Gone With the Water

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The cock crowed and Mama Nanzala woke up. She reached below the bed and retrieved her brown aluminum suitcase. Although it was still dark, she was able to remove her black skirt and orange blouse. After returning it back to its home beneath the bed, she retrieved her husband’s silver aluminum suitcase and removed from it a blue linen trouser and black cotton shirt. These were the clothes that he would be wearing that day.

Those two suitcases were old but special to Mama Nanzala and her husband. When they got married twenty years earlier, it was in these suitcases that they kept their few personal and most important belongings.

After taking a cold bath, she went to the kitchen lit the fire, placed water for porridge on it and began sweeping the kitchen. 

The pig pot in the corner of her kitchen was full of water. It had been a wedding gift from her grandmother and she treasured it. Next to it were three smaller, cooking pots. They were also wedding gifts from two decades earlier, when potters still had the ancient pottery skill that resulted in sturdy, beautiful pots.

It had rained most of the night, so as she cooked porridge for her children, she had one eye on the skies above. Although the sun could be seen on the eastern horizon, it couldn’t be felt. She poured the porridge into four cups for her school going children and into a big calabash for their father. She placed them all on a big rectangular tray and took them to the sitting room.

Her father-in-law had been a carpenter, so for their wedding, he had made for them a dining table, four stools and a three-piece wooden sofa set. They were still as good as new and as she placed the porridge on the dining table, she felt proud. Although they were struggling because of high school fees for their two daughters in high school, their house looked and felt nice.

The four children were the first to take their porridge and sweet potatoes, followed by their father.

After they had all left, she poured twenty kilos of maize from the big sack into a smaller one then placed the sack on her maize. Five minutes and two hundred metres later, she had arrived at the market and placed the maize on a counter in her small shed. For the next six or seven hours, she was going to sell the maize to supplement the income that her husband earned as a tailor.

Another glance at the sky left several frowns on her face. The clouds were gathering menacingly. Even before she could comment about it the impending rain to her fellow traders, she felt the first drops. They hit her forehead, nose and cheeks in quick succession.

Within less than five minutes, the raindrops had transitioned into a torrent. A huge tap in the skies had been opened and it was no longer raining – it was pouring down instead. As it poured a wind howled loudly, screaming at everyone and everything.

Mama Nanzala had a sinking feeling in her stomach. Without thinking twice, she threw herself into the rain and literally sprinted towards her children’s school almost one kilometer away from the market. Her sprint was however reduced to a jog because of the powerful flow of water that was all around her. But stills she ran on.

She dashed past the school gate towards the administration block. All children had been ordered to remain in class so when she burst into class one, she saw her youngest daughter huddled with other children at the back of the class. The other three were also safe. What wasn’t safe was their house.

After it stopped raining seven hours later, she rowed in a canoe, together with her husband and other villages. She couldn’t even recognize her own compound because there were no houses standing. All she saw were floating iron sheets floating big pot. The one that her grandmother had given her for her wedding.


Oh God, please help the people of Budalangi, she prayed, and began to weep.  

DJ Bwakali

Words can inspire action and change the world

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