I wish not to impose customs or redefine mores, not yet to mind the affairs of the uncultivated who spend more lavishly than the affluent on their associations than on their own kin, in order to serve a purpose and/or to achieve recognition- not knowing in their fondness of others, only their families are meant to care. Yes. I seek only to affirm the truth, that family is what lasts.
Long after the crowd of fame, their disguised affectation, outward exultation and inward denunciation fades in the dust of the past. Family still remains. Your families and mine.
I have live long enough, and in the process observed one too many people over the years, who would cut off their arms in debt to grace the occasion of their ‘friends’ but would claim exhaustion and penury on the occasions of their near relatives. Not just that, you would find them humped over in remote hidings to dodge the ‘guewels’, i.e. traditional griots, that laud their own ancestors. Meanwhile, they are the same people who would conceivably tear-up when their ‘friends’ are lauded, heaping praise and doling out cash to impress and be in the good books of…?
When an African is warmed by the adulation of other peoples ancestors and not his/her own, what kind of person is s/he?
Too often, I reckon myself to burst out and speak about my incomprehension, in whatever circumstance, with respect to the nonsensical claptrap we practice to seek fame. Not to talk of fortune, in all the wrong places. I do not speak to those who know and practice what they know, I speak mainly to the mass of men who are unsettled, opposed and dissatisfied by their family background, wailing energetically and inconsolably, because they are disfavored by providence to be part of their own family.
I speak also to the misers, who practice their miserliness on their relatives, close and distant, idly complaining about the hard times, yet driving their luxurious cars and sporting on their ‘garnillas’ and three piece suits, living in their overly decorated houses. Worse, these are the very people who give large cash donations on well publicized events, yet refuse to do away with D5000.00 to spend on their cousin’s medical bills. When that cousin languishes in his malady, and finally answers to the call of his Maker, see Mr(s). Miser spending for all to see… And crying, crocodile tears?
These are the wailers who claim, ‘to be self-made’; “I am a self-made wo/man”, “even though I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I made it”, “without this-that and that- I would never have reached where I am today”, “without this and that person, I would not be who I am today…etc”; including all the complexes which they attach to these blasphemous statements. Dodging their families, like the plaque. The truth of the matter is, without your family, you would not exist!
A “self-made man?” I mean, like really?
When a man has obtained the finer things in life, and all of his basic necessities, that man can choose to be grateful or indulge in more superfluities and still remain humble. The add-ons, must however never make him disregard his own family from where the humbler toil had commenced.
It is remarkable how a child is born. How he is fed, only on breast milk for the first six months and subsequently on porridge and so forth, and how he is guided to his first steps into his teen ages and adulthood. As I wrote in my write-up “We Never Ask God Why?, we don’t determine how we look, how tall we grow, the language we speak, which part of the world we are born or the colour of our skin. All these are predestined and unknown before we are born.
Yet, there are other unknowns, which happen upon us as we travel through life, undetermined by us and sometimes unacceptable to us. Things like our ancestry, our lineage, our family. We readily accept these things because there is nothing we can do to change them. To be successful is not merely to have wealth, fame or popularity? None of these can say, prevent ill health when it comes knocking suddenly, adversity when it appears along the road, unhappiness due to life’s complexities and above all else, death, when the inevitable end arrives.
The All-Knowing God, created a family for each and every one of us, in order to enjoy the fruits of our successes, to serve as a bulwark for when we soar in success and when we fall from grace. Because life happens. Even to the most blessed amongst us, hiccups can throw out anytime.
Yet success is so evasive, it is like a ladder, the rungs of which we can only climb when we live according to the dictates of faith, magnanimity, trust and of course, interdependence within our families. However big our houses are, we can only occupy one room at a time, we can only lie down on one side of our master beds, drive one car even if we have five in our garage(s) etc.
Life is nothing, if we do not have a family to share it with!
The tragedy of our society was borne when the family unit was disengaged by avarice, hypocrisy and unnecessary jealousy. I emphasize unnecessary because, plainly we do not succeed by dint of our efforts. We are enabled to succeed by circumstances and opportunities, which work together by the forces of nature, incomprehensible and unconceivable to man, called destiny, to assist us in fulfilling our missions on this earth.
There is no self-made man!
In one of my poems entitled, The Journey’s End, I tried to project my subtle thoughts on the journey of life we all travel day by day…by warming to the several stages that we travel through blindly on this earth. Needless to say the first part of our lives’ journeys end the day we were borne by our mothers.
I wrote this poem one very sunny day in March, 2004, in the female cadets’ dormitory at the Regional Maritime University. It must have been written on a weekend, because I remember spending a full day of listening to Celine Dion songs and having a philosophical conversation with my compatriots. I was inspired by our collective ignorance when we were little; and on my part, asking too many questions to adults, about the origins of babies.
It was a light moment when I recounted to the female cadets that, it was either my mother or my grandmother, who told me then that babies are wrapped in the sky, where they fall down from when it was their time to come to the earth. After the conversation, I quietly climbed on my bunk bed, and this is what I wrote.
Never for me to bring to life,
Not something I had perceived.
A little child asking questions
And prodding too much
That someday, one day,
I’ll tarry along
To journey that’ll
Come to an end,
On this trudge, I’ll
Find me a baby
In the clouds so thick above,
A baby in green loin,
Wrapped in silken cloth,
In silk, the gift to behold.
But alas, I would come
Life, like the hen’s egg
A cautious holder
Lost in obscurity
Will sooner come to know,
That not his caution,
Nor his patience,
Will retain his yen, his hold,
Not his will, to carry life through
Will save the egg he folds.
The resounding cries
Of a newly born,
Will pierce the hearts
Of the angels near,
Yet they would in their
Scurry to console his soul.
But Mama, mother dearest,
Will find a reason to smile.
The smile so bright,
Will colour her soul,
And make her heart consoled.
Merciful Lord, the guiding spirits,
Will see us all through,
Through obstacles and triumphs,
Through endless trudges,
Up till we meet in the end.
The patterned lives
Our destines carved,
Will never tarry,
Will never deviate.
The paths of love and life
But their particular destinations
See the babies, how they are born,
How each day, they grow.
See man, how independent he feels
Yet so weak, he is, in the end.
Could this our lives we procreate
Could it be our wills we use?
Is it our strength we live by
Isn’t Strength from Him we need?
He made us porters and poets,
He made some intellectuals,
And some farmers,
Each with wisdom
Every man is equally endowed,
Each one his role to play,
Each of us, complements
The other still,
Thus the world is made complete;
And each one of us
In the end shall give
An account of the life he had lived.
To sum up this write-up, I profess my undying love for my family, the Sambenes and Jamankas, without whom I would not have existed. When I refer to Providence, my family are my providence. They make me. I kindly ask readers of this column to send a prayer to my aunty, Jankey Samba, who passed on in Dakar, and who inspired today’s conversation. She was funny, witty and so kind. May her soul rest in perfect peace.
by Rohey Samba
Rohey Samba is a Gambian writer and publisher of three anthologies of poems namely, Mother Gambia…Beats, Behind My Back and Heart Songs.