Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Opening the mouth of the father - Part 4

With Christmas cheer, I publish Part 4 early.

The third part of this series Opening the mouth of the Father – Part 3

The opening gambit

Like a surrealist drama the wedding list was coming alive with a reality that was about to hit us in the face like a flipping wet tilapia, we were about to be slapped from side to side as if we were in some repetitive motion of turning the other cheek in perpetuity, our pockets had better be deep and be deep enough.

So, we opened the ceremonial table with 20,000 smackers but for the seriousness of the situation at hand; I am getting married, I might well have picked a fight with the chap who took occasion to literally make jokes of the events – I would have liked to be where I could laugh rather than be on the verge of tears.

For all it was worth, I was going to enjoy it as well as I was going to remember it for what it stood for, for all the participants in this bizarre ceremony called a traditional welding ceremony – welded, I meant that, indeed.

Hail to the chief

These settings need a chief to bless the occasion, some moneybag who had earned respectability in the community not so much for duty and stature but for the accumulation of filthy lucre from whatever source that was of no concern to the people who pay tribute and give their untrammeled obeisance.

So, to get this nondescript high chief to the high table a Chief’s Table fee was required, I needed the tough negotiations of the IMF with the persuasion of a Ponzi scheme purveyor on my team like I needed the next breath of air, my people drew skill and inspiration from places beyond our realms of everyday life.

At 25,000 tilapia slaps, the chief deigned to dance to the table with the dignity and grace of the big man who has come to town, the ceremony was beginning to get into gear.

A mute father and mother

Speeches need to be made at these meetings and apart from the MC whose verbal diarrhea was about to be as infectiously painful and debilitating to the extreme, the parents would have a few words about their daughter, not too much would come from mine in those proceedings, as I soon figured.

They called it, Opening the Father’s mouth, and soon after was the Opening of the Mother’s mouth, the smart quip thought about using birth forceps or calipers with the help of jacks and spanners to open the mouth of big daddy and better still, a parental kiss might just be killing two birds with one stone – they would not have it – each negotiation had to be thoroughly exhausted, the intermissions taken up by different kinds of bought entertainment.

Father remained mute until we had received 20,000 tilapia slaps and mother came not too far behind on 18,000 wets, since we fish by the dragnet and harvest by the earthquake shaking of the trees to split their fruit, someone must have assumed we had come by money so easily that we spend better than the gushing of oil from the troubled Delta region.

Some elders for hire

However, the chief and parents were not happy to sit at the table by themselves, the Family elders had to take their places at the table because the precious daughter was about to leave for the home of her most auspicious lover – auspicious should read love struck beyond reason.

A number came forward, about 6 or so and only on the persuasion of 19,600, they probably had other weddings to attend, we needed to make it worth their while being there for the purpose of, well, filling their pockets – our quip who was on the verge of having a knuckle driven at him without regret swore those “hell-ders” were rented – the danger of marrying out of your community means you do not know who is for real. This was no day for Miss Marple and her sharp intellect.

My people were introduced without too much of ceremony, thankfully, we did not have to pay to approach the table, they sat comfortably, maybe a bit uneasily too.

A compound rent it was

Maybe there was some sense in the Family and Compound Women fee, they helped in every way to arrange things, food, decorations and much more, a gratitude fee in the ceremony – no hard feelings; the compound element must have come from the fact that my prospective in-laws were tenants in a multi-tenancy compound, it did not hurt that much when it topped out at 19,000.

The incredulity of the Family and Compound youths however left one utterly exasperated, our quip suggested we were also paying the riff-raff to keep them from misbehaving – it was a stretch to our understanding of traditions but opportunities had been opened for everything including the kitchen sink.

A sibling triviality

They were pacified with the unkindly whack of 17,000, everyone was going to benefit from the marriage of this amazing daughter of the compound it seemed because we parted with another 15,000 smackers for the First son who happened to be 15 and this was apart from lining the pockets of the toddler Brother and Sister with 14,500.

By this time, there was no point having a calculator, our reserves just had to be inexhaustible, we seemed to be up to the challenge at each call but none of it was looking funny at all.

When before, it had been suggested that this relationship had legs, it did have legs but the legs were really for us to run, but we were so deep in it now, we had to see it to the end – nothing else could faze us as the ceremony progressed.

Pension arrangements in the playground

We had to cater for the Father’s Age grade and the Mother’s Age grade as if these people had sworn to each other as kids that when their children were to get married their pensions will be supplemented by the proceeds from the daughters’ marriages and the matter of the dowry was yet to come to the table – it was going to be interesting after all this.

They respectively won that jackpot with a pot of 26,000 and 15,500, it would seem the women get sold in marriages and still get the little end of the compensations that come at the ceremonies.

Why did we not find the literary tome on the marriage practices of the Andoni and just give this a completely wide berth – but as we were resolute, love conquers all, it would conquer this and leave us somewhere – a place difficult to imagine as one weathers this maelstrom of the certainly certifiable.

The Mother’s Labs left us flummoxed, nobody bothered to ask where the test tubes and cultures were, we flush away our doubts with a cool 15,500 and all our cards were now on the table and everyone ready to show hands.

Knock down the door, gently

The ceremony was in full swing in asking the hand of our beauty, our beloved, our prospective wife and partner who through this ceremony was fast becoming converted into a purchase, a possession with a ranking that could legally make her a slave but love, only love conquers all – we would live through this and tell the stories with great laughter and jollity at subsequent family reunions – this ceremony would return to the family in about 20 years – the parents were made for a great fortune through the giving away of their daughters, barring changes to this custom or tradition.

When the time to came to bring the bride out of the confines of the family home to be joined to her bridegroom we had come to the epoch of the ceremony, it would reach an unprecedented crescendo that would make the faint-hearted faint – someone had better have the smelling salts handy.

It was called Knocking on the family door – this would present a number of decoys before we have the real deal, our lady of the day, the joy of our bosom and the one to whom the whispers would mean the whole world.

You cannot imagine the number that opened that family door.

To be continued …

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