Short African Story
Bibi finally succumbed to his charms and her emotions and chose to be Bwana’s wife and mother of his children. Before long, 3 beautiful daughters were born to Bibi and Bwana.Bwana is excited but anxious, his mother,Nyanya should have heard the word. As expected Nyanya makes an unannounced visit to bless her new grandchild, but she is not amused that Bibi has not given Bwana any sons yet. She is quick to give names that should be given to the new arrival and besieges Bwana to get another wife more ‘fertile’ than Bibi.
Nyanya bids them goodbye a month later, a scornful smile for Bibi as she reminds her not to put too much salt in the food next time and to make sure that Bwana and the children have dinner by 9 o’clock. Bwana sees his mother off and returns at 3 am reeking of illicit brew, bangs the door and storms in demanding his dinner which he picks on and collapses in bed. Bibi puts the dishes away and goes to bed too, but as she starts to drift off to sleep Bwana awakes and demands for his conjugal rights. He reminds her how many cows and sheep he gave her father and updates her on the latest beauties in the village that he could replace her with in a blink.
As Bibi collects firewood she wondered if she had wronged the gods, why they cursed her with 3 girls and no boy. She had heard that Nyanya would be coming to visit again, this time round with a special guest. She continues to wonder why lately she felt pain whenever she visited the toilet, the gods must not really like her!
Bibi’s neighbour and friend, Rafiki has enlightened her that she has an STD and has to visit the local dispensary. She rises early the next morning to go to the dispensary, she has to be back early, Nyanya arrives today and everything needs to be in order.
True to the word Nyanya arrives, accompanied by a shy looking young girl, Bibi is hopeful and grateful that Nyanya has brought her someone to help with the chores. She serves the midday meal, carefully prepared, not too much salt she hopes. The nurse at the dispensary had told her to give the medicine to her husband too; she carefully drops 2 pills in Bwana’s cup of milk, scared that if she mentions her visit to the dispensary she would be accused of brining diseases to the family. She silently prays that Bwana will not infect her again, how painful.
Bibi is asked to show Kadogo (the girl Nyanya came with) around, while Bwana has a long talk with his mother. On their return from the river, Nyanya announces that she will be leaving the next day but will leave Kadogo behind.
It is now 2 months since Nyanya brought Kadogo.Bibi remembers the night of the day Nyanya left, she had waited the whole night for Bwana to join her in bed but in vain. The next time she had seen him was the next morning barking at her to bring his breakfast. He had then asked Kadogo to join them for breakfast and announced that Kadogo had been ‘sent’ to him by the elders back home as his second wife. The elders needed Bwana’s late dad, Babu to be renamed and Bibi had ‘refused’ to bring forth sons.Bwana demands that she gives Kadogo full cooperation.
Now as Bibi is walking to the market, she is concerned that Kadogo has not been assisting around the house lately, she has been really sick and she can’t eat anything because she vomits soon after. She wonders if she should tell Bwana, he is been coming home very late lately and they rarely talk. Her always enlightened neighbour Rafiki yet again advices her to take Kadogo to the dispensary. The next day as Kadogo is being attended to by the nurse; Rafiki pulls Bibi outside the dispensary and scolds her for being too stupid to notice that Kadogo is pregnant.”Kadogo is going to give Bwana a son and you’ll be history”,Rafiki smirks “you have to do something, you need to seduce him and get pregnant too”
It s been over a month now since Bwana visited her bed, but she remembers that before they had left the dispensary,Rafiki had slipped something into her hands telling her that it was a special herb she should stir into Bwana’s porridge and he would visit her bed more often. Its dinner time and Bwana is excited that Kadogo is pregnant and he might be getting a son soon, the fellow men in the village would stop mocking him. Later in the night Bibi waits in her bed, 'did the special herb work?’ she wonders, she suddenly feels Bwana joining her in bed, ten minutes later he leaves for Kadogo’s bed.'at least he visited’ Bibi sighs and drifts off to sleep.
Bibi is happy, the gods have been smiling her way lately. It is 8 months later.Nyanya is visiting again, this time round because both of her son’s wives are expecting babies. She arrives with three elderly women.Bwana’s family grows rapidly, first its Kadogo,she gives birth to a health baby girl, and three weeks later Bibi gets 2 boys, celebrations are in order.
Its two years later.Bwana has been good to Bibi, he even hired a young man, Kijana to help with the shamba work. Its 2 good years,Bwana has not hit her like he used to and though he still drinks he cares about the well being of his children, now a pack of six, her 3 girls and 2 boys, and Kadogo’s girl. It is Kadogo that Bibi is concerned about. She has been avoiding Bibi a lot lately, choosing to help Kijana at the shamba almost everyday.One night when Bwana was out drinking ,Bibi thought she saw Kadogo leaving Kijana’s hut and quietly sneaking into her hut.
Bibi has also joined a women’s group that meets once every week to discuss issues that affected the women in the village.One day as they walked home from the meeting, Rafiki tells her that there is talk that the little bump on Kadogo’s stomach is Kijana’s and not Bwana’s.Bibi thinks that that must explain anxiety and mood swings lately, and Kijana has been walking with an extra bounce in his stride, a smile always glued on his face.Bwana is totally clueless, he has been busy since he was appointed the area chief 2 months ago, there is even pressure on him to get himself a third wife ,and the village elders have been ‘generous’ with their daughters.
Bwana’s status in the village is further elevated when Kadogo gives birth to a son months later.Kadogo is now getting a lot of attention from Bwana, he has even told her that she does not have to help Kijana at the shamba anymore, and he is planning to replace Kijana with someone else.Bwana has not been happy with Kijana’s work, he has been very weak lately, he get tired quickly and has a cough that has not gone away in months. He has concluded that Kijana is lazy, so he fires him and replaces him.
Time flies by, it is another 3 years down the line.Bwana is growing older, so are his 7 children. He is scared he is losing his youth, his body is getting weaker and he does not understand why he sweats even during cold nights.Nyanya has just visited, brought some medicine for her son who has been feeling unwell, she scolds Bibi and Kadogo for not feeding his son well, he has grown very thin.
Bibi is troubled;Rafiki mentioned that Bwana is showing symptoms of that strange disease a doctor had discussed with the women at the weekly meeting. Should she tell Nyanya? Maybe not, she had overheard Nyanya telling Bwana that she and Kadogo were growing old and he should get a younger wife to take better care of him.
Bwana is now devastated, he is really sick and Nyanya’s herbs are not helping. He believes the gods must be angry at him.”it must be because of Siri,the woman in the next village who bore him 4 sons and has been secretly visiting for the last 6 months”….he ponders,”or maybe his forefathers are not happy that he has only 7 children, they all want to be renamed”…he sighs on realization that he actually has 15 children,7 with his two wives,4 with Siri,and Shida and Taabu each had 2 daughters.Nyanya and Bwana had been secretive about Shida and Taabu,the 2 women Bwana had married in his youth before he met Bibi,he had had to cast them away because they were not blessed with good ‘seeds’ and could not bear him sons. He remembers all this amidst his coughs, which he now notices have blood spots.
The village is in mourning 6 months later, they have lost their area chief to the strange disease.Bwana’s homestead is buzzing with activity, the head of the home is being buried today. A cow has been slaughtered; Bibi and Kadogo are seated next to the coffin weeping, as is required of widows to do at their husbands’ funeral. As Bibi wipes tears from her eyes, she notices than Kadogo has grown very thin lately and she has strange looking rashes on her skin, she looks away in despair, she knows it will not be long before Kadogo joins Bwana.Her thoughts are quickly interrupted by Rafiki who calls her to the side. As always, Rafiki has the juiciest stories of the drama in the village….but Rafiki must be given credit, she is quite enlightened and had even convinced Bibi to visit the dispensary to get tested for the strange disease Bwana had died of, thank God the nurse had told her she was ‘clean’. Now as Rafiki pulled her to the side she had a worried expression on her face.Rafiki quickly tells Bibi that there is a rumour going round amongst the mourners that there are 3 women claiming to have Bwana’s children.Bibi cannot stomach this and goes back to her sit next to Kadogo, she will deal with the rumour later, for now she will sit and mourn her husband.
Its 2 weeks later, Bibi is seated in the women’s meeting, sorrow is evident on her face, a tear rolls down her cheek as she tells her friend goodbye. That was the last time she would be joining them. She goes on to inform them that she will be moving to the next village. She had learnt this a week ago when Nyanya had called a family meeting. In attendance were Nyanya’s other children, she and Kadogo. At the corner,3 women had sat quietly, she later learnt that the older two were Shida and Taabu,and the younger one was Siri,true to the rumours they had 8 of Bwana’s children amongst them.Nyanya had been quick to announce the way forward now that Bwana was dead.Bwana’s wealth was distributed among his 2 elder brothers and 1 younger one.Bibi and Kadogo had been told to accompany Katumbo,Bwana’s eldest brother, to his homestead after the meeting.Shida and Taabu were to accompany the other elder brother, and Siri the younger brother.
As Bibi finished narrating, she looked at the faces of her fellow women, and for the first time noticed they were full of wrinkles, she knew each line had a story behind it, just as is the case with the now visible folds on her forehead. She bid them goodbye and left the meeting, she had to go prepare the children for the big move to the next village, both hers and Kadogo’s, who had now been reduced to a walking skeleton.
As she strode the dusty rode,Rafiki by her side, they were both quiet, lost in deep thought;Rafiki of sadness of losing her best friend,Bibi of fear of what awaited her in her new life with her new husband,Katumbo.They strode on, winds blowing their dresses, their eyes a far distant away………