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Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Whip cracks! Suppressed tears… Whip cracks again. Outburst!  “Will you shut up?” The boy instinctively grabs his lips and holds them together with his left hand, while his right-hand works the pencil on paper. “When did you become this lazy? …Stupid boy! ” The man’s large frame moves from the lamp illuminated sitting room into the adjoining bedroom, to relax his whip and undress. The boy, seven years old, black and robust, sits by his study table in the sitting room, trying to figure out his arithmetic assignment. Tears roll down his cheeks unrestrained. He is trying with great effort to make out the numbers on the paper, and to finish the assignment before his father comes back. He would lift the lamp very close to each figure, try to make them out, look at the symbol close to it, and then the next figure and either add or subtract them with his fingers. “E..lee..veen… t..w…e…lveee” he went on till he was certain he had written the right figures. He slept off on the table, waiting for his father to come back and assess the work. The man had slept off in the room after making love to his wife, in an angry quest to produce another child “that will break Jimi’s spell on our family. He is a spirit child and wants all our attention for himself. Look at how lazy he has become.” His wife, a tiny frame under him as he thrusts angrily, grunts in submission to his nagging.
“Maybe he should try learning by other means.” Jimi’s class teacher, a slim elderly woman with sprinkles of Grey hair, tells his parents. The father is angered by this. “You are calling my son an imbecile?” Jimi’s mother tries to hold his hands as he raves, but she is too weak for him. It is her weakness that keeps her silent when Jimi is being unnecessarily pressured to write and subsequently punished for being a failure, twice daily. She cries alone when the house is empty, praying to God that he help Jimi learn to write again. But God is obviously busy with more serious things than to either make Jimi write, or give the family a replacement child.

Jimi is home, waiting for his father’s verdict from his visit to his school. He knows regardless of what happens, he will get a beating. It is always his fault. He has learned to live in fear of his father and to always blame himself for his inability to make words and figures out on paper. After all, everybody in his class can write. Even Tolu, his best friend can… His father’s voice outside the house strangles his thinking. He runs to the door, swings it open, and prostrates face down in few seconds. His father walks over him and sits on the only cushion. “Your teacher said…” the boy has absconded. He runs into the street seeking salvation. He meets a moving truck instead.

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