September 22, 2008

New Neighbours

The arrival of new neighbours can "electrify" an old neighborhood. The anticipation heralding the moving in of the Ukachukwu family to the new house next to mine was nothing I had seen since we moved into the neigbourhood many years ago. In my house, we were curious about the people who had bought the large piece of land adjacent to ours. It was not the last plot to be sold on the street but they were the last people on the street to move in. They moved in during long vac (long vacation in case you're confused) last year. For little over a year work had been going on their house. The design of the house is magnificent. On completion, it became the only house on three streets that looked better than ours. It did not dwarf our six bedroom house- complete with boy’s quarters and a gatehouse, it just made it look a little old. The good colour combination of light yellow and chocolate brown and the large well kept lawn in front of the house made it exceptional and quite modern. Before they arrived, the only info on the neighbourhood grapevine was that the owner of the house worked in Shell, nothing more.

After they moved in, I noticed something about the new family on our street (the street was named after us because we were the first land owners to move in). They are – in my opinion, the epitome of what I will call “new wealth”. They showed us that it was no longer in vogue for rich people to be “big” (I mean fat, but I prefer to use big). Whereas my father is big and potbellied, the man of the house is fit and smart looking. My mother is big too; the woman of the house is slender and young-looking. It occurred to me that we were living in the past, the period of time when corpulence went with having a lot of money. It no longer does. The kids are polite, nice and very free with other neigbours even the ones who live in the buildings with many flats. We are loud, flashy and maybe just a little bit rude to everyone. Most of our associates live in their own homes- duplexes and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Very much later, in the December of last year, we noticed that they invited all and sundry to their house for a neigbourhood end-of-the-year party, a first in the neighborhood. A first maybe because the families in the neigbourhood who have the means, do not do it. The Ukachukwu's also let the less privileged people from far away, fetch water from their compound. We stopped doing that long ago because these people are often noisy and destructive. I asked my sister if she noticed they were different…somehow. She dismissed my comparison with a wave. "They’re probably one of these families who recently got money and don't know the behaviour that follows the status." I wasn’t satisfied with her explanation.

We went over later to welcome the Ukachukwus' to the neighbourhood, something we had not done with the other neighbours. We all went over, propelled by curiousity instead of neighbourly feeling. We had never welcomed any of the other neighbours who moved in after us. I don’t know what my family members had in mind, but I have to admit I was curious and determined to find a fault. Their parents seemed to be using the same family plan as my parents. With the exemption of my elder brother- who’s pursuing a master’s degree in Engineering in Spain, my elder sister is of the same age with Ada, their first. Their second daughter, Nkechi is my age and their last daughter is two years younger than my little brother, Chidi.

My sister proclaimed the first daughter alright by her standards. My brother seemed to like the little girl but was afraid to show it for fear we would tease him. Nkechi had a respectable DVD collection, including various seasons of Gossip girl, America’s Next Top Model and Desperate Housewives. There was a neat stack of magazines too, Teen VOGUE, Reader’s Digest, People, Ebony. Still not wanting to see good, I took Ada’s explanation for their behaviour and waited for Dad to prove us wrong. He did. His chat with the man of the house revealed that they had been in money for a long time. Nkechi and her sisters had been born with silver spoons.

The Sunday after they arrived, they came to our place of worship and coincidentally sat in front of us. When we were standing to sing, my eyes strayed to stare at five perfect butts. Usually my family members and I sing our hymns in low voices. It was an unspoken culture until that day… the day Mum broke all the rules. She sang loudly and moved her body to the beat of the Igbo worship song. I was very very surprised. Her voice was loud and to be sincere, I wanted to ask her to stop for her sake, for our sake. I noticed the reason for her change in behaviour. Mrs. Ukachukwu was singing beautifully and moving her body gracefully like other women around. Mum had the moves, but not the voice. She however refused to let that ostensible flaw prevent her from singing praises to God Almighty very loudly, and so she sang and shook with great enthusiasm. Very often, she would hit a note that did not suit her voice. I avoided the eyes of my siblings and stared unseeing into my song book. I had never seen my mother behave this way. It was disconcerting. I did not stare at her or my elder sister and father because it would confirm the oddity to everyone else watching us. I sensed most of them staring and murmuring at this new development. We are well known but it’s not for things like this. My little brother wanted to laugh at Mum’s loud squeaky voice, I could sense it. Despite my embarrassment, I had wanted to laugh too. I knew that once my eyes met with those of my little brother, he would lose control and so I gritted my teeth, kept my eyes on my book and my foot hovering over his own in case he lost it. I took his hand so he could squeeze it whenever he felt the urge. At the end of the singing, my left hand was numb. I wanted to laugh. I accepted our fate in silence. Much later, to my great discomfort I noticed that my Enyinnaya was staring at Nkechi. Enyinnaya and I weren’t going out at the time, but I had my eye on him and that fact made him mine. Was it because Nkechi’s breasts were fully out and mine were not at the time? After the service most of the friends we chat with, went over to greet the new family. We drove home earlier than usual that day. As dad reversed the car, Chidi played with the bulletin and Ada hummed Beyonce's Irreplaceable. I stared out the car window at the Ukachukwu’s , who were smiling graciously and accepting welcomes from everyone. I knew mum was staring at them too from behind her dark sunshades.

My parents made the helps clean one of the spare rooms on the ground floor of our house and they converted it into a gym. Dad bought an AB Pro exercise machine, a treadmill, a skipping rope and another exercise thing that looks like a bike but takes you no where. My Dad would do one or two rounds and then stop, exhausted. Mum still does her exercise with the dedication people give to a worthy cause. Before long, she discarded her glasses and got contacts like Mrs. Ukachukwu’s honey coloured ones and then a special cream to remove the dark line her glasses had left on both sides of her face.

They affected us, I have to admit. Later I swallowed my huge pride and went closer to Nkechi. She’s smart and intelligent. She attends a secondary school in Abuja for privileged children. She opened a blog like gossip girl and she posts regularly for her school mates to read. I went there and read all fifty two entries and I was impressed. She narrates well and adds a touch of humour. Her profile views are really high. She doesn’t do gossip in that nasty way that annoys and ruins people's reputations. I can’t give you her blog address because you won’t understand the gist and secondly, I don’t want to disclose our identities. This post won’t help my public image that’s why I used the blog name BLACK INK instead of my real name. I ‘googled’ Nkechi's blog and she had many listings. I was kind of envious that GOOGLE, the world’s best and most famous search engine lists her blog (it hasn’t listed mine yet). Maybe I’m here for all the wrong reasons, but I’m here and I will unabashedly admit that I need you to like me. I also admit I began blogging because of Nkechi. I have decided gossip is not really for me. BLANK INK will be my online diary. Thanks for stopping by to read my first post. I want you to do me a tiny favour. I need you to comment on this post. I would love to see at least ten comments for this post. I'm not asking or demanding for your comments, I'm begging for them. Any thought would do - nice, sarcastic, indifferent, flattering, anything. Even if one person takes the time to comment ten times, I would love the gesture. I have shared something with you, and I need you to share your thoughts with me. It's only fair.

Posted by BLACK INK 8:18 AM Click here to leave a comment

September 21, 2008

Dear God

Dear God,
       My name is Micah Ibe and I am seven years old. I know you already know that, my mummy and daddy say you know EVERYTHING and you can see EVERYTHING. Mummy and Daddy say I should pray to you and I have but I want to write a letter to you. I don’t know how I will send it to you, but I’ll ask Mummy, she will know. My purpose of writing this letter is to say “Hi” and to thank you for everything you have done for me.
       I’m okay, Chibuzo and Rose are fine too. Daddy says my dead cousin, James has gone to heaven to meet you. Please tell him that I miss him very very very much and I will not forget that time we went to the bar beach together. Please tell him his parents miss him too and I saw his mummy crying even though she pretended not to when I entered the parlour. Please make our dog Bingo find his way home and don’t let any motor jam him. God, I have a question. Mummy said I should ask Mr. Afolabi, my science teacher, but I want to ask you first. How does water enter the sky? What makes the sound of thunder? How did you make breeze? How is it that every body’s face look different even though everybody has the same thing on their face(I mean eyes, ear, nose and mouth)? How do babies come? I asked mummy that one but she looked at me somehow. Rose says these are stupid questions but I really want to know the answer. Please help me to stop peeing on the bed, I can’t do it alone. Rose laughs at me everytime. Please help me to stop being afraid of rats too. Please protect my family so nobody dies again. Please help daddy get promoted at work, he talks about it everytime and prays about it in the morning during devotion. I really hope this gets to you. How will you reply? I'll ask mummy.

Yours sincerely,

September 17, 2008

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - My Thoughts

Powerful prose, compelling descriptions, terrific story. This tale of forbidden love and shattered lives is told very well. With great care and attention to detail, Arundhati describes their lives in rich colour. The ending - which is really how it all began - is enthralling, touching and heartbreaking, I had to read the last two chapters again. Arundhati Roy is tremendously gifted in the art of storytelling. I have never seen this style of writing before now. The God of Small Things is a wonderful debut novel.

[Image via Vogue India]

The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta- My Thoughts

Buchi Emecheta's book is rich and touching. Her dedication of the book to all mothers is apt as she shows deep understanding of native traditions and compassionately but strongly handles the issue of 'mothering' children in a Nigerian household. Her characters are well formed, realistic too. I just kept turning pages till I reached the sad end. It's a magnificent book, an entertaining read.