We were standing at the verandah – it was raining cats and dogs.The rains seemed to have given a new lease of life to the wilting and stunted vegetation. How I liked the distinctive scent of the soil after the first rains. The sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative aroma of fresh rain brought me closer to flora and fauna.
It seemed Christmas was going to bring its own quota of beauty. God had heard our prayers, we had been blessed with the rains. The whole village had been dry, barren and appeared ‘lifeless’. Every morning we could all look up to the blue sky looking for traces of the slightest clouds.
Maybe it would rain – that was our everyday wish. What we had – was abundant hope and faith.
Ours was a story of hope in the valley of despair. Our only source of survival had been the Nyabombwe River – but as the sun became scorchingly hot (coupled with the rise in temperatures) the river began to dry by each passing second.
It was a terrible year of drought. We were patiently waiting for uncle Sekamba – who had gone to the forest to harvest honey.
But in such days of drought, bees could not produce much honey. The flowers were not blossoming. The landscape was just barren, hot and dry. Carcasses of dead cattle could be seen littered all over the dry landscape. Vultures and hyenas seemed to be on cloud nine.
Poverty could be felt, one could literally touch, sense and feel it. Hunger and poverty was surrounding us.
Our clay pots had not been used for days. We only used to hear the stories of the terrible droughts – years of the rinderpest through uncle Sekamba’s fairy tales. Painfully, we had to experience such. I remember how we used to enjoy listening to such stories with zest and gusto. These are the stories that uncle Sekamba used to narrate during times of supper, especially in winter in the glare of the shining moon.
We would circle around the fire and roast groundnuts and maize. At times he used to narrate such stories during the harvest season – when we will be roasting maize cobs. He would narrate with relish to our great enjoyment.
But in times like these, there are no more stories.We are now part of the story….
We had spent three (3) solid days without having a meal. We had three consecutive days of supper comprising of vegetables served with salt and water.
….Hard times were upon us…….
As we saw him coming carrying his nhava (a satchel/bag made from bark strings) – we thought finally ………
The look on his face said it all.
‘My children all is bleak’…that’s all he could say.
In the vernacular it meant that, lady luck could not smile on him.The forests were unkind to us. We all knew we were going to sleep on empty stomachs.
I looked at the frail face of my older sister (sisi) Fungisai. She had become so thin – I could see for days, she had struggled to contain her petticoat. It had literally become oversize – she was fighting a losing battle trying constantly to pull it up,yet it could no longer fit.
Uncle Sekamba was avoiding looking us straight in the eye.