What is the true measure of a man? Is it he who is the strongest, the richest, with the most brawn or braggado? Or is it a man of integrity, of quiet ambition, who knows what he wants and is not threatened by a strong woman. Everyday in the last 13 years, I see the true measure of a man. He is my friend, my lover, my caregiver, the father of my children and my husband. Self-effacing and polite, people mistake his character traits for weakness. He loves literature (like I do), enjoys the game of scrabble (like I do), is a chess addict (which I dont have the mental capacity for), worships football (which I hate), loves classical music (not for me) and loves me, warts and all. Last week, I was unexpectedly rushed to the hospital to have my appendix removed. It could not have happened at the worst possible time. I was between house helps but my husband totally stepped up to the plate. He took time off work and became a househusband. He was there while I had surgery, his face was the first I saw when I woke up and everyday spent about three hours by my bedside. The nurses joked that I must have done 'ju-ju' for him and he just laughed. For the first two days before my cousin came in from Kano, he would wake the kids up, make sure they bathed and are dressed on time and send them on their way. He would then be with me from mid-morning till just before they get back from school. He leaves to buy lunch and dinner for them (he cannot cook to save his life!) and be back home before they get in. He was so wonderful. I shared a room with a nice woman who was there two days before me. She had a major surgery. For the four days I was recuperating in the hospital ward, her husband came once. He was there with another man for barely five minutes, which was all spent talking to his friend about the '10 or 16 billion' squandered rescuing the power situation. He totally ignored her. She timidly asked him for a 'glo-recharge card' and he said he would send his driver back to bring it regardless of the fact that there were people selling the cards on the grounds of the hospital. He then left after 5 minutes. This is the mother of his six children. It just took me back to my first marriage when I felt more like a piece of furniture. The relationship between them felt like a master/servant relationship. About an hour after he left, my husband went out to stretch his legs. He came back and handed the woman several recharge cards. She was speechless and so was I. I did not even realise he heard the exchange between the couple because he was reading his paper. These are the tiny things he does that I really appreciate. My very polite gentleman whose mantra is 'chivalry is not dead'. I never forget how lucky I am to be with him and I try to be a good wife to him, not perfect but good. He is not perfect either but is as near to perfection as I can get, recognising the fact that all men have human foibles. I know that this time I struck gold. As Fraulein Maria sang in 'The Sound of Music'
'Somewhere in my youth or childhood,
I must have done something good'
A place to rave, a place to rant, to commend and recommend, mostly a place to vent...
Friday, March 7, 2008
Solitude for me a burning desire that is sated once a week: Sundays from 11am to about 6pm. My husband takes the children out every Sunday and I cherish those few hours alone. They have lunch at either Southern Fried Chicken or Aunty Ajobi's. He then takes them either to Millenium Park, Wonderland or to visit family friends. They are gone for most of the day. I really, truly enjoy my own company. It's my time to unwind and do things that bring me joy. I believe every married woman needs that time. We do love our families dearly, but from time to time, we need to rediscover who we are. Now, I feel I have to confess; I have an addiction. For me it is books, books, books and more books. I have always loved books. My mother introduced us very early to the Hausa classics, Magana Jari Ce and the poetry of Abubakar Imam. My earliest memories are of all six children sitting around our mother while she read from the aforementioned books. She would also read from a Hausa comic book called Sauna Jack, which was hilarious. She had been withdrawn from school at 15 and married off to my father. However, by that time, she had already cultivated a love of books which she gladly passed on to us. As a little girl, I loved books like Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty, Tom Sawyer. A good book for me is one that is written in the simplest narrative, no long cumbersome words. Good writing I believe should exclude no one. I became a bonafide literature freak when we started going to the Kano city library. In those days, the Library was stocked with the most amazing collections. It was there I was first introduced to the Encycleopedia Brittanica, which gave me knowledge that amazingly I have retained to this day. I got to read books that opened my horizons and transported me to places I might never visit, giving me experiences I might never have. Later on, in my darkest hours, books also gave me solace. In secondary school, I had the most amazing English/Literature teacher; Miss Bailey was a British woman from Hull in the UK and was in Kano for a total of 12 years. She took a particular interest in me because, early on, she realised that we shared a love of books. She noticed that I always had a book with me: at Assembly, during prep and even in class. So besides the books on the school curriculum, Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Hamlet and Julius Caeser (Shakespeare), Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe) and African Child (Camara Laye), she further introduced me to the best of the British classics; Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Great Expectations), Shakespeare's (Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Midsummer Nights Dream, All's well that ends well, The Tempest) and Thomas Hardy (Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the D'Urbervilles). I estimate that in my 39 years, I must have read close to 1800 books, at two books a month from the age of eight. On my own I discovered the American classics; To kill a Mocking Bird, Catcher in the Rye and also contemporary writers like John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer and David Baldacci. I am happy to say that I have passed this love of books to my 12 year old daughter. She is in JS2 in Funtaj Secondary School and I was sorely disappointed when I saw the list of literature books for her class but I digress. This is a rant for another day. Anyway, back to my lazy sunday. I read for most of the day, go to the Salon, sometimes I have lunch with friends then I come home and settle down for my second favourite 'alone' thing: movies. If books are my drug of choice, movies must be like a therapist to my angst-ridden centre. I love comedies and thrillers. Whatever my situation, a good movie can reboot my CPU and improve my mind set. I am now discovering small independant movies that are made on a shoestring budget, without the support of the big studios and rarely with big hollywood stars but are phenomenal. I watched Little Miss Sunshine a few months ago and last Sunday, I watched an excellent movie called 'The lives of others'. I give it four stars (my ambition is to be a film critic in my next life). I have heard great things about another movie called Juno. A friend said she had a pirated copy but I will wait till it comes out on DVD. For me the movie experience is not just to see the movie, I need to hear the dialogue with clarity, inspect the art direction of the movie set and scenes, appreciate the directing and enjoy the musical scores, all which will probably be denied me on a pirated copy. Anyway, that is a sliver of my weekend life and in the words of Lionel Ritchie "I am easy, easy like Sunday morning.."
Sunday, March 2, 2008
A disease with no bias. That's what people should realise about AIDS. Another 'big man' just died in Abuja. They say it was a stroke; the open secret being it was AIDS. This guy was a well known womaniser but as with our people, probably believed it could not happen to him. AIDS is real and people are dying from it. The problem is that the cause of death is always said to be diabetes, hypertension or stroke. I heard a statistic that shocked me. In Kano City Hospital, four out of every ten blood samples taken by the Haematology Dept. comes back HIV+. Scary!!! It is said that in the mid-eighties, when the number of HIV+ individuals started being kept, the rate of infection was highest in Calabar, Benue, Port Harcourt and Lagos largely because of the liberal and promiscious sex scene (yeah, yeah, I know some readers will protest this statement but it is true). However, fastforward to 20 years later, the rate of infection is highest in Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Sokoto and Maiduguri, mainly because of polygamy and divorce (Ha, Ha. Gotcha!! How come those same readers did not instinctively jump to protest this statement?). This is a disease that makes no distinction and usually hits hardest the 18 to 49 age group. What this means is that the most productive in our society will start being wiped out rapidly. Not because the disease is not manageable but because of the stigma attached that makes people not seek medication early because they are in denial. My husband, who works for an international NGO, was in Uganda two years ago. He was saddened by what he saw in several villages they toured. There were very young children and pre-teens being raised by very old women. It seemed as if the adult men and women and also the old men did not exist. It was explained to them that it was due to the scourge of AIDS. This picture is what I fear for Nigeria.