(Image from Pinterest: Me and my father.)
Ever since I was a child, my father always took me everywhere with him. At the age of 6, he would go with me to his workplace at the end of every month when he collected his paycheque. He would open the envelope and he would make me read it to him. At the age of 6, I was too young to understand. I always thought it was his way of helping me perfect my A B C’s and 1 2 3’s. Afterwards, he would sling me on his shoulders and we would walk around Harare City whilst I ate an ice cream cone.
We would pass through Huriyadzo the local bottle store on our way home and he would buy a couple of pints for himself and a Ripe ‘n’ Ready with Zapnax for me, and we would head home. He would hurl me from his shoulders and sat me on the single bed we shared. He would turn on the prima stove and I would light the candle and start on my homework. Most times I would not be doing my homework, but I would be staring at the pages in the dim light, waiting for baba to tell me a story. He always did whilst the sadza shimmered, especially after downing one or two pints of Black Label.
Ever since mama left, it had become our ritual. He would bring out his book and sit in front of me. He called the book, the book of life and he only allowed me to touch on these end of the month special occasions. He would take a few sips and stare at me. His bloodshot eyes would gawk at me as I pretended to scribble in my homework book.
” We are royalty,” he would start, ” sons and daughters of great kings and queens.” I would sit up straight and pay attention. I always loved his stories, how he made them seem real and how he actually believed them to be true. It always fascinated my young mind how he would narrate the story as if he had experienced it.
” My great grandfather was a young man when they came. Changamire Dombo was still the chief and ruled with an iron fist.”, he would exclaim raising his fisted hand in the air. ” His name was Musorowegomo, my great grandfather. He was a great wrestler and was the best in the whole of the Rozvi State. The young women admired him and the young men wanted to be him.” He would take a swig from the bottle and wipe his mouth with his arm. ” He was sharpening his spear when they came. He heard people screaming and saw huts being set ablaze. People were running but they all fell down when the paa paa noise sounded. It is said it came from the long sticks the men without knees were holding.”
” Men without knees? How where they chasing them baba?”, I would ask.
” No my boy”, he would laugh ruffling my head, ” Back in the day, many years ago, our people were not familiar with the white men’s clothes. They were not accustomed to clothing that went past the knees, so they called them “people without knees” before they were called varungu.”
” Ok baba.”
” Where was I? Ah, yes. The men without knees rounded the people who were left and killed them but he survived. I do not know how he did it or convinced the white man but he ended up being a servant boy and learnt to read and write.” He would look at the book and flip through the pages. ” This is the book with our history. The book he wrote and it had been passed down from generation to generation.”
” Can you read it to me, baba?”. He had never read the book to me. He would only take it out and flip through the pages and after telling me the story which I had come to know by heart but still loved to hear anyway, he would place it in the shoebox he used to put his valuables including my birth certificate and the one picture of my mother.
” Well son, it is because I can not read.”, he would respond.
” But I can teach you, baba, I can now count to 50 and I know my a e i o u now.”
” Haha, that’s my clever boy.”, he would take another swig and look at me. ” This is why I teach you to read and write. So, one day you will read this out to me and I can get to know more about my forefathers and where I come from.”
” Yes baba, I will read it to you every day when I grow up.”
” Good boy, now, take out the plates so I can serve out dinner.”
” Yes, baba.”