Saturday, June 29, 2024

On Life and Living: A Travelogue of Sad Truths

Photo Credit: Frederik Trovatten


Once upon a time, a young city girl travelled with her uncle on a distant journey. On their way, they passed through a rural area that had such profound impact on her that it changed the way she saw things. She confided in me, just as I intend to confide in you. If you don't mind a few minutes of scrolling, I will tell you this girl's story - in a first person point of view. 

And If you promise not to ask me for her identity or what became of her, I will let you make of this story whatever you wish. Hopefully, some day, she will forgive me for spilling. 

This story is in twofold. This is the first. 


Once I traveled with my uncle to pay a visit. We passed a remote town, the most remote I have ever seen. For each village we drove past, there were children waving to the car rear, running after us, eager to display their new greeting skills. And their colourful pants. One had even somersaulted. I don't know which shocked me most. The ease with which he twisted his body. Or the speed at which he could have broken a neck. 

When we stopped to rest, I stayed out to watch them play. They played in groups. A few times I could make out the older ones, those ones that would get punished for other's misdeeds. Their sense of responsibility set them apart. Other times, I am able to single out the siblings. A collection of similar genes skirting around each other. Enemies one second and friends the next. It reminded me of necessary evils one cannot do without. They stayed close enough to keep an eye and yet far enough to play with their friends. 

Photo Credit: Muhammad-taha Ibrahim

I studied them closely, marking the lines of similarities and differentiating the variances. I liked the variances more. The difference a new chromosome offered. The uniqueness of each gene recombination. I marveled at God's creativity. How children could look so similar without actually being the same. 

They made a fine scene. Beautiful, in fact. I indulged myself. I liked the unholy combination of their shameless innocence and recklessness. Right here, ignorant of us, the rest of the world, they looked so complete. At peace and one with nature. I envied them. Almost. Someday, they will join us in the fierce competition for scarce resources and other limited opportunities. By no fault of theirs, they may be limited by the circumstances of their birth. And their environment will not help.  

Photo Credit: Sylvia Szekely
It made me ask, 'why do some people have to be victims of their environment? Why do some people have to be limited by the circumstances of their birth? Why does poverty have to be generational?’

I wish I had stopped there. But, I didn't. ‘Why wasn't everyone born into an equal leveling ground? Instead, some have to work harder than others. Why are some born with a silver spoon? Another ‘some’ with golden ones. And others born to clean them? Why are most born with no spoon at all?’

I heard an answer. I hated it. It didn't make sense.  Before you tell me the sky is wide enough for all of us, I rather you answer why there is only one richest man. Why my class has just one slot for the first position. Why the peak has to be narrow to be called a peak. Why isn't it wide, like this sky? 

Photo Credit: Hennie Stander

Looking back now, I wish I stopped my wandering. Instead, I kept looking. And wondering. I was closer to the playground now. They were no longer a mass of moving flesh. My God! There were so many. God fulfilled his promise to Abraham in this village. You will have many children. Like the sands of the sea. And the stars in the sky. 

‘Why did they have so many,’ I asked my uncle. 

Not much a talker, he gave a straight reply. ‘They have just enough.’

I snorted. ‘They can't possibly afford all of their school fees. What about health care and other cares?’

'Enough is subjective, my dear. You judge them based on yours. For them, enough is simple. Shelter. Food. Clothing.'

There were huts for shelter, I noticed. Communal living meant fewer huts. Fewer huts meant larger compounds. 

‘They are farmers,’ my uncle said as if reading my thoughts. ‘More children meant more hands. More hands meant more food. It also meant many hands to repair the thatch hut in rainy seasons. Again, they are closer to nature here, far away from our pollution and processed food, the chances of falling sick are lower. Not zero. But lower.’

Photo Credit: Documerica

‘That is just one way of looking at it,’ uncle. ‘There is still the clothing part. Children this many surely need good clothes.’

‘So is yours too,’ dear. ‘Just one way of looking at it. I doubt farmers need a lot of clothes. They will probably find it a nuisance. Even their Children would agree with me,’ he added unnecessarily. Like I could not make out their pants. No one bothered for the toddlers. Most were naked.

‘See? Life gave us just enough,’ my dear. ‘But we have a way of making life complex. Now we have to go to school to understand how the complexity of this new environment works. We spend years in it trying to understand how we can adapt this new environment to serve us better. We put our own roadblocks and then complain when we move slowly.’

I agreed with him. Almost. 

It was too early to admit defeat. So I pressed. ‘If enough is subjective. Everyone can't have the same enough. There must be a few persons who want more. People who want to learn the complexity of the modern society. Surely, one of them will be swayed by the temptations of the city. He will leave and find himself hindered by these circumstances. Do you not find it unfair for them, uncle?’

Photo Credit: Abubakar Balogun 

My uncle paused to think about it, this new piece of information. I felt him trying to fit it into his head like a puzzle. A choicy morsel of meat he could not digest however hard he chewed. I smiled at my triumph. ‘Surely, you agree with me that life is unfair to them? Yes?’

‘Is life not unfair to you too,’ my dear?  ‘Do you not want more too? An Ivy League. A Posh car. Three-course meals. Designer clothes. A world tour. Things other children have been born into. Things they can get without breaking a sweat. A birthright. Yet, here you are, dreaming and working.’ 

Life is indeed unfair. It is unfair to them. To you. To everyone who dreams to be more. Worse still, it did not place us all at the same starting line. I know. It feels like cheating. But if you focus on the race. And on the win, it will not matter where your starting line is. You will put in the work. You will train your body to endure more. You will force it to run faster. To cover long distances in less time. To be better. In the end, all that matter is that you reached your end line. 

Some are born great. Some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust on them - William Shakespeare

To be continued.

To every Rose that grew from Concrete; Blossom!

3 Comentários:

  1. Modest, apt, comely and mesmerizing. Words soft like a fledgeling set on harnessing the meaning of existence. Dearest Annette— "Oneday you'll be the shape of your dreams."

  2. Words so smooth... Another great read Annette 🤍

  3. The best thing I've read in a long while.

    Thank you for being able to weave these words together