Ike Ogben (Luton, UK)

 I have decided to take a column or write as a columnist for at least once a month and I promise to keep SHADOWS warm, the name I have chosen to call this little corner. 

As a child I actually loved to dream dreams and philosophise by watching shadows on the wall. And I was taught how to watch shadows and interpret the time by checking where the sun is facing and the position of the shadow.

We had a clock at home like the ancient one in the council by Alihami junction on your way to Agbor-Obi. But that clock did not mean anything to ?Mama Mia? (my mother) as she could not interpreter that magical machine. The sound of the first cockcrow was 3:15 (3:30? Too sad I am losing touch) that she understands not the symbols hanging on the wall and disturbing people?s scarce sleep then. Her body clock too was perfect as we always wake at the right time every morning. She hears the cockcrow and calls out ?I? (with her Ika accent) I will murmur ?hmmm? pretending to be fast asleep. Not knowing that the inevitable will always happen then.


Now I realised it was more difficult to wake someone who is pretending to be asleep than one who is genuinely asleep. Well, the frowning of the he-goat does not prevent its owner from taking it to the slab where it will be sent to give our ancestors good news. Mama will insist that I wake up to sweep the compound, paint the mud stove (ngba) and mould it, boil water before going to the stream then Orogodo river which was about ten minutes walk from my house at Okoh Street where we lived.


Having done the morning chore then come the preparation to walk down the river road to Elu-Oke Primary School. That hill was not a child?s play as it was by no means easy to climb after fetching six buckets of water (I will reserve this for another story entirely). However, that great trek was just the beginning of life journey like climbing mount Olympus. The road was craggy, sometimes hewn in brambles which edges cut keener than a knife. But those who want great success always must for a necklace wear the jaw-bone of an elephant.


Mama will tell me that when the sun is travelling from the East towards the West where it rests before it sets then I can put the yam on fire for the evening meal. She will tell me that if it by chance it rains where I cannot see the shadows, I should look at the magical machine hanging on the wall and figure out how to interpret the time after all that was the reason they were sending me to school. She will remind me not be like John-Bull. The proverbial John-Bull was sent to school but could not spell his name (apologies to all the John-Bulls? please no prejudice intended). Well, those days are gone but the memory is still fresh. Those moments I wish I can revisit. I only wish.


Sometimes in my little room I used to play music with a tape I inherited from my sister Lilian. More often I used to look at the ceiling while lying on my back and watching the candle designs. My elder ones designed the ceiling with candle flame (no not wax; wax? no! don?t think so, flame, yes flame). Then stare at the cracked mud wall that separated my room from the kitchen. It?s warm during rainy season but oven during the sunny period. What can one do but to stare at the shadows on the wall that reflect the past and beget the present? There dreams were born. Some were aborted others are like Alkali?s stillborn. Some were nourished and flourished, but others bubbled like soap in water. Yet, today I still watch shadows on the wall and see the fallibility of humans. Plans fail, some succeed. Love crumbles like cookies others bud like a young succulent vegetable on a black soil. I saw people die and children born. Yet I watch shadows (Osonde Owende). That is life. And this shadows I will watch.


With time humans have soften wood into tissue but have refused to soften their hearts. I have seen on this wall shadows where the wind blows, the dead old wood stands and count another day while the other strong and stout felled to the dictates of the wind. On the walls I see shadows of my granny?s falling teeth and I smiled thinking the ways of humanity. This road we will all travel. The young think they will never get there, that life stands still. It doesn?t my dear. Seconds make minutes; minutes make hours; hours make days; days make weeks; weeks make months; months make years; years mean life and death ? eternity. When the eternal rain falls and wipe out this shadow let the curtain be drawn and let peace rain  (oh sorry reign).


(I have not forgotten that I promised to complete ?Where is Home, Please take me Home?, I will. But let us see the shadows first before the curtain is drawn and let peace rain, I sorry, I forgot, reign).



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