The indigenes of the region are vastly non-Muslims and Animists. The festival they came for is an annual celebration, when local pagans made merry and feast all day long in honour of their symbols of worship. Kengua and the driver had to make twice the normal effort to find a local who speaks the uncomplicated Hausa they were familiar with. They were lucky and got a lot more than they had hoped for when they stumble into an English speaking fellow, seated alone in an old plastic chair. This fellow was only too happy to answer all their questions.
He is amiable fellow with a loud voice and the befitting cheery nickname of Bantimu. He offered to show them round and be their guide the next day too. Bantimu had gladly offered Kengua and the driver seats beside him. He gave them cold drinks and introduced his beautiful wife when she came over with the drinks. Bantimu and his wife were a delight to watch together. She mocked him for being a baby because he wouldn’t let her burst open a swollen boil on his knee. Kengua especially loved hearing Bantimu translate his wife’s words as she teased her husband incessantly with humorous gaily jibes. His translations got quite the rapturous laughing admiration of his impromptu guests and farther encouraged his wife to pester him some more.
Finally Bantimu succumbed and exposed his leg by raising the lower edge of the long Arabian robe he had on. He revealed a visibly inflated knee, to let his wife attend to the shiny turgid boil dead in the middle of his right knee. Bantimu’s wife sat on the floor in front of him, with a pin and some cotton wool. She pierced the boil and Kengua sort of enjoyed the sight of Bantimu’s brave facial expression as he dealt with the first wave of pain from the pin prick. He was however not as successful with the increased pain of the letting out of the pus from the boil.
“Good boy,” Bantimu’s wife coaxed him in her good mimic of her husband, imitating Bantimu rather than speaking English. She giggled as she stood up, after letting out most of the milky bloody pus trapped inside her husband’s swollen knee. She didn’t apply anything to the deflated boil before leaving the now gashed wound open to heal on its own, naturally.
The quite lyrical beauty of Bantimu’s conversation skills began to show as they sat in the fast aging day, sipping cold drinks and enjoying the view of the busy neighbourhood.
“Everyone’s life is like a swollen boil, isn’t it?” Bantimu started off on his first of many thrilling monologues of the day. “Many years ago, as a child, my friends and I had the misfortune of relying on a braggart older teenage fool to teach us how to swim in our local river. We had no idea he couldn’t swim either but because he was a lot older and taller than we were, we assumed he could. He would walk firmly but gingerly, with his feet touching the muddy slimy bottom of the not so shallow waters. I can’t remember his real name but everyone in our village called him Dada, because he had a natural growth of tightly dreadlocked hair. Well, we all thought it was only natural that a fellow like him should swim like a fish.
“Dada was a very tall fellow for his age and was able to barely keep his chin above the water surface with just marginal difficulty, as he almost effortlessly momentarily leaped and bounced off the rather close water depth for him. The lad simply tiptoed with the long reach of his strong athletic tall legs beneath him and moved with relative ease. He beat his arms through the water surface as he pretended to swim when he was actually just walking on the bottom of the slow flowing river. We couldn’t tell what he was doing because the greenish shade of the water made the rivers depth hazy and we couldn’t see beneath his chest. We merely saw a brave swimmer.
“Many months later, Dada lost his footing and slipped one day. The slight current of the river carried him further into the slightly deeper part of the water. When he got back on his feet, he had a shock. His head stayed submerged even when he leap. We could see his frantic waving hands as he gulped down large mouthfuls of water with each time he tried to call for help.
“Oddly, we had all become more capable learners than he was a reliable teacher and two of his best pupils swam over to his rescue. We pretended to accept his story about his feet being tangled up in some underwater reed and only laughed behind Dada’s back about the incident, more out fear than respect. He was a lot bigger than we were and could beat us silly.”
Kengua wished he had come along with his mini tape recorder, as Bantimu concluded his short story telling with a philosophical flourish.
“Two of us saved Dada’s life that day. If he hadn’t held us up in turns, inside the water almost daily, while we beat our feet and arms in swimming motions as he stood firmly up on the river’s muddy bottom, giving us his bogus lessons on how to swim, he would have drown that afternoon. He invariably saved his own life because he had taught us how to swim.”
Kengua naturally wanted to know if Dada ever learned to swim as they grew older. Bantimu shook his head negatively in reply. It is a common way of answering in the mid-west of Africa.
“He actually never did. Dada was too proud to admit he didn’t know how swim. It became increasingly difficult for him to reveal this as each one of his old students became very strong swimmer. He actually stopped going to the river all together.
“Dada’s life story likens my boil, doesn’t it?” Bantimu concluded. The philosophical end to the story’s message wasn’t much, but it was sort of worth the short wait, the smiling Kengua reflected. They stayed with Bantimu until early in the evening, when they returned to their hotel.