Monthly Archives: June 2013

THE PAINS OF REARING PETS: part five

goldfish

In an attempt to rear pets, one moggie had died on our –me and my family’s- watch, and we had successfully managed to raise one for close to four years but had ended up giving her up for adoption; maybe we weren’t cut out to be pet owners…you know, these are some of those little messed up thoughts that creep up in someone’s head when they’re feeling down, and they end up depressed.

Ever since we moved, I’ve always regretted giving our Kitty up, until one evening… Two years ago, as I was heading home from work I bumped into a guy who was walking a white poodle. As I took each step towards them I couldn’t help wondering if we had done the right thing by giving Kitty up; here was a guy, walking towards me gleefully, with his dog’s leash in hand in a supposedly pet free zone. Maybe we should have defied the rules too; maybe we should have brought Kitty along.

Looking  at the pooch from far, it seemed so adorable, so harmless, but that was until I came close to it; it looked vicious…it seemed ready to sink its white, strong teeth, which met in a scissor bite into anyone; thank heavens the guy walking it had it in a leash. As they drew closer, I realized I wasn’t brave enough to walk on that same sidewalk; the poodle was cute for real, but its teeth told an entirely different story. Therefore I crossed the road to the opposite sidewalk.

Apparently, I had been so mesmerized by this adorable canine that I hadn’t seen something lying on the road, I almost stepped on it; it was the carcass of a cat sprawled on the tarmac. Some speeding driver had seemingly run him down and evidently sped off. Such cruelty… I find it sad, that there’s a 20km/hr. speed limit on the major gates leading to the estate, but some drivers take it for granted.

That horrendous sight and other similar ones made me realize that this wouldn’t have been a safe place for Kitty and her kind. The only solution would have been to keep her on a leash, but then that would have made her life impossible…  I stopped wishing we had brought her with us. If I had a choice I would have wanted her to be with us, but I realized that she was safer in her new home.

For two years after moving we stayed without any pets. None of us even considered it.

Providence had something else in store for us. One Saturday afternoon, the sky was a vast blue sheet, and the sun was shining radiantly; my sisters and I were doing karaoke, unwinding after a long busy week, when the doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting any visitors, so we got curious.

My baby sister went to get the door; it was a tall, dark, cute guy; the epitome of prince charming. In his hands he was carrying a clear plastic bag filled with water, with a couple of goldfish swimming in it.

“I’m looking for Liz, is this where she lives?” He enquired after the brief pleasantries with my sister.

“No, I’m sorry you’ve got the wrong house,” she replied, but she wasn’t sure if there was a neighbour going by that name, so she called me. I didn’t either; I did a quick mental scan of the neighbours I knew and I didn’t seem to recognize anyone by that name. I wasn’t of much help, so I left.

Allegedly, he was delivering the fish to a client. He worked in a pet shop. Jokingly, he offered to leave them to us.

“We don’t have a fishbowl”, my sister refused politely. After a while prince charming left. We dismissed his offer as a bluff.

A week later, on a Tuesday, my sisters and I had just come from school late in the afternoon. We found the door ajar; my mom was on off that day, but we didn’t know why the door was wide open, so we walked in cautiously.

To our astonishment, ‘prince charming’ was sitted, talking with mom.

“Oh, it’s you?” My baby sis greeted him; none of us could hide the disbelief. The surprised looks on our faces gave us away.

“Yeah, I came to bring you the aquarium.” He smiled.

“So you know him?” Mom interjected. We nodded.

“He told me you know him but I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth”, she explained. “I was about to send him packing”.

He hardly knew us, but the delighted expression he wore showed he was relieved to see us. “I literally had to beg your mom to let me in”.

A complete stranger was there in our living room setting up an aquarium. He was gifting it to us… just like that? I wasn’t sure I knew what was happening; it had all happened so fast. I had listened in on his conversation with my sis the first time he showed up on our doorstep and all I remembered were a few pleasantries, bluffs if you rather. So he wasn’t bluffing…

I’m a skeptic by nature; I wondered what his ulterior motive was. By the time he transferred the orange goldfish from the plastic bag into the beautiful aquarium, we had asked him so many questions; I bet by the time he left he was feeling like he’d just left a police precinct after that intense interrogation. I would be surprised if he didn’t feel that…

Maybe he was a good actor, but he appeared genuine all through. He visited regularly to check up on our new pets. At the time we didn’t know much about fish, so we called him everytime we were stuck. We called to know how often we should feed the fish, when the aquarium light burnt out we called him to fix it, he offered to wash the aquarium for us until we were confident we could do it without his help.

The first time we tried washing it we messed a little bit because before then we didn’t know why the air pump had to be placed on a raised surface. We learnt it firsthand; when we unplugged the pump from the electricity supply, water was sucked into it, because when we opened the aquarium lid we had placed the pump on a low stool. We called him to bring us a new one.

During the interrogation he had told us where he worked; mom had an acquaintance in that pet store, she called him to enquire about this ‘unexpected’ friend we’d made. He confirmed that they were in deed workmates, only that prince charming worked in a different branch. That helped diminish the suspicion we regarded him with.

Thanks to him, we had two new pets. We didn’t give them names at first, but after my big sis started playing ‘Aquarium’ on Tagged, we named the male one Chibbols and his female partner, Finley; after my sister’s “pets”.

Chibbols seemed to be growing faster than Finley. We thought it was just something natural; maybe that is how they were meant to grow. After one and a half years, chibbols looked pretty big, but Finley hadn’t changed much. Her growth had stagnated. After close observation we noticed she wasn’t eating much, she barely seemed to notice the food. One day we just found her at the bottom of the tank, dead. I didn’t feel sad as much as my baby sister did; she had grown attached to them as she is the one who fed them, cleaned their tank, and changed the water while I was working.

She looked so affected by Finley’s death; my mom couldn’t take it. She went and bought another female fish to replace Finley. We didn’t want to get so attached to them-their short lifespan had unimpressed us- so we deliberately passed on naming her. Six months later, at two years, Chibbols also died. We had started noticing slits on his fins; we later learnt that was a symptom of a sick fish. On the night he died, I realized he was swimming upside down; I’d seen Finley do that before she died, so I told the others about it.

My sister panicked; my mom called prince charming’s workmate, he was our new ‘supplier’ (time had revealed prince charming’s true self- he wasn’t genuine after all). He (the supplier) talked with my sister and unintentionally dampened her spirits when he told her chibbols was dying; and nothing could be done. When we went to bed that night we knew that was the last night time we’d be seeing him alive. So we took one last look before turning the lights off. The next morning, it was a Sunday and we were going to church. He was dead. I was overcome by grief. I hadn’t realized I had become attached to him unconsciously…

Finley’s replacement, who we call ‘fishy’, is two years old now. I must admit I love her. I know when she’s hungry; she swims up to the top, opening her mouth impatiently, and when she’s full she will just flip her tail and swim to the furthest corner or bottom of the aquarium without a care. I hadn’t planned on getting attached to her, and even as I write this I know it must sound crazy, but I love her. Years ago, had someone told me I could love a fish I’d think they’d gone loco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE DO BABIES COME FROM?

stork carrying baby

In January this year, I accompanied my mom to her ophthalmologist; she was going to get fit for a new pair of glasses to replace the ones she had as they had expired after the required two years duration. I was free that day, so when she asked me to take her I had no reason to turn her down.

It was mid-morning, and from the look of it, the day would be a beautiful one. The sun was out, but the cool breeze made it just the perfect day out with my mom.

By the time we got to the eye clinic, the sun was overhead; it was midday. When we walked in the place was relatively packed, but there was sufficient room for all of us. A lady dressed in a pink shirt and black tailored pants-that was their uniform- came to attend to us. She brought with her a form which my mom was supposed to fill out then after a while she took it to the main reception; she handed the form to the lady who was sitted behind the desk. The lady looked at it then went ahead to pull out my mom’s records from a shelf of neatly stacked files, which were arranged alphabetically but they couldn’t trace them, so the lady we had talked to came back with the form my mom had filled out.

It was my mom’s name they had misspelt. She went back and a while later she came with the ‘elusive’ records.

She filled out a few details then she showed us to the waiting bench. When my mom’s turn came, I didn’t see the reason to remain behind, so I walked in with my mom to the ophthalmologist’s office; she was a pretty Asian lady- judging from her appearance I presumed she was in her thirties.

We exchanged a few pleasantries and my mom and I took our seats. I took the seat next to the door while my mom took the one adjacent to the doctor’s. The doctor and my mom walked down memory lane briefly, recounting my mom’s last visit there.

The doctor handed my mom a pair of goggles which had a red lens on one side and a green one on the other. My mom, who’s already familiar with the routine put them on, facing a remote controlled screen fixed high up on the wall, that had one side coloured red and the other green. The doctor asked my mom to read some letters on the screen and she adjusted the goggle lenses based on my mom’s vision.

As the doctor controlled the screen with the remote in hand, she swung her swivel chair sideways, and then from the clear blues she mentioned she was feeling light-headed. “I think I’m pregnant”, she added excitedly before anyone of us could ask if she was unwell.” I feel this when I’m pregnant”.

“Congratulations,” mom smiled.

“I’m certain I’m pregnant,” she beamed, “I’ve been feeling this for a while now”.

“That’s your second?” Mom asked curiously.

The doctor’s face lit up, “Yeah, I still have that one son, he’s six now”. She unconsciously swung her chair sideways, “I told him his sister would be coming and he was so happy”.

Then she looked at me; I didn’t know what to say, I don’t like joining in other people’s conversations, but at the same time I didn’t want to come off as a bore… “It’s a girl?” I found myself asking.

She smiled, “We’re not sure, but I’m hoping it will be a girl.” She paused, “When my husband and I told him his little sister would be coming soon he asked where is she?” I just sat still, waiting to hear her reply. “I told him she’s in my tummy. Then he asked, how did she get in there?” The conversation was heating up. I didn’t want it to seem like I was intruding, but heavens! It was too good to resist.

When she said her son had asked where his sister was, I had expected her to tell him one of those interesting lies parents tell their kids; like, they would be getting her from the market or something close to that. But she had actually told him the truth. I hadn’t anticipated that. I thought that was brave of her.

So when I heard the ‘how did she get in there?’ part, my thoughts scattered… did she tell him about the birds and the bees? I wondered, my gaze fixed on her, eagerly waiting to hear her reply; how she manoeuvred out of that sticky situation, but she seemed a bit hesitant, I couldn’t wait any longer, “so what did you tell him?” I asked.

She turned to look at me, “I just gave him candy and he forgot all about it”. Then she turned to my mom again, to add an extra lens because my mom had said her right eye’s vision was somewhat blurry. “But I know he will be asking about it again soon, hopefully by then I will be prepared”.

That conversation took me down memory lane, back to my childhood. Kids seemingly put their parents in very uncomfortable situations, when whatever answer they need has to do with matters sex. My mom is just one of those chosen few who never go through that stage; none of my sisters and I ever asked that million dollar question, “Where do babies come from?” I’m not sure how my sisters learnt about ‘baby making’, but personally, I accidentally bumped into the answer.

After class one late afternoon, I was nine at the time; I was walking from the classroom headed home, when on the corridor I stumbled into a red book on the floor. I don’t remember what drawing was on the front cover, but it was in black. I picked the book up and flipped through the pages and I liked what I saw. The topic that particularly caught my eye was, ‘Answers parents give their children when they ask where babies come from…’

I had no idea who the book belonged to; maybe some cheeky kid had taken it to school to show it to their friends or maybe an older kid had dropped it… but I knew I had to read it all, so I put the book in my bag and took it home, hoping my mom wouldn’t see it; she always warned us against taking things that didn’t belong to us.

That evening after finishing my homework I embarked on reading that red book. I chuckled as I read about some of the white lies parents tell their kids; babies are bought from the market; a big bird comes and drops the babies right on one’s door step… Then I remembered the big birds-storks- I had seen in cartoons carrying a bundle on their beaks, and subsequently dropping it off on someone’s doorstep. The owner of the house would take the bundle, open it and find a beautiful baby staring at them.

After that, the author(s) of that book went on to explain the real thing; where babies come from. It gave a detailed explanation of the reproductive parts of the male and female anatomy and subsequently how a baby is formed when the two engage in coitus… I had taken that biology class in advance.

Just by sheer luck, I had learnt where babies come from…

Four years later, as a teenager, my teachers taught about reproduction; they were emphasizing on the topic an awful lot to ensure girls did not end up with buns in the ovens when hormones started raging at the onset of puberty. Interestingly I realized they were teaching me something I already knew. The one thing they didn’t seem to help me understand was how the baby came out…

I spent many years wondering how a whole baby passed through the birth canal into the world… I needed facts, but the people I asked weren’t so willing to divulge the details; they were prevaricating. At some point I just got tired of the undetailed answers; I thought it was time I did what I should have done ages ago; I asked my mom about it…

MY THREESOME FANTASY

threesome fantasy

Back in high school, I used to joke with my best friend, who happened to be my deskmate a lot. She thought I was nuts. When girls were busy scribbling love letters on weekends- Saturdays especially- so that our altar boys, who came from the neighbouring boy school could take them to the respective recipients after Sunday mass, I would just watch…fascinated by the whole shebang; it was really interesting…the trouble my friends went through to perfect those letters; those who were not confident about their handwriting would ask those with pretty ones to write down the letters for them…and the calligraphed envelopes? Beautiful they were…

“I fell in love at a very young age”, I would tell my best friend. “Guess that’s why I’m not interested in this things anymore”…amused by my utterances, she would burst into a loud laughter.

“You’re crazy, you know that?” She would ask after regaining her composure. I was being honest; I had already met the love of my life, when I was eight- my childhood sweetheart, who I still loved with all of my heart. At the time I never thought it would be possible to love anyone else as much as I did him. The mere thought of me crushing on any other guy other than him felt like I was cheating on him…

I realized when the heart loves, it is almost impossible to yank that person out…it just fades with time. He had my heart with him; I had nothing to offer anyone else…

Everytime I’m talking about my love life, my mind takes me back in time, when I was eight; that is when I discovered romantic love…

Long before I fell in love with my sweetheart, there were two boys in my class that I liked. I don’t know what drew me to them, maybe it was their wits; they always took first and second positions interchangeably; if one came top in our class, the other would come second. I liked them both equally, because I couldn’t pick who was best between them.

Every so often I would find myself in a conundrum; I would have to choose one eventually. That felt stressful; I couldn’t picture my life without either of them. So at my tender age, I made up my mind; I wouldn’t choose.

When we were all grown up, living away from our parents, I would marry them both. The three of us would move into one house. I envisioned our life together in years to come… we would sleep on one bed, with me in the middle… (I was so serious then, but now as I think about I find it insanely hilarious; I must have been a nascent polyandrist).

Then, I didn’t know much about ‘the big S’… my thoughts were just an innocent fantasy of a small girl crushing on two boys; but in today’s world, simply put, that would have been my threesome fantasy. I must have been really into them, because I even envisaged my two guys and I working in one office together when we were all grown up.

I saw us sitted in a beautiful office located on one of the top storeys of a skyscraper (that was my dad’s office I had in mind) with books stacked neatly on shelves, computers on each one of our desks, files piled in a tray on the corner of each desk…the beautiful sunrays streaming in through the big window.

I must have watched too much TV because in that office setting, I pictured myself in a pink suit- short skirt and a matching coat- sitted on one of the desks with my legs crossed seductively, with my two boys ogling… my threesome fantasy (sigh).

 

 

PLAYING IN THE RAIN

paper boats

Almost half an hour ago I was in the bedroom, picking out a sweater from the closet. It’s a chilly night, and I bet it’s freezing outside. It’s trash day tomorrow and I have to take the trash out. I doubt I’ll be up early enough to catch the garbage truck if I don’t do it now. That was my train of thought before it changed route and I started thinking about the story I had just finished working on as I was putting the sweater on.

I was deep in thought. The story had opened floodgates in my head; memories had come streaming in. I hadn’t realized I was thinking until the door flung open and my baby sister walked in.

“You wouldn’t believe what I’m writing about,” I beamed. But she knows me well; she knew I wouldn’t disclose anything until it’s complete. She didn’t ask what it was about.

“Me?” she teased. We both laughed. She has asked me that a couple of times before, and everytime she does I always give her the same reply, “what’s really interesting about you that I can actually write about?” again we laughed. We joke an awful lot.

Then a thought came to mind. “The origami thing?” I blurted. She looked at me, prodding… that was cue for me to expound. I did…

“You were really a baby,” I taunted her, “guess it would be ok if I wrote about it now…”

It’s a cloudy, starless night, but the incandescent pole mounted street lights have the place well lit; it’s hardly dark. As I carried the black trash bag out my mind drifted to that rainy Saturday. I was nine at the time and my baby sister was almost five. My parents had gone to my cousin’s christening at the Basilica, which was more or less a forty five minutes’ drive from home.

We didn’t have a house help at the time; both of them had left within weeks of each other. One had supposedly gone back to college and the other had left because her dad was sick. My big sister on the other hand had joined boarding school earlier that year; so me and my baby sister were all alone in the house. We were home alone, without any adult supervision.

We couldn’t think of a better day to live out our wildest fantasy-playing in the rain.

When my parents were leaving that afternoon my mom had repeated the words we had already gotten used to: not to leave the house. “Be good”, she had added, “I don’t want to find the house in a mess”.

We smiled radiantly, promising to be good. It was drizzling when they left, but a while later the heavens opened. I don’t remember what month it was, all I recall distinctly is that it looked unusually dark and the rain seemed to fall with a vengeance. It poured for hours without ceasing. My sister and I had nothing better to do I suppose, as we stood by the window starring outside, watching the water level on the ground rise rapidly.

Suddenly, in the midst of that boredom it hit us; there was so much water outside. That gave birth to a brilliant idea; we could float miniature boats on the water. We were thrilled; but there was just one paramount glitch, we didn’t have boats.

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Neither my sister nor I had ever heard that saying before, but before long we were busy tearing up newspapers, making origami boats. At first we tore papers from our exercise books, but then we realized those were small, so we settled for the newspaper ones as they had a relatively bigger surface area.

The cats were away, now the mice would have the time of their life, playing in the rain.

Without anyone to stop us, we went outside to sail our origami boats in the flood waters. After a while we realized that the water was somewhat still, and that rendered our boats immobile. Our excitement started waning. This was our once in a lifetime opportunity to play in the rain, we weren’t going to waste it on boredom. We went back to the house to regroup.

While I was busy racking my brain on the next fun thing to do out in the rain, my sister’s eye caught something interesting; at the edge of the red tiled roof there was a rain gutter, which wasn’t attached to a downspout. Over time, the water falling from it had ejected soil particles, consequently forming a small crater on the ground beneath it. Now the crater was filled with water.

Excitedly, she took her clothes off and dashed out; virtually naked. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I rushed to the door to catch a glimpse of the unbelievable sight. I envied her guts. My sister didn’t seem to have a care in the world. It was raining, and she was going to have all the fun that was humanly possible at the time. She tried to get in the paddle, but to her disappointment she realized it was too small for her. That didn’t dampen her spirits regardless; she stood there and had the rain fall on her bare skin. Joyfully, she held out her small hands to catch rain drops. She seemed ecstatic.

“Get back in the house”, I called out to her. “Mom will find us outside”. She just shrugged. I just stood there and watched. I knew better than to go after her because then she would engage me in a ‘catch me if you can’ race.

She didn’t seem bothered by the idea of getting sick from the extreme cold; it was fun. She was playing in the rain, and she was comfortable in her own skin, literally; that is all that mattered…

 

WISE WORDS FROM MY FATHER

wise words

How much do you love your friend (s)?

Do you love them enough to let them mess up your life?

These are some of the questions that keep me grounded on matters friendship.

I’m not so sure how it happened, but I did mention in there is no one like a mother that my dad didn’t really exert daunting disciplinary actions on my sisters and I. Instead he chose to sit us down, where he would subsequently give us a few tips on ‘how to live’; most of the time I deemed it unsolicited; nonetheless it didn’t deter me from paying attention. Truth is, I never really listened because I found it interesting, I only played my part-listening- so I could get done with it.

I found those pontificates quite humdrum; he was repeating the same old stuff he had told us before, as if drumming it in so it wouldn’t go in one ear and out the other. Sometimes he would talk about ‘obvious’ things, in my head I would be like, “That too?”

But I respected and loved him and I knew he was trying to be a good parent, so I listened; we listened, even if we didn’t want to hear it.

Somehow, when we were young it was difficult to find my sisters and I in one place together, except when we were sitted in front of the TV, plugged into a particular soap. My father has always been a shrewd man; he knew that was the only time he could talk to us because if he pulled the ‘we need to talk’ line in advance no one would show up. In his opinion, if it wasn’t school work anything else could wait; TV could wait; he always chose that most inopportune moment to share with us his fatherly sentiments.

Both my sisters and I went to boarding school when we were slightly over a decade old, each one of us at their own time. My father knew he wouldn’t always be there to guide us, so he gave us what he felt would walk with us wherever we went; his wise words. If we were sagacious we would heed to them. He didn’t force them down our throats.

Of the invaluable advice he has given us, the one that always stands out is one he’s been reiterating ever since I was ten. He advised us on one of the most rudimentary issues; the business of friendship.

“You’re not going to school to make friends”, he would say squinting, as if peering into the future, guided by his own past. “You are going there to read so you can get good grades.”

“But one can’t live without friends”, I would counter silently in the depths of my mind. I didn’t find any sense in his words.

“Don’t let friends derail you. They will be with you only for the duration that you are in school”, He would emphasize. “After that you will go your separate ways”.

All through my life I have made many friends; some true and many false…I have learnt so much from those experiences. For instance, when I was in high school, one of my closest friends, who also happened to be my deskmate got expelled from school; she and some other girls had been found in possession of alcoholic drinks. She was a very lively person. If ever I was punished for noisemaking it was because we had been caught exchanging banter during class.

Her expulsion didn’t happen out of the clear blues; I had seen it coming; she also knew it would happen ultimately, but the company she was in numbed her mind, she didn’t see the dangers she was subjecting herself to, but unlike her, her friends came from affluent families; I knew they would easily get into other good schools, but her? What would become of her? My heart felt heavy.

As I watched her carry her luggage out of the school compound for the last time, my father’s words came back to mind, “Don’t let your friends get you in trouble, because they will not always be with you, but the things you do, that’s your life”.

At times I took my father’s words for granted, but during such instances I would see the truth in them. So much as I hated to admit, I knew peer influence wasn’t something I wanted to get caught up in. He always pointed out that the repercussions would be dire if we let our friends guide our actions, and I’m only too glad I heeded–even though begrudgingly- to those wise words, because now as I take a look see at my contacts, only a few are my friends from high school-whom I seldom keep in touch with- and from primary, only three to be precise. Now I can definitely say that he was right indeed!

Sometimes I bump into familiar faces on the streets; people I was so close to in school; people I would have dipped my hands in the fire for. But when we are standing face to face, I don’t see the loving people that I once considered ‘family’, I see strangers. Our time apart attenuated all the love we shared back then.

Sometimes we exchange contacts, which we never get to use; sometimes in the excitement we set up dates, where we catch up on all that has happened since we parted ways. In most cases I don’t feel that connection; it faded away. Then at that moment I remember my father’s wise words, “Don’t spend too much time on friends, because chances are, when you part ways you will never meet again in this lifetime”.

Two years ago I ran into a lady I grew up with. She wasn’t my best friend, but she was a member of our ‘famous five’ group-a clique my sisters and I had formed with two other girls (she being one of them). We played together; excluding other kids who we felt had ‘issues’.

Our families were very close. When I was thirteen they moved. I didn’t cry, but i remember feeling melancholy descending upon me; we were so tight, and I didn’t know if I would ever get to see her again. I never did, until that day when we met in a lingerie store. She was in the company of two other friends-a guy and a girl.

I recognized her and my heart did that joyful leap. But to my disappointment, she did not seem to remember me…maybe I should have said hi, but then maybe she did it on purpose. I didn’t care to “Halla”… I wasn’t sure I wanted to rekindle a flame that had long died out.

Everytime my dad brought up that subject-friends-I would wonder why he was discouraging us from making friends. It’s only now, when I’m all grown, that I see the wisdom behind them. My father wasn’t asking us not to make friends, he was only asking us to be weary, because not all friendships last; not all are real.

He was young once; he had travelled the road we had and he had learnt. Out of his love for us he warned us, so we could be cautious when dealing with friends-to discern when to follow their advice and when to make our own independent decisions.

God willing I’ll repeat the same words to my children. Chances are they will roll their eyes then look the other way, and when they do that I won’t blame them; I did that too. But eventually-just like me-when they have made and fallen out with friends; when time has thinned strong bonds that once were, they will grasp the concept; hopefully it won’t be too late.

 

 

 

BELINDA

prisoner

Belinda is the title character and antagonist of Belinda, a sequel I watched years ago. I was just a decade old. I have watched many movies but this particular one made an indelible mark in my life…every so often I find myself referring to it sub-consciously…

Belinda was a young girl, fresh from high school. She found herself walking the corridors of a prestigious college located in the central business district. She grew up in the countryside. When she came to the city she was flustered; things were so different from the life she had lived until then; her college mates drove expensive cars and donned designer clothes.

This life overwhelmed her. She wanted to dress like them; she desired to ride the cars they did… but she was as impecunious as they came; however, she didn’t spend many nights tossing and turning in bed, just like Cinderella, her ‘godmother’ came to her rescue.

Some friends showed her how to manoeuvre past the tough times; they introduced her to some male clients who solicited sex. Before long, naïve Belinda was queen bee…guys were eating from her palms; they were devouring her with their eyes and the girls wanted to be her. She reveled in the grandeur.

“How come your mom never visits you Belinda?” her friends would ask.

“My mom is a model in Paris”. Belinda would gloat. At the time I must have been living in a cave, because I didn’t know what a model was; I hadn’t been introduced to the stunning ‘walking hangers’ strutting their stuff on international runways. The statue of lady liberty would pop in my head. I wondered how one’s mom would be a statue…

Belinda’s lavish lifestyle came with baggage. She became the star and took center stage; everyone wanted to be made privy to the piddling details of her life. So she lied, and before long she had woven a thick web of lies around herself. It was bound to break at some point; even she knew that.

That day ultimately came; her mother travelled from upcountry to visit her only daughter in school. She carried a basket of homemade foods. When she walked in the school, the teachers received her warmly…until she ‘claimed’ to be Belinda’s mother. The teachers looked confused; they all knew Belinda, and the drab woman dressed shabbily, standing in front of them looked nothing like the ‘model’ Belinda talked about so passionately.

They had no choice but to call Belinda.

When she got to the visitor’s lounge she saw the elderly woman, who by now had the school talking. Belinda was in a fix; the sandcastle she had painstakingly built by the beach was crumbling; everyone was watching, and there was nothing she could do. The inevitable wave had finally caught up with her.

Her mom was delighted to see her; oblivious to what was happening. “My daughter”, she opened her arms wide to receive Belinda in her warm motherly embrace.

But her steps were halted by Belinda’s scoff, “Who are you?”

Her mom stared at her, bewildered. “Belinda, I’m your mother”. The crowd that had gathered was now gripped in condescending chuckles.

“I don’t know you, my mother is in Paris”, she retorted angrily.

Her mother couldn’t believe it. “But my daughter”, she cried. “Belinda!” The poor woman broke down in tears, before collapsing… she succumbed to cardiac arrest.

True to the adage, ‘blood is thicker than water’, Belinda’s bloated ego deflated as she went down on her knees, kneeling by her mother’s side, tears rolling down her face. “Mother don’t leave me. I’m sorry”. But it was too late. Her tears were not going to bring her the woman she had blatantly rejected back.

The crowd behind her was now laughing, mocking, pointing fingers at her, but none of that bothered her. There lay the lifeless body of her mother; she had sent her to her grave prematurely. Her mother was innocent, all she had done was work diligently, so she could offer her the best she could; but in return she had rejected her unequivocally.

If only she could take her words back; if only she could get the chance to do things over again; she would let the whole world know she was her mother. She wished…

Belinda opened my eyes; the larger society glorifies materialism; beauty and money are the tickets to prosperity. She taught me a life lesson; one can’t afford to look down on people because they don’t meet their standards.

Sometimes I find myself at a cross-road, where I have to embody Belinda, or be the better person. Such situations feel daunting…

A few years ago I was in a similar situation. I had just turned nineteen. An aunt had called to say she would be visiting from upcountry. I was excited.

My mom would be leaving for work, my big sister had morning classes and I was still taking my time off from books after clearing from high school; my baby sister was still away in school. That automatically meant I would be the one to pick her from the bus stop. I didn’t mind it, hosting visitors is something I’ve always loved…

The next day, I left home early to go pick my aunt. I had left early to allow time for the morning traffic. It had been five years since I had last seen her. I was even afraid I wouldn’t be able to recognize her or maybe it would be vice versa; maybe she wouldn’t recognize me.

There wasn’t much traffic, so I got there earlier than I had anticipated. I waited, watching out closely for any bus that pulled up. I couldn’t risk missing her. After what I considered a long wait, I saw her alighting from the bus that had just arrived. But she wasn’t alone. She was in the company of her daughter-a cousin I’d last seen when I was five-we were both babies- and her elder brother that I had never laid my eyes on. That is what happens when people fail to keep in touch…

My, now grown, cousin had never been in the capital before…she looked mesmerized by the towering skyscrapers. She was apparently oblivious to the uneasy state she had unintentionally put me in. she was in a pair of jungle green linen pants that looked a size smaller and a matching top. Her short hair was bunched up in unkempt pigtails and to complete that look she was in black closed shoes, which had gathered dust during their journey.

As I drew closer to them, I found myself befuddled. I hadn’t given thought to what they would be wearing, but as they stood there right in front of me, I realized I wasn’t comfortable with it. “What will people think?” I hated myself for thinking that, but that is what I felt…but then I remembered BELINDA! Without further ado I held out my hands and hugged them.

At the back of my head there were those unsettling thoughts pounding incessantly…”What will the neighbours say? They will see them, and they will tease, they will talk…” but I didn’t care anymore; they were noble human beings; they were my family. It didn’t matter if they came dressed in rags; it didn’t matter if the whole world laughed or teased…Belinda had taught me better; she had taught me to look at the bigger picture; to ask, “What is the right thing to do?” As opposed to asking “What will people think?”