Life has a funny way of disagreeing with what you’ve planned. Sometimes you plan things the best way you can and everything just goes south. You may have all in order, set goals, followed every procedure, done everything how it’s supposed to be done, then bam! Everything gets muddled up, and all is reduced to shambles. Life is a school on its own. Life teaches you that which they never taught you in class. Fate. Fate makes you end up in dungeons you never wished to end up in, or castles you only dreamt of. One thing for sure is that we all are uncertain of our destiny. Life takes a twist and changes everything within seconds. It happens.
Isn’t it adorable how unpredictable life is? No one knows what tomorrow holds. No one knows what’s in store for them. Yes, you know that you’ll wake up early tomorrow and go to work, or the gym, or the bar, or go to shop for groceries at the store, that’s what you’ve planned. But you’re not sure that that will happen. Why? Because there’s only one super being who knows that. You’re just a man whose life can come to an end any minute. No one is certain about tomorrow. One thing that keeps us going is hope. Hope keeps starving men alive for days. Hope makes soldiers in the front line win battles.
I am the first son of my father. I was born thirty three years ago. Born into a humble family. Simple back ground. We never enjoyed luxuries, but never lacked basic needs. We always had that which man needed to survive. Food, shelter, clothing and education. My father, a stern disciplinarian; strict like a martinet adored learned men. He viewed education as a basic need. He believed every child had a right to education. As educated people helped bring development in the society. The educated folk in our community were well mannered and courteous. They were respected and looked at with envy and admiration by the little children. “You can rob off a man all the wealth he has acquired, and he’ll turn to be a pauper. But one thing you can never rob him off is the knowledge he has acquired in school. So a man can remain poor but not an idiot.” He always said that to emphasize on the importance of being schooled. That’s why none of my brothers joked in matters education. They had heard from papa over and over again, that education is one thing everyone needed.
We were six siblings. All boys. Sometimes my brothers and I wished we could have a sister, but then realized that it’s only God who could decide that. We loved each other to death, and were always there for each other. “Love should thrive among you boys.” My father’s words. “No one can ever come to create enmity within you if you spread love among yourselves. Always help each other too.” He would go on.
Growing up with five other boys wasn’t always smooth. Imagine a shed with six bulls. Almost impossible to fit all the bulls, right? Of course there were domestic quarrels among us like any other family. That, however didn’t mean that we hated each other. I remember there was this one time when my parents had both gone away for a ceremony, and we had been left on our own. Some argument ensued between our third born and the last born that it turned physical. Our last born, Kalu, who was a little bit heavily built than our third born, hit the third born, Boni with a sharp rock that Boni almost lost his left eye. He was bleeding profusely, and wailing helplessly. Everyone else wasn’t sure of what to do. Our parents not being there, I had to wear the parent tag and intervene between my brothers. I warned Kalu who then went and hid in the plantation. We cleaned Boni’s wound and he went to get some rest. Kalu knowing that he would be in hot soup once my parents came back, went into hiding for close to a week. Days later, a neighbor had spotted him near the river and reported to us. My father and I then went and picked him. He looked shabby and malnourished when we found him. He had been starving. “Why did you do that?” Father queried him about fighting Boni. “I’m sorry..” Kalu tried to explain. “You look pathetic.” I told Kalu as we headed home.
“What had you been feeding on?”
“Wild fruits and sugarcane I had been getting from peoples farms.”
“You know that’s wrong, right?” I said.
As kids, father often caned us as a way of disciplining us. Kalu’s mistake would bring about some beating, and knowing that made him run away in fright. We reached the homestead and father and Kalu headed to the house as I remained outside. “Prepare your ass for some hot whooping.” I whispered to Kalu as they enterd the house. Not that he didn’t know he was about to be caned, I just felt like reminding him one more time, so next time he thought of misbehaving, he would keep in mind that some hot canes would be administered on his butt.
My best memories happen to be during my childhood. I didn’t have everything I wanted, but father and mother ensured we had everything we needed. I was the happiest as a child. I had been born into a happy and loving family. I got educated till the level where father could afford. A level not many in our community were lucky enough to reach. I was happy with what life had offered. I had high hopes for the future, and was happy as a king to face each new day. Then one day something horrid happened. Something that changed my perspective of life, something that altered my view of life. Fate. Fate decided that I would spend most of the days in this world grieving. That I would accept sorrow as part of me, mourning for the rest of my life. Fate decided that I would fall down, and struggle to pick myself up, then fall severally and stay down. It resolved to make me miserable, and I unfortunately fell for that, and ended up miserable. Fate made me loathe being a man. I had thought I was strong as an ox, but the events of that particular day revealed the weakness in me. Fate decided my destiny, and decided that I would spend more hours in my life sad, and not happy like inspirational books intend us to be. Fate made me angry at everything. My anger was so fatal I lost my grip. Could there been a sabbatical in life, I could have gladly taken that. And be happy wherever I could be.
World over, tragedies occur. Catastrophes and misfortunes claim scores of lives, and leave men paralyzed, hopeless and helpless as a kitten clinging on a weak branch. Disasters occur at home and public places. Skyscrapers fall, suicide bombers board planes, people get stabbed with knives in kitchens and die. The world is not a safe place. People pray for peace but a few men start wars and leave others homeless and orphans. Others are left with permanent scars on their bodies and in their hearts like me. The events of that fateful day left unending scars in my soul. They are forever reminded of the tragedies they went through. Life.
I would write a book about my tales and experiences but I lack the right words. Should I say life is unjust? Was my birth damned? Do I have a purpose in this world? If life is unfair, why are some people so happy with their lives? Or are they happy that others are suffering? What are the right words one can use to describe how disappointing life can be?
I had taken a stroll with my father down the river. It was a quiet place where one could often go and meditate. My father loved strolling down the river. I loved that too. Guess I had picked that habit from him. Being the first son, we would discuss anything I needed to know. He told me about being responsible as my younger siblings looked up to me. I would listen keenly to his nuggets of wisdom, as I knew I could need the wisdom in my future. We talked a lot; Mentioned any subject we could think of in this world. It helped me in my reasoning and judgment in my daily life. My father, an erudite middle aged and prudent man never lacked something to discuss with me. I admired his rational way of doing things, his reasoning was logical. One would rarely fault his actions. I tried to use the knowledge installed in me by my father.
“Papa!!” We heard a voice shout from behind. “Papa! Papa!” The voice went again then died. Father and I looked behind. It was the voice of some teenage boy in our neighborhood that was calling. The boy had passed out on the ground when we got to him. He had been struggling to call us as he ran towards us. ‘Papa’ is a word men in our community are called. One doesn’t have to be your biological father for you to call him papa. It is a word used by teenagers and young adults when referring to middle aged and old men, as a sign of respect. “Papa! Look”. Wheezing, he said to us as he pointed up. There was a cloud of smoke in the air. We could see he had been struggling to breathe.