Everyone has a story to tell. But most of the time, people tell tales about others rather than stories about themselves. We bring you the maiden edition of our series of true life stories designed to inform, inspire, educate and entertain. We hope that you will find something in our stories that resonates with you or reminds you of the ‘good old days’. If you do, please feel free to share with us in the Comments (Reply) section and let the fun go on. If you have your own story to tell, don’t hesitate to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and copy email@example.com . You just might inspire someone somewhere with it. God bless you this New Year. Shalom!
Papa Rostom was a dark, burly man who hailed from somewhere in the creeks of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. My faint recollections of him include the fact that he was an Ijaw man popular in our neighbourhood for the way he treated his infant son, Rostom. Papa Rostom, a soldier man, rented one of the rooms of the defunct two-room mud outhouse (something like a boy’s quarters) adjunct to the main house in my father’s compound. It later gave way when my father saved up enough money to put up a proper ‘cement-block’ building.
I do not remember the man ever answering any other name nor am I sure R-o-s-t-o-m was the spelling of his son’s name. But the name definitely sounded like that and I do remember that the way he bathed his infant son drew the attention of the neighbours and was something that amazed not a few. Every evening, he would make sure he performed the bathing ‘ritual’ which involved his wife filling up a basin with water. He would then pick Rostom up by the legs, turn him upside down, submerge his head in the water for several seconds and pull him out as the child began to gasp for air – to the consternation of the women and others gathered to watch the spectacle.
Papa Rostom, who seemed to enjoy the panic caused by his act, would laugh and explain that an Ijaw child could never die in water. He would then hand him over to his petite pretty wife to complete the bathing of the yelling child. He would say that every Ijaw baby was taught how to swim very early in life because the Ijaws virtually live in water and that was his way of initiating his son as there was no river in our town. Despite his explanation, some neighbours thought his head was ‘not correct’ – an impression buttressed by the fact that he was known to be an unrepentant smoker of Indian hemp.
I also remember Papa Rostom for another thing – his red transistor radio. It was a rectangular box radio with two knobs on the front that served as the tuner and volume adjuster, and a circular vent to the left which was where the sound seemed to come out of. This I later learnt was where the loudspeaker was situated. In the evenings, after supper, he would bring out the radio and tune it to a station playing some kind of music that he always seemed to be familiar with while he shared a bottle of kain-kain (local gin) with some of his friends who were always around to ‘enjoy’ the evening with him. Sometimes, when his friends did not show up, he would call us (children) to sit with him on his rubber mat and listen to the radio at close quarters. A few times, he allowed me to tune the radio or adjust the long shiny antenna that needed to be extended or rotated in different directions for better reception. That was when I was still in primary school.
Papa Rostom was then transferred from our town and he left with his wife, son and red transistor radio. But he left in me a certain fascination for the talking box though I never imagined then that one day, someone somewhere would be listening to my voice on the radio. But it happened; more by accident than by design, as we shall see later….
Watch out for Part 1
Excerpt: The polygamous spirit permeated our entire neighbourhood as every child belonged to every mother or father in the neighbourhood, and it was everyone’s responsibility to scold or discipline an errant child when occasion called for it. I got a raw deal from this goodwill one evening. I returned from playing soccer with my friends and my father called me to get something for him from the cupboard in his bedroom. He had a pet tortoise in the sitting room that was on a short leash behind the door. When I entered the room, my father was bent over the tortoise and I thought he was feeding it as he used to do. Suddenly, he straightened up and locked the door. By the time I realised that I had walked into an ambush, he was already all over me with his cane. In my pain I tried to figure out what I had done wrong that day but found no clue. All I kept saying while the siege lasted was, “papa what have I done?” and each question was answered with another scorching stroke of the cane……
What was my crime? Find out in Part 1, coming next.