Wednesday, May 27, 2009

To thyself be true Pt. 1

Good week tout le monde (everyone) and hoping it was a worthy one seeing as it was my birthday week – I’m blessed you know. ;) Mine was low keyed, right down to the celebration day itself. I went to hang out with my friends who insisted I had to buy the round of drinks. They guzzled, especially JB the slippery one, and I couldn’t because unlike them I had an hour’s drive back home. Idiots! I’m going to get them next time! I got so many birthday wishes last week it was unbelievable – thank you all. There was one in particular that caught me, from a friend (I’d like to thank), that got me thinking.

Her birthday was in the same week as mine and like most birthdays, came with the attendant reflective mood. A well meaning male friend of hers had advised her, she’s in her thirties, to get hitched up as soon as possible before time passed her by. According to him, women outnumbered men by a far margin and therefore were the more aggressive in their pursuit of a partner. According to him, she said, the days when women turned their noses up at prospective suitors were faded from recent memory. Then he stated,” personally I wouldn’t get serious with anyone without ‘test driving’ her first.” She then asked me if the same was the case for most successful men; university education, well paid jobs and businesses. At this point I blushed and sheepishly trailed a pattern in the sand with my foot as I… anyway I digress. I sort of found it very amusing that this school of thought, myopic as it is, should gain such a foothold in the psyche of a good portion of our society; male and female. While it is a fact that women are definitely under more pressure to get hitched up than men owing to more pressure from family, their biological make up, society at large and their own natural need for intimacy and companionship, I think it is much more important to keep things in perspective.

Yes, as a man, I tend to feel 'elated' that I have the luxury of 'picking' and 'choosing'. But when I look closely at the matter I find that this is a mere mirage. It's okay if one just wants fleeting associations with a view to just having sexual relations with the opposite sex but then how would this affect ones decision in ultimately finding a real spousal partner? I learnt earlier on in life that chasing after women, womanizing that is, is like chasing after the wind – one ultimately ends up with nothing. It's easy for me to get distracted by the different attributes in the women I play about with and this may stop me from finding my bone of my bone. What I'm saying is that it is boys who brag about such things because what they should ask themselves is; ultimately, “What kind of woman am i bringing to my home should I want to settle down?” My mother always told me that the day one gets married is the day ones life changes drastically - for the better or for the worse! I've never forgotten that. I look back at two relationships I had in the past and shudder to think of what my life would have turned into had either one resulted in marriage. In one of them I understood how a man would be the last to leave work, head straight for the bar and sneak into bed only to leave for work before dawn of the next day. It was hell on earth. Like my esteemed philosopher and musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, says, “I do not want anything that would ‘bring out the beast’ in me.”

Enter the one God given tool to every human being on earth; the gift of self evaluation, introspection. We base our judgment of self, especially in our beloved Africa, Nigeria in particular, on the way we are viewed by all around us. I guess this attests to the cohesiveness of our community but then again, at what point does the individual have the opportunity to show forth his/her uniqueness to help move civilization forward? I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing ones self, what one likes and what one dislikes. Last week I wove a thread of seriousness through a fun poking fabric inviting us know ourselves better. This week I’m elaborating on it. One of the wonderful indicators of a need for change is the much feared depression. Its function is phenomenal; it always comes when there’s a need for change in the way we do our things. Things no longer work the way they are supposed to and the discomfort brings with it pain. The pain helps us sit down to assess ourselves and find out what it is we’re doing wrong and as long as we try to ignore it the depression deepens until we decide to make a change. Joy always comes from pain, solitude and courage. The funniest stories are always born of misadventures, misfortune and suffering and yet when told in retrospect bring about the liveliest of mirth so let’s be courageous enough to delve in the recesses of our minds that we fear the most.

Secondly, why is it that we insist on sticking with ‘our own’ even when we are in Diaspora?
We refuse to venture outside our cultural boundaries when we live in a multi cultural society perhaps because we are suspicious of the other person, afraid that they may not understand us or maybe that we might lose our culture to them. I had numerous fights with my father, of blessed memory, because we differed greatly on this issue. He insisted that I marry from my own hometown and my argument was, if that was what he wanted then he should have kept me within the geographical confines of my hometown so that would be the only world I knew. Does common sense not tell us that the fact that we are in a larger field, say a city like Lagos, Abuja or New York not mean that we have a larger playing field to cater for all our needs; material and social? We are willing to ‘go out there’ and work with other communities to earn a living but when it comes to social interaction and friendship we shy away huddle together and probably miss out on great opportunities that could come our way. My brothers and sisters, let us use our tongues to count our teeth and find out what point the rain began pelting us. There are lots of good men and women out there, black, white, Asian, Ijaw, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fon willing to love us for who we are; our culture in tow. Let us not wash our faces with spittle while standing beside a river.

In summary I opine that self evaluation is one of the greatest luxuries we have. Like Thoreau said, “To thyself be true”. Singlehood is a reflective period where joy and fulfillment should emanate from so let’s learn from it. I’m tired, I want to go and sleep so have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Note of Celebration

A joyful good week to everyone. Thank you for the wonderful response to last week’s posting. It was heart warming to know that quite a number of us are committed to positive change in ourselves and in our society at large – and it must happen. Let those at the helm of affairs of our beloved nation feel they can get away with anything. Let them also know that the wily crab may saunter through seven rivers and seven streams as many times as it likes but it will one day surely end up in the old woman’s soup pot! This week is dedicated to the most wonderful group of peoples on earth – us singles!

For too long we have been made to apologize for our status, and oh what an emboldened status that is made to be, glaring for all to see! How many times have we been forced to watch as exaggerated directions to unsure destinations are given with only the left hand? That, at best, lacklustre gold band is never ever a blur but always pauses midway in our line of vision as the director ‘tries’ to recollect his/her sense of direction. Or is it the new fad ‘those’ people have adopted; to always use photographs of themselves with the results of their bedroom antics as their profile pictures? If their lives are so honky dory then why don’t they post pictures of themselves spanking their kids for smashing in an expensive television set or for using an entire bottle of expensive perfume to give the dog a scented bath? How many times have we been regaled with lethargic tales of errant children involved in one fight or the other, have a habit of constantly falling ill or refuse to eat certain meals and so on and so forth by parents who intermittently sneak surreptitious glances at us to spy our reactions? They, at children’s birthday parties, brag about their child’s academic brilliance and model behaviour only to scuttle off with shocked looks and embarrassed smiles towards the very child when he stomps on and rips apart another child’s picture book leaving the offended child howling in dismay. How long do we have to put up with it I say? I have thought long and hard over this ‘stigma’ and concluded that we must be happy with ourselves as we are. In so doing I have also come up with a brilliant plan!

I propose that during our, very brief, period of meditative solitude that we become intimate and seek companionship with the one person with whom we never, or should I say rarely fight with, never lets us down, whom we underestimate the most, is always there for us, loves us for whom we are and ALWAYS wants the best for us – our own Self! No, think about it guys! Self is the most appropriate companion to take out on a dinner date at minimal cost and very little squabble regarding what choice of meal to pick in the menu. Cinema? No problem, the decision as to what genre of movie to watch is arrived at in record time. I’m of the strongest opinion that Self is a most suitable companion to live with as he/she understands what the domestic economic situation is and would readily tighten or loosen the financial belt as the occasion dictates. We are not bashful in front of Self and are free to run naked, wild and free in front of him/her with careless abandon. We must remember though, that amiable and/or heated discussions with Self are best kept private as undiscerning folks might misconstrue the integrity of our mental health. When we, out of curiousity, desire to put a face to Self in a tete a tete with him/her then we can always employ the use of the mirror and all of Self’s features will be revealed, stark and clear! What have I left out on the capabilities of Self? Ah yes, sex, good old sex! Well Self is certainly not to be undone here as many a man or woman will attest to. I’m sure I speak for many when I say and maintain that Self, unless we choose to lie about it, had intimate knowledge of us before anyone else did. Who better then to come back to than our first love? And if hitherto, owing to a stunted imagination, prior experiences were limited to confused fumbling in the dark, then now’s the appropriate time to invest in various worded and visual literature on the matter. I tell us that by the time we’ve spent significant time with Self we will be so in tune with him/her that we will be a shining lighthouse for all to see and gravitate towards. If a madman digs at a rubbish heap ardently and consistently long enough, ‘normal’ people will begin to crane their necks to see what it is he’s digging for.

The objective, I believe, is not to pursue marriage with the institution of marriage but to seek the individual with whom we will be happy with in the institution of marriage – no compromise. Let us be happy and content with ourselves and others will be happy with us. A wonderful week to the most wonderful people on earth and well, everyone else!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A note of Indignation

Happy new week once again guys. This week is in much a lighter mood than the last but no less serious. I had a great week working on the Tinsel set where everything actually works except the pay. I had a green room all to myself and even though sparsely furnished with just a reading desk, chair and bed, oh and an ugly industrial fan, was just great! It was nice to just have one’s privacy to be alone with one’s thoughts and well, much else. The fuel scarcity has been biting and I sometimes wonder if it’s being brought on artificially.

One very bad fault I have is the ability to express my anger inappropriately at times. I went for lunch on completing one of the scenes in the spa. It had been a grueling scene where I’d spent most of the time standing on my feet for hours on end until it was time for lunch. I got to the canteen and joined a long queue waiting to be served. For some reason the line remained the same even after five minutes, which is an agonizing eternity when you have a growling tummy and are looking at steaming tureens of food; until, with some frustration I called out to the supervisor to do something about the people shunting the queue. The quickest solution to the problem the man could see was to serve me right away. Nigeria!.. I told him that that was not the point because doing so would be cheating the people in front of me.

Actually, I was itching to give him the plate but I had been chatting with two pretty temps who were standing in front of me and so I was ‘compelled’ to be the beacon of chivalry. On getting to my turn the servers told me that the food I’d had my eyes on had run out! I was so furious I didn’t know what to say. I just left them there and went to sit down at the table to collect my thoughts. They brought the same dish to my table and implored me to accept it but I refused it and left so as not to attract further attraction to myself. Different thoughts ran through my mind. Should I go and report the matter to the line producer and put the supervisor in trouble or just throw a tantrum, refuse to leave my green room and look like a diva? I decided to quietly go and order a meal from some fast food joint in the neighbourhood to sate my gnawing hunger pangs until I realized I didn’t have any cash on me. The cash I’d come out of the house with earlier in the day was in a jerry can in the boot of my car for use to fuel my car back home. I had just sent one of the production assistants to buy fuel for me at the black market owing to the prevailing fuel scarcity. I was now in a quandary. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.

Tears of hunger stung my eyes; the kind that just gather at the corner of the eyes near the bridge of the nose. They just hang there and don’t drop even if you blink. I had the kind of hunger that makes ones tummy wring like a rinsed out family towel and when you walk, your feet point inwards. The kind that makes you focus on a target to walk to and make for in a determination not to get distracted. When someone really important calls you, you don’t turn immediately; you stop, get your bearings, turn slooowly and keep mute. I think what aggravated it so acutely was the fact that I had all of pride, indignation, uncertainty and hunger raging in me at the same time. I finally reached my room and sat on the chair at the desk and thought about what to do next; with no cash on hand I probably wasn’t going to eat till I got home. Or maybe the offending miscreants would appear at my doorstep with groveling apologies and a meal. I decided to wait for the apology even if it didn’t come with the meal, at least I’d have the relief of having my anger assuaged. I waited, and waited and waited. Several times footsteps came close by, and went by. I had to think of a way of getting myself out of an impending ulcer. I took out my laptop and began to write. As I wrote exactly how I felt my gnawing passions began to abate. A slow smile began to spread across my face as I stood further and further away from my predicament by putting words to my persecution. Not long after a friend dropped by to inquire after my well being and complain about the pittance he was being paid to sew costume for part of the production. It was not long before I was in high spirits chatting away with him.

We wrapped up for the day a few hours later and I resolved matters with the supervisor who apologized for the lack of structure in place and promised to put things in place. At the parking lot I met an amiable acquaintance with whom I had worked on a project a year before. He had come to look for a job and even though he still had his characteristic cheerful attitude, there was a quiet desperation about him. He was leaving as well and asked if I could give him a lift home since he was going my way. I said yes and asked him to assist me in putting fuel in my car from the jerry can in my boot. On our way he began to tell me what the real situation with him was. He’d lost his three year old son and everything he owned in a house fire only a month before. His wife had been badly burned trying to rescue their son and had just been discharged from the hospital. He recounted how his son died in his arms in the hospital. It was all I could do to concentrate on the mercifully sparse traffic around me as he told me how his son kept crying out in pain and calling out for him. He had a wry smile on his face as he spoke. There were clearly no tears left in him. I was speechless. Even my worst enemy would I not wish such a calamity to befall let alone this wonderful young man seated beside me. I have rarely felt so foolish in my life. Here I was sulking about poor service, a meal I didn’t like and inadequate recompense and another was struggling to comprehend his near total loss while trying to pave the way forward for his remaining family. I couldn’t say anything except put myself in his position and wonder how I’d cope. I also thought about what had upset me so much earlier on and how it compared miserably to his situation. I dropped him off, gave him what assistance I could and still couldn’t find any appropriate words to condole him with.

In summary, I find that life is a journey round a bend; you never know what’s coming round the bend at you. It is all valleys, mountains and plains. We have been equipped with the emotions to cope with the terrain. When one has occasion to be happy, one should be happy and enjoy it. When angry, one should express it and let it go, not dwell on it. When grieving or one feels like crying,one should do so. Let the pressure valve release the grief and sadness and clear the way for your system to keep functioning properly. That’s probably why women live longer than men. Let’s live life to the full, keep things in perspective, and let’s have a wonderful week everyone!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The little girl

Good week everyone. Firstly I want to thank everyone who has visited and read my blog for the patronage. You have made it worth my while. The feedback, the comments have been so heartwarming and the others hilarious. Thank you. And whoever it was that withheld his/her name, please don’t tell my mum I rode on a bike without a helmet! My past week has been uneventful save for an incident at a petrol station that had me confused.

I had gone to a petrol station in the neighbourhood to fill my tank up. I prefer this particular station because the staff is quite friendly and one of them in particular, Tosin, always welcomes me with a winning smile; naturally I gravitate towards her to the exclusion of everyone else. On this particular morning I drove to her petrol pump and as she was attending to a customer before me, I patiently waited. Presently a young lady sidled up to me and asked for alms. I looked at her and was a little surprised.

She was quite young, between the ages of eleven and thirteen … What was unusual was the age and demeanour of this beggar. The ones I’d seen were either younger scruffy children of five to eight or adults who had some form of deformity or the other. This was the first time I saw an adolescent begging. And she looked clean too, scrubbed, like she’d just run away from home. I also make it a rule not to give alms to children as I feel that patronage would further encourage their parents to keep them from school where they are most needed. I would rather give the parents themselves or the handicapped and/or the elderly. I looked at her and told her I had nothing to give and she left me alone. By this time Tosin had finished with the customer before and come forward to attend to me and I made to open my tank for her to commence her fill up. As I did so, another car, a Honda, drove up and parked at the pump beside mine. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the young girl walk up to the car, bend down and begin to speak with the driver. I thought nothing of it and turned back to Tosin, asking her how her weekend was and if the dreaded menace of the fuel shortage was going to rear its head again. I heard a car door slam and turned round. The young girl had entered the car and I stared as it started up and drove off – without getting any fuel!

I desperately hoped he was some relative of hers or even perhaps a neighbour who was taking her back home. Somehow I knew it wasn’t so. Maybe if I’d given her the money she asked for she wouldn’t have been compelled to go with the stranger or perhaps demanded to know what business the driver had with her. I just stood there nonplussed, guilt wracking my insides.

This is an issue I have only questions and no answers for. Why children? What is there about that girl to savour except innocence? Innocence she needs to metamorphosize into a fulfilling adulthood? Aren’t we going to be parents some day if we’re not already ones now? Why? Never mind the children; they are not to blame. Their hearts are the enclave of foolishness anyway, so guidance is the only way to put them on the straight and narrow. Aren’t we guides anymore? I’m at a loss for what to say except to say this: “The child is the father of man.” The children of today are the drivers of tomorrow’s world. Let us never forget that. I still await answers to my question and in whatever torrent they come, I will welcome them. Have a great week everyone.