I now realise that sometimes you have to believe in yourself, in your capabilities and in your
dreams to make them a reality. You have to learn to let go of the fears, to shed a few tears and
embrace who you are in order for you to take off and eventually soar.
I was born in a poor-rich family. Poor according to the economic standards ratings by the society
and rich in terms of social standards of my own understanding.I hadn’t appreciated the latter much
until at a later stage when I realised that we laughed through the pain and shame and that’s what
made us rich.
Some people mocked us for being poor while others mocked our blind parents. Yes both my
parents were blind. My mother became blind shortly after her birth when she contracted congenital
cataracts while my father developed it early in his twenties due to excessive smoking. Both of
them grew up in the same village in Mansa and from very poor backgrounds to afford treatment for
cataracts. The most they got were dark sunglasses to shield them from the effects of the sun.
And they also mocked us for the way we were named. Not that I blame them it was to be
expected. Being blind, the only way my father would remember us well was by linking the time of
births to our names. My name is Kasuba named after the sun because I was born at midday. I
have four siblings with peculiar names as well. My oldest brother is Marvin the only one named
after dad’s favourite American musician, then my immediate older sister was named after the
moon obviously because she was born on a night of the full moon, April was my immediate young
sister’s name and she was born in April while our last born is Lubuto named after the light and he
was born at the break of dawn. Sometimes my heart used to go out to my parents. They had never laid their eyes on anyone of
us. But they knew us rather exceptionally well. They could tell the difference in the way we walked,
talked and above all by carefully examining our facial features with their hands. They were One of
the reasons I was determined to work hard and lift them out of pover
I took off the empty pot I had been heating up on the brazier and used it to neatly press my
uniform. I was excited way too excited I was going to start school. After pressing my uniform I
rushed to the open air thatched wall bathroom located a few metres away from the house. I barely
did a good job cleaning myself and soon I was done. I took the bottle of Tajili petroleum jelly and
applied on my body before pulling on my blue and white collar dress. I then pulled on my very thick
stockings cream white in color and later slipped on my black Sofia (plastic)shoes. I grabbed my
transparent plastic bag containing my four books and a pencil and bade mum farewell as I dashed
out to school. I reached the school and pushed myself through other pupils to get to class in time.
Just then I felt a sudden urge to pee and I rushed off to the toilet and started reliving myself.
” Iwe Kasuba ulesunda ninshi iwe tawishibe ati wansundila .” ( Kasuba don’t you know that you
are peeing you’ve even peed on me) My older sister vigorously hit me and I jumped up
immediately. Shame written all over my face.
” Fumya ifyakufimbana ukanike usambe nokusamba niwe uleya na ba tata mu town.” ( Take out
the beddings to dry in the sun and then take a bath its your turn to go with father to town) She
I tried putting my finger on my mouth to gesture her to keep it down but it was too late.
” Cisusu asunda nalelo asunda.” ( The bed wetter has done it again) Chanted my little brother and
poked fun at me
I shamefully dragged my feet out and spread the beddings outside to dry. I then went back inside
and folded the reed mat off the floor and equally took it outside to dry and later quickly took a bath.
” Kasuba hurry up your father is ready and the sun is coming up. There is no money for transport
today so you just have to walk.” Called mother from the sitting room.
” I’m ready!” I announced later after I washed up my face and brushed my teeth using a twig. On
my feet were oversized worn out flip Flops which were shared amongst my siblings. And I was wearing a floral green dress and a brown polo neck sweater.
I helped father with his cane and gently grabbed his hand and led him out of the house and hastily
made our way into town chatting here and there. Soon we were at the heart of Mansa town and
picked up a perfect spot. We then sat down placing the fedora in front for people to drop in alms. It
was our only means of survival then.
A lot of people walked by without even as much as sparing us a look while others called us all
sorts of names when we asked them for help.
I was nine years at the time and there wasn’t much I could do.
We waited for people to knock off from work before we retired home. We had just enough for a
small pack of “Pamela” ( Millie meal in a plastic bag equivalent to 1 kg ), Chisense ( dried
sardines), and kerosene for our lamp.
By the time we were arriving back home it was dark and I was dog tired. The only good thing was I
had three days of rest before my turn came again.
Mother and my older sister cooked supper the only decent meal we used to have in a typical day
and we ate it cheerfully pleased that we atleast didn’t go to bed on empty stomachs.
After supper we gathered around the fire and listened to stories from our parents about their past
or day’s events as well as local the fairytale (utushimi) .it was a family tradition that I appreciate
more so now than I ever did back then I woke up very early the next day, took out the potty, emptied it and left it in the bathroom to dry. I
then took the broom and swept the surrounding. After I was done I picked all the dirty dishes and
I had something planned for the day and I didn’t want anything or anyone to come in my way or
give anyone the benefit of chiding me later.
Around 9 ante meridiem I stood by the footpath waiting for Sally Nyirongo a girl I had met a few
weeks ago. We had literally clicked in an instant. She had such a bubbly but blunt personality.
When I met her she was kicking stones on her way home. She was quite plump and short but we
were the same age. She was my friend, my very first friend. Thirty minutes later and sally was no where to be seen. I turned around and almost started walking
back home when a voice called me and there she was. Food in hand as usual. The girl ate like a
hippo back then no wonder she was chubby. She was eating boiled sweet potatoes and she didn’t
even bother to give me. I thought that was mean but almost like she read my thoughts she told me
that if I wasn’t going to ask her for a piece she wasn’t going to give me.
” If you want something you ask for it ..not just waiting for me to give you. How do I know if you
won’t waste my precious food?” She said bluntly
I swallowed hard before I asked her. I hated begging even though that was our means of survival.
” Why can’t we be like any normal family?” I often wondered
The only good thing was she was generous, you just had to suck up and ask and she will give you
a bigger piece than expected. She opened her backpack and took out her lunch box . She picked
a generous piece and gave it to me.
” Ani nomba totela! ( Here you are now say thank you)” she said as she offered it to me
” Natotela sana ( thank you so much)” I said genuinely. I hadn’t eaten anything home. In fact
breakfast was something we rarely had and if we did then it was usually a very thin porridge with
salt which didn’t carry much weight. If we were lucky we would have some epsi ( a soya flour, salt
and sugar mixture for making porridge that was given out in clinics) and that was the only porridge
I used to enjoy.
” Tiye twendeshe naucelwa tamuli na banobe abaleya Ku sukulu munshila ( let’s hurry up you are
late. There aren’t any pupils in sight)” I advised
” Nangu fye ine necilisukulu nshachitemwa ( who cares I don’t even like school) ”
I couldn’t believe her so I glared at her hoping to find that she was only joking but there was no
emotion. She seriously hated school and confessed that she only looked forward to going to
school the days when I escorted her.
Luckily the bell just rang as soon as we reached the school premises. I quickly shoved her in and
went behind her class to eavesdrop. That’s how I was learning. I had learnt to write my name just
by laying low behind her class room and I was beginning to like it.. if only my parents could agree
to bring me to school. But No, there was no need for that according to them. They were just
waiting for me to come of age to marry me off.
Any way the teacher started teaching mathematics and I was following really well. Peeping through whenever I could to see what was written on the board and then squatting to write it down
on the ground.
I didn’t realise that I had answered one of the teacher’s questions loudly till I heard her ask for
who answered the question that I knew I was busted. I tried to sneak away quietly but she had
sent some big boys to find the intruder.
I was captured before I even took off on my heels and I was immediately dragged to the head
I closed my eyes and mumbled a little prayer. The last thing I wanted was to be shamed in front of
the whole school
dead-air space. The air was still and the silence was so deafening you could hear a pin drop. It
was moments like that someone would wish for the earth to open up and swallow them or for the
wind to just blow them away. I stood a few metres away from her my head bowed down in shame
and regret. after what seemed like a long while she cleared her throat to speak and I looked at her
meeting her eyes and I dropped my face again only to stare at my ghostly image. I say ghostly
because my skin appeared so white and scaly due to the fact that I hadn’t applied any lotion. We
had run out of Tajili and even the dambo soap that was always a back-up on such instances was
not available. Not to talk of saladi ( cooking oil) which I didn’t even recall the last time our
household was graced with such pleasures. I then covered the little hole that was exposing my
skin on my tattered dress by gripping to it hoping that she hadn’t noticed.
” Take a seat” she offered her voice almost breaking.
I slowly slumped to the floor in the kneeling position sitting on my heels like I always did. I stared
at her. She was light in complexion with neatly trimmed dark hair and wore some spectacles. She
moved with agility that matched her slender stature.
” Not there! sit on the chair.” She ordered in a soft tone
I hesitantly stood up and gingerly sat on the edge of the sofa. It was so soft I had never sat on
such a soft chair. Back home we only had two very old bamboo chairs for father and mother plus
a roughly made wooden folding chair for father to use in the outdoors. The rest were small goat
skin stools which were also reserved for visitors who rarely showed up. Who would visit such a
poor house anyway. At most they only visited when they heard of some illnesses in my family “Mmm .” Startled , I answered not sure what the question was. I had drifted away in my thoughts
that I didn’t even hear her question .
” I asked you for your name.” She responded sublimely
” Ka–ka– Kasuba ” I stammered “Kasuba Mwenya.” I finally answered and swallowed heavily my
saliva making a sharp hollow sound. My throat was terribly dry and I was so nervous. I kept
studying the office and steadying myself. I wondered why she was stalling the punishment.
” Just whip me already .” I mused
I heard her stand up and bustle about the room and I closed my eyes ready to take the blow. I had
heard about how she had a thick rope in her office that she used mercilessly on trouble makers.
She walked towards me and I cringed.
” Drink ” she gestured. I squinched wondering what it was that she wanted me to drink. When I
realised it was water, I carefully accepted the cup and took a sip. It was water so cold my teeth
numbed for a second but my gullet enjoyed the cooling sensation that came with it. I then drank it
all in gulps and returned her cup
” How old are you?” She asked me this time joining me on the sofa.
” Nine years old .”
” Have you ever entered a classroom?”
I just shook my head in disagreement
” Do you want to start school?”
” Yes.” I answered enthusiastically
I poured more water on the Jo saka ( a container wrapped with a sisal bag sewn together with a
thread or wires for cooling water) trying to get the temperature of the water equivalent to what I
had tasted at the head teacher’s office. I had narrated the events to my family and delivered the
message they had asked me to deliver.
” Kasuba uli wabufi pantu iyi Jo saka nangu ilale panse amenshi tayatalala po ifyo ulelanda (
Kasuba you are a liar even if we leave the Jo sack outside it has never produced such cold water
as you say.) ” Mweshi accused me nonchalantly
” Ah lobe kanshi nga ulefwaya wisumina ( that’s your problem if you don’t want to believe me)” I
Just then I heard some noise coming towards our house. It was a woman who was annoyed we
figured from a distance. she kept on screaming expletives at our direction and as she drew closer
we all couldn’t believe our eyes
” Oh No!” We all chorused and ran to the backyard to hide
push you to be a better person, do not inspire you, but take pride and joy in demeaning you and
cursing you then probably those people shouldn’t be in your lives in the first place.
Words have a tendency to scar people forever. Someone may forgive but not forget. There is
always a reminder of bad things uttered that create a very bad atmosphere. Most of the times
people are reminded about their hurts when they hear another person demean another in their
presence and the Pandora box of past hurts zoom in and haunt them like their own shadow. The
worst case scenario is when a family member rips you apart instead of putting you back together .
A stranger may tell you hurtful words but they won’t hurt even half as much as coming from a
When aunt Jane charged into our little yard like a rabid dog I couldn’t help but wonder how uncle
George would sit by and watch his wife spit venom on his own brother and his wife. She was the
hurricane that was hell bent to destroy everything in our way . Even if we were not doing as well as
they were, they made it clear that we were not welcome in their house. We lived like poor people
despite my father having a brother who was doing so well in the business sector with a vampire
nurse of a wife.
I had heard of men who had become spineless after marriage but I never imagined I could witness
one from our own family. Aunt Jane didn’t even mince any words when it came to exposing us for
our pathetic lives. She gave our parents a tongue lashing and left without much noise. It seemed
she had said her heart out and was pleased with herself. My parents had been quite the whole
time. Somehow they had learnt to let her mop over them without as little as a poke back at her. To
them she was right -they were a cursed people and so were their generation -us. Condemned to failure and cursed to shame and pain. Because to her we deserved nothing less.
I knew they had been humiliated because of me so I rushed to my parents to receive whatever
punishment they were going to dish out to me but as I caught sight of them, I broke down .They
were shattered to a thousand pieces.
” I’m sorry mother…father.” I said shifting my eyes to each one of them. ” I will forget about my
desire to learn if it only brings you so much disrespect.” I said in between sobs.
They called me to get closer to them and I did then we all embraced and cried together. My
siblings also joined in.
” Hush please don’t cry .” My mother said patting each one of us ” it will be alright we may be
deemed misfits now but we can push through all our trials and make a better name for us.” She
added with much resolve
That day we sat down and discussed the way forward. It was about time we stopped wallowing in
self pity and grabbed on to opportunity with both hands but first we had someone to see.
“It’s a pity you have come to that decision. I still think you are making a grave mistake. ” Mrs
kaoma said finally
We had gone to her office the very next day and turned down the offer she had given my parents.
All efforts to make us change our minds proved futile. If my being in that school would score us
insults from my dear aunt, then it was not worth it. Their little prince had to be left alone and not
suffer embarrassment because of me.
On our way out, we ran into our dear aunt..I guess she came to ask the head teacher to withdraw
her offer. I stopped in my tracks and took a good look at her.
” Who is it child?” Father asked sensing another person’s presence
” Uh it’s noone important father .” I quickly lied as she walked past us into the office as though we
were strangers to her. I guess following the innuendos we were basically strangers.
I hurriedly led my parents away and we headed to town to do what was hopefully going to be our
last alms collection. Fortunately luck was on our side people were generous that afternoon. We got home late at night
and counted the money.
“Five hundred and ninety thousand kwacha.” I announced triumphantly
” What?” Every one asked in disbelief ” count it again maybe you made a mistake.” Insisted father
” Yes.. in fact I made a mistake it’s actually six hundred thousand kwacha.” I answered later after
recounting and I wondered how I miscounted. We had never made such an amount even in a
week. Not to talk of a month.
That night we prayed and thanked God for bestowing blessings upon us. We may have been
called cursed but he seemed to think otherwise.
Afterwards we drew a plan of how we were going to spend the money to earn more. It didn’t
matter if we slept on empty stomachs so long as we pulled through the rubble and earned respect
from our society.