Now children ,I am going to tell you a story about my village. I lived there with my grandmother when I was very young while my mother worked in the city as a house girl (that is what we call them here). I lived there when the skies were still cloudy with hope. In a way I still live there. There is a sincere innocent part of the soul/mind where one is always 7 years old.
In my village every year, the chief held a porridge eating competition. Only men participated in the porridge eating competition. I don’t know why women were not allowed to contest seeing as it is the women who farmed the maize ,pound the grain and cooked it into a tasty porridge. It is women who gave birth to the men that would later grow up to eat the porridge. If women could nurse the porridge from when it was still a little idea in a small white kennel under the moist soil then they just as well deserved to eat it too.
The porridge eating competition was a very big event. However other villages were not allowed to attend another villages porridge eating competition. My grandmother said that this was because it was a sacred event.
On one particular year. I was 7 years old I remember. I attended a porridge eating competition. That boy Jambezi participated in the competition .There was nothing really special about Jambezi. He was not handsome, he was not tall ,he was not even very strong. Infact his teeth were overly yellow for his age. He started fights in the bush and fondled girls breasts by the river. He was just an ordinary village boy who took care of his uncles goats. An ordinary village boy, always under occupied for his energy. Young blood they say..…every village needs young blood . Although I am not sure why especially if the young blood is quickly going to become old blood without accomplishing anything other than fondling girls breasts by the river.
His opponent, Tumbuka , although very old was a pretty spry fellow. He was old enough to be a fossil and an ancestor, whichever comes first. I remember his wrinkled skin and tobacco stained teeth quite vividly. The children rumored that he even smoked his cigarette inside out, with the smothering hot end clutched tightly between the lips. It is said that no amount of heat could burn this mans lips. Not even drinking boiling Coal tea from a Kango cup. Coal tea is tea that is poured into a Kango cup, serenaded with a little sugar then a red hot coal piece is thrown in just before drinking.It is rumored to be the stuff one should drink to exorcize ones conscience, but that’s just a silly old wife’s tale. Anyway a little black gold and wisdom of the ages is was always in need in a village like that one.
A porridge eating competition is very complicated. If you want to win ,you must know how to eat hot porridge fast. If your opponent has a seared tongue then you are in trouble. I remember thinking that the porridge eating competition was unfair because the porridge was always served hot. Very hot…but so is life sometimes. If you are one who was raised right like me- My grandmother always told me to eat my porridge when it had cooled down- then your tongue is not really trained to handle hot porridge.
Looking at Jambezi across the dusty arena ,I felt afraid. Was he not afraid of getting blisters on his tongue?.
Had he practiced?
Can one really practice for a competition like this one?
If yes, with whose maize meal and whose pot?
If you can eat hot porridge faster than everybody, what does that mean?
Now children. I am not sure what that means, because if your tongue is that uncouth or savage to withstand such heat you are probably fit enough to travel to hell , have a tea party with the ancestors who will try to convince you to fry the whole village so perhaps the tea party may be bigger then make it back to the land of the living unscathed by the fiery brimstone .Perhaps that is why the competition was sacred. There is something very freaky about two men who are not gainfully employed eating very hot porridge quickly when they have all day to let it cool…but I digress. Let me finish this story before you children fall asleep.
Eish,I don’t really remember how this story ends because I don’t remember what happened next. Now I feel stupid to have started this story altogether .Something must have happened to knock me out of consciousness .I seem to have a blind-spot were that story continues and I see only white flags and weeping women. Something always happens to show us how really blind we are. That thing is called thought. If you think really hard about what you know you will discover things you don’t know all over the place. When you see how much you don’t know ,you realise how vulnerable you are.
What I know though is that in a little corner of my mind …where I am always 7 years old. I am watching this porridge cool and it makes me very nervous.
I am thinking thoughts of peace and millions of ‘X’s in the ballot box.
I am thinking of a cooling porridge that everyone can eat.
I am thinking of Jambezi and Tumbuka. And how they have so much to learn from each other.
I am thinking that things must change. A cool head is always better than a hot tongue.
The porridge has cooled…. Now let us grab the silver spoons we call ‘X’ s and dine to our fill with patience ,unity and wisdom. Let the women dine too. The children and the refugees with their hearts and prayers. Invite the villages to come and watch us eat our porridge. We have worked hard for this seasons harvest. And there is nothing secretive about our sweat. Then when we are full we will ask -Who is Jambezi in the body of a chicken? Is he a drumstick or a neck? Who is Tumbuka. Anoita zvei? Unless they prove that they are real leaders…We need new leaders not greedy men watching our granary.
Cool heads I say…cool heads.
Goodnight children. The nation loves you.
I am writing this article in support of the FEYA FEYA Free and Fair Election Campaign. WE need transparent polling and full citizen participation. Every Zimbabwean citizen should participate in the eating of the electoral porridge. For us to have Free and Fair elections, political parties should be allowed to operate and campaign freely and the judicial system should also operate with impartial and independent authority. The spoons are ready…let us eat to what fate we chose comrades…