‘…Mama please stop before people start focusing on us unnecessarily…’
‘Let them focus on us inukwa! gini me? (what about it)… would we drop dead if they focus on us…? Since you moved over here with your husband you have become too quiet and accepting. Even to say what you see with your own eyes is now a big problem. I hope Charles your doctor husband has not injected something into you that has made you soft like over ripe pawpaw…’
The young woman laughed, looked at her mother a second time in amusement and decided it would be wise and peaceful to leave Mama alone to satisfy her self.
The bus had moved a considerable distance and all along Mama’s eyes was glued to the window taking in every sight and sound of the seemingly moving towns and neigbourhoods the bus passed through. She would intermittently return her gaze towards her grandchild still sleeping in the baby carrier stroller, readjust his head, or hand or any part of him that she thought was out of position. She would croon a tribal lullaby in the direction of the baby, call him numerous indigenous pet names and become unperturbed about stares and attention cast towards her by other passengers. Mama and her daughter sat in the very first row seat and the baby was secured in his pram just in front in a space provided for such. Once or twice other women with babies would come into the bus along the way and Mama would take a detailed look at them and how they attended to their babies and even mute an offer of help where she felt a mother’s conduct towards her child was improper.
‘…Iheoma did you see how that woman is carrying her baby, that is not the right way to carry a baby of that age.’
‘Mama, i don’t see any problem with that, we have taken the only buggy space in the bus so other buggies have to be folded away and mothers have to hold their babies to themselves till a space becomes available…?
‘But can’t you see how she is carrying the baby awkwardly, it might strain his neck. I feel i should go and take the baby off her and carry him as should be…?’
‘Mama you will not leave this seat for that reason.’
‘…And the baby is even crying. Can’t she breastfeed him? Or is it a crime to bring out her breast in the bus and feed the hungry baby? What kind of thing is this?’
‘Mama it would be better if we allow her handle her baby the way she deems fit.’
‘Nooo…mba nu… this cannot happen while i am here, Jehovah would judge me. Even in Owerri, even in those ITC buses we enter, mothers are always breastfeeding their babies and if they don’t do it and the baby is crying someone elderly would remind them. That is how it’s done.’
‘Mama that is Owerri, this is Dublin.’
‘Are you trying to tell me that the babies in Dublin are any different from the ones in Owerri… are they not little children needing their mothers to feed them as at when due…?’
‘Mama please let her be. I don’t think she is incapable of taking care of her child no matter how improper it may look in your eyes…’
‘After I have been praising them about how beautiful their country looks compared to our place, i don’t even know there are still things that makes our own place even look more okay…’
‘Mama, each society has its own way…’
The conversation was interrupted by a few bodies moving out of one position into another position and requiring mama to adjust her body frame so that they could make their way out of the bus. The bus stop electronic bell sounded and a few other people moved forward to indicate that they are about to alight from the bus. Two teenage boys rushed down the stair-way from the upper compartment as if someone was chasing them and almost brushed mama out of the way to get to the front of the bus. They seemed too pre-occupied with themselves and with the games they were playing on one another, to notice any displeasure they were causing. They Laughed aloud, and cursed aloud too. Mama looked at them in utmost disbelief, shrugged her shoulders in revulsion and even more irked was she by the way they appeared to have dressed.
‘Iheoma, my daughter you see, this what i am telling you. I can understand they are not concerned about having respect for others but why can’t they respect themselves and wear their clothes properly. Is their underwear so clean and expensive that it must be the one the public would see?’
‘Mama that one is their business not mine.’
‘I hope my Ebube would not grow up and start pulling his trousers down to the knee level and leave his buttock open, patrolling the streets with underwear.’
‘Mama he will never do that as long as i remain his mother.’
‘But these ones, don’t they have mothers at home to look at them properly before they leave home?’
‘Mama, most of them don’t do all these rubbish in front of their parents. When they are out of sight, that is when they behave the way they like…’
The bus stopped and the two teenagers burst out of the bus as if they had just be released from a confinement, and kept on running away, their high pitched screams un-abating, following them. A few more people entered the bus. The bus moved a little while and was eventually halted by a red traffic light signal. A tram was at that instant snaking its way across. Mama couldn’t miss that sight.
‘Is this train or what that is moving like millipede… bekee wu agbara (Europeans are wizards at invention)…’
‘Mama its called a tram. Its like a light train that is meant to carry passengers through dedicated city paths and routes often times crossing major roads too…’
‘Haven’t our always traveling governor and politicians seen this one to bring to our land? Or is it that when they come here they stay only in hotels and have all the good things to themselves without caring what would make our lives back home easier. Imagine if we have this type of thing in Ala Owerri…(Owerri Town), going to Okigwe, Orlu, Nkwo-Orji, Orie- Amanaku, Eke…, Afo…, Mbano, Mbaise, Nkwere, Isu-Njaba…? So that we market people would be cured of the stress and troubles of bus drivers and conductors…’
‘Mama, our politicians are all the same. Most of them schooled abroad yet when they go back home they are blind to progressive vision and thinking. How much would it cost to put this kind of transport service in all major cities of that country, after-all we hear how they use billions of peoples money for their own private pleasures… Mama please don’t remind me of that country, i am sick and tired of it.’
‘My daughter that is what we are going through in our daily lives there, just pain and hardship, and also saddled with government that has no love for its people and when we ask you people over here to send us money to alleviate our suffering, you’ll be asking us to explain how we spent the previous ones you gave us…’
‘Mama, people back home should also be mindful of how you ask us for money. Most of us here don’t even have enough for ourselves to meet our needs let alone send huge amount of money home. Since you came, haven’t you noticed how money is flying out of our hands to meet one need or the other. Mama, the life in Europe is never designed to carry unnecessary family burden, but we are trying. God is our sufficiency always.’
‘My daughter, God will continue to be your sufficiency and also your suffi-plenty and continue to bless you and your husband for the much you have done for us, we are grateful. If not for the money you give us, your siblings and many of my sister’s children would be out of school. Imagine if we don’t have your support how our lives would have been. Many of our neighbours who are not as fortunate as we are, are finding it so hard to make a decent living…’
Ebube moved in his pram, he had just woken up for the first time since the journey into the city began. Mama extended her hands to readjust him properly. Another song of praise and of comfort came out of Mama’s mouth. The baby boy smiled and Mama smiled too convinced that the boy heard all that she sang to him. More people alighted from the bus than others came into it, which gave the feeling that the bus was nearing its terminal point. From the sight Mama could make out from inside the bus, it shows the city was already in full blown bubble when the bus got closer with all sorts of things going on at the same time. Mama did not know which one to talk about… from the horse and carriage conveying fun seekers and competing with vehicles on the road, to the little market activities going on side by side, with excited visitors checking out one item of interest or the other. Some people were seen dressed in all sorts of bright colourful outfits and regalia which left mama wondering if a festival was ongoing or about to take place. As usual, the daughter had the onus to explain anything that seem to confound Mama.
‘…Mama, everyday there is one new thing to celebrate here, you know many people from all parts of the world live and visit here always so when they come they also come with their special occasion. So it is not unusual to see people wear all manners of clothes to mark events which they are fond of. But a very popular one among Irish people is called St. Patrick’s day celebration. I wished you had agreed to come that period when they held the last one, you would have seen more festivities…’
The daughter expounded.
‘Which one is St. Patrick? St. Patrick nke ayin…? (is it our own St.Patrick?) is that not the name of our mission (parish) in Ama-JK in Owerrri…?’
‘…Haha Mama, that one is the name of our catholic church in Ama-JK you are talking about. This St. Patrick is the national day of this country just like we celebrate independence day back home?’
‘Okay i see…’
Mama took that information in without further questioning and diverted her eyes towards another attraction which were all coming and leaving her view as quickly as the bus moved through the city center traffic. But a particular sight made her recoil…
‘Tufiakwa! chineke mee!! Iheoma did you see that? Tell me its not true, that my eyes are deceiving me?’
‘What again mama?’
‘Did you not see those two children, that young boy and girl holding and touching themselves and putting their mouth into each other with no fear. Have the world become rotten to this extent?’
‘Mama it shouldn’t surprise you, we see all those things here everyday. I am sure by the time we have spent some more time in the city you would have seen more people holding and kissing themselves intimately not minding where they are or who is looking at them.’
‘Even young children…?’
‘Mama, Ndi ocha (Europeans) didn’t specify age for such acts. its not much of a big deal here. Please Mama I’m not even interested in that one. In fact you have wasted enough energy picking, accessing, scrutinizing, comparing and complaining throughout the journey. I don’t know what strength is left in you to undertake our other walk in the city. Please let us leave all these things and prepare to come down, our stop is the next one.
We would leave Ebube in his pram so that we can move him comfortably around, that is the only way we can do other things unhampered…’
A ringing phone punctuates…
‘…See its his daddy on the phone calling. Let me pick this call and speak with him, I’m sure he wants to know where we are. Mma biko, mee k’ayin ri tuo (mama please be ready we ‘ll be coming down soonest)
to be contd