On the day we were to travel to Lagos, I was awoken early in the morning by my mum who sounded as eager and excited as I was. After taking a quick and short cold shower, I settled down to a hurried breakfast of cold eba and ogbonlor soup (leftover of dinner).
Our usual breakfast of omelet, bread, tea, and cornflakes had disappeared with dad’s death. We had quickly gotten used to eating eba on a daily basis and rice was served only once a week on Sundays which we always looked forward to. I remembered my mum’s response when I asked my mom about this sudden change of menu. She had hissed and said “it’s like you people don’t understand you are now fatherless.”
My little brother, who was the only son of my parents, was six months old at the time of our dad’s passing and by God! That boy sure knows how to cry! My mother had to stop breastfeeding him at that tender age to under-go the burial rituals. The women in my father’s family came to our home on the day my dad died and shaved my mother’s head clean with a razor blade leaving her bleeding from cuts bearing witness to the undignified ritual.
On the day my daddy’s corpse was brought home from the mortuary, there was wild wailing all over the place. My elder sisters all cried their hearts out while I just kept looking confused at the whole drama. My mother was brought in to take an oath that she was innocent of my father’s death and on gazing at my father’s corpse, she let out a most agonizing cry; the type that emanates from deep within the soul. At that instant the flood gates were opened and hot tears came pouring from my eyes.
My mother took the oath swearing to die within a week if she was responsible for my father’s death or if she knew anything about his death. They gave her a piece of kolanut to place on my father’ head before she started taking the oath and asked her to pick the kolanut and eat it after taking the oath and gave her the water that was used in washing my dad’s corpse to drink to properly wash down the kolanut. She was then asked to open her mouth for them to inspect to be sure.
My father was buried in the dinning section of our sitting room. And the other burial rituals started. This included a one year mourning period and a mandatory ritual of having her to always dress in black for a full year. For the first three months, she was to sit and sleep on the bare floor and eat with only one plate and not wash her hands or the plate before and after eating. She was to take her bath only at midnight in a nearby bush and she must wail and cry loudly while going and coming back.
Why we were chased out of our home by my dad’s mother and family shortly after the completion of the first three months of the mourning period still baffles me. My dad’s mother and family made sure we didn’t take anything out of the house other than our clothes. So, we went t0 live in my maternal grandparent’s home.
Back to the present;
By the time my aunty came to get me it was already 8am and I was all set and ready to go. My mom had packed my few clothing into a quality nylon bag and handled the bag to me. I couldn’t hold back the tears as my mom and siblings tearfully bade me goodbye. My immediate elder sister hugged me so tight and so long that I had to forcefully extricate myself from her.
On getting to the park, my aunty paid for a seat and the conductor asked her if I wasn’t going and insisted that she paid for two seats and said he will not allow me to stand in the bus because he feared that I might sleep off and cause nuisance to the other passengers. My aunty vehemently refused to pay for an extra seat for me and insisted she would carry me on her lap.
The bus got filled up very fast and we set off on the journey to Lagos. The conductor did not join the bus so my aunty did not keep to her words of carrying me on her lap as she earlier told the conductor. She asked me to stand and warned me sternly not to dare close my eyes or sleep during the whole journey.
Whilst I was surprised at that rather harsh treatment, little did I know that, that was my introductory experience into the life of hustling.