Painting Denrele

Denrele is always pitched at the left corner whenever I come into the class to teach. His stare is vague. It is not questioning or expectant like those from the other students. His eyes suggest hope, but it is one tempered by experience. He doesn’t have to sit apart from the other students for one to notice that he is older than all of them, but he does. His large frame and brush-like stubble already say so.

 

There is a carriage that blatantly betrays a determined spirit. Let me describe it to you. One foot flung forwards, a short gaze at the ground below as if to confirm that it is hard enough, the head swung upwards, a spring-like push by the other foot. Thus I saw Denrele walk into class today. He enters, I enter. He greets first. He calls me ‘sir’ though I clearly am younger than him. He spreads out his books on the table before him. He silently unwraps them and looks at them. He hopes that they would speak to him. SS3* students come here to prepare for their JAMB (final) exams.

 

“Which subject are you doing today?” I ask

 

“Use of English” he replies.

 

*12th graders

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You’re Not Ready For This!

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If you were sitting next to me now, you may notice that my cat Timmy has moved a step higher in intelligence. He has decided to team up with the turkeys to achieve the highest level of disturbance possible. This conniving increases chances of meeting his goal and believe it or not, he’s making progress!

It’s 8:30am and Timmy’s desire is to be in the house. Someone must have accidentally locked him out while leaving for work. And what’s worse – Penny, his sister cat, gets to stay indoors alone! So there’s a small demonstration going on outside; and the turkeys, by no fault of theirs except a troublesome biological impulse, have gotten tangled in it.

About six months ago, my family decided to acquire a couple of turkeys. What’s there to it? Just keep them fed and you’ll be repaid with a mobile bevy of plush, colourful feathers roaming your compound. So – two was a good number because my Mom wanted chicks, you know, a trail of fluff balls cutely following the mother turkey in a neat file – we bought them. I don’t know if turkeys are meant to be reared in cages but the plan was to start them off there. So one Saturday morning, two little turkeys were shuffled into a cell while two dozen chickens looked on with lively but – experience will teach you – very short-lived interest from the neighbouring cells.

Chickens want only two things in life – food, and water. So after the whole feathery exercise, they cocked their heads and went back to eating their feed. Occasionally they would jostle over the best parts of the corn, wheat and chaff blend in their trays and when it was all eaten, they would spend all of their mind power dreaming of the various flavours as they impatiently awaited a jolly human who would empty his/her feed bowl into their trays and fill up their drinkers with water, then they would contentedly repeat the cycle. A chicken has a simple life.

Turkeys on the other hand are a whole different story. They spend the first few weeks of their existence worrying. They eat only a little; they are more concerned with securing the food, pecking chickens who dare pinch from the turkeys’ portions. Turkeys worry about scarcity; they fret about the weather, about the economy, about the falling prices of crude oil. You should see them restless in their cells. They pace around worrying about the future of their chicks; will they inherit a world better than this? That’s why turkeys are paranoid, aggressive, and bald.

As they get bigger and outgrow the cage, they start to take matters into their own talons. Man you know they’re taking matters into their own talons when tufts of chest feathers transform into two unassuming metal plates. Turkeys standing abreast (each one now inexplicably twice its size), face you squarely and approach in slow, sinister steps.

You may be awoken one morning by the screams of your little brother as black and white feathers of wrath leap into the air and attempt to peck at his eyes. The proud things flare their feathers all day and make puffing sounds meant to intimidate any human who’s not already deterred by the graveyard sound made by the dragging of spread wings on a sandy, concrete floor. The next thing, they turn their backs and flee when a big enough human approaches, pleading a tactical retreat and a rethink of their strategy. You can’t blame them, they’re just trying to protect their progeny, secure their futures. Too bad they’re both males; when there’s no one left to oppress, they fight each other.

Turkeys talk back! I tell you turkeys talk back! They make this clamorous clucking sound whenever they hear a loud voice, a laughter, a bang, a screech, or a cat meowing. It sounds like a flock of geese stampeding; it sounds like mockery coming from an embattled soul. It was this strange phenomenon Timmy eagerly exploited this morning. “Meeooow – cluck cluck cluck!” “Meeeeoww – cluck cluck cluck!” “Meeeeoooww – cluck cluck cluck!” – the chorus was heavenly. A short pause exhales ah it’s finally over…  Ha jokes on you! Cats never stop. Never. Forget it they don’t. “Meeeeooowww!!” again “- Cluck cluck cluck!!”… endlessly. It was a waiting game and this human lost it. I had to get up from the bed and go open the door for Timmy. I was impressed by his persistence; I gave him a soft pat on the head. What else could I do?

Right now the white turkey is standing in the doorway and staring at me as I type. He’s the less aggressive one. The black-green-and-gold one is busy rummaging the boxes and bags outside. Can’t trust those humans, he thinks, Can’t trust ‘em, never trust em’. Turkeys are the only good things left in this world. We better take over and it’ll be all turkeys, only us. Turkeys! They both know they’re not allowed inside. The white one is still probing, turning his avian head this way and that to get a better view. It makes one wonder, maybe turkeys actually want to feel among, but their fear makes them aggressive.

What Does A Five Year Old Think Of TV?

Once I saw a little bird

Flying up up up

Then I said

Little bird

Will you stop stop stop…

As a child I’d sing that song with all my heart, making gestures at the bird with my fingers while I let my imaginations roam. For some reason, I really really thought I could be that bird… haha, I just assumed there was some sort of glitch preventing me from being the bird at that moment. Assumed? A child had no time for such tedious thought, no patience for such conclusions. I quickly found something to be distracted by – like sand for example. I busied myself with the intense work of making and smashing sand castles. There was enormous time on my hands – and lots of sand! Why waste my time with birds? A mere ant crawling through the dirt was enough to capture my attention. I would crouch and watch its path, and examine their ‘houses’. I dreamt of looking in and seeing what it’s like. You know that cartoon about the boy who was turned ant-sized by a bunch of vengeful ants? Ant Bully. You know children actually believe that? They want to be the boy! I wanted to. I faithfully held on to the belief that I could be abducted by ants if I was in the right place, if I lived among the right people – and it would be a fun adventure!

But I wasn’t the right people. I wasn’t a ‘television person’. Television people supposedly live in the telly and we watch them do fun stuff (Ha! That was the conclusion of my painstaking evaluations to answer the question “where do television people come from?”). I didn’t bother asking my parents because I knew they’d say the same thing – television people live in the very cables, they have minuscule cities in there where they do things like go to dinners… wear nice dresses… by the way the lady at the dinner has a gun concealed under her beautiful black dress and a shootout is about to break out right in that restaurant, after she’s exchanged some sharp words with her partner who’s also an ‘agent’, ‘secret agent’. They also have these strange looking kids with big eyes, sharp features, light skin. The skin color. That didn’t bother me in the least – I felt television people just looked like that. Just like I look a certain way, they look a certain way. Even all the people in my class didn’t look the same. Some had lighter skin, there were different face shapes, different lips… I was even learning to identify people’s tribes from their appearances (the Igbos, Yorubas, Urhobos etc). Now these television people come from a whole different world. Of course they look different! Case solved. But I’ll never be a television person, at least I couldn’t see that happening. You see, at the time I was able to propound this whole theory, I was a little older, some logic was beginning to seep in. I couldn’t see how I could possibly become small enough to enter our television cables, although what a treat that would be! So I resorted to be content with my own life, and just watch them, keeping at the edge of thought the knowledge that such a life is really possible, if I ever I get the chance to become that small.

My favorite episode of Barney was the one where they went to space. Whooaaaa. You know, space travel is prime novelty because stuff that happens in space only happens in space! If only I could meet Barney, I thought. I had everything else I needed for the ship, namely some cardboard and a bit of imagination – that was the recipe he gave. The only thing missing was Barney himself. Oh the deprivation… I wish I could go to America, or The London. You see the progression here? At this time I had bunked the whole cable theory, after I’d overheard some discussion about them being in “America”. There are so many other collectives of a child’s imagination I’d like to tell you about… like me dreaming of flying on a big kite my Dad made, and other things. But there isn’t enough time, and this post would be too long. But remember this one thing, when that bright eyed child in wide eyed wonder throws a cape over his shoulder and says “Look at me Mommy! I can fly!” he really believes it.It’s a magical time for every child, between age 1 and I think 7, no kid should have that taken from them.

Image source: Pinterest

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

This write-up is about ethical humanity, not biological.

For me, being a person means to have insight. To have a clear understanding of where you come from and where you are going. To understand who you are and the purpose of your existence. To have a clear, lucid mind capable of making intelligent and informed decisions. Decisions that not only tell about you but also intentionally lay foundations (or build upon present ones) for a better future, and to know your decisions do these. It is not to simply act on whatever whim or passion that appeals to your impulsive mind and senses, but to step back instead and look at the big picture, and consider the consequences of your choices. To think, and not just act. To understand what values are, and to be able to place them in correct order. To know and identify people around you as human as well, and to treat them that way. To do these not only proving that you are a person today, but also to make the world welcoming and more enriching for your brothers who will come tomorrow – to constantly develop the earth, not only leaving a behind a legacy our children can be proud of and identify with, convincing them of their own humanity, but with the chief aim of making their lives more productive and more fulfilling than ours.

To make decisions that speak well of you today while they build a better tomorrow.

The more we do these, the more we prove that we are human.

On Beauty

“You don’t understand that beauty has no definition. It’s not what you’re looking at that matters, it is who you see. It is not the symmetry of the face or the size of eyes or colour of skin. It is to realize that it is you and not somebody else. That is beauty – diversity… perculiarity… you.”

I am Thankful

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First of all, I am sorry this post is coming this late. It’s one of my favourite poems, written by my Dad. I hope you like it:

I AM THANKFUL
For a life that’s just my own
And a purpose to drive its strengths
For a body firm and strong
And a mind keen and clear to give an aim

I am thankful
For angels without wings
People, who now and then
Have made their strengths my own
And walk my walk and share my hope

I am thankful
For a heart that can hear
The cries of others far and near
And set out on goals
That have just them in mind

I am thankful
For a contrite heart
That is sorry for my sins
Eyes that shed tears
And a Shepherd that believes they are honest

I am thankful
For the noise and laughter of children
For the warmth of life
For troubles that remind me
That God is strong and near.

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Lots of Flashy Clothes and then, Awww

Here I am waiting for someone; I’ve been here a while, so I’m getting bored. Hey, see those cool glasses, I like. A lady walks past me, she’s holding two phones in one hand and a big handbag in another. Hmmn, I think her blue shirt is too bright for the yellow trousers. To my left, a young man approaches. He is wearing a brown body hug T-shirt and jeans. He marches past swiftly with his chin elevated, eyes fastened ahead. I see another man afar off, clad in suit, complete with a tie and a black briefcase for good measure.

Suddenly, something blurs around my feet. To my right, I hear a giggle two seconds later. It’s a boy being chased by his Mom. She chuckles past me with her arms stretched out, crouching to reach the boy. I smile when she catches him and pulls him back to the queues. Something’s different, she’s the only one here with a child. You want a better look? Let’s see… unconsciously I’m inching towards them, closer… closer…

I’m standing behind her now, I can see that she’s about 5 ft. 7, dark skinned. The first thing you notice on her head is the head band, a bright red flower that packs short brown hair into a ponytail; it’s a plastic flower, you can see, by its glossy, cold glow. The little boy is beside her. Funny, I notice he’s wearing only an orange singlet, several sizes too large for him. He’s tugging at her dress, her red, white and black patterned dress that hangs loosely around her. Why she is not on any queue, I do not know; instead she peers at one desk after another, tip-toeing on her black flats. Her dress is elastic, it bounces up and down as she moves. She holds a plain black bag in the crook of her left hand. It can’t be leather, it appears too thin. It has a black synthetic ribbon pasted flat on one side.

Her boy is doing a little dance now. He is spinning in circles and falling down from time to time. His singlet is dirty already, so Momma doesn’t care and neither does he; he plays in the banking hall with reckless abandon! See as catarrh drips from his nose and into his smile.

Mum is still bouncing in front of the “withdrawal” tables. Salary maybe? It’s an economic low, you know; salaries haven’t been paid since October. Someone behind one of those desks calls her now, she shoots forward to answer. At that moment, the boy calls ‘Mummy!’. She turns around and smiles. He’s her whole world, isn’t he? “I’m not going anywhere”, she replies and hugs him.

Hold hands

Caught Between Worlds (1): Cool

You saw them; they were taking photos on the lawn. You were not with them; you were seated, watching from a distance. Pink, mostly pink flashed here and there among them; there were also blue sweaters and purple shawls along with a generous abundance of jeans-es. O-oh, okay they’re gathering for a group photo. “Nina!” Seyi called “Aren’t you taking the picture?” “Ooh wait for me” she cried and then began the typical hop on her four-inch heels, bangles clanging and all. Of course, her “besties” followed suit (you didn’t expect her to come alone, did you?). And of course, she promptly struck the appropriate savvy pose beside her boyfriend. You carefully observed her throw back hair, kink her right knee, placing the right hand on her hip and purse glossy blood-red lips in that way that said “I don’t care”. Seyi was obviously pleased; he put his arm around her shoulder, stuck out his tongue and raised a fist at the camera. It flashed. Immediately, some boys fell to the grass and sat in front of the gathering, shouting to adequately proclaim this. “Another one! Another one!” they said, throwing their legs apart. Loud cackling followed; you heard it and felt they would never stop.
“Come on now” someone peeping from the other end said. It was as if he woke you from a dream; you opened your mouth but no words came out so you absent-mindedly raised your left hand instead to say “never mind”. He turned away; then you hastily poured the last of your coke down your throat like it were a cure all. Then you felt the sharp sting in your eyes and looked down intently at the ground through a shaky film that threatened your eyelids. You heard the rattle, heard it slow down till it completely stopped and then gazed at the red coke can that had dropped from your grip; you took a long deep breath. The thought of “picture” reminded you of that dark brown jean you saw at the mall the other day. “Unbranded UB207 slim tampered fit selvedge twill” was on its label. You would stare whenever you passed by the mall since then. You were going to buy that jean, with your savings, well, one of these days, when you had the money_. Grandpa always gave cash whenever the family went over for Christmas; but this was January, and Grandpa didn’t give any last month, maybe he forgot. No, you couldn’t ask your parents to buy the jean; they’ll say “what is wrong with your own clothes?” Nothing. They were okay and not too few. You rubbed your forehead with your palm and sighed. The cameras kept flashing, you could still hear their laughter rise in the air, but you kept thinking of your brown jeans because you weren’t wearing them like the rest of the boys taking pictures.
“All boys in S.S.2 come around, come around” Francis was shouting on top of his voice “All boys in…” he coughed abruptly “Come noow!” You looked up and watched tall Seyi shuffle towards him, Eze bounded forwards urging his short compact body to follow, with legs far behind; then Emmanuel, then Mark until they had formed 3 rows, the first having the fewest people. You sneaked in and fixed yourself at the edge of photograph, you were the last person on the second row. You had safely skipped the part where they squabble. No, Eze would not stand in front of Seyi for the picture and anybody who asked why should know that “I can stand wherever I like”. “But he is taller than you” said Francis, “exactly!” he replied, throwing out his arms. “Mark, please go to the back, you are tall”; Francis also had to beg Philip to stay as he wandered off, maybe he got bored. Finally the cameraman said “2…3…” you raised two fingers, then quickly put them back by your side as your heart suddenly raced; Emmanuel’s own stayed up though, you could see him at the far left. And then “click”, the picture was taken.
Immediately you slapped your thigh in wonder as you turned aside “What happened? Why did my hand fall? Why did my heart jump?” and your still pricking eyes reminded you “they are ‘cool’, you are not”. And so you dragged yourself home later that day, wallowing and staggering in that thought.