Enemy Circles – Season One, Episode 2

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This entry is part 2 of 14 in the series Enemy Circles - Season One

Jomo, a young nomadic man was betrothed to a fellow clan’s girl, Bonajo, and they were to be married during the merriment of reuniting at the designated reunion camp in mountains of central Africa. Unfortunately, a huge war campaign was to prevent that simple thing from happening until after more than three years.

SOMEWHERE NEAR DJENNE

She dabbed more talcum powder to her cheeks until her skin was paper-white. She was not sure why she was having emotional upheavals these days. It can partly be attributed to her growing into a woman as Nana the old lady would say, or more precisely, because of what’s in the air; her betrothal.

Bonajo at eleven years old was like any ordinary young nomadic girl. The life she knew was the one she was born into, and grew up to love. For her, life meant a few things – always being on the move and holding dear the cattle, while driving sustenance and wealth from it all the time. In the last few years she began to join the women in selling milk, cow butter and eggs – something she loved doing because it opened her eyes to the outside world. Life was proper only in the woods, they were taught. But there were cities with houses built of bricks and woods, and there were markets, where you get almost everything you wanted. The interchange of the lonely  days in the woods with busy markets and cities was always anticipated.  She sometimes wondered, why couldn’t they live in the cities? Life would sure be easier and she would have had the privilege to get many fine things. She liked the way city girls dress. They look so lovely and beautiful. She persuaded her mother to buy her some talcum powder and kohl galena and diligently used them when making up. When she was neither milking nor curding or fantasizing about city life she hang out with her best friend Marra, and this is since her parents never allowed her to take the cattle for grazing alone.

Today, living in the city was the least of her concerns, though. She wished she could talk to her mother about her marriage, which was recently making the news headlines in her family, and the whole clan, but she knew it was way out of the league of those things they could talk about. As a second born, her mother was not supposed to openly show interest in her marriage or even her in general. Her mother will not even speak to her when there were other people besides her father or her brother Shagaro. Her case was less severe compared to her brother’s – a first born. Their mother didn’t address him at all, people around or not. It is a culture Bonajo bowed never to help sustain; she promised she would interact with her first born freely. Marra would tell her she couldn’t; according to her for some women even the third born falls within the league of those kids to be ignored for the sake of traditional decorum.

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She didn’t know that it was about her at first, when several times during the last few months men from other compounds came to meet with her father and uncles. A gift of two bags of salt followed later. Bonajo learnt about the truth from Nana the old lady, who after yodelling loudly over her head, congratulated her for being betrothed. Her mother’s daily routine had not changed the slightest.

Enemy Circles on Memorila
Enemy Circles on Memorila

Since then she started digging for details, which was not easy to come by, since she could not ask her parents directly. Shagaro would have helped in finding such information, but she didn’t expect to see him until they reach the reunion camp, where the marriage was set to take place. Shagaro would without doubt have found out everything about the groom by now. They owe each other that, since most of the time their parents left them in the dark on issues concerning them.

From the gift that was sent to her family it was obvious that the groom’s parents must have been wealthy. Two bags of salt cost a fortune, and it was just a betrothal gift. She didn’t even know which family it was, but there were just few families in the clan that could afford such display of wealth. When she started narrowing options she came up with fewer than four families that could be the groom’s. Though she pretended not to have noticed what was going on in the camp, secretly, however, she promised to find out who the groom was before they must have returned back to the reunion camp.

She knew where they were. It was not unfamiliar to her at all, since it was not the first time she had been there. They came a long way from Futa Djallon in Takrus, where some older members of the clan visit older relatives as the main clan remain in the camp inside the woods. She wanted to follow the men to the city, she heard that their relatives dwell permanently there and she would love to see how they fare and decide if really life on the move is better. She heard it was a big and beautiful city and that a line of their ancestors actually built it. But no woman was allowed to go, let alone girls like her. Where they were now, she believed, was not very far from the big city of Jenne; a principal city among others of the Songhai empire, and a very big commercial centre. That she knew because the women folk carried merchandise every seven days on the market day since their last eight weeks of camping. She always looked forward to going to the weekly market; it gave her a chance to see the city in its glory. Tomorrow was the market day and preparations of merchandise was what everybody was busy doing, in fact she had just finished preparing ten calabashes of milk, five smaller ones of cow butter and seven baskets of eggs before she took bath and sat making up.

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She hurriedly applied some more chalky talc to her face, and lined her eyes with kohl eye lashes. She could have spent more time making her face up; is what she loved doing the most. On that note, she remembered something; perhaps she should persuade her mom to buy her some jewels when they reach Jenne tomorrow. She knew that Arab caravan will bring such fineries, she saw them last week. But that could wait until tomorrow, as for now, she had to reach Marra her best friend first, and see if she could find some information from her, about her marriage, she thought. Hurriedly, she put back her makeup stuffs inside a small woven basket and properly hung it on the tent ceiling before exiting the compound.

“Najo” She was already outside the compound when she heard her name shouted. She didn’t need to go round the low thatched fence that demarcated the temporary compound to know who it was. “What is chasing you that you seem to be in such a hurry?” Marra raced the distance separating them to meet Bonajo.

“I am glad you are here, but we can’t talk here, let’s go inside the bushes.”

Bonajo allowed Marra no chance to ask any further questions; knowing she could ask thousands without waiting for answers, she snatched her hand and ran in the direction of the encircling bushes.

“Please Najo, slowdown, what is the matter.” Marra, relatively shorter than Bonajo and with fat accruing, couldn’t match Bonajo’s long slender legs; she couldn’t run any further by the time they reached a stumped tree several safe distances away from the camp.

Bonajo stopped and let Marra’s hand go. She smiled with her white eyeballs twinkling against the darkly kohl-lined background amidst the vast whiteness of her talc-painted face. “I am getting married at the reunion!” She let out louder than intended, consciously looking around in case somebody was within earshot.

“No way! So it was you?” Marra replied back with as much excitation.

“You know about it?” Bonajo was practically jumping with joy. She was finally going to learn about her future husband. She felt like she was going to be taken into the world of clairvoyance that was going to show the very details of her future.

Marra too was jumping with her, and then she slowed down a little, changed gears and kicked into high speed chatter.

“I heard Baffa discussing it with his friend about his son’s wedding; I didn’t know that it was you…”

Bonajo’s heart skipped a beat, it seemed like she had been holding her breath for eternity. She couldn’t find a voice to ask the simple question she had been asking herself for the past six weeks. Who is he?

“…The thought that it was you never crossed my mind, oh my God! Baffa even asked me to bring them some milk. They spent a very long time discussing. Well, I didn’t know when they really finished, I was off doing other things, you know, but I am sure they must have spent a great deal of time on it…” Marra rambled on without pausing.

Please say his name. Please say his name. Bonajo silently prayed repeatedly, her brain getting suffocated from both Marra’s rambling and her own anxiety.

“…I heard Baffa saying it is going to be a big feast, you know, the groom’s family are rich, and I mean really, really rich. They have hundreds of cows, goats and countless chickens and guinea fowls, girl you are lucky. Most of the time I asked myself who is this lucky girl, but you know I never…”

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“Shut up! Who is he?” Banajo exploded, when she couldn’t stand it any longer.

Marra was startled, she jumped back. For a moment she thought she was going to be attacked by her friend who a petite moment ago seemed to be happy with her company. “Who is who?” She asked, confused.

Bonajo threw her hands in the air, exasperated. “Marra, sometimes you amaze me, what are we talking about for God’s sake? My fiance, of course you butter-brain.” She was at the tip of her patience.

“Oh! Yes, oh my God, for a split second I thought you hit your head or something; you had this crazy look in your eyes like you were going to give birth to a large cow.” Marra thought it was Bonajo whose behaviour called for questions.

That was it. Bonajo couldn’t take it anymore. She turned and headed back to the camp. With Marra, she should have expected a similar thing. Marra could talk from Jenne to Gao without stopping for a breath. Other girls were surprised how Bonajo could stand such a noisemaker.

Marra was about to start a new chapter of chatter when suddenly Bonajo started back towards the camp.

“Hey Najo! Wait for me. What’s the matter with you?” She started running to catch up with her, while still chattering complaints.

“Why are you leaving me alone?” she continued. “Is that how you intend to be somebody’s wife? Like that, I swear Jomo will soon send you back to us, well, back to your family, because I sure would have been married by then. Maybe if I am lucky at the gathering too…”

Bonajo stopped abruptly, her heart letting out a loud thud of a beat at the same time. Marra bumped into her and halted too.

“Jomo.” She repeated at a near whisper.

How could that be possible? Since the beginning of the marriage issue, she occasionally sat and thought about who would be the possible groom. Jomo crossed her thought more often than once. It was more of a fantasized wish than a possibility. However, when she started speculating the rich families in the clan it started to become a desired possibility. She knew him, and secretly adored him. He is handsome and brave. He controlled the larger share of his family cattle all by himself.

Marra, wrestling with her wild galloping breaths, looked at Bonajo, who appeared to be like in a trance. She wished she wasn’t standing this close to this crazy bride-to-be.

“Not again, you crazy girl, I swear you are beginning to scare me with your inconsistent annoying behaviours.”

“Jomo, so it is Jomo.” Bonajo said again, more to herself than to the simpleton friend of hers who advanced, in her preparations to flee in case an attack comes.

“Who?” Marra asked, stupidly not abandoning her idea of fleeing in a mad run – she wasn’t sure Bonajo was well.

Bonajo was not going to pay any attention to her dim witted friend. She ran as fast as she could in another direction, this time with a true intention of shaking off Marra for good. Ten minutes later, Marra returned back to the camp, cursing her crazy friend figuratively.

Continue reading HERE>>

Series Navigation<< Enemy Circles – Season One, Episode 1Jomo: Enemy circles (Novel) – Season one, Episode 3 >>

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Bashir Kabir

Born, raised and studied in Kano State, Bashir Kabir has a degree in Physics and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Physics, all in Bayero University, Kano. He is married with a kid and currently works at Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Kano.

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