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PART ONE

I’m now sixty years old.
A senior bachelor.
I have a loving daughter,Chastity,the love of my life.
She is thirty six years old.
I’m expecting her any time now to land on a flight from Frankfurt,Germany,
She is coming back from her study leave for her doctorate degree in Sociology.
I’m losing my mind in anticipation of this reunion with my daughter.
My eyes are moist with tears of joy and anticipation.
At this point in my life,I can’t help looking back at the fate that brought Chastity into my life,thirty three odd years ago.
I was only twenty seven on that fateful day that her mother died.
These are the thoughts that are swirling in my mind,like a fog being swept by whirlwind.

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On that fateful day,thirty three years ago,I was coming back to Nairobi from our coastal town of Mombasa.

I had just been employed as a junior Veterinary Officer in the Civil service and longing to visit my upcountry home after six months at my new duty station.

The daunting eight hour journey by bus was only a small price to pay to quench this longing that had now taken a permanent residence in my heart.

I had reported earlier than usual at the bus coach ticketing office for this journey back home.

But as I gathered during my anxious wait for the departure,I was not the only one eager to make this long journey to Nairobi; a young Muslim woman with a beautiful young daughter was also waiting on the office bench for the same bus.

Her daughter kept on pestering her about when they will start their journey.

Her flimsy bits of answers and motherly assurances helped me gather that they were going to be fellow passengers on the same coach.

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The young family sat next to me on the seat rows.
The crooning of the bus engine and fatigue sent me to the land of dreams after only a few miles into our long journey.
But not before the toddler who was seating between her mum and I, also fell asleep on my lap.
Her mother too,covered in full black Muslim dress with veil that only allowed a narrow slit for her eyes, had too fallen asleep holding her handbag on her laps.
The only free pillow available to the toddler was my lap.
She snored peacefully in her slumber.
Occasionally,her mother would stir awake and try to move the sleeping toddler off my lap,but she would fall back to her free pillow soon enough during her sleepy tosses and turns.

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I was awakened by violent and torturous swaying of the coach amidst screams of my fellow passengers.
The coach had suffered a front wheel tyre burst and the driver was unsuccessfully trying to regain the control of the vehicle.
It was swaying from one side of the road to the other with metallic screeching noises in the undercarriage.
My harshly awakened mind told me to prepare for the worst.
There was no way the driver was going to regain control of the vehicle at this high speed.
Then it happened.
We rolled several times with deafening bangs on each violent landing.
Seats came off the floor pan of the coach and were flying like murderous demons inside the coach.
Screams and groans filled the air.
I felt dizzy and numbed by the violent bangs on my body.
Bodies and bits of personal luggage were flying out through the broken windows.
Then,it all fell silent,except for the hissing of a burst engine radiator but only for a few seconds.
Screams and groans lent the air once again.
Those who could move at all, were now scrambling through the broken windows and gaping tears on the coach.
I couldn’t move.
I was trapped between the loose seats,luggage and other injured or dead passengers,all in a heap,with the bus lying upside down on its roof.
Something was moving across my heavy laden chest.
Then there was a faint cry.
I could only hear the words “mummy, mummy”.

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A haze was clearing from my heavily sedated mind.
There was smell of medicine on my nose.
My face felt tight under the bandages.
As the fog cleared from my mind,I heard repeated questions over my face: “what’s your name? Can you hear me? Can you see me?”
The voice seemed to be coming from a very long distance.
A blurry face was towering over my head.
Another voice,a toddler’s crying voice was becoming distinct next to blurry face.
They had found her clutched to me when they freed us from the wreckage.

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I spent two weeks at Voi District Hospital after the accident,or rather,we spent two weeks there,the unidentified toddler and I.

When I came to,I found that they had tagged us both with the same serial number on our wrist bracelet.

They supposed we were possibly relatives travelling together.

But there was no trace of the toddler’s mother. Nobody had claimed the toddler either,from this hospital.
I could neither convince the hospital staff nor the police that I was not the toddler’s father trying to shun responsibility after the accident.

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On my day of discharge from the hospital,I had unexpected visitors waiting for me in the hospital’s administration office.
When I sat down,I realised that they were a children’s welfare officer and a policewoman.
They wanted me to sign some papers.
I had to declare that I was going to take away my “daughter” with me on my discharge.
I also had to allow a children’s welfare officer into my home for surprise visits as a follow up on how I was faring as a “reluctant parent” with my daughter.
Things were moving very fast in my life after the accident,in the wrong direction.
All these officers seemed to have conspired to offload the toddler into my life as fast as they could.
They even offered to offset her bill at the hospital on my behalf.
The children welfare office was going to take care of the bill.
I was tongue tied.

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“So, what is your daughters name?”,the children’s welfare officer asked me after a lengthy dawdling with her pen.

“Chastity”,a name that just flew from the top of my head.

“How old is she?”

” I honestly don’t know”.

“Make it easy for us and yourself too, by giving us the right details”.

“The doctor says in this report that she is three,so I will put it here that your daughter is three”.

There was no way out of this mess.
A soft knock on the door brought me back to the reality of my situation.
I was being forced to adopt a child I didn’t know.
There was no information on her mother on the scene of the accident from police report,nor from the hospital records of the victims.
Chantelle,my long time girlfriend had come to drive me home after my discharge.
She was now watching us silently as I signed the papers on the table.
“Is she your daughter’s mother?”,the policewoman asked me looking at Chantelle.
“No”.
Chantelle looked at me in askance.
I avoided her eyes.
“Are we taking her with us?”,Chantelle asked me,bewildered.
“Yes. It is a long story. I will explain when we get home”.

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The drive home was silent,except for Chastity who kept asking Chantelle where her mum was.
Chantelle feigned concentration in her driving ignoring the toddler.
She would not even dare look at me either.
A big storm was brewing in my life.
I was not looking forward to arriving at my home,even after this long absence.
I had a sense of foreboding that my life was going to change forever once the three of us were home.
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“You know I will going back to Rwanda tomorrow to see my parents,so,who is this girl?”

” I honestly don’t know”.

Then I told her the strange story about the accident and how no one could trace her mother,and so she was forced into me as my daughter.

Chantelle rolled her beautiful eyes after I finished my story.

“May be it is you who is not searching hard enough for the mother of your daughter. I always suspected some monkey business in this relationship.
But you are lucky that I’m going away tomorrow. That will give you enough time to sort out your many other relationships”.

“You can’t throw those unkind words back at me,Chantelle. Not after I’ve explained this whole strange story to you”.

“The story is strange to me,but I’m not sure that it is strange to you”.

That was the last that I heard from Chantelle,and the last I saw of her too.

I heard later on that she had sought political asylum in Canada.

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Chastity was a good child,outgoing and obedient.
I had now resigned myself to being a father without having ever been married,or fathering a child of my own,under whatever other circumstances.
The children’s welfare officer visited us several times and kept pestering Chastity about the whereabouts of her mother in a backhanded sort of interrogation. She simply didn’t know where her mother was,she kept saying,and the bewilderment in her eyes after this incisive questioning touched the depths of my soul.
What has become of me?
Why couldn’t anybody believe me?
Am I living in a bubble of a dream,or my life was real?

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Six months after the accident,I received an appointment letter from Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) inviting me to join their veterinary department.
I had been interviewed for this position and I had given up on it after a long wait.
My new duty station was going to be the Animal Orphanage in Nairobi National Park.
Chastity had joined a baby care center in our residential neighbourhood and had made many friends.
I was happy for her,under the circumstances.
She was a jolly and outgoing child.
It had taken her quite a while to bring herself to call me Daddy.
When I first heard her call me Daddy,I cried.
Now,she was going to be uprooted from her familiar neighbourhood where she had made friends to a new home in the wild.
My heart cried for her.
I gently tried to explain to her that we will move to a new home and she is going to make new friends.
All she asked was,”will I get to see my friends again?”.
How does one honestly answer such a question to a child who may not understand that we were moving away from this place that she called her home,and we may never get a chance to come back here again?

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The children’s welfare officer after listening to my reasons of relocating from her area of jurisdiction said she was satisfied that I was going to be a good father to Chastity,and there was no need of handing over my case to the Children’s welfare officer in Nairobi.
I should however get in touch with her incase I encounter any problems related to this case.
With that,Chastity and I bid farewell to our home and boarded a KWS lorry that transported our belongings to the new Nairobi home right inside the Nairobi National Park.
As we crossed the junction to Voi town on our way to Nairobi,my heart was overcome with very strong emotions.
I requested the lorry driver to stop by the roadside and took Chastity down with me.
My eyes were moist.
I took a handful of soil by the roadside and put it in a paperbag.
I asked Chastity to do the same and she gleefully agreed thinking that this was a good sport to play with “Daddy”.
She threw several handfuls into the paper bag and we embarked on our journey.
The lorry driver kept stealing nervous glances at us and the paper bag holding the soil.
He never commented or asked what it was all about.
But he started driving very carefully for the rest stretch of our journey.
Mombasa is famous for black magic.
He seemed to have decided not to take any chances with his driving after our strange episode by the roadside.

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{ A short preview of part two of this continuing story}
PART TWO

The shrieks of monkeys by our house in the KWS staff quarters was not exactly what Chastity expected for her morning greetings.
She came from her bedroom walking noiselessly on the wood tile floor,tip-toeing to sit on my lap.
I stroked her head to calm her down.
She was silent throughout this ordeal.
It was like watching a pantomime play.
She looked scared.
The house, for one thing was strange to her.
She had slept through the journey late into the night,and was still asleep on our arrival.
She slept on the lorry’s cabin as we offloaded our belongings.
I only unpacked the essential items that we could use through the night,and then put her to bed to continue with her slumber.
From her surprised looks,I could tell that the morning had come too soon for her.
Not to mention the strange animal noises in our new compound.
I knew she was not ready to take her breakfast,not before she ascertained what kind of racket was going on outside our door.
“Daddy,what is making those noises?”
“Some monkeys,baby girl(a pet name that I used on her),would you like to see them?”
“Yes. Draw the curtains daddy. Can I see them through the window?”
A tactful girl.
She wanted this show to come in small bits.
I carried her to the window.
Monkeys were doing their thing,swinging by tree branches and gracing their sport with numerous shrill shrieks.
Chastity held me tightly wrapping her small arms round my neck.
“They won’t bite you,but don’t try to throw any food at them,or carry your food outside the door”.
I took the opportunity to impress on her some necessary precautions she must now start adopting in our new home.
Some monkeys were atop the roof of a parked Landcruiser.
She watched these ones with both fascination and dread.
In her young beautiful mind,she could see that the clear cut bondaries between animals and humans were erased in this environment. She held me more tightly as she watched them,but relaxed her grip when she spotted a baby monkey clinging to her mother as she dashed across the compound.
There is something about babies that mellows the hearts of all of us.

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Our reception at the Officer-in-Charge of the station was quite eventful for all parties.
Chastity was wary about the many monkeys that graced the compound as we walked to the office block.
She only managed to take a few steps before pleading with me to carry the rest of the way to the office block.
“I’m scared,Daddy”.
“Ok,but you will have to get used to them,baby girl. See,other children are walking all by themselves across the compound”.
“Will they be my friends?”
“The monkeys?”.
“No. The children. Will I play with them?”
“Yes,off course,after you get to know them. Make them your friends!”

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The officer in charge had not expected me to bring along a toddler.
I had clearly indicated during my last interview that I was single.
That was only eight months ago.

“Welcome. Is she your daughter?”
“Well,yes. It is a long story,but I will explain it to you when I’m settled here”
“No problem. How was your journey? Did you enjoy the night here? It is rather noisy with all these monkeys around,but you will get used to it”.
He was a man with things to do and he did not waste his time on niceties.
He was not expected answers to his questions because he buzzed an intercom and a lady in her thirties was also ushered into the office.
“Meet Dr. Kimathi. She heads our veterinary department. She will take over from where I’ve left and show you around. Good day,and enjoy yourselves!”

He was already done in two minutes.
None of had said a word.
We were soon dismissed and ushered out of his office.
Dr. Kimathi held Chastity’s hand as we walked along an open walled corridor to her office.

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Full text of PART TWO will be published in the next post. Keep it here!

Just some random thoughts that came to my mind….©Profarms’ Random Thoughts®

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