Gambia: Just For Laughs

Femi Peters
Femi Peters (the author)

(JollofNews) – I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my childhood and all it entails, whether innocent or calculated. It is innocent when we use to think we are older than the person if we are taller than them and it is calculated if you gobble your mburoe akara, wipe your mouth and join your friends as if you’ve done the most normal thing in the world. Gluttonous lad!

In this debut column for this site, I want to talk about the things we did growing up and stuff like that. No, I’m not on the homestretch. I’ve not even rounded the curve yet. Matter of fact, I’m still light years from the big three oh. I’m a man to my dad (but he still tells people I’m his boy and a boy to my mum. Well, I will always be a boy in her eyes. I remember reading an interview on Sheriff Bojang seven or so years ago and he was told he is seen as Waa Juwara’s boy. ‘I’m only a boy to my mother,’ he shot back. In my case, add friend after the boy.

This piece is  a breath of fresh air will be kept as light as possible. Let the memories rumble…
Watching kids growing up in this country is quite contrary to how we grew up, isn’t it? Whilst they have their Play Stations, MP3’s, X Boxes and whatever else the spoiled brats possess, we have our vuu-vuus, (In case you have forgotten what that is, it is a bottle top hammered flat with a stone, drilled with two holes and used with a string. It is then operated with the fingers, preferably the index fingers and I guess the noise it emanates gave it its name), catapults, home made kite that always get entangle with the power cables overhead (Kaliskoat) and hide and seek (nobuwanteh). This was the game that gave one the opportunity to grope girls in the dark. But Papa ak Yai was a much more better avenue for that. I’m guffawing as I type this. Ah, the good old innocent days!

Sahrah was an opportunity for us to eat something before lunch or dinner
Sahrah was an opportunity for us to eat something before lunch

Can anyone out there remember the sahrah eating days? For me, it was an opportunity to put a little something in the insides before lunch or dinner. I say little in case you have forgotten njiroes were as common in sahrah eating as a Chelsea clean sheet. Whoever is giving out the sahrah would take his or her time to seat us round the bowl, (at times, it was sour milk and bread. Most times, it was tongue bitingly delicious cooked benechin laden with meat. Yum yum!) told us not to njiroe and to ‘def ndanka.’

Yeah, right. How can you def ndanka when the guy next to you has bigger mondoes than you and the other guy is shoving a huge piece of meat in his gob and chase it down with rice, eyes bulging and all the while arranging the next mondoe. To even up, you use both hands, which always were met with disdain. ‘You using the same hand you use in the loo!’ someone would say. You don’t care. With two palms full of rice, you can now get up and eat it slowly as you watch the others behaving like street urchins while those who listen to the sahrah provider or, in our case, ‘neka neka lu toubab,’ would still be understandably famished.

After hands are washed, it’s time for prayers to flow. With minute prayer knowledge, we all utter the same things over and over. ‘Yalla nga am saku hallis,’ ‘yalla nga dem arjanah,’ and ‘Yalla nga dem makka.’ The latter said even if the sahrah provider was Christian! Then we would scamper off to whatever we were doing before we were gleefully interrupted.

Over two decades, later, if I were to make good work of some sahrah, there would be no njiroe and the prayers would be less wishy-washy, somewhat, and more precise. It would be something like this: ‘God knows what we all want but we still have to tell Him. You providing this charity and in the process feeding us is a blessing in itself. Some of us had nothing to eat all day and God used you to feed us. Long may you be healthy, long may you be happy and long may the devil stay away from you. May all you seek for made attainable by God. May you live long to be around your great, great, great grand children. Leave all your troubles in God’s hands. His time is the best and will see you through it all.’
This is by far better than over repeating three sentences.

Our parents would beat us to a pulp after a trip to the sea.
Our parents would beat us to a pulp after a trip to the sea.

‘Gage amut banhas,’ our parents warned us but do we listened? Despite being beaten to a pulp after a trip to the waters, we would still go swimming. Then we discovered ways to disguise that fact. Vaseline was used to make our white bodies look normal. Little did we realize by looking normal also blows our cover. Look at it this way: it is well into the afternoon or evening and we come home looking like we just stepped out of the shower. We should be looking like we trying to put a tramp to shame and our mums telling us we look like we got no mums.

Not only that. One look at our nostrils would reveal it is squeaky clean and the insides of our ears are white. Sherlock Holmes is not needed to tell we were splashing about. Then slaps would follow, accompanied by lots of ‘timpas’ like they are trying to stop your heart. There is only one way out: scream your lungs out and a neighbor would come to the rescue, provided you are not locked in the room.

A week later, you are off swimming again. We never learn. In fact, we revel in being ‘daerrkiss.’ That was our answer to ASBO. My only regret is that, despite taking all those beatings from numerous sea visits, I still can’t swim to save my life. Come to think of it, it is humiliating to be an islander and unable to hold one’s own in the water. It is a bit like being a dimwitted Fula man. I don’t think they exist. Do they?

Okay, our parents were spot on when the say the sea is branchless but they told a porkie or two on the ‘sasaboro’ story. This is of guys at the ‘tan’ (swamp forest), who would sever your head, have it interred and when it decomposed, there would be a diamond in it. Yes, it had us shook a bit but we still go there to take a dump, dig for clay and cut ‘lengeh’ for the ‘njulies.’ Not one of us has been separated from their heads. Our parents owe us an apology.

Remember how adamant and belligerent we were as kids? Demanding the impossible? Say, for instance, you share your bread and butter with a friend in the morning and you happen to fall out in the evening. You tell him to ‘fehei’ the bread he had eaten earlier! Seriously, this was no joke. How can you wriggle free from such a situation? Well, you promise to pay and you do so when you have some bread. The same portion that he cut for you is near exactly the same you will give back.

To be continued.

Written by Femi Peters Jr

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