For whatever the reason can be, I remember today Baba Kazeem, the neigbourhood barber, who proudly wears his Oyo tribal marks, his shop is right in front of his house, the roof is the very sky above us the walls the people waiting in queue to have their monthly or bimonthly hair cut, boys, girls, and men alike. I remember he’s just right smark in the middle of the spectrum of short to tall, blak shining skin, with 4 boys of his own whom he regularly uses to advertise his trade.
I cannot count how many visits I paid to him, and how dreadful I become each time the visit was near, for me it was going into an hospital to have an intramuscular injection. The menacing look of the iron clippers and his own mean look does not make it any better.
There is the forest growing without control on my head and right in front of me is baba akeem and his tool of trade, I’m sure he considers himself a landscape artist, he cloths me with a little rag to protect my cloth, takes a step backwards and accesses the work at hand where best to start from, he asks me “the usual or tyson or is it bobby brown you want?” You are wondering what the usual is? Ok its skin or fadon(scrape it clean), of course I tell him the usual, cannot afford to face my father’s wrath. Off he sets to work, clip, clip, clip goes his clippers accompanied by wince and groans from me. Sweat breaking out from his forehead in the mid day sun, he tells me he’s almost true and shortly after he hands me the mirror to take a look at my new self, not to criticise what he has done just to let me know what I now look like. If I dare utter a word reports would have reached my father before I arived home. I stand up dust myself and pay him his statutory fees.
Baba Akeem is noted for his no nonsense stance in the community so he becomes the chief disciplinarian and parents a wont to inform their erring kids of their intention to report them to baba akeem. Of course this is enough to make one straighten up his or her acts.
Mr. B, thats waht we all call him, not because his name was too long or difficult to pronounce, but he continously reminds of one of the characters in a Tv serial which was on at that time. He was not a comedian I don’t think he ever was at any point, but the name stuck and today my memory fails me in my bid to recollect his actual name. So I am stuck with Mr. B, for want of his real name, he was my teacher at one of the early stages of my education. He was a graduate from one of the first generation nigerian universities, tall and lanky, moved as one carried by the sheer force of the wind, seem his feet never had any cause to kiss the ground with each step he took. The moment we see his head from afar everywhere becomes still and the upper and lower lips stay glued to one another like newly found loves. From the moment he steps into the class till he leaves my heart races at the speed of light, both hands sweat and shake with cold battering through my body. Why I grew to fear him that much, my memroies fails me once again, maybe it was his height and the never smiling grim face he wears around. I remember when a rumour was going round the school that he was living with his mother at such an old age, 27years! Fours years now when I am well passed that old age, I seat to take an account of where I was and I remember vividly-how I wish my memory will fail me just this one more time- I was still in university and totally dependent on my parents for my upkeep. How ridiculous it sounds to me now, to have rejoiced at that little tale concerning Mr. B.
Ridiculous as it may sound there is a part of my life which is totally erased from my memories and it dates back to many years ago, when I was growing up and coming to understand the beauty of life and the many shades it can come in. All I can remember till date was seing my mum in the kithchen making amala for dinner. I have never had the courage to ask my mum what realy happened, when and how I returned to school and when the stitch was removed from my occiput remains a mystery to me till date, but really I still have memories.
Raising boys is fraught with alot of dangers, think its not true? Ask my mum, she raised four very active non-docile boys who all had a streak of stubborness in them. Accident prone, we were, from trauma to the head in a domestic squabble to laceration to the digits of the hand in a tussle for who will hold the empty bottle of soft drink we were to buy to celebrate, celebrate what? I can’t remember. One of us simply got angry and lashed out at the glass sliding doors which simply came crumbling down not giving a fight, it remained there as a memorial for many years before my parents decided to replace it. Looking back now I give kudos to my parents who braced the odds of us turning out bad by believing in us all the way and giving us the best education there was available. I am sure there are many days they had their hearts in their mouth whenever they were called that one of us was in trouble again. The heartache, the fear of what will be surely was with them all the way. Looking back at then and the discipline they inculcated into us, the prayers they prayed no wonder we turned out this good. I will end this with a quote fron Frances Bacon, an English philosopher, statesman and lawyer, “The joys of parents are secret, and so are their grieves and fears.”
Many decades after I have become a man in my own home, I still take pleasure in taking a walk down memory lane. Fear of the unknwon, the joy of glad tidings, the expectation of the forth coming holidays and the fear of Open Days at schol when parents come in to check on their wards school perfomance.
Open days, its meant to bring pride to the parents; a time for them to meet and discuss, share ideas on how best to improve their children and a time for we the students to go home with our heart in our mouth. You just wonder why? Why should I be afraid of going home after such a day, considering I have done well, might not be top of the class but I am just right there, right there in the middle, not too way down and niether to high up. My parents will have none of that not my mum in particular, she just has a way of letting you know you have not done well enough even if you came first in class.
This morning i remember many years ago, i should be in nursery 3 then, a cloudy, morning, the sky threatning to weep endlessly. We all were on the morning assembly, patriotism was been inculcated into us by the recital of our national anthem and recitation of the names of the head os state and his second in command, it was buhari/idagbon then. I remeber this day clearly, so lucidly i ask myself why, why is it so deeply etched in my memory? I still wonder, but it was a morning like no other, droplets of cool rain rest on our brows, our anoraks glistening from the pelting droplets,yet we stood reciting the national anthem, the eldest amongs us then could not have been more than 5 years of age.
Wish i could go back to that day, i had something new to show off, a ruler with an iron edge my dad just bougth for me, a novel thing it was. So i was in a haste for the assembly to be dispersed, as soon as we were let go, and i hit my desk, i scrambled inside my little bag for my ruler and whipped it out for the admiration of my seat mate, he looked on in wonder, what contraption is this? We were used to the yellow flat thing, that we could easily chew on, not this bulky iron edged one. Soon it was making the rounds, and too many visiors, than what my young mind could handle kept coming in to take a look and feel it. Suddenly it became a magic wand of sort, a filled day i had, what made itmore interesting, the rain came down stronger, unrelenting in its mission to fload and make as much noise to disturb our classes, as possible.
Memories of the days which keep, creeping into my mind astound me, since i thought it was all gone in a moment, when someone pressed the delete button of my memoryso many years ago. That is another story of the vegeance the human mind was encrypted with at birth. A simple slip and i was marked out for retaliation, it was carried out but it ended horrible, bleeding from my occiput witht he light gradually becoming darkness before my very eyes, how many days i used in the hospital i do not know, did it affect my school attendance, when did i return to class, who did what, which doctor stitched the head i do not know the answer to all this and i have refused to ask questions, lest i am disappointed with the answer i get. I think i have a gap in my memory, that is what i call it. Just a gap of say days or weeks but not more than that.
The wonderful life of abandonement of a child, i remember the cries of protest at been left alone by our parents at school in the morning, the many teared stained faces, our back packs, dragging on the floor in despondency, soon all the trauma of been separated from our parents is forgotten at the sighting of each other and the counsolatory voices of our teachers we have come to adore and grown attached to. The day passes so quickly, with the teaching sessions interspersed with afternoon meal and play time, and a period of napping- we are threathened before we sleep off and have to be shaken several times before we are arosed form the beauty of a sleep we have launched into. The day comes to an end , we eargly look forward to the next day, we load ourselves into our make shift school bus, Mrs. Shobakin’s pick-up, a humanitarian service she is rendering to our parents at no cost, one after the other we drop off at our various stops and trudge home on our tiny feets filled with stories to tell, to anyone willing to listen. Next day rises bright and glorious and we are kicking and frantically doing all we can not to return to school!!