Winnie Nelson Mandela. Yeap, that’s me. My father in his infinite wisdom found it best to give me three names that were in no way related to any of his ancestors. And not just any names, big names. I bet I must have been an awesome baby. Or my father was too drunk as usual when he decided I looked like someone from Kwazulu land.
“A father names his own child the name he feels fit. Winnie Nelson Mandela…you are great,” he would always say every time he went on a drinking spree.
I did not blame him for that. After several years of siring still borns, I was finally born. They had expected me to die on the first day but I survived and I was named on the second day. Relatives gathered at Jamleck’s house to witness the birth of the future.
“Jamleck has finally achieved what our ancestors achieved. “ They would say.
I was not the boy my father and my grandparents expected but at least I was something. As usual my father had joined Abu, one of his long time friends who was always hanging around the house expecting a free cup of busaa for a drink at the town center. He came in staggering into the small shed that had been erected by the women to meet his new heir.
You see I was born at a time, when these folks believed that western medicine was evil and nothing good came of it. So my mother belly full; and ready to deliver the next generation, was ushered into the small room. After thirty minutes or so four ululations shot through the air. A girl had been born into Jamleck’s home. The fires would soon start burning again in this house.
I must say that my father was not particularly pleased to see me but he never showed it. What else does a man do after siring twelve still borns in all the years of his marriage?
My mother’s joy however could not be hidden. At last she had brought forth an heir. An heir to Jamleck’s expansive estate, scratch that, an heir to the fifteen chickens, two small goats and a quarter acre piece of a land. She was no longer useless and the neighbors would no longer say that Jamleck had married a fellow man.
I was told that on the day I was born, six chicken were slaughtered. Meat was an uncommon thing in Jamleck’s house and so you would imagine that it was a feast. My grandparents after years of waiting for a grandchild came and spit on my cheeks to bless me and my future grandchildren –the heirs to my future expansive estate, if at all my future husband or husbands would be kind enough to work hard for me, their future wife.
My mother never got any other children except two other still borns until she succumbed to malaria when I was just three years old. Some say however that it was my father who drove her to an early grave but I choose to believe the former. After my mother’s untimely death, my father His Highness Jamleck brought me up as the apple of his eye.
He gave me what I wanted though he beat me up times when he came home late stinking of liquor but things would go back to normal the very next day. He always set the bar so high and so that’s what I grew up knowing – that I was special and there was no other human being like me in the whole wide world.
“Winnie Nelson Mandela…you are great. Never let any man look down upon you. You are the daughter of your father who named you when the locusts had stripped off the green in the land. When the cows grew thin and their fur fell off their bodies. You are the daughter of your father,” He would always say during those days when he received the coffee bonus from the national government.
So that brings me to this day, on the 8th of January, when the sun is at its peak and pockets are dry. I am getting married. I am however not particularly happy about this step I am about to take in my life. The man, my betrothed has one of the biggest noses I have ever seen and his eyes seem to have sunk in their sockets. His belly is not what I thought of when I dreamt about my ideal man. And don’t even get me started about his arms, those fragile little things. It was ironical given that he had the biggest physique. In short, he is not a sight to behold or to be love.
But why am I marrying him, you would ask. Well after years of feeling special and rejecting every suitor who didn’t treat me like my father, I am already thirty two and society apparently doesn’t take kindly to people of my kind. My grandparents had convinced me to marry. They had even gone ahead to find me a suitor which leaves me wondering whether that was the only option they had. And if you must know, I must marry him if I am to inherit anything from my father’s expansive estate.
I Winnie Nelson Mandela must marry or its bye bye to my inheritance. Not that I want to marry a man I can never look at for three seconds, but I really need the property. You see, after being given a good education and my father even quitting his usual bottle so that he can see me through university, I did not bring home the degree he wanted so much to brag to his enemies about. I dropped out, thinking that I could make it without an education.
Most of my friends had already done it anyway. After two years of trying to find work and falling prey to those con artists in the name of men, I had managed to bring forth two heirs, a boy and a girl. I had done the impossible; I had given my father a new title – twice! He was no longer Jamleck, the man who could only sired still borns but he was Jamleck, blessed and full of favor from the Almighty to be the grandfather of a boy and a girl.
But my father was not happy to be made a grandfather yet. But let’s just say that in this case he didn’t have much of a choice. So as I make my way to the alter in a borrowed dress that seemed as though it was wearing me instead, I see his grin with his big incisors threatening to tear his lower lip. I Winnie Nelson Mandela cannot marry a man I can easily draw with my left hand. He may be stinking rich but what was money? Oh wait, money was everything and it’s what I needed if my children were ever to call me mother and not my grandma who had raised them since they were months old.
I try doing that slow motion walk I always saw brides make to make the situation less awkward but my shoes were killing me. I see one of my childhood friends grinning as though she had won a multi bet. I bet she must be happy to see me humiliated like this after years of teasing her for marrying an old man when she was so young. I run as fast as my tight shoes could carry me to the opposite direction.
My mother would turn in her grave if she saw the abomination I was about to call my husband in the next few minutes. I hear gasps and some chimes of disappointment from my so called friends here and there, the evil them! I see the man of the cloth run after me but I am too fast for his aging legs. My inheritance would have to wait for a little while longer.
This is why I have declared that, I Winnie Nelson Mandela, the only daughter of my father would not marry.
Enjoy Reading Absalom Too 🙂
Written by Lillyanne Gathoni