• Caleb Atemi

He fell on his knees as soon as he saw Mama. He held Mama’s bag to his chest and started crying

And Mama Cried!

Mama cried. She broke down as soon as she entered the house. She was inconsolable. Bloodied, muddied and terrified, she narrated her horrifying moments in the hands of a panga wielding attacker.

It was around 8 in the night. Mama alighted from a matatu at the Ebwali stage along the Majengo-Luanda road and began her descent down the Wandachu river valley. In those days, Bunyore was covered in thick foliage of forest and river reeds.

It was dark and heavy rains were pounding the land of Abaingu. Mama walked slowly trying to avoid slippery and treacherous ground. This is the same route she took many years earlier when I sat in her womb and a black forest cobra chased her. She had however long forgotten that dreadful day.

Mama had just crossed the river and started the uphill climb when suddenly a dark figure emerged from the trees with a blinding flash light: “Wewe mama simama hapo. Toa pesa yote uliyo nayo” (Hey woman stop right there. Give me all the money in your possession”) a man barked.

He started raining punches and kicks on her. Then he pulled out a long sharp panga from a sack he had under his feet. He flashed his torch on the panga to ensure his victim saw the sharpness of his weapon. He proceeded to slap her on the face with the flat side of the panga.

After a dreadful eternity, he snatched from her hands her most valuable possession. Her handbag. The multi-coloured handbag was Mama’s own masterpiece. Her own work of art. It had taken her many months of slow, meticulous work to create the bag from different beads.

Mama may not have gone far in formal school education but the short tailoring course she undertook brought forth the great gift she had with her hands. All the clothes and sweaters we wore were a produce of her skilful weaving and knitting.

The attacker then kicked her in the stomach sending her sprawling. He disappeared into the dark as suddenly as he had appeared. Mama slowly and painfully picked herself up and somehow found her way home. It was still raining but even in her tears she thanked God for sparing her life.

Praying for the enemy

Her story stirred up fury in us. We wanted to pick up weapons and go after the assailant but she pleaded with us not embark on such a foolish and futile expedition: “My children it is foolish and unwise to venture into the night. After all who says the attacker will be standing there waiting for you. I will put this matter to prayer”. She said dismissing our protests.

Mama went on her knees. She started pleading with God to have mercy on the young robber. She asked the Almighty God to forgive her attacker and mend his ways. I shook my head as I retired in to slumber-land. I could not understand my mother. How could she ask God to grant her such favours? Instead of asking Him to rain fire and brimstone on the pin headed thug she was pleading for mercy?

For seven days and seven nights Mama prayed and fasted. She survived on water and occasional porridge. She would even miss her favourite tea, chai tikni, tea brewed in milk and water until it turned golden brown.

Then the unbelievable happened. On the seventh night while Mama was on her knees, I heard a raspy sound at the door. The door to our small grass thatched hut was neither wooden nor metallic. It was a simple structure made from reeds that the Abanyore use in making traditional mats. It was merely a symbolic gadget which could not even withstand the push of an angry goat.

I stood to open it but hesitated just in case I had heard my own things. The sound came again. I slowly opened the door and a young man, looking terrified and gasping for breath burst into the house.

He fell on his knees as soon as he saw Mama. He held Mama’s bag to his chest and started crying:”Mama please forgive me. Forgive me for robbing you and attacking you. Forgive me for the pain I inflicted on you. I have neither slept nor eaten since I attacked you. I need my peace back. Here is your bag with all its contents intact.” He pleaded in Kinyore

“Stand up my son. I forgave you the same night you attacked me.” She placed her hand on his shoulder and prayed for him then set him free. The young man scampered from the house and melted into the darkness. It was clear he had seen the most terrifying apparition and was fleeing for his life.

In his confession he said he knew no peace during those seven days and seven nights that Mama prayed and fasted. He therefore started a house to house search for the owner of the bag. The nightmares and restlessness made his life unbearable. Eventually he found some woman who recognised Mama’s precious bag and gave him directions.

My quarrel with Mama is that she should have allowed us to punish her tormentor. Some beating would surely have taught him a lesson. However, she reminded us that forgiveness and prayer are extremely powerful weapons:” See what God did to him. He knew neither peace nor happiness and deeply regrets his actions” said Mama

I was delighted to see my good Mama back to being herself. She was soon back to her happy, hilarious self-sitting us through the nights with stories of yore. Mama never cried in vain. Her tears and prayers always bore fruits. Her prayers were profound!

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