To put it in Charles Dickens’s words, it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.Uncle Fanuel lived a fast but reckless life to say the least. Little did he knew that the fun and joy that was brought by the city lights was only short-lived like the lick of an ice-cream. He had a good job. But ironically he lived a hand to mouth life style. Partying hard, night clubbing and of course women of all shapes and sizes voluntarily availed themselves to him. What else could uncle Fanuel need? Some succumb to identity crisis and some live to their principals. But, not many will live to their principals. Such is life. Such is the corrosive effect of social pressure.
In an era were advertisements were being flighted in the buses, trains, beerhalls,bill boards and on radio and on television, even a 10yr old child should have been aware that HIV/AIDS was here to stay. Whether one like it or not. The sad reality of our time is that the pandemic is ravaging our families leaving a trail of child headed families and many orphans scattered all over our societies. Musicians have also played their part in sensitizing the community about abstinence, protection and how to combat and fight stigma and discrimination. All the same such efforts seem to be hitting a brick wall as long as people like uncle Fanuel still exist in our society. NGOs have also mushroomed in the last two decades, with efforts targeted at eradicating the HIV/AIDS scourge. Policy makers day in day out are deeply engaged in trying to find a way out. So are scientists. Many laboratory tests are being carried out so as to find a cure. Preachers and pastors are also praying the world over seeking for divine solutions to deal with the issue of HIV/AIDS. There is general consensus from many sections of the social strata that the disease is here to stay. Such that much emphasis seems to be directed towards mitigation rather than finding a sustainable curative solution.
However, there are people like my own uncle Fanuel who sternly believed that HIV/AIDS is like lotion. Such misconceptions therefore stall back the achievement and efforts of eradicating and fighting the disease. Many people have often turned a deaf ear to issues of HIV/AIDS. This is so since individually we don’t want to believe that it may affect and infect us. More often, we live in self-denial and we perceive the disease as affecting those of loose moral and not us. As I grew up with uncle Fanuel, I never imagined that one day, he would fall victim. For he was that type of a character who also viewed the disease as something alien, that we only read from the books or see some other people suffering from and not us. Every day of his life he would bring ladies of the night, of all shapes and sizes in our crammed one roomed house in Majubheki Lines in Mbare.For some who don’t know much about Harare, Majubheki lines is in Mbare high density suburb one of the oldest black township. The township was established in such a way that it could cater for bachelors only whilst their wives and families resided in the rural areas. That was during the colonial period, during the era of black labor in various industries in the so called ‘Sunshine City’ now known as Harare.
Back to uncle Fanuel! Uncle Fanuel would always come home dead drunk. He was an ardent believer of the traditional African misconceptions and adage that says, “A fighting bull is witnessed by scars”. Little, did he knew that there isn’t anything macho and masculine about the HIV/AIDS pandermic.He also lived in a society were men discussed with great haste and boasted about their ‘small houses’ (extra-marital households) in the verandahs of beerhalls. Some term such as beer hall talk. That was the mark of being a man.Being a man amongst other men in a society. What a miserable society we live in!!
Every night when I was deep in my sleep uncle Fanuel would awaken me with the sounds of the squeaky bed. Having no options I would just pretend to fall asleep. I would wrap myself in the one and only blanket and cover my head. I had to learn to cope with the daily reality. In most cases I would suffer from insomnia and wake up the next morning feeling tired and sleepy. Eventually, one Sunday morning when people were clutching their bibles going to worship, we were ferrying uncle Fanuel to the Mother of Peace Private Clinic. As I waited sitting on the bench in the clinic, I saw ambulances coming in and out of the clinic. Sirens ringing, I knew they heralded the birth of a new born baby or the death of someone. For a ringing siren at the hospital two imaginations come to mind, either the arrival of a woman about to deliver or an innocent soul being taken away from this earth. But, in an era were births are fewer than deaths, I saw many relatives coming out of the clinic shedding tears. Weeks passed into months whilst uncle Fanuel lay in bed, he was terribly ill frankly speaking. The doctor had said that he had failed to diagnose the actual disease.
So we just kept praying for uncle Fanuel to recover. But, by each passing day his situation proved to be worse and worst. His condition deteriorated by the rise of sunshine as each new day came. Whenever I brought him bananas he would complain that the bananas were cold, I should have warmed them. I never saw any single face of the night ladies who were habitual visitors in our one roomed house visiting uncle Fanuel. They never visited him whilst he was on his deathbed. After eight months of serious suffering uncle Fanuel left us in the eerie morning of 16 November 2007. He was gone and gone for good.I felt a bit at ease. For his soul had been rested. After, having seen him suffering on the deathbed I wished he was made to rest. Uncle Fanuel’s determination and personal struggle to survive was immense but inside I could see that he was waging a losing battle. The virus was slowly but gradually eating him in the core and marrow of his bones. For everyone who visited him could feel pity for him. He had become pale and very pale. At last he was laid to rest. With all the emotions and pain, I weeped.For I knew I would never meet again with my uncle.
Two days later after the burial, I am sited in the one room. But, this time I am alone. There is no more uncle Fanuel.There are no more frequent visits of the ladies of the night (commercial sex workers). I am playing songs from various musicians. The playlist is as follows ‘Mukondombera Imhandu yedu’ (literally meaning that HIV/AIDS is our enemy) by – Charles Charamba. ‘Todii/senzenjani’– (What can we do in the light of HIV/AIDS & how painful is it to keep HIV/AIDS amongst ourselves) by the superstar Oliver Mtukudzi.The most touching of all the songs is one belted by Steve Makoni entitled Vakasasana Zvikapera (The song is a lamentation that you enjoyed your life but now it’s the end because the virus has taken its toll).Whether we will find solution or not to this pandermic, time shall tell. But with behavior change we can!
The disease is alive and it starts with you to make a difference. Let’s all join the United Nations ‘IT BEGINS WITH YOU CAMPAIGN’ and make a difference in our localities.
True story based on true happenings. Let us be the change we want to see.