Things moved faster than I expected then it all came to a still when a stranger paid a bride price to my parents and I had no say in the matter.
Life they say can be unpredictable. Sometimes you are on top and the next you are down. In some days you are happy and the next, you are not. A flower blossoms in time and the next, it withers. Such was life and I have learnt to accept whatever it throws my way.
The minute you have an encounter with the mystic god of life fulfilment -dreams, you spend all your time with him and he reveals to you a series of his gifting that of which every human at some point in their lifetime has a taste of but possessing it becomes the difficulty.
For me, sometimes I see myself going to school just like my four brothers and other men in our village. Not because I only had an interest in medicine and health but also a deep respect for human life and an innate desire to be of service to people because I know in life when you put your heart, mind and soul into even the smallest acts a lot could be achieved and it was time my village grew past the poor health care service.
My village wasn’t that big and the people there weren’t that many but I had this desire in me to help them. And this desire is always rekindled whenever dream visited me. But one day I woke up and realized he wasn’t coming again. I waited for hours and hours until these hours turn into days but dream never showed his face.
Well, I wouldn’t blame him because I had already come to the end of the tunnel but there was no light. All my dreams had been brought to a halt.
All I could do as I sat in front of Baba was wished I had never given myself up to the lures of dreams. Knowing where I was born and how girls my age or even younger are being given up for marriages to old pot-bellied men, dreams were the last thing I could afford but I had already fallen victim.
My parents sat me down and told me I was no longer their responsibility. They wanted me to move out and start a life of my own.
A sixteen-year-old move-out and start a life of her own?
I don’t know why I was surprised because I had already seen this unjust act done to a lot of girls in the village including my sister Sadia, the first daughter of Baba’s first wife. She died a year after her marriage when she got complications during delivery. She was unable to push the baby and eventually became very weak with no energy.
The nurses said she was getting complications because her body was not fully developed to pull out the baby but the nurses forced their hands inside her body and pulled the baby out. She felt so much pain that she was unable to walk for a whole month after delivery then died after that.
“Your husband has gone to your uncle’s and paid a dowry of 80 cows and so in a week time we will do the marriage ceremony then you will leave the house with him.” He said with a large grin showing all his yellow teeth this pulling me out of thoughts…
“But Baba __” I tried resisting but he threatened me.
‘If you want your siblings to be taken care of, you will marry this man.”
I had nine siblings (excluding the late Sadia) all coming from the four wives my father had including my mother and neither my father nor the wives are employed. My father did not want to pay for my school fees. He felt it was a waste of time and he would rather buy cows with that money than to waste it on my schooling.
For him, with little money even for food and basic necessities, marrying off his daughters early is an economic survival strategy: it means one less child to feed and/or educate.
“__ He …he is too old for me.” I manage to add as tears made it way down my face.
“You will marry this old man whether you like it or not because he has given us something to eat and that is more than enough for you to be grateful.”
I didn’t want to get married and he wasn’t listening and that made me hate him so much. I just wished i wasn’t actually brought to this world of suffering and oppression. I could see it from my mother’s face she didn’t want me to get married either but who was she to protest when “she” was a victim of the same plight.
I believe “was” is underrated as she is still a victim. A woman as she is and a community (world) as ours she has found herself in, she has no right or whatsoever to interfere in the “matters of men” or she stands a chance of getting beaten into a pulp.
This is just an excerpt of a full short story — Habiba.
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