Do you know whom you are marrying? Are you sure? You should know!
A couple got married and for 5 years they did not have children. All the pregnancies ended up in miscarriage. The couple was naturally devastated but rumor around the village began to fly like mosquitoes. They stag the soul of the man until he begun to wonder whether the rumors were true. He began to ask whether, as was alleged, he had married the wrong girl. He wanted to find out whom he had married! He found out too late about her life of contraceptives.
As traditional African culture is eroded by western modernism, families in Africa find themselves in a dilemma. Within most of the Kenyan traditions the dowry payment was not just about money, rather, it was about the community getting involved in the decisions of the neighbors. The child belonged to the community and there was a sense that failures within one family reflected on the village as a whole. No young person would dare make marriage decision without vetting process.
When I worked with the Asian Indian community in Chicago, I was perplexed by these modern peoples’ adherence to their cultural norms even in the midst of western-isn. The women came to church wearing sallies and their educated daughters felt comfortable with their parents finding husbands for them. I remember one of my close associates. After graduating from medical school and landing a job with a respectable medical practice, he left to go to India. He came back with a beautiful girl who was hand picked by his parents, with community involvement. She was a wonderful woman!
My mother came home one day after attending a pre-dowry ceremony. I have traditionally respected women instincts. There is something about what women say about someone that is different from what men say. You see, when my buddies and I talk, we speak from the mind. When we describe women as beautiful we mean the physical appearance. But when the women describe the same woman, they are speaking about things that cannot be seen. After the ceremony, my mother and I sat by the fire in the living room: my village is cold. As a man, I asked her, “How did it go.” My question wanted a physical description. The people, the food, the number of people, an external description of the event! Like always, she spoke from the heart.
She described the event. “Well, when we arrived they received us very well. There were many people there. The ceremony was well attended.” This was the physical description. She was answering my question. Then she went to the heart. “There was something interesting about the place. There was something about those people that was . . . am. There is something wrong with that girl.” She said in a motherly hesitation. “She kept moving her head funny.” I listened as she disqualified the whole thing from the heart. “I do no think . . . there is something wrong.”
Latter on when the dowry thing came up, she did not go. When my father came back having escorted the man’s father, he was hesitant. After tea, he busted into laughter. “Harriet, we saw wonders. We came back with the pick up truck full of the dowry and . . . I. It is as if you knew.” He said. My mother said nothing. She just looked at me. I found out that the bride was an absolute alcoholic. My mother saw it. Sad to say, the guy went ahead to marry this lady and he lived in hell! It turns out, while the men were negotiating the dowry, some women were doing investigation. They always wanted to answer the question, “who are these people?”
As many young Kenyans meet in universities, colleges, bars, discos, raves, and decide on their future on the basis of western freedom, it is important to remember those dowry gatherings. It is true some of these young people are finding their soul mates. But no matter how educated, wealthy, and advanced we are, our mother’s instincts still count. Abraham made a covenant with his chief servant Eliezar that he must go back to his village, to his people, to get a wife for his son Isaac.
Not every body will do that. But the principle stands: It is good to know whom the mother or father of your children is going to be. And the village women can help!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD) HtBluff Associates. #HTBluff