Episode 3: Iya Rasaki
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I will introduce some people in this episode but elaborate on their identities in latter episodes. One is Iya Rasaki also called Iya Adijah, or Iya Memunah. In fact, calling her by any of her children’s name would do and she had nine of them that I knew of: Sule, Memunah, Isa, Sikirah, Sala, Rasaki, Adijah, Rakia, and Ramoni. One could say she had nine names plus one.
The thing is, this family lived in our Boy’s Quarters. Their father, Baba Sule had two wives: Iya Rasaki – with her nine children and Iya Bose with her three children. Don’t ask me what Baba Sule did for a living because words fail me and I have no intention of going into that today. Today is about how Iya Rasaki interfered with our life which was a constant….good interference, bad interference.
Once upon a time during one of our holidays, we were all at home – my siblings and cousins – all boys. The girls had travelled out of town. We had serious plans of playing football that morning but had to wait just a little while so that our neighbor’s father, Baba Nalegu, would leave for work. He was the Assistant Chief Medical Doctor of the Division. Not that he would have stopped us from playing soccer, but if he found out what our early plans were, he would allocate portions of farm space for his own children to work on so that they wouldn’t have time to play and so we all waited eagerly just for their sake. Not that we waited idly, no.
Bruno, my cousin who was also called Mudiaga was on the deck of the house, trying to pluck mangoes. At this height he didn’t need to stretch for any of the sumptuously ripe fruits. It was a “Twist and Chop Time” – TCT we named the time we spent on the deck. My plan was to join him, but I was a little scared – the fear of superstitious beliefs. I had just drank a cup of garri to top the breakfast we had eaten at 8 am. So I was trying to calculate how long it would take my intestines to digest the garri before I climbed up to the deck for TCT. My siblings were in the house dancing to the song, Mister Morrinson, Shaba…remember that song?
My elder brother, Jerry was glued to the cartoon showing on TV. Thank God for AIT, they were the best thing that happened to Nigerian television broadcasting. Collins who was my partner in crime was trying to do his assignment mostly because our home-lesson teacher would come in the afternoon and there was Desmond (my eldest cousin), Efe, Kingsley, Jo (my youngest brother), and me, Osas. The Seven Lucky Kids!
At about 8:30am, our Doctor-Farmer neighbor left for work, but we knew better than to start playing immediately. The old Doctor was full of surprises. I decided to climb up to meet Mudiaga, after deciding against going to pick Iyeye with Rasaki and Damusa, our BQ tenants. Mudiaga welcomed me with a seductively ripe mango and I quickly forgot about the superstitions my mum scared us with. We talked about so many things at the same time, one topic not necessarily leading to the other but finding expressions as soon as they came to mind. But one thing that stayed longest in our conversation was the topic about Sala, one of the daughters of Iya Rasaki. Mudiaga liked this girl like crazy, he could do anything for her, but he was always tongue-tied whenever it was time to talk to her. I discovered that the six wonderfully sexy mangoes set aside from the rest were for her. Oh boy. Don’t ‘axe’ me how old we were then. Age is just a number they say and I believe you’d agree with me.
Our attention shifted down the street where we saw couple of girls coming up from the stream. We stood straight so we could get a good view of these young barrack ladies at the distant. Mudiaga was already thinking aloud. He wished he attended Army Children School were all the mature girls attended, instead of the Command Children School which was filled with too many Ajebotas, and mummy’s girls (the word Ajebota wasn’t used in our early). We watched as they came closer. They knew us, our names and all, but because they couldn’t speak correct English, all they did was smile and hoped we would say something to them. Or so we thought. Just then Mudiaga shouted “Good morning.” The reply was spontaneous and simultaneous, which meant we could say something more deliberate.
I was thinking of what to say but Mudiaga was way fast in ideas. “Anything for me?” He asked. First, we heard some rumbling, and then someone among them hissed.
“Anything from where?” One of them asked.
“Nothing for you o, na your type dem dey talk?” another added. That was below the belt and the little remark cut a deep wound into my cousin’s ego. He wanted to jump down from the one storey high deck. He’d done it before, in fact we all had done it before but that was when we had a high dose of adrenaline pumped into our blood stream. Mudiaga always had excess of adrenaline in him, so I didn’t blame him for getting angry; all I did was to put a hand over his shoulder to calm him. He shoved my hand aside…
“All of una dey kraze,” Mudiaga shouted.
“Na you and all of your family dey kraze!” shouted one who seemed to match my cousin in stature and words. That sparked the fire in Mudiaga. I felt like saying something in hot refute so that my cousin didn’t feel alone (not that he needed me anyway, I tell you, he could take on a battalion if necessary) but I didn’t know what I might say that would cause real damage.
“See you o, you no even fit waka well, you get one bow leg and one K-leg.” Mudiaga seemed to shift into gear two and he moved to the next before any of them could respond.
“See this one, the br***s wey you carry for chest big pass the basin you of water you put for head. Idiot, fat pig.” I began to laugh, my cousin was winning the battle of wits and it was hilarious to watch. They didn’t hesitate too long to reply as they came up the hill,
“Na your mama be fat pig” Now this got me angry, ‘how dare you abuse my mother?’ I wanted to say F you, but I knew it wasn’t applicable with this set of Bs.
“You dey kraze, all of una dey mad.” I said instead.
Mudiaga came back on point, “Why una wait? Una t*t* dey smell dey, make una dey go, or I go release dog for una.”
“Na your p***s dey smell” they all at once started casting profane words
“All of una mama t*t* don sour” Mudiaga said and we laughed at that.
“Your father, your mama, and all of una for una house dey kraze.”
“When your papa come resume duty for our gate, na bingo I go send make e chop him p***s.” Now that was the killer bomb from my cousin. The profanities continued till the girls moved on to the front of our compound. I felt it was enough, but Mudiaga saw another opportunity. Still on the deck, we went round to meet them. They were now walking ahead, turning each time to send a curse.
“See that one big y**sh! Mr Abu for School 2 go don nak you taya. As you old reach, na still primary 2 you dey. Before you reach primary 4 you go don born 3 children…” Mudiaga continued.
By this time, Efe and Jerry had come outside to see what was going on. Some of our neighbor’s children too had come out.
“Na all your sisters go get belle for Mr Abu” Shouted the girls.
“Make I throw one mango target that your big y***sh, make the thing burst” Mudiaga said. At that moment he threw one unripe mango at the girls, and lo and behold it went straight at the rubber basin on one of their heads. It broke the basin and the water emptied on the girl’s body like a baptism. I couldn’t believe my eyes, not even Mudiaga or any other person.
At the instance, I saw a flash forward, a terrible one. All the girls immediately poured their water away to defend their friend. They called for Mudiaga to come down from the deck to buy another basin and fetch back their water. Before long, Mudiaga was physically fighting with the fat girl. Everyone was outside trying to quell the upsurge. Nothing was working, some of the barrack girls and gone to call for back-up. Things were really going to get bad.
“You go kill me today o, you go kill me” the fat girl was shouting, with one swollen eye, holding to Mudiaga’s torn shirt. They tried separating them and it was like they were glued together. It was an opportunity for the boys to pull the girls away, touching and feeling their ‘vitals’. If you saw me at this time, you won’t have an inking I was part of the instigators of the fight. I sat calmly and innocently by the threshold of my father’s house, watching free home video.
This was the moment IYA RASAKI came into the scene. She demanded what the matter was, and 15 minutes later, the girl had a clean blouse on, a new and bigger basin, and all of them had clean fresh tap water in their basins, instead of their stupid dirty stream water. They were ready to continue their trip back home. This was when the troop that was sent for by the girls arrived, but once again, the peaceful and wise Iya Rasaki settled everything… We thank God, ahhh…
But we knew better… Two hours later, all seven of us sat in the living room, planning. There was still going to be an aftermath, but we wanted to cushion it…so we planned and because all the ladies in the house had travelled about a fortnight ago when our holiday began (I think they went for a wedding in Enugu, can’t remember exactly), the house hadn’t been anywhere near parity when it came to cleanliness and tidiness. This always made mum shout when she gets back from work. She called my aunty and sisters to cut short their holiday and get back home.
So our plan was to make the whole house sparkling. The duty was shared and we began work, all seven of us, Rasaki and Isa coming to assist. We swept all the rooms, stores, kitchen (except our parents room which was locked), and mopped.
Cleaned the poultry, fed the chickens, manicured the flower beds, raked the dry leaves from the lawn, washed the dishes (and the plate rack we seldom washed), cleaned the louvers and windows, dusted the balcony furniture with damp cloth, washed our own clothes and kitchen napkins, took away cobwebs, fed bingo and locked him up in his cage, washed the toilets and bathrooms, in fact we would have painted the house if there was paint in the store.
We waited for our home lesson teacher, but when he didn’t show up at 3 pm, we thought it a splendid idea to call mum at work and ask her what she would like for dinner when she got back. She just said it casually that she would like fried rice, but she would be too tired to prepare it when she got back. We didn’t tell her we were
going to prepare it. So Sala and Rakia were called on to prepare the food, with close supervision from Mudiaga of course.
A quarter of six in the evening, Mumcee returned from work. And she was amazed, dazed, astonished, astounded, thrilled, surprised, flabbergasted and boggled. She was dumbstruck. When she went into the kitchen to find what to eat, an alarm system went out in her head.
“Who cooked this food?” she asked.
“All of us,” was the answer we gave her. She stepped back from the pot of food and looked at us squarely in the eyes. We just smiled sheepishly. She didn’t trust us, but looking at Jo, my kid brother, all suspicions evaporated. She enjoyed the food and demanded for more. Then she noticed we all sat in the sitting room watching TV and reading something, none of us were outside playing football, or Hide and Seek. Her prayers were being answered, she must have thought.
“Why are you children not playing football?” she asked. We all rumbled different things at the same time.
“Well, I’m so impressed with all of you. Collins, give me my bag,” she stretched her hand towards the cushion where her bag laid. She opened her purse and gave us N20 each. Now it was our turn to be flabbergasted and surprised. This wasn’t Christmas day, we had to remind ourselves. Then she asked us to go play.
We didn’t play football for long because we didn’t want to be caught unawares. We expected Iya Rasaki to come report the happenings of the day. So Desmond was stationed at the door to intervene. At 8 pm, it was time for the national soap,Check-Mate, on NTA. Iya Rasaki never visited after this time, so we all let down our guards and patted ourselves at the back for a job well done.
Half way into the soap opera, everyone including my dad, glued to the TV, enjoying the suspense, a crooked knock sounded on the door, followed by the heavily accented Igbira voice of Iya Rasaki, the first wife of Baba Sule. All seven of us froze in time and space… this wasn’t happening. It was Mudiaga Mumcee sent to go open the door. It took like ten years before the key in the key hole turned and finally opened. By the time, all of us except Mudiaga had vanished upstairs into our room.
The whole story was told my parent in Iya Rasaki’s version. Mudiaga was in the middle of the parlour, hands at his back, receiving tongue lashes from Mumcee. My Dad didn’t utter a word.
We were all called downstairs and received serious warning of our lives.
“Sorry, ma,” we all mumbled.
“Sorry for yourselves. No wonder you people poisoned me with that stupid rice.
“Desmond,” she called my eldest cousin, “Since you people have shown you are capable of doing house chores well, from tomorrow, you would be the one washing my clothes and Dad’s clothes instead of over working the girls.”
“Yes, ma,” Desmond said, and was about leaving.
“No, no, I’m not through. Tomorrow, all seven of you will harvest the cassava in the farm, peel, and take to the grinder, then fry. All of you, including you, Jo. If you like shed crocodile tears from now till next year.”
“All of you, you are dismissed.” She finally said after some seconds of silence. That was the first and last time my mum used the word ‘dismissed’ for us. And that was the first and last time in my life I peeled cassava and made from cassava garri.
See you next week!
Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.