Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Land

These are the varieties of love he has known.

Love of mother. Love of sister.

Love of woman, not related to him by blood.

Love of father, and of brother. Love of friend.

Love of country.

It is this last that occupies him, tonight.

Packets of chuura gerrteh, sent across many lands and many seas. A boiling of water, salted first, the pure white crystals settling to the bottom. And then an opening, and a pouring-in, of material created by loving hands in yards next to kitchens, in gaynas worn and hardened by years of use.

Pounded by hands whose hearts are connected to ours, in a parallel world where distance and time do not exist, or if they do they have no effect.

He eats the chuura, and he thinks of Gambia.

A land with a fate tied to a river, tied so tightly that when it came time to decide the shape and size of the land, the deciders used the river, as their starting point, borders rushing away from it on either shore, cannot shot distances away.

He thinks how even now this river is the thread running through the land's center, its heart and its soul, feeding and nurturing its body, on which its people live.

The chuura is a trickling of pink water, that lies in the bowl, with tiny lumps in it. He adds sugar and stirs it. He pours milk on it. He mouths a spoonful.

It is hot.

And when he looks at it where it lies in its bowl, a small cloud of steam rising from it, he thinks of his connection to the country of its origin.

The way the river pulls him back to it, draws him back by a subtle pressure on his dreams, an influence on the direction of their flow, a heaviness in his heart, that is only eased, when he is at home.

To decide to give a life to his country, then, that is the only solution.

A life given to its reforming, its remolding into a finer shape, less coarse. Into a land not only of peace, but of a plenitude.

And to what end? What, then, would such a life have achieved?

He sits over his bowl of chuura, he chews ruminatively, and he sees.

He sees the engines of development, as they traverse the land.

He sees the dirt paths open themselves up to reveal roads, sunlight on shiny tar, barefoot children putting on sandals and getting into school buses that travel the kilometres now free of dust, passing farm women who smile as they turn the handles on taps, their feet no longer torn, or worn.

He sees hospitals spring up where once there were only rocks, and sand, and trees, and children who died, stocked up on sickness, run out of time.

A man and his family, sitting in the living room. The brother from school, his head filled with pictures of falling apples and bewigged men, his first adventures with gravity. The sister thinking about her school trip the next morning, and whether Baboucarr will sit next to her. The mother what to cook for dinner, the fourth meal of the day, from the stuffed fridge.

On the television programs that are of the culture, and promote it, and spread it across the land, bringing the people together.

It is tobaski, and in all the houses there is a bleating of rams. All the children of the land wear new mbubi juli.

Across the land there is a stability of rice, an availability of meat.

The stink of desperation, the odour of need, that has hung in the air so long, has disappeared. And with it has also gone the gnawing in the hearts of the youth, that makes them seek to escape the land in droves, believing there is nothing here for them.

And he sees the beginning of a final goal, one worthy of a life. A social re-engineering, a re-imagining. A rebuilding, from the ground up.

And he finishes his chuura, and getting up puts the bowl in the sink.

And he thinks he knows, what he wants to do with his life.

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