Mbuya Chando

Because of little  sleep during the course of the night, Mbuya Chando woke up well before sunrise. She was careful not to disturb her grandson who was still fast asleep. She eased herself out of the blankets and stretched out her arms slowly. She put on a jersey that she had bought from the general dealer situated at Guruve Growth Point. This was after she had sold a bag of maize at the Grain Marketing Board. She slowly opened the door, stepped out and closed it behind her, and briskly walked to the kitchen. Usually, she would have started the day with a prayer in the bedroom, but on this day she did not want to disturb her grandson. When she opened her kitchen door, she did not waste any more time, she gracefully knelt on the dried reed mat nearest to her and prayed to her God. It was her usual prayer that she made right at the beginning of each and everyday when she was at home.

After concluding her prayer, she went outside and collected some dry grass, twigs and firewood. She made her fire. Before her husband died, one of the most thoughtful things that he had done was to dig a well a few metres from their homestead. Although during severe droughts the water in the well would be reduced in amount, the well never really dried up. Mbuya Chando was eternally grateful to her late husband for taking away the burden of fetching water from M’pinge River, which was more than a kilometre away, or from Chiri Chiri Stream where the water was muddy. When the bigger logs were burning, Mbuya Chando drew some water from the well and poured it into a big tin container. She transferred some of the water into a medium sized bucket that was now pitch black from the heat and smoke emanating from the fire. She then placed the bucket on the fireplace.

While the water was warming up, Mbuya Chando mixed some mealie-meal and water in one of her pots. She placed the pot next to the boiling container on the fireplace. She continuously stirred the pot using a wooden spoon so that the thick paste at the bottom of the floor did not burn into tasteless porridge. The porridge was ready for eating after about ten minutes. She did not have any sugar to sweeten it. Sugar was too expensive for her at this point in time. She would buy the sugar, if someone came to buy the green vegetables in her little garden. She had dropped a little salt into the porridge to improve its taste. She waited for Tonderai to wake up.

It was during this time that she started thinking about the dream that had unceremoniously cut her sleeping hours. She was not the dreaming type –  those people who dream something every night that they sleep? She was not overly superstitious either. She was, however, aware that strange “things” did happen in her neighbourhood, from time to time, but she had not exerted her energies on things that she did not fully understand. She preferred to keep her distance, if she could. It might have been fear or simply lack of interest, or both. The black bird’s aggression in particular created a lot of discomfort in her mind. In many ways, she was very happy that Tonderai had not been killed in her dream. That would have been a very bad omen. She could not think of a world without Tonderai. At least, not her world. She mixed hot and cold water and went to the bathing shelter to have her usual morning bath. She was quick. She did not believe in wasting time with water.

After her bath Mbuya Chando decided to go and wake Tonderai up. He had had enough sleep she reckoned.

“Wake up, Tonderai, the sun is already up. I told you that we needed to go out to the field early today. Muka!”(Wake up!)

Tonderai knew when his grandmother would  get angry and he did not want to test her patience. He quickly rose and collected the blankets and neatly rolled them in the corner. Though small in frame, he had been trained by his granny that each day, after waking up, he should ensure that the bedding was properly wrapped and placed in one corner of the bedroom. Mbuya Chando was back in the kitchen and mixed hot and cold water for her grandson to have his bath.

Tonderai did not like bathing at all. He did not find it necessary. If it was not for his grandmother, he would wash his body maybe once a week. Even though the water was warm, he still felt cold after washing his body so much that he always dressed himself in a hurry. Alternatively, on some occasions, he simply washed his face, hands and legs. He had to be careful these days because once his grandmother had noticed that he had not washed his full body and he was given lukewarm water to go and wash while she stood outside the bathing shelter.

On this day, Tonderai had his full body bath and was back in the kitchen for his breakfast. The porridge went down very well, although he wished that he had had tea and bread instead. Oh, how he loved tea, especially if there was a generous spread of jam or margarine. He could clearly remember the last time he had such a treat. It had been the previous Christmas when he and his granny  had a full loaf for themselves. A whole loaf!

Soon, they were on their way to the maize field. The field was some distance from their homestead, past Chiri Chiri Stream on your way to the main road that went past Chitunhu village. For lunch, they had mahewu, a beverage that was made from sadza left-overs. Mbuya Chando led the way as usual and Tonderai followed faithfully behind. The two had travelled this path on many occasions. Both new each and every corner of the footpath, all the way to their field. It was like their bare feet held regular conversations with the dust along this path. It would appear that the conversations were always agreeable, because not one of them had stumbled, travelling this route. It was when they had set off on their way to the fields that Mbuya Chando’s mind  deeply focused on the future. Christmas was round the corner and she had no idea how she was going to ensure that her grandson had a good celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. She had very little money kept  for a rainy day. More importantly, she did not have a clue about where she would get the money for Tonderai’s Grade One school fees early in the new year. Tonderai also needed school uniforms. She did not mind even getting a second-hand set of a  khaki short and a shirt. That would do. It would be better than his current best clothes that had yellow and bright red patches. She wished  she was able to do more, but as of now, she could not think of any source of help. New clothes or no new clothes, what she knew in her mind was that Tonderai had to go to school. She had heard that the new school headmaster at M’pinyuri School was not as strict as the last one. The new one allowed parents to look for school fees for more than six months, if necessary. He was a local man who understood the tribulations that people like her had to face before coming up with school fees.

Although her late husband’s younger brother, Mharadzi did not live very far away, she was not comfortable about asking for help from him. This stemmed from her refusal  to  become his wife after her husband’s death, as was expected under customary practice. He drank too much beer and almost always beat up his wife for no apparent reason. The last time he had done so was because his wife had cooked sadza with vegetables only. Her crime was that she should have looked for a bit of beef to accompany the vegetables and the staple food. Where could the poor woman have found the beef? Besides, by the time her husband died, she was no longer interested in sex. She was doing it with her husband as a matter of duty. She had completely lost interest in the male species for that purpose. She, therefore, saw no reason for any man to take over her bedroom. When she recalled how uncle Mharadzi had reacted on being told that Mbuya Chando did not need a man to take over from his late brother, a naughty smile crept across her face. Because of an apparent lack of concentration, she almost stumbled as she negotiated a slight corner along the familiar footpath.

1 Comment

  1. Ok… this actually felt like reading a book! This could be a book.

    I love the detail in this piece, founded by stories we grew up hearing .. but that people from different countries/cultures can relate to! Well done!


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