Reality was so brutal!
It crept in on me one sunny late Monday morning. Then, I recall, I was only five years old. My mum, on her way to a neighbourhood market, had left me with the owner of a corner shop at the entrance of my street.
At this time of the day, most neighbourhood children – some of whom were my playmates – were in school. By then also, the adults had gone out in search of their daily bread. So, this was how this usually lively street suddenly became quiet, except for a few passers-by who showed up once in a while.
Well, there I sat all by myself, alone with my childlike thoughts and visions of the world around me. Then…the voices of P. Diddy and Faith Evans, singing “I‘ ll Be Missing You”, drifted towards me from someone’s radio nearby ….
It was then I saw her… A paralysed woman straining with each movement, as she laboured towards her destination. And this was directly opposite me!
P. Diddy and Faith Evans were meanwhile singing:
Every step I take
Every move I make
Every single day
Every time I pray
I’ll be missing you
Could the duo be singing about this paralysed woman?
Wherever she was coming from and wherever she was going to, I had no idea. Not that this mattered to five-year-old like me, anyway.
But the poor soul! It struck me poignantly that this was how she was going to live the rest of her life on earth. Did she have children like my mum had my brothers, sister and I? Did she have a husband like my mum had my dad? What do her children feel seeing her in this condition?
Tears were involuntarily coursing down my cheeks, as I watched her strain with each movement. What exactly makes some people go through this kind of ordeal? What exactly did we come to do here on earth?
These questions buzzed around my little head like bees. But I asked no one for the answer.
I simply filed them away somewhere in my subconscious and wiped away my tears with the back of my hands. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was crying because I was missing my mum.
My mum? I wouldn’t even bother asking her any of these questions. What was the point?
I could imagine what her answer would be. She would at first be alarmed and then consolingly give me a little packet of biscuit with the words: “What do you know about life, child? What could your eyes have seen to make you look so sad?” Perhaps, as an afterthought, she would add: “These things happen, you know.”
So, you see why I never bothered telling her about the paralysed woman when she returned from the market. My encounter with this poor soul – which was the first of its kind – remained engraved in my memory. Now and then, it would briefly flash through my mind’s eye, even years later. And this mostly happened whenever I heard P. Diddy rapping – with Faith Evans singing – the lyrics of “I‘ ll Be Missing You”.