THE COMEDY CALLED LIFE
One of the greatest gifts bestowed upon us by the Almighty is the gift of laughter. Rather than constantly taking life too seriously, humor pre-supposes a large measure of goodness of heart, of tolerance and human kindness. The diversity of our beautiful nation gives us ample ammunition to make fun of others and be laughed at by others. This week I have a treat for you. "Hold on tightly to my hand and let’s take a ride in life’s amusement park…................!"
-From early childhood I was able to appreciate the irony of life in funny stories told. One was about a Hausa man that travelled to the UK for the first time during the 1980's. The man in question visited the good old city of London during the popularly advertised sales period. Most of the shops he saw had a glaring sign in bright colors - ‘SALE’ and when he came back to Nigeria he was eager to talk about the wonders he saw on his trip. He spoke of the bright lights at Piccadilly, ‘moving’ stairs (escalators of course), life-like statues at Madame Tussauds, trains that snake around under the city, the hustle and bustle along Oxford Street and finally with immense pride he spoke of all the great shops he saw owned by (he thought with pride) a fellow Hausa man just like him… one “Alhaji Saleh!”
-Another highly amused Northerner also took his dry cleaning to a laundry beside his hotel in London and among the items he took was his ‘babanriga’ - the pride of a Hausa man’s attire. The puzzled British boy while listing all the items for collection turned the richly adorned garment over and over and finally recorded it as ‘... 1 multi-colored, cotton parachute!’
-There is an ancient Scottish proverb that says, ‘A smile costs less than electricity and gives more light’ and with the situation of our own dear PHCN - I think we should all learn to smile more, don’t you? I have a beautiful sister-in-law who happens to be Igbo and many a time she has made me smile. In business today we all know there seems to be more downs than ups and when certain situations have gone financially astray I try to console the both of us.“Don’t worry,” I would say in soothing tones, “God is always there and our reward will surely be in heaven, Insha-Allah.”
“Listen,” she would hiss, “I’m aware God is here but I want to see some reward here on earth too - your prayer is a poor man’s prayer!”
-This never ceases to make me smile and I pray that every one of us shall get our reward both on earth and afterwards as well. On issues of money, one sees Nigerians at their very best. It is interesting to note that people usually know you well enough to borrow from you but you are not known enough to be lent money to. Of course it goes without saying that when you lend, you are a friend and when you ask you seem to be a fool!
-Recently, I was told a joke by a former teacher of mine who hails from Ghana. A man went to pay back his mechanic money that he had owed for months. Upon arriving at the house, he noticed a large crowd and to his horror learned that the poor mechanic had passed away and his wake-keeping was taking place. He slowly walked up to the bereaved widow to pay his respects and as they stood over the open casket the man whispered, “Madame, may Nkenna’s soul rest in perfect peace. I did not know he has died, in fact I came to pay him back some money.”... Nkenna rose from his coffin and asked, “Nna, how much?”
-It seems even cloaked within the sadness of death; a spark of humor does not go amiss. My dear mother told us the story of two brothers in the village who shared the same room. They were members of a large extended family living in the same compound and their grandmother was terminally ill. On one cold and windy Friday morning as the brothers were settling down to eat a special breakfast of fluffy akara and sweet pap, a piercing scream echoed through the compound. “Wayo Allah! Kaka has passed away”, shrieked one of their sisters and a barrage of commotion began.
“Quick,” said one brother to another, “we loved her and we’ll miss her dearly but what can we do for her now but pray? She is now with the Almighty who loves her more than we do. Let us quickly eat our food while its hot so we’ll have enough energy to receive people well and grieve for her properly!...”And it was thus that 30 minutes later both boys emerged well nourished with fresh tears staining their faces!
-This tale makes me think of all the times I have been to houses of mourning and discreetly noticed certain individuals while observing the mood of mourning never-the-less usually have at least one roaming eye on food warmers in the corner of a room!
-A true reflection of the tolerance and diversity of our individual beliefs and traditions as the human race is perfectly illustrated by this scene. If nothing this tale has taught me how customs we embrace as a part of our identity are interpreted as strange by others.
-On a cold, foggy morning in a lonely cemetery while a Chinese man offered a bowl of noodles to his relatives’ grave site, a bemused Englishman who was holding a bunch of colorful flowers for his dead friend asked with sarcasm while pointing to the grave stone, “Round about what time do you expect that person to come out and eat this lovely meal?”The Chinese man looked up and smiled coyly. He answered, “Well, around the same time that you expect your friend to come out and thank you for those lovely flowers!”
-One of the best things about being a Nigerian is that while in Nigeria, the food we eat, clothes we wear, our indigenous languages etc. usually are synonymous with our individual tribal identities. But once we meet ourselves anywhere else, in the world we are ‘Proudly Nija!” Something very special happened two years ago while on a family summer holiday abroad. As we were rushing out of a busy shopping mall (you know how we Nigerians go around in large groups), we spotted an extremely famous ‘Nija,’ footballer. We also noticed a group of ‘oyinbo’ people excitedly but hesitantly gazing at him - wanting to approach him for his autograph but a little embarrassed to impose themselves on him. Were we behaving in the same way you ask? For where! We started shouting and screaming his name (it comes naturally to all Nigerians). In a flash, he rushed over to us and we took some memorable pictures with him. he carried the little ones and played with them and was so charming and gracious - we all bonded with him! As he drove past us we chanted that he should hang up his football shoes to come back to Nigeria and run for the senate to the bewilderment of our ‘oyinbo,’ brothers watching. Back in the car I mentioned to my sisters that the celebrity in question was really a jolly good sport. They laughed and commented on how being a fellow Nigerian he must know he was better off treating us well ....Nigerians can come out with bucket loads of bad language and behavior when ‘disgraced’ or when our pride has been wounded. When it comes to such matters forget the 350 dialects spoken in our country - we all speak the same language!
-On issues of morality in our great nation, no stone is left unturned either. “Do this!”, “Don’t do this!” they yell. Lets highlight this as an example - people who criticize the way some ladies dress. With our abundantly rich culture inherited over the centuries some of my fellow gender wish to always emulate the scantily dressed ladies on Channel O. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing morally wrong if that is your choice. But it is clear that the true beauty and essence of an African woman is one who embraces her natural gifts and nothing is more breath taking than a Nigerian woman in traditional attire. One of my favorite authors P.G. Wodehouse once wrote that while looking at one woman during a dinner party he thought, “she looked as though she had been poured into her clothes and had forgot to say ‘stop!’”
-I would like to tell you of a hilarious tale told to us by a dear aunt. There was once a woman who was peacefully married to her husband when he married a second wife. The second wife was quite well to do and came into the house with expensive clothes, jewellery, plush furniture and all the latest gadgets. The first wife suffered many indignities and amidst all these travails, dreaded armed robbers raided the house one dark and stormy night. The first wife’s room was ransacked and nothing of much value was found; just when the armed bandits were about to disappear into the darkness of the night with their meager findings (they had missed the second wife’s room at the side of the house), the long suffering first wife raised her hand just as a child in a class room would and whispered in a halting tone, “Excuse me Sir, there is one big room at the side of this house with plenty, plenty nice things that you forgot. I will be happy to let you take everything there…please don’t be angry - go and check it…please!”
-Every employer complains about their staff, especially the domestic staff but they seem to be essential for Nigerians running a household. They can also make you laugh loudly too. My latest nanny called Blessing (may God bless her) when starting to work for me suffered the brunt of many jokes by other members of my staff. She was not familiar with any gadget and they would snigger at her behind her back. Blessing hated this and was determined to put a stop to it. She carefully watched the manner in which we did everything, even the way we ate on the dinning table. And after weeks of being vigilant I am proud to announce that my nanny now takes tea and garri …with a knife and fork!
-It seems in life, death, work, business, polygamy and at home there is always amusement to be had. So next time you travel, don’t be angry if you are unduly scrutinized too vigorously as a Nigerian traveller and asked to pass through an ‘X-ray’ body scanner. The real punishment is on the people paid to watch all sorts of ‘wonderful’ shapes and sizes of all our bodies. I can’t think of a worse punishment, can you?
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