My grandfather had thirty-nine wives and six concubines-ManKambugua
My grandfather had thirty-nine wives and six concubines-ManKambugua
Whispers from London: Just in case you do not remember my grandfather, he was a paramount chief during the colonial period. He used to own a whole thirty-nine wives and six concubines. He had built a hut for every wife and he made sure that every wife had a piece of land and livestock. I cannot recall any time he laughed with his wives.
The only time he showed affection to them was when they became pregnant. There was a time when ten of them became pregnant at the same time and he felt like he was touching the sky. The more the wife’s tummy was big, the more the respect he accorded the respective wife. To show his friends that he was indeed a man not a cockroach, he would ask all the pregnant wives to come and greet his visitors. This was a clever way of showing the world that he was the great ruler, fisher of men, commander of all people and insects in his chiefdom, plus of course the great professor of ‘Geography’ in his wives.
All what I am trying to put across is that my grandfather was a no-nonsense man. The only person he feared was the white man and Senior Chief Njiiri wa Karanja. He pretended to be his friend, but he was his competitor per excellence. He believed that if his wives pulled together, they would amass more wealth than Chief Njiiri. If his wives disagreed, he would call them for a meeting and ask them whether there was anything else they all shared apart from one vital part of his body.
As I fell asleep, I started dreaming with my grandfather. I dreamed that he had come to visit me in my home in Birmingham, England.
First, I heard a knock on the door and when I opened it, I saw that it was my grandfather. At first, I was shocked because as far as I knew, he died long time ago and I even attended the funeral. When he saw me, he smiled and extended his hand to greet me. Still in fear, I told him that the whole world was experiencing COVID-19 pandemic and that we were not supposed to greet each other to avoid spreading the virus. He was shocked that I was reluctant to greet him.
“My son, I have come all the way from where I live to come and greet you and you don’t want to greet me? Did you come to in this country to acquire foolishness?” he asked.
I had so many questions to ask him and I did not want to embarrass him, so I reluctantly extended my hand to greet him. The burning question I had for him was where he went after he died. I decided to wait for him to get used to my house, moreover, to me he was still the paramount chief who we all feared.
I went to the kitchen and prepared him breakfast as I kept on asking him how people were where he lived.
“Grandfather, when you left us, we were all confused. There has never been and there will never be anybody else like you in this world or the next,” I told him.
“I know,” he replied.
“When you left, where did you go? Heaven or Hell?” I asked in bated breath.
“What do you think? Take a guess?” he said.
Definitely you must have gone to Heaven!” I told him although from his conduct in this world, he must have been rotting in the hottest spot in hell. His youngest wife was only eighteen years when he was clocking a hundred years! He told us that he married a young wife so that she would help him carry his bag when he was heading to the bank. She was also supposed to be making his bed and light fire in his hut. After one year, she became pregnant, maybe out of making a lot of fire in his hut! The devil is a liar!
“Whether I went to Heaven or hell is none of your business!” he exclaimed in the same commanding tone that he was used to.
When breakfast was ready, he told me that he would only take cold water. He had come to England to greet me then buy African or Caribbean food and perfumes. I tried to persuade him to eat but he was adamant that he would not take anything.
Even when he lived in this world, my grandfather was not an easily approachable person so for a moment there was some few minutes of awkward silence since I did not know what to tell him. The only thing that excited him was his then eighteen-year-old wife. To break the ice, I told him that his young wife was still alive and was a great grandmother.
“Wow! Say hello to her although by now she must be looking like a fossil that refused to be extinct,” he said.
The more I stayed with my grandfather, the more I asked myself questions. For example, any time he felt lonely when he lived with us, he would send me to go and tell one of his wives to bring him porridge. That was a coded message to tell the chosen wife that he wanted to have a woman by his bedside. When the wife appeared with her porridge, she was told that she was the one to make his bed. The wife would then ‘make the bed’ until early hours in the morning. One could cut jealousy with a knife from the other women who were not chosen to make fire.
If I was finding it difficult to have a one to one conversation with my grandfather from another planet, I guessed it was not necessary for him to meet my wife Mama Michelle and the children. I would find it hard to explain to them that he had died and resurrected.
Thank God that he had also come to do shopping. I informed him that my friend Michael lived in London and he knew where we would buy African/Caribbean food and good perfumes worth his status. In this regard, I called Michael and told him that I wanted him to meet my grandfather.
“You have never told me that you have a grandfather who is alive,” he said. If I told Michael that my grandfather had just resurrected, as a man of God, he would not agree to meet him.
Michael finally suggested that we meet in a place in Forest Gate, East London where my grandfather would buy any African food that he wanted.
“Grandfather, do you mind if I ask you what your staple food is?” I asked him.
“But I don’t eat in your mother’s place!” he replied.
“Put it this way, who will you eat the food with once you go back to your place? I asked him as I ignored his rude response.
“I will eat with who I will eat with,” he responded.
After several hours, we finally met Michael in East London where we bought foodstuffs. For the first time, I saw my grandfather become happy and even started to smile. He told us that where he lived, they ate cassava, yams, and sweet potatoes. According to him, the sweet potatoes they grew there were so sweet that one would not eat them when wearing shoes because the toes always wiggled without one’s knowledge out of sweetness. Also, the cassavas, according to him, were so sweet that when eaten, the eater had to scream literally because they were so sweet. Wow!
Once we were through with the grocery, we entered Michael’s car to go and buy nice perfumes. I thought of asking grandfather whether he was buying perfumes as presents to his loved ones, but he ignored my question. Before reaching the perfume shop, grandfather asked us how many wives we each had, and we told him that we only had one wife each.
“What? One wife? And you call yourselves men?” he asked in astonishment.
“It’s not possible to have many wives, in any case we love our wives dearly,” we told him.
“To hell with your one love! Do all men in London own only one wife each? I never knew that men in London were circumcised for only one woman!” he said. He could not understand that a city like London had very few people. When we told him about social distancing because of COVID-19.
“Is COVID-19 a hotel or a motel?” he asked.
In all the time we were with my grandfather, Michael had not known that was the past tense as well as present continuous. I suggested that we have lunch in a Caribbean restaurant and my grandfather agreed.
I thought it was good to disclose to Michael that indeed my grandpa had come back from wherever he lived.
“This must be the grandfather who owned thirty-nine wives!” said Michael as he took a closer look at him.
“Yes, I was! I am still the main chicken that crows in the village and leaves no chicken untouched!” he said.
“I guess you still touch those chicken where you live?” said Michael.
“I won’t answer that, but I am still the mighty ruler of all circumcised men!” said grandfather.
“If for once a local lady fell in love with you, would you love her and fly away with her?” asked Michael.
“Yes! Of course! But on one condition, she must be circumcised like our women back in Africa,” he said.
I submitted to him that circumcision for girls was a long-gone tradition even in Africa and it was even illegal because it was interfered with one’s libido.
“Are you in your normal state of mind? Girls are no longer circumcised. Thank God I left that village. If I were still the ruler, the tradition would continue,” he said.
As we ate our meal, grandpa thanked me for hosting him and taking him to London. He spat on his chest and blessed me and my descendants.
“May you never lack my son! May good fortunes be with you ever after. Corona came and it will go, tell your people that. No situation is permanent. Be blessed,” he said. He also turned to Michael and blessed him. He told him that in him he saw a highly intelligent person who would go extremely far in life.
When we went outside, as Michael opened his car to take us to where I had parked, thunder and lightning appeared and when we looked up, we saw granddad rising and rising in a supersonic speed. Behind him was a big white cloud that followed him. We were both tongue tied with what we were witnessing. Finally, we had to let it go and accept what was happening.
Minutes later, I was awoken by my wife who told me that the debt of £5k she had loaned me was long overdue and that she wanted it for house repair. I quickly woke up and told her that my grandfather said hello.
“I am talking about my £5k debt repayment not about your grandfather” she said.
It was at this juncture that I realised that I was in dreamland. Michael, wherever you are, thanks for entertaining my grandfather, in my dream that is. God bless you.
By: Man ManKambugua E-mail: [email protected]