MY CULTURE, MY SORROW
Finding herself on the horns of a dilemma, pushed to the wall by her present condition, and tempted to take the painful path, Egwi regretted having parents from there and being born in that culture.
She has been married for over ten years without given birth to any child. Although to Ebeka, her husband, it was not a serious issue but to her in-laws, it was really a war, which made her family and that of her husband to be in a battle of wits. The wars from both families were really weighing on her but she could not do otherwise. She had tried everything possible to remedy the situation as if the fault was hers but all her efforts proved abortive.
This was her condition for nine years since she came into that family. Ebeka being a man of understanding and friendly in nature, he followed the situation in a diplomatic way. However, to his mother, he was seen as nothing but a coward and a shameless he-goat. His mother really needed children to be called her grandchildren but nature seemed to be unfavourable to her. She did all she could to send Egwi out and get for her son another wife that could give her a grandchild but to no avail. She was fighting an uphill battle. Her son Ebeka stood firm and opposed her in all direction, and this continued for a very long period.
Finally, the cry of a child was heard in the house of Ebeka. Lo and behold, a child has been born to him. It was a thing of joy and called for celebration in both families, but it turned out to be the contrary for many especially Ebeka’s mother. Now the problem was neither the issue of giving birth to a child nor not having a child, but it was an issue of not having a male child. In Egwi’s culture, the males are more valuable and important than the females. The males are seen as a blessing from God and from the gods of the land most especially when it is the first child of a family. However, Egwi was happy that at last, she now had a child but the pain and terrible moments she went through before that time left resentment in her and the present reaction of her mother-in-law was making her condition worse.
Her family members on several occasions had pleaded with her to return home in peace if she could no more bear the crosses but she was obdurate, doing all what she could to bring peace to her broken and troubled home. A year after she gave birth, her husband died.
The cause of her husband’s death was like a mystery, many could not tell what really led to his demise. However, the truth of the story was that, he died out of frustration. Many were pointing fingers at his grandmother while some were accusing Egwi. Egwi was made to pass through many terrible conditions and traditional rites, which left her almost half dead if not for the intervention of her people. She did all they asked her to do just to prove that she was innocent and not guilty of the crime she was accused of. She mourned for her husband for six months.
Following the culture of her people, she was to become the wife of her late husband’s brother. To this, she refused categorically because of fear of her mother-in-law who had total control of her son, her late husband’s brother even though by then the young man in question was not married. This act infuriated her mother-in-law and from that very moment, she vowed to do everything beyond her reach to make sure that Egwi would not enter her family again.
Her family and that of her husband had to meet and dialogue in order to proffer solution to the problem. The meeting was serious and challenging in nature. Although Egwi’s family said what they had in mind but that of her late husband’s family dominated. After much deliberation, they asked Egwi to either become the wife of her late husband’s brother as tradition demands or return to her family with her child, that whenever they are ready, they would come for the child. That was how the meeting was brought to conclusion.
The tension and pressure were heavy on her. She found herself on her wits’ end. All those she asked for help were not promising because that was the tradition of her land even though there was a little exaggeration from her husband’s family based on the final decision. Each day for her in her late husband’s house was like a thousand years in hell. After three weeks, she made her up to return to her family with her daughter. Finally, her late husband’s brother took every property that were belongs to his brother. Not even a pin was given to her from her late husband’s property because the tradition had no provision for that.
Being someone from a very poor family, Egwi had to struggle to make ends meet. The load was more on her now. At home, she had to be taken care of her mother and her daughter. She engaged herself in many manual and tedious works. What she was earning was like a drop of water in an ocean compare to her financial problems. She used to work all day under sun and rain just for her to have something for herself, her daughter and her mother. The pain, depression and frustration in her were all over her, visible on those parts of her body that her clothes as a woman could not cover while her wrapper showed the whole world how skinny she had become. Life continued like this with her until one fateful day she told her family that she would like to go and stay in the city in search of greener pastures.
Through the help of one of her neighbours, she finally went to the city. Life in the city was like a corner in the hell. It was her first time. She found it difficult to adapt initially. Accommodation was a serious problem until she finally got a place. Rain, sun and cold became like her adversary due to the nature of her house. Many times, Nene her daughter used to fall sick due to cold, and on several occasions, rainwater had driven them from their house. In all these, the poor widow never gave up. She strongly believed that one day God would see her through and vindicate her.
After two years in the city, life started smiling at her. She was able to find a better place to live, paying her house rent from the little profit she was making in hawking groundnuts and sachet-water. She was sincerely concerned about her daughter’s education but the financial demand was an obstacle for her. Apart from that, she needed someone to be close to her due to the nature of her business.
At a very tender age, Nene was already introduced into her mother’s business. Apart from hawking groundnuts and sachet-water, she used to hawk other foodstuff according to season. Initially she was not comfortable seeing her daughter hawking at that age but when she consulted other women to hear their own point of view, the answers she got were in favour of what she was doing. The only difference was that other children used to help their parents in hawking their wares after school but hers was yet to start.
One morning, the poor widow went to a nearby government primary school to know what were the criteria needed to enrol a child. The requirements were things she could afford with her little earnings. The good news was given to Nene that very day in the evening during supper. She was excited that soon, she would join her friends to be going to school. With the happiness that she would start school, she became more active and engaged in her hawking, making more sales for her mother. Her mother was excited about it and it was a kind of consolation to her. On several occasions, Nene had asked her mother about her father’s whereabouts but her mother kept promising her that one day they would go to see him in their village.
A week before Nene would start school something terrible happened. Her mother received the greatest shock of her life one evening while she was preparing supper. The news was like a bomb when she was told that, her only and one child was found lying dead somewhere. She was demented. She screamed, tore her wrapper, and was rolling on the ground. She was half-naked. Suddenly, a woman ran to her, removed one of her own wrappers and tied it on Nene mother’s waist. A few minutes later, the corpse of Nene was brought to her house. Seeing the dead body of her daughter, she fainted instantly. Through the help of three young men, she was revived. They took her into her house and stayed close to her to avoid subsequent moves she might make that could be detrimental to her life.
The true story about Nene death was that while she was hawking along an isolated bushy area, she came across some young men, who pretended as if they wanted to buy her wares. Bending down to drop her tray on the ground, one of the young men held her on the waist, dragged her into the bush and there, they molested her and disappeared. She forced herself to stand and walk but she could not. She wept. She struggled with her last strength and succeeded pushing herself out of the bush, close to the road but there she gave up the ghost after passing through hell.
People sympathised with Egwi very well, seeing how nature and human beings have dealt with her mercilessly. The news of her daughter’s death reached her family in the village. They came and took the body of their daughter for burial. None of her late husband’s family member came for the burial of her daughter even while they were told of what happened. Nene was buried in her mother’s compound. On the day of Nene’s burial, many especially strangers who heard her experiences in life, sympathised with her and blamed her culture as the root cause of her problem. Egwi mourned her daughter for three months and decided to remain in her village and never returned to the city.