Indigenous Coming of Age

Write about a character who smells something familiar and is instantly taken back to the first moment they smelled it.


By Dumisani khumalo

Caramel brown nuts ground and boiled in the pitcher in the staff room at ten bells tea time break ,had the class prefect Lawrence ringing the bell in a thirty minute niche.

The ringing loud timber of a cow bell beat up some fear, shaffling feet fast to the classroom door. Caught out ,you stayed out ,or received some capital punishment. That is the cane , a duster on the knuckles , tip of the fingers,.or a ruler in its place ,with metal edge in it.

The headmaster's office meant serious punishment with the belt ,digging a hole in the school grounds,standing aganist the wall and picking up papers.These were lighter and more better than those that meant you could not write at all ,and most students were devising ways to escape them.

The cane always came to assembly.That rule of authority. When you came late ,you stayed out of school or struggled to join the lines into class before the register was marked. 

Some hid in toilets,under cover of trees,or made a fast race up the aisle for the classroom door. Each day those who were absent the previous day were called up and caned in front of the other students,at assembly.

Tricks were devised like tucking in your shirt and putting books under your school shorts.The girls too could do the same,by tying the loose arms of their jerseys so they held books in a kind of kilt,then Helter skelter ,jump up and down ,as the cane struck all who queued up.

By break time , there was a rush with friends to the fence for popcorn,sweets or commonly available sweet was fudge,a chocolate kind of sweet,and made with milk ,sugar ,and butter,and we made back before allowing time to even play ,worse ,get change.

Some students avoided break totally and played in class ,as long as the teacher was out. There was a lot of pulling and sharving at each other when the teacher was not there,sometimes fights.

We came to the fence like a troop of baboons , to Indian and black women vendors ,at Lotus primary school,in Madras , Lusaka, Zambia.They sold their goods,and I was often taunted ,at most by girls ,in my classroom.

"Aaha dumy dumisani,Aaha dumy dumisani,and it was irritating,and confounding at times ,but we ended up chasing one another ,and a chase in all directions sometimes.It became a game of catch a n the end.

The taunts always sounded like a code to say ,the cane is coming to you or some kind of punishment ,or even to share up the sweets or popcorn to stop the blame game.

When the bell rang ,I was at the door with my fudge smelting and saliva dripping sweet as the gosling to drink water from our corridor fawcett.I was thinking of finishing it up later,as Mr Patel appeared at the door,in his thick rimmed glasses, meaning I had to hide it.

He had just come in from his tea break and a cup of coffee was on the table with some biscuits. When he came into class , silence came and we knew what that meant,and his cup was full,and we entered in a straight line,and when he came to his table ,his cup was half empty,sugar cubes wet or dissolved if not missing,the girls behind me ignominiously taunting again

"Aaha dumy dumisani,"!but it not as loud and I had just decided to gobble my fudge down and cleaning off its residues on the edge of my shorts,when Mr Patel asked about his coffee.

If some one must have tipped it off and put it up again when he was at the door as we entered,some thick coffee drops at the side sticking thick and streaming down ,made his tobacco and coffee smell come alive.The strong smell of coffee and his tobacco always had us ,but we held in our loathes for manners , as he marked our books by us or at his table.

I was the one still standing ,my brown syrupy hands suspiciously evident,and I had no way to vindicate myself,that I had not done it.

He pulled me by the ears ,wrenched me forward,another most common kind of punishment at that time,and took me to the front of the class and took up the duster .The school head was in to check on something when he found us still in our confusion.

My story was told,and the school head forgot what he had come for ,and the itch to punish someone to give an example bug ,was onto him.and he pulled me by the ear to his office for the cane.

I was given five strokes to the buttocks .These I could not escape as when many students would pack some books behind them ,normally in line prepared  at assembly..I had never been beaten like that before,and I could not tell anyone at home about the crime I had committed..It was callous and insensitive,the school walls became my achilees foot.

My father had not noticed anything wrong the following morning when he took me to school in his zephyr zodiac ford ,playing that new release from Elvis Presleys, suspicious minds on the car radio.

He gave me the usual twenty cent piece coin for sweets ,and at the gate ,I waited until his car was out of sight ,the school gate to close,and made passage back with latecomers josling for a look at those distress calls ,school monitors and prefects made,and the girls watched me ,as I led my way to nearby bus terminal,if it would help until knock off time ,when I made my way home. 

It was at the bus terminal that I was surprised to see that I was not alone, students from my school loitering and playing .They were watching buses come and go , getting into the water drainage canals and trenches ,running circles and in and out of them,oblivious ,nobody even asking.

I felt a little brave as I enquired on their names,and their problems..They all came to tell me different but similar stories ,and their predicaments .Some genuine ones ,like the lack of books,lost book,lack of fees, school uniform,and some ,like the stealing of chalk , writing on the board or wall,to lateness.

Strangely ,we played until we got tired,and for four days ,we sometimes slept in the terminal until it got late,when school ended at about 1200.

In those few days ,the cat came out of the bag. I did not ask for help on my homework,and my mothers due inspection of my books ,proved something was horribly wrong.

She took me to school the following morning ,and got my story,and decided to change schools for me .I was taken to Mumuni Primary School,where a relative would have a watch on me .I joined the grade five class.

It does come back to haunt you ,at best when you least expect it. There comes the callous whipping I got and the pain I endured alone, and the shock ,self denial ,I never wanted to have anything to do with the school or my former classmates,anymore,moreso ,the mention of the name lotus again.

I never drank coffee nor liked it for no apparent reason, and shut my mind off,even at the shops, coffee shop at the market where my father normally took me for a haircut with my younger brother,and I normally just drank tea .Tea was rare then ,and my last resort was for  a soft drink,at best , something to stop people asking me questions on why this or why not that.

My business engagements became difficult and quire in adult life , especially the mention of the word coffee just pulled me aback for a while ,those cigarettes and coffee smells, sometimes whafting into my nostrils, subconsciously.A dreary episode and pointer to my will ,to signal red,I had thrown an important letter in the offices dustbin once because of that coffee,toffee,or toasted, coffee,scent.

Imagine capuccino and how it was once touted as the best ever ,but it did not move me.I prefered ice cream instead.

One day am sitting at home in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, before Christmas when a car from Cresta Churchill Hotel came to my gate,from a local supermarket ,which told them I had still more lettuce,I could sell them.

I had grown more greens in the garden when Zimbabwe was struck with hyper inflation that hit the roof ,and at one million percent,and eroding salaries .The way out was to use other currencies ,which is still happenin,and I was selling a head at 10 rand's ,so this got me all so excited.

The guy came out and we agreed to a deal of one hundred heads ,and I was so excited ,with the festivities in the air ,I was so confident that in the least of five years ,I would be able to afford a merry Christmas for my family.

We went to the hotel with some heads ,and while am waiting for payment,this waiter comes in with a cup of coffee .My?!I do not know whether something spun out of my mind ,older as I was , but the waiter also got a little bit surprised and poured the coffee out to the sauce before he could give it to me , not accidentally, but I had caused it, and it's then I realized I needed some kind of therapy or keep facing the consequences .I apologised to the waiter and explained myself ,though it was such an embarrsing exercise,and very uncouth .but so binding,to my memories

 .End 1412 words


October 01, 2020 12:54

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