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(6): An Indelible Scar

This is a short-story culled from my novel, A Weird Hope (2012). It was, again, published in  Voices from the Savannah (2010), an anthology of the National Association of Language and Literary Studies, Bayero University, Kano Chapter, vol. 3. It's told to a girl, Shahada by her nanny, Gwaggo. The story is about one of the latter’s peer’s eventual marital life.

GWAGGO CLEARED her throat—emulating her master's (Shahada’s father) habit. “The story began when we were in our early youth, now about five decades ago. Surely I won't use her right name because she still lives; thus, let me call her Ummi, as the house-hold name in the Hausa communities, was betrothed to a young man called Audu. “Audu?” she tried to recall the exact name. “Yes Audu.” The gentleman was a common farmer like his father who was also a great scholar in our village. One day, a fortnight to their wedding, one of the eminent wealthy men living in the village heard about it through one of his informers. He said he would marry her by all means.

Ummi was a very pretty, elegant girl, but her parents were incredibly poor. Thus, as soon as this opulent idol came in her life, Audu's story was completely forgotten. Subsequently, people started criticizing the parents of Ummi over
their ruthless decision to give their daughter's hand in marriage for a worldly thing, not to her initial fiancé, who was poor. The damnedest thing is that Basara, the illegitimate husband-to-be of Ummi, was wonderfully a generous man to the people of Shanya, particularly the elders of the village. Therefore, nobody thought of making a single reproachful expression on that; thinking it wasn't his inclination but her parent bidding in order to get a source of income. Eventually, if you were in his house, the story had a transcendental dichotomy.

To cap the story short, Ummi was at the end married to Basara. She was, in the house, a third wife and callowest one, so she was mercilessly treated like a house-girl by the other wives. She spent a few weeks in such hardship and was later divorced as a result of the untrue allegation, claiming she had been made pregnant already by someone before the wedding.

“Hear me,” he said horribly. “I don't like any bastard child in my house. Take your dirty body and leave my house immediately.”

Ummi was at first impassive, trying to collect her thought together because what was happening was beyond her. She, realizing where her outraged husband was heading to, then looked outright miserable. All the charm was no more on her face, neither was there any on her body. She looked a different person due to shock and fear.

“Alhaji,” she said, hiding his real name for the saved honour, which is the common practice of Hausa wives to show respect to their husband, “Wallahi it’s yours, not anybody's,” she wretchedly and tearfully said.

“No! Immediately pack your ratty belongings and leave my house before I returned.”

“Oh--Alhaji--Please.” She held the edge of his big gown (Babbar Riga) tearfully, begging.

He, without a single glance at her, went out harshly, pushing her back disdainfully. “Stupid!” he roared. It was a usual business to him.

Basara was, after Ummi had returned home, called by her elders. He honoured the invitation and came, but repeated what he said to her before.

“Alhaji Basara,” said one of her folks in a pitiful sensation, “she is supposed to get pregnancy. Two months are not two days. Even in a day, a wife could be made pregnant by her husband, isn't it?” he asked, looking at Basara. “Don't you know this?”

“I know, but I actually didn't mate her.” he grinned wildly, “How can I sleep with that little crazy girl! God forbid.”

“Watch your language, Alhaji!” warned one old man.

“Wallahi…he…did…several times,” cried Ummi from the back. The embattled Ummi felt no shame after such pronouncement, which she could not have said under normal circumstance.

“Ah!” he exploded, and stood up with mouth agape, “Am I a liar? Is it what you teach her, disrespecting people older than her and in such a company of aged faces? You chit!” he groaned, pointing at her.

“It’s okay…that's all…” said one of them in great despair.

The dramatic episode ended that way. They had no power of any sort to convince or let alone compel him to accept the pregnancy. They unwillingly gave up. And the stark truth is that: he was the owner of the pregnancy. He only fulfilled his desire as he had been discreetly doing.

At the end of the day, Ummi was left the victim; severely jeopardized, traumatized and disheartened and with a pregnancy that people regarded as illegitimate. She finally gave birth to a baby seen in the community as a bastard.

It was then that her parents realized their fault, regretted and wished they had not done that to her. What a pity?”

“Why didn't they sue that frigging ‘rake’ to court?” Shahada, absolutely startled by the story, asked.

“This is a nice idea. The magistrate courts we had then couldn't deal with that case. No proof. No one would agree with Ummi or her parent’s part of the story that Basara could do such an unworthy thing. The man was, to more aptly describe his perverted behaviour, a wolf in sheep’s clothes”.

“What about the district head, didn't he get the story?”

“Young girl…what was done couldn't be undone. So they, though the parents alone, at least to a certain extent, deserved it. Materialism.”

“May Allah compensate them.”


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