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Bari-Vule

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Photo Credit- Unicef

 

Phew. I miss the days when I wrote like this. It wasn’t that very long ago either. Found this in my email drafts where most of my unfinished tales hide. Enjoy.

 

Papa told me to tell everyone to call me Mary when we got to Lagos.

“But why Papa?” I asked, folding my tiny, frail body into his thick, indestructible one as the bus ferrying us from Ogoni to Lagos bumped up and down roads riddled with potholes.

There was a faraway look in his eyes when he answered me.

‘It will just make everything easier,’ He said simply.

I wanted to ask what easier meant but I was 7 years old, with a lifetime of unanswered questions behind and ahead of me so I said nothing and let the nest my father had carved out for me in his arms lull me to sleep.

A week later, I started school at Lagos Island Grammar School.

“What is your name?” A dark-skinned girl with plaited hair in blue ribbons asked me during lunch time.

I liked the way her voice sang out like the voice of the river near where I was born so I forgot what Papa said and started to tell her

‘Ba…’

Just then, our teacher, Mrs. Omoyemi sighted us and scolded “No talking while eating Mary!”

The girl with blue ribbons’ told me later that her name Imole. It meant ‘dawn, the first light of the day’, she said. I told her I didn’t know what Mary meant.

“That is okay,” She replied wisely, “Not every name needs a meaning. You can give it your own meaning.”

It was 1967. The war that had made my family fugitives was over but the battle for my identity had just begun and would rage long and hard for most of my life.

No one would call me by my first name again until one rainy morning, as I descended from the jeep that had returned me to the land of by birth. Everything had changed except for the sadness that had accompanied our flight thirty something years ago. The sadness was a shroud determined to stay with the land, its people, no matter where they went. It had found me even in Scranton, New Jersey.

“Bari-Vule,” Uncle Ajata greeted warmly as my feet touched the soil of my fatherland, as if it had not been more than thirty years he last set eyes on me, “Welcome home my daughter.”

“My name is Mary,” I said quietly to the man that stood resolutely upright, refusing to acknowledge the walking stick he needed to take every step.

He smiled gently, and let the walking stick fall so he could gather me in arms that had once seemed indestructible like my father but now so frail.

“Bari-vule,” He whispered over and over again in my hair as the tears fell for the first time since I got the news that Papa died.

 

Song of the day: United Pursuit – Never Going Back

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