Faded Times, Living Memories

01 Mar

By A. Mooge
Feb. 28, 2012

Each time I am low, I have this uplifting habit of escaping to the past, to run away from present predicament. The past has been very good to me. No complaints whatsoever. And in rewinding faded times, I rediscover forgotten joy; more importantly, I forget living torment. This month was bad. I am livid. I therefore spurted to the past, and as I lamented the multiple scars and lacerations I carry from speaking my mind, I recalled the early days when this faith of saying what I think is right has crept into my little body.

Harar – where to complete elegance meant slipping into an Azzaro shirt and Idol trouser, and on top of this, a kaki jacket with countless pockets, given to you by a secondhand dealer, whom you befriended and implored to keep for you nice coats and jackets from each new consignment. And sometimes full three-piece suits, invariably oversized, which you got from a fat relative who descended from abroad.

In those years of boyhood and early adolescence, to be happy was to leave home early Saturday morning, armed with dirty one Birr (local currency), accompany friends to the ‘Billiard place” in Faras-magaala. I never been good in the pool game, but was unbeatable in Checkers. Winning or losing never diminished the thrill, the banter was invigorating. You then head toKebele 14 (or Botte Safer as it is known) for some sizzling roasted meat, in preparation for the real thing.

The real thing starts at 1:30p.m as you go underground in the Ras Makonen cinema, becoming Indian, American, or Japanese for three full hours, depending which film is on show. Ah, the ground-nut, the arguments, the naughty noises that break the roof amidst darkness. And the strange looks of a gentle-looking man with a worn-out tie, sitting next to a lady, who goes to the toilet very early during the breaks, a minute or so before the lights are switched on.

But nothing compares to the Saturday’s of School Walk to Alemaya (Haramaya now), 20 km from Harar. Today, the lake is dry but in those days, it meant Lake Victoria for us.  There were nice Tukuls all around it. There, after lunch, and under the sun, each group of 10-15 friends (boys and girls) surround one National Panasonic Recorder, its vocal potency augmented by extended amplifiers.

Coke in hand, you jump into the makeshift sandy dance floor to jive furiously to ‘English’ songs whose meaning you don’t understand; harvesting sweat from your forehead in merriment as you sing in unison “yellow, yellow fever”. It did not matter if this was a promotional song for World Health Organization! The beat was seductive. You chant piercingly when the words you are sure you know come across. “Illuuusha” You say for “illusion”, at once mastering the words and the accent together.

You jump up and go down in rhythmic twists and turns, all to the great notice of the village beauties fawning hesitancy, playing the un-eager, even as their eyes covertly plot to get a glimpse of you. All done, you lash out a snowy handkerchief, often with a lavishly put romantic message from a loved one from the village. You recline back on a chair opposite the beauty you fancied, and elaborately open the buttons of your shirt and push the collars back as far as your backline, all in a huge ritual show of flamboyance. That was to be home, to be in Harar then. Today, such show of flamboyancy does not require sweat and dust. They do it on facebook.

But that boyhood times of joy also laid the foundation for the unruly adulthood in me. It could have been Tuesday or Wednesday, I don’t remember, the English teacher started teaching about ‘opposites’. I was in Grade nine. “The opposite of white?” he asked. “Black”, we answered.  The opposite of Cat?” He asked. “Mouse” some section of the class said. The teacher was happy. The students were getting the essence of the topic. He said we should give a round of applause to the class for getting everything right.

I lifted my hand and shouted in hysterical boyish voice: “Teacher, mouse is not the opposite of cat.” The teacher got angry but initially did not show it. But after I insisted that cat and mouse are enemies but not opposites, he asked me to walk out of the class and sit on my knees on the sand for 30 minutes. The Pain of battered buttocks finally made me concede the point, but in the final exam, the same issue came up and I stuck to my point, losing two marks for it. It marked the start of a life of defiance, which made life in this world tough for me. In Ethiopia, as in the rest of the world, to speak of enemies idiomatically, is to talk of ‘cat and mouse’. The teacher took this as proof that cat and mouse are opposites.

The next encounter of defiance is one I am not entirely proud of, today. Arguing that sexual permissiveness is a carnal correlative to an altruistic position, and that it is a vivid metaphor for humanitarian give-ness, I defended a loose girl in the school who was getting tormented by a group of young boys in the school lounge. I was disrespectful to suggest her reckless sexual behavior was a show of selflessness and internationalization of pity for the deprived boys in the school. But my intervention deflected attention from her, and she managed to duck and slip out of the lounge without further shame and abuse. The boys were busy laughing and asking me to elaborate what I said. Our sympathies are often reserved for the underdogs, and I genuinely felt like defending her. Unfortunately, through the use of more inflammatory rhetoric, for lack of any other ideas! That was also in Harar.

This week, the nostalgic look-back was stimulated not only by melancholy but by the death of Mohamed Wardi too, a singer whose words I do not understand literally, but get them contextually. I recall borrowing money to go and see him singing alongside Fadumo Qasim in Addis Ababa Stadium in mid-90s. The macabre news served to transform my recollections from the boyhood days to early adulthood. And here, no one has more profound impact on me than classical Somali singers. For today, I will leave you with the riveting lyrics of Hadrawi.  By far, my favorite Somali song. Where are you, Musse Ismaaciil Qalinle?

“Ninba waxuu ku taamaa
Ama hees ka tiriyaa
Tixo gabay ku sheegaa
Halka lagu talaalee
Hawadiisu taallee
Uurkiisu tebeyee,

Dumar taan ka sahansaday
Waa gabadh Togdheeroo
Maxamuudi tooxwayn
Saddex-qayd ka tolatoo
Tusbax luqunta gelisoo
Tafta daraya-muuskii
Taakiyo badh muuqdoo
Dhacluhuna tarraxa oo
Sida boqorad taash xidhan
Hadalkeeda tirisoo
Hadba erey tukubisee,

Tuke bari ka yimid baan
Tusay boogahaygoo
U tilmaamay beeshoon
Tabi idhi dhanbaalkee
Isma tarin dadaalkuu
U tabaabushaystoo
Taab gaabnidiisay
Naftu xadiga tawseed
Ugu taagan tahay oo
La tawaawacaysaa

Miyuu tuuray hadalkii?
Miyuu tiray jacaylkii?
Mise tulud raqdeed buu
Ugu taagan yahay geed?
Mise wuxuu tukanayaa
Faral iyo taraawiix?

Todobaatan jeer baan 
Soo toosay xalayoo
Taan dumar ku leeyahay
Waa gabadh Togdheeroo

Sidaan timo haldhaaleey
Ugu tabay hurdada xalay
Anigaba togdheer baa
Tusku iiga muuqdaa”…

A. Mooge


Faallo u dhaaf

Posted by on Maarso 1, 2012 in Uncategorized


U dhaaf Halcelis

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Beddel )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Beddel )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Beddel )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Beddel )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: