Now that we had poor rains this year – everything is coming to a head. The elders in the Village will tell you with a sorrowful face (Hatina kukohwa gore rino) meaning we had a poor harvest this year. As if the Gods had turned against the village. The rains were unkind to us. Hard times are therefore upon us. Just like in the previous years of serious drought – fellow villagers would come far afield from neighbouring villages. Normally with an empty sack begging for some ‘little’ mealie – meal to prepare porridge for the kids. They would beg for mealie – meal under the pretext of ‘save us, kids are starving back home – I’ll not leave till I have something to offer the little ones back home’. In times like these you would see mother going to the granary with a 25kg bucket. She would make it a habit not to reveal the quantity of the maize supplies in the granary.
But after such generosity, one after the other will also come begging and lamenting over how the kids are starving back home. They had a perfected mastery of the same language. It was just like an everyday ordeal. In these moments we also became accustomed to the phenomenon of uninvited guests. A distant relative (linked through a shared totem) would frequently pass through. In justifying his/her visit one would say, ‘it has been ages, so I just thought of passing through to check on your family’. In such a community it was the norm to check on the neighbour and relatives’ wellbeing. A distant grandmother would also pass through early in the morning and she would say, ‘I am passing through on my way to the garden – so I’m checking on my grandchildren’.
After exchanging pleasantries and salutations, it would mean that you would prepare a meal for the visitor. In such periods of drought – such a meal would count. As if not enough, the frequent visitors constantly ask for second share (asking for more food). Just like Oliver Twist asking for more. Others would help themselves to six tea spoons of sugar. The thinking being ‘we have found it today – let’s eat till our tummies ache’ with no idea of using the resources sparingly. Now that we are yet heading for another serious drought- we will sooner or later have these frequent visitors. These are the tales from the Village.