes with your trust, with the quiet assuredness that I will not let you down. When mum or one of my brothers calls me to help them solve a problem and they speak with the conviction that I will solve it, I get to work, certain that I will not fail them. You see, you made me think that way. You made me banish excuses from my vocabulary. You made me aware of the delightful little pleasures that come with solving problems and bearing the burden that is responsibility.

More than anything else, I want to make you (and mum) proud of me. There really is no better feeling than a father saying “that’s my son”, and I want you to be able to say that both in my presence and away from me. You know how when after Jesus was baptized the heavens opened and the voice said “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased…”? I want that.

You are a good man, and you have done your best to be a good father. May God bless you and grant you both the life and health to reap the fruits of your travails. May your dreams come true, and may you always be happy.

Happy Father’s Day daddy. I love you.

image

The Butterfly Effect II: And Ajalon

Hello guys. I know everyone’s been gearing up for the sequel to @tolubablo’s Gibeon so without much ado, let’s get to it! I did my best to create the “ripple effect” and I do hope you enjoy it. If you haven’t read the back story, Gibeon, just click here, and enjoy!

***************************

The prophets were gathered round King Nur-Adad’s throne. Their hooded figures formed a semi-circle round the king with the chief prophet in the centre, directly facing King Nur-Adad. The message from the gods had always been delivered by the oldest prophet whose thin voice could barely be heard.

“My lord, we bring you news from the gods. It would seem that Shapshu, our most beautiful sun goddess, began her descent into Sheol yesterday but her ascent to our sky has been halted on Ba’al’s command. The people of Ajalon have incurred Ba’al’s wrath by dishonouring him. My lord, as custom demands, the king must sacrifice the first-born of his loins to the gods, but your love for your daughter has blinded you to the needs of your people. The gods’ wishes must be met, else nights will fill our days and our fields will fail for lack of the sun’s warmth.”

The king glared at the frail-looking prophet. He could have had him killed with a flick of his thumb, but fear of his people held him back. He was a pragmatic man, and though he might have believed that the gods were responsible for the longer hours of darkness, he had sent messengers to Beth-Horon and Gibeon to find out if Ajalon was the only place afflicted by the stalled moon. But the messengers had not returned and his people had begun to panic, so he had called for the prophets. He regretted that decision now.

The prophet’s voice cut into his reverie.

“My lord, we must hasten to please Ba’al. Let the people of Ajalon meet at the temple to drink to Ba’al. They must bring their offerings of silver and gold to his feet. The Qadishtu are being prepared for the crowd; we will please the gods with music, merriment and coition. The king must remember that we are simply preparing the ground for his ultimate sacrifice. Princess Intisaar must pass through the flames of Ba’al. ”

“Enough!”

The king’s stern command reverberated through the castle. His heart had constricted at the mention of his daughter’s name, but his face had not betrayed his pain. He wore a stoic mask, as was required of him as king.  He looked at the chief prophet and gave a subtle nod. In the quiet manner they came, the prophets filed out of the room. Their message had been delivered, their counsel had been heeded.

 ***************************

“Count yourself honoured, my child for it is not every day that you get the chance to die for your people. Think about how pleased Ba’al would be when he sees you.”

Intisaar looked at her mother with vacant eyes. She had felt no pain when she heard about her father’s decision, only numbness. They were very alike, her father and her; practical, and pragmatic. Of course, like her father, she kept her thoughts about the gods to herself. She knew her father had been arm-twisted to make this decision but this knowledge did not lessen the bitterness she felt. Ba’al was a depraved hedonist, a selfish god that demanded from his people but never gave anything in return. She hated him and hated her people for all they did to please him. The festivals were always filled with lewd men full of wine and loud music. During the worship, she fled to her chambers to block out the music and the raucous laughter but most of all, the moans of pleasure that filled the air as men and women copulated with the Qadishtu. She saw depravity where her people saw worship, she knew she could die for that, and would have gone unafraid then. But now, she did not wish to die, not for Ba’al. If Ba’al wanted her dead, she would seek a god who sought her alive. Her thoughts went to the god of the Israelites. She had heard of this distant god who parted seas and fought for his people. She sought to plead with him to save her life but she did not know how to summon him. It seemed there was nothing but ill-luck for her.

Outside, the moon shone in the midst of the sky. Children wove in and out of their mother’s petticoats, restless from too much sleep. Groups of men and women were huddled in corners, talking about the long overdue dawn. Like half-empty wineskins, arguments were tossed back and forth. Some thought Yarikh, the moon god, had fallen asleep and forgotten to come down his perch. Others believed, Shapshu had  given in to her feminine whims, and refused to ascend to the East. The different arguments weaved into each other, melding as one and separating to give rise to a fistful of fights and harsh words. Despair and fear had combined to infest the hearts of men and panic ruled in the valley of Ajalon. But neither all the despair of the men nor the quiet weeping of the women could make the moon budge from its position in the sky.

Intisaar looked in the mirror, a beautiful woman looked back. Her chambermaids had done a good job; they had made her beautiful for Ba’al. Several tendrils of her thick black hair escaped the silver brooch to frame her face. Black kohl accentuated her eyes, making them appear deep and raven-like. Her fingers traced her lips, they were full, blood-red and still throbbed from the bee sting. Purple robes flowed to her ankle and the gold trimmings near her arms and neck, made her skin seem whiter than it was. She inhaled deeply; myrrh and henna filling her lungs. Much had been done to prepare her for death; for Ba’al. Unshed tears and her proximity to death loosened her tongue, as the words fell so did her tears.

Cursed be the gods of my people! You remain far away, insouciantly watching us. You have turned your ear away at this time of need. If I be cursed, then so be itbut I spit on you Ba’al. You are a god of no repute. I call on the god of the Israelites, he who dried up the Jordan. Send me a sign; save me from death for I am yet young and have not suckled any child. I vow to you, if you save me, I will worship you till I die.

She looked in the mirror, black lines ran down her eyes. The kohl had come undone, revealing what had always been – she was never beautiful to behold.

***************************

The high place of Ajalon was bustling with activity. Wineskins passed from hand to hand, their contents intoxicating man and woman alike. Ballads extoling Ba’al were sung to eight-stringed lyres. The temple sanctuary was a moving canvas of naked bodies. Young and old; men and women discarded their vestures and joined with the Qadishtu to appease Ba’al.

The king looked out from his carriage. Liquor, music and coition abounded. Why was this not sufficient for the Ba’al? Must he require the spilling of his beloved daughter’s blood? Sadness gripped the vestments of the king’s heart and held fast. In anguish, the king looked up to the sky and like a mad man began mumbling; pleading with the moon to move.

Intisaar stepped out. The god of the Israelites was naught. She was to die, as a roasted pig. She clutched at her robes as her heart trembled with fear.

There was a stirring outside, the pitch of the music was dwindling and replaced by an excited rise in voices. She moved to remove her veil but her mother’s handheld hers. A few moments later her mother’s voice, tinged with surprise and joy, reached out to her.

“Dawn breaks my dear child. The sun is rising! Ba’al has heard us.”

In some distant part of her mind, Intisaar could hear mother calling to her chambermaids. She felt faint. Had Ba’al saved her? She had prepared herself so fiercely for death that when she realised she was to live, tears ran down her face. Gratitude welled up in her heart. She wanted to thank her benefactor, tell the gods how grateful she was. But which god was responsible for her fortune? Ba’al? The god of the Israelites?

She was led back to her chambers by shaking hands. She lifted her veil then and looked out the window. The sun indeed was rising. Amidst tears, a smile grew across her lips. Her heart took on a lightness and she knew her life would never be the same again.

As the day wore on,her father’s messengers brought word to the king. They told the tale of Ki-Jearim and his defeated army, of hailstones and blinded horses. They spoke of Joshua, son of Nun, who spoke to the sun and moon- Sun, stand still in Gibeon. Moon stay in the valley of Ajalon, until we defeat our enemies.

She knew the god of the Israelites was mighty but he had moved the moon because the battle had ended, and not because he wanted to save her. She hadn’t been saved by any god, but by luck.

“Are you alive or not? You asked for a sign, therefore, look and believe.”

She turned, looking for the person who spoke, but she was alone. She walked to the mirror, but instead of her face, she saw fiery horses riding on parted seas, and the moon and the sun were one. She knew then, the harbinger of her fortune.