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LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT. THERE IS A FANTASY IN THIS CLAIM, I MUST BE CONCERNED WITH REALITY..... I don't belong

to that group of women who suffer from disorder of the womb, yet lie to their doctor because of the fear of having their bodies examined privately. If you do not tell the truth to your doctor, how can you expect to get better, or at least be treated? If I fail to tell the truth to my parents, friends and even my adversaries, how can I explain the fact that I am not merely being negative? Ordinarily, I would not have confided such private matters or discussed them, but in this case I had to extricate myself from the messy lies about my private life and my role in the breakup of my marriage. So bearing this in mind, I decided to be brave, resolute and bluntly honest««. My father is a Zaria-born Fulani and has earned himself respect all over Kaduna as God-fearing and hard working citizen. Father a middle aged man who believes doing what is right could be described as a strict person even though his educational background wouldn·t allow him to be unexplainably so. I am the eldest of his four children, two of which had been taken to boarding school so that they get a taste of being on their own ¶of independence· as father had explained to them when my brother faruk repeatedly complained about father,s intent at the beginning of the decision. Father made sure he sent us to the best schools in town, not forgetting to remind us always that it·s the only legacy he hopes to leave for us. Although our family is not a large one, we are not without constant visitors in our house. Most of them are relatives and friends, a good number of them from Zaria. "You could look us up in Liman's house."They would say any time they are asked of their contact address in Kaduna.

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Of all the visitors, my favourite is Aunty Halima. She is a quiet and unassuming woman who looks quite like my father except that my father is on the tall side while aunty falls on the short side. They were very close and usually visits us once in a while for a change of environment as she used to say. ´I love being in zaria, but sometimes the break is important, because it reduces monotony.µ Aunty had explained. During my younger days, I used to have this feeling of

emptiness whenever she had to go back to Zaria. Imagine what happy hours Aunty halima and I spent! They were hours I wish were repeated over and over again, because was nothing which I couldn·t tell her. She seemed to be the most understanding elder I had ever come across and interacted with. She hardly frowns her face as most elders do, or even expect me to be careful of what I tell her or the way I tell her. I am always myself when am with her. She has a pleasant countenance about her, always smiling but ready to tell you off when you are wrong and praise you when you are right. So I did find her really warmhearted and loving. Whenever we sat together in front of the television talking about the past, present and future, I used to tell her what favours I would do to her when I came of age. "Aunty ." I would often say, "I'm afraid of growing up." "Why?" She would ask. "So many reasons much of it I don't understand it just scares me to know that there are realities I would face.µ That was the time I was transforming from a girl into a young lady. I used to be scared of reality and growing up involves meeting realities along the way. In my own assumption reality bites, and it is so uncompromising. I used to hope that everything was as I dreamt it«. fantasy played a part in my life. I
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used to even think that my dream man should be like my TV hero: brave, good, handsome and charming; in fact, a perfect gentleman. Well, that trend of thought is make-believe where there are no defects except the dreamer wants it to be so. I was later to come face to face with the bitter truth, that make-believe does not offer any escape route out of the challenges of living. As I grew up, I realized through my experiences that life was not made up of stories, birthdays and the television. I learnt the hard way that human existence was not just imagination but reality. When I was in my teens, I knew I was becoming a bit too stubborn in my own right. I became aware of my relatives regarding me with baffling incredibility. They don·t seem to understand me, they believe I am complex person. So my mother told , and If that hurt me, I could not express it, I did not know how to. How do I deal with it? In my relationship with people, I either choose love or separation. By so

doing, I form a barrier so I don·t get hurt. Love? Well I do try to show love. That did not always work well and only earned me a bad name. It didn·t guarantee my peaceful survival instead it diminished my reputation because people are not as loyal as I expected. I had been highly misunderstood and maybe even so as I got older. I must have suffered because I neither allowed people to perceive frustrations nor allowed myself to ponder too much about the complex situations I had found myself in. There was a time I got to fall slightly in love with my cousin,s friend and was told so many discouraging things about him which didn·t move me and as a result of my rebellious attitude, I was labeled a crazy girl. Within all these troubling realities, I was changing, becoming my own person, and my mother was accused of not giving me the right upbringing by allowing me to be myself. I had appeared as
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if I don·t listen to the advice of my elder relations who had the time to keep me up to date of the prosmiscuity of both his parents as well as their sense of irresponsibility as in the case of my cousins friend. I had wondered what that had to do with me so I never listened and kept on loving ali my first crush. Our relationship had to end by the transfer of his parents to enugu which really broke my heart. I soon got over it. Relations congratulated my parents on the fact that ali and I hadn·t lasted long enough to cause more scandal to our family, because they had been afraid we would run away or do something worse than that. One thing they couldn·t believe was that I had control over my actions even at that time. I had many of such experience throughout my growing years I learnt that people cannot be pleased and whatever one does, can be subjected to misinterpretation. My experiances set for me a good example of patience and perseverance. Often times, when I was deeply touched by things I could not yet put in a reverse. I found solace in my already developed outlook. I was also guided by my mother because I had found her the truest of all advisers, the best and liveliest of all friends. So inspite of all my troubles, I had these two people to bail me out. Aunty halima verbaly, and mama in her own quite manner. Mama looked the personification of human composure and female amiability. Without wanting to flatter her, I would say that her beautiful face and inherent gentility was just a reflection of a calm existence, the kind of existence where she doesn·t expect much from life. Some of us rush through life, and some of us exist through life, but Mama waited through life; lived patiently in the house always and enjoyed it, She seemed to weigh every word before saying it out and usually answered yes or no to every question with enough serenity on
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her face. She hardly argues. That was how Mama behaved, and I secretly wished I was like her but I was not. Father on the other hand was as practical as any man can be. He had managed to instill discipline on us by sparing the cane like most fathers and communicating with us instead. I remember the first day I was to go to do a diploma course after collage. I was very excited at the prospect of my being a collage girl. I had wanted to be a boarder but my mother insisted I be a day student since she very much wants me around so I could help with the organization of the house which I had always been good at. That was the time father invited me to his sitting room, a room so neat and spacious with its ever-humming cable- television set. For about ten seconds, father was looking up. He was perhaps looking into the future. He stared for a long time. He turned to look at me and his face did not fail to register the seriousness of what he intended to tell me. "Rabiat, you're now about to be dealing fully with human beings and their divergent peculiarities. Do nothing that would make me ashamed of you." "I don't understand, father," I answered rather coldly."Well, I will continue telling you about the ways of the world. You should try your best to be good and try your best not to hurt other people intentionally, and you must try and avoid trouble as best as you can. I am warning you rabiat, do not be economical with the truth. Only the truth sets you free. Remember God's rules and don't forget the society's rules either and if you keep that very much in mind, there is nobody you wouldn·t relate with, and this should be your first training in the school of life. You are not only going to attend an academic school, you

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are going to train on how to live with people on a worldly basis.µ He lectured. God's rules are in order, but society's rules are repugnant to natural justice. I pondered in my mind. I don·t like rules becouse it means letting go of free will and that in itself is psychological imprisonment. "I understand, father," I answered obediently. Ever since then, the conversation keeps ringing a bell in my mind on the way to the college. Not about God's rules, but society's rules. Without wanting to sound conceited, I thought that this kind of upbringing that was imposed on children encourage hypocritical tendencies since we were only advised to go by the rules rather that the logic. It does not allow a person to develop his or her own individuality- an important aspect of growth, as one had to conform to the rules and regulations, thereby neglecting one's innate individual peculiarities. It is a case of being who people want you to be, instead of being who you are. Personally, I believe every individual has his or her own perception of things and each minds its own method. Indeed, there are so many ways to skin a cat some skin it from the throat and some from the tail. And not forgetting the fact that one man,s meat is another man,s poison. At the time I was growing up, children were still brought up by rules rather than logic. One thing I know is that kind of process breeds ficklemindedness in most individuals. If a person is not allowed to think for his or herself by protective parents, then it means the person is going to remain static in spirit. It had beaten me hollow why rules should take precedence over and above logical reasoning. Going back to God's rules, the fear of God should be first and foremost. It comes from within.
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Godliness is a deep-rooted instinct which can never be shaken off the human mind once it is there. The air was fragrant with the scent of newly cut grass mingled with that of mango leaves. I could hear the birds singing and, for a precious moment, I was back in October, the previous year. That was the time Auntie Bilkisu came home to my father, complaining that her husband was a disagreeable person. She did what the Hausa fondly call yaji meaning running away from. "Men!" She cried passionately. "They are enemies of our freedom and our individuality. They woo us from our parent,s love and our family and they take us with all that we have and fasten our lives to theirs in form of marriage contract in the inescapable fact of destiny. What does the best of them give us in return? Heartbreaks, psychological disease«. As Auntie Bilkisu tried to express the pathetic situation, she broke into near uncontrollable sobs. I fell with laughter when aunty said she

wished men should suffer the role of women in our society while women enjoyed the rank of men so that they know the pain we have to endure. The pain of not being listened to, of being labeled incapable of reasoning«.The pain. Hers were the tears of a miserable and defeated woman or should I say weak? Not really, the only weakness she shows is her reaction to the unfairness of it all. All I knew that time was that she was a woman consumed by so much hurt and rage that scared me, becouse even then I had been forced to imagined how testy relationship between a man and a woman can be.

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"He is so stubborn," she continues, "My husband does not behave the way people expect him to be he is a pretender, he acts differently to me when with people, he treats me nicely and respectfully and when we are alone he shuns me.µ He has fallen short of expectation and he is not even ashamed of that. She complained that she was sick and tired of not only his utterances but also his behaviour. She even swore that her husband did not love her any longer. When she was asked why she said it was just the

common disloyalty syndrome a lot of men display whenever they begin to tire of their wives. She confessed that her husband must have fallen out of love or that he had never loved her in the beginning or ever. The last complaint set me in a motion of deep thinking. "What has love got to do with marriage?" I had wondered. The subject of love was one of the most intricate issue and a big puzzle to me. I was nineteen years old then an age when my interest in love increases by the day, because my experiences are the kind that circulates around relationships. I always took time to find out In my own way If indeed this person loves me or not because apart from the numerous toasters, I have a boy whom I love. During one of our discussions with Auntie Halima, we both agreed that love was an abstraction from reality. A fantasy«. Aunty Halima went on to say that in marriage, love needed not even be there. She assures me that her marriage to her late husband was not based on love but on trust and mutual dependence, and it worked due to shared interest in children later in life.

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Poor Auntie Halima! I thought. She was not the least romantic. That might be one of the reasons, if not the sole reason why she never got married after her husband's death ten years ago. ´What do I need a husband for?µ She had always asked whenever she was queried about why she hadn·t remarried as was expected in the hausa culture. Most importantly a woman marries again so as to prevent herself from reckless behavior. Secondly to feel secure because as everyone knows, women needs emotional security, the assurance that she is loved and know that someone is there for her other than her children. The mistake our people make is that they refuse to get a life of thei r own, and when their off springs eventually settles down with his family in the case of a man, which is the usual case, the parent forces him or herself on their children,s life, wanting to share everything with them including their privacy. That is not fair attitude at all. It restricts both the parent and the child. It is really good to live and let live. There is one thing though aunty Halima didn·t agree with. She said she is not of the opinion that love is the be it all in marriage. She insisted that the traditional marriages of the past, which based on social convenience and customs is more persevering. ´I know there is love but it shouldn·t be the most important aspect in marriage.µ Aunty Halima explains. "Aunty ," "I think love is a process that is both self-increasing and selfrenewing. The more we nurture it, the more it grows«. Infact it is like a flower." "I believe so, too, It is a force as well," she adds "You see, people's conception of love is simply wrong and far from the reality of what the word stands for, love is respect for who you are and where you come from.·· She adds. "Today, one could notice some progress in this
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respect. People have become more realistic and sober and many no longer feel that being sexually attracted means love, or that friendly greeting or communication is love, although there is only a tiny difference between love and friendship. If one can love unconditionally even though conditional love is more effective because one gets to be loved for whom he or she is, rather than what he or she is assumed to be. Idealism doesn·t go with unconditional love and wishing a love situation could be Ideal spoils the unconditionality of it all. It,s like the case of wanting an ideal son, daughter, father mother, neighbour, brother, sister, friend, and relation««µ She cleared her throat and continued ´Then there is your kind of love rabiat, the kind that lays in the heart or mind and which is not concerned with anything other than the feeling itself. This is a new outlook. The new outlook has made for greater level of honesty even though there have been frequent changes of partners. And new partners may love as little as the old, but that·s how it is and nothing could be done about it except to pray that

anybody that claims to love, gets to prove his or her point on time. ´Oh.µ I quickly chipped in: "Aunty, you are speaking as if you have been to school.µ ´No, I didn·t have to be in school to learn that.

Experience is a teacher. I have seen so much to arrive on such a conclusion. It is mere perception.µ She said.

"Still, you sound very much academic," I insisted."When you bec ome more mature you will realize that education is that which is left in you after you've forgotten whatever you learnt in school", she replied.

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I could see that she meant every word she said. I could imagine her vision. "Your late uncle once told me he could marry any woman as long as she is beautiful," she continued. "You mean one has to be beautiful to be loved? That is not fair! "I cried. I am not beautiful.µ ´Who says you are not? Auntie asked. ´Anyway, sensible people neither respect too much of it nor look for it in others. If the mind is so beautiful and well intentioned, no one would look for beauty because beauty comes with vanity.µ She explained ´Or have you forgotten malam illo,s daughter who was so beautiful, that when she was getting married her discarded boyfriend had to be hospitalized. But what happened after two years and a kid? She got divorced, her beauty not being a shield as expected. Beauty doesn·t solve problems it even adds to it if the bearer is not humble or sensible enough. I started thinking again. I knew that we were naturally made to love well what gives us pleasure. So, what is more pleasing than beauty when we don·t know the inner self? I asked myself. A little girl may love her cat because it is harmless or beautiful, but could not love something that is harmless but ugly.µ I reasoned. ´Yes, we automatically love beautiful things but we should learn to be careful lest beauty delude us, and most of all try and cultivate beauty of the mind. That doesn·t diminish with time so that kind of beauty is our best bet. Aunty explained. There are so many questions than answers about this mysterious thing called love, I concluded.

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"Let's just believe it is a process God has created and came into being since humanity did. Love is as old as humanity itself," Said aunty, philosophically. We were in the Sociology class and Samson, fondly called' Right Guy,' walked in, seemingly drunk. "What an odd boy you are!" Shouted our sociology lecturer. "I'm not a boy. I'm a man of twenty years sir!" Replied samson, my dramatic course mate. "Then behave like one," the lecturer advised, rather sternly. "What makes you a man, apart from being able to grow beard at will?" We all fell out laughing. Out lecturer was never a weak man. He had strong feelings with a strong inclination to be stubborn in the face of opposition, he cannot stand rebels. We all admired his informed trend of thought, except Samson who keep giving him a hard time since the beginning of our degree program "He feels that he is so important that he could decide not to stick to the rules of a civilized society while conducting his affairs," our tutor observed, starting at us all. Samson had been too reckless in speech and behaviour ever since he was admitted to read Sociology in our school, northern school of finished studies. He had had records of many minor indecencies and misdeeds yet he often described himself as being champion. He acts confident and optimistic and had always bragged that being in school is not the only way to self sustenance Left to me, I think he is painfully frank to the point of rudeness but wasn·t that bad. One had a choice of being proud or ashamed of him. That often depended on the kind of relationship you are having with him. As for me, I find him amusing at worst. He could be downright entertaining when given the chance and
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had once held us spell bound, when he broke down and cried for the souls of those who do not fear God in their actions towards the poor. Well it was then that I knew Samson had a bit of sentiment in him. Our place as classmates was to comfort him rather than condemn him, though our ways differed greatly. Knowing his story as we did through his sister, we decided to pray to God to save and guide him aright since we were too young and helpless to do anything about it.

Not that I would find excuses for Samson's dishonest ways of earning his livelihood, which was a disgrace to his family and no good to him it came about without him seeing any harm or having the training to see how wrong he is to an extent. He hawks Indian hemp. In fact he had cause to be rebellious going by the circumstance in which he had happened to find himself at such an early age. Some people have their ways of escaping reality, even if it's negative or temporary. Apparently Samson had decided to compensate himself with taking Indian hemp on the presence of anyone who cares to notice or look and say to hell with anybody that tries to lecture him on the danger of excesses. He fears only the police. He had confided in me that severally he had asked his relations for assistance with school fees but nobody gave him and the only excuse they usually gave him was that they hear he smokes hemp. ´They would have helped me stop the frustrating habit I had formed due to frustration, if they had helped. Samson had confided. Not even the few ones that owned house all over town were willing to help him or his sister that doesn·t misbehave in anyway. He had to take an excuse for six months to work as a house boy to raise money for his fees of two years and his sister, when hawking hemp didn·t bring enough at one
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time. He lost one year as a result of that. He had made up his mind to continue dealing with the world as he deem fit. Without much regard to people,s feelings. So he said. What baffled me the more was how he even managed to secure admission into our institution. We all believed though, that he did so through some unpredictable means. Since his sister finished school some weeks back they decided she keeps her certificate till an office job comes along. She found consolation in selling bean-cakes as soon as she was through with her house-help job at a nearby house. She often said she nursed the hope that someday Samson would finish schooling to cater for her adequately. Samson and his sister could last in a situation for a bit of time, but as expected, there is surely going to be a light at the end of the tunnel for them if only Samson would take the time to know his shortcomings and do something about it. That reminds me of the fact that there are three persons in every individual: what people think you are, what you think you are, and what you really are. As I was about closing my notebook after lectures a plump hand tapped my shoulder. It is my friend Laraba, who utter in a cold voice. "Can I please see you for a moment?" "Why not, laraba? give me two minutes, please.µ I answer. Shortly thereafter, she starts to tell me how unhappy she had been lately Her fair complexion somehow reveal how much blushed she is. She told me that her parents had given her a short notice within which to present a suitor and get married almost immediately and if she failed to do so, a husband might be chosen for her.
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"My mother has told me that she is breaking away from her marriage to my father because of continuous quarrels between her and my stepmother," she discloses to me with tears in her eyes. "I know you must have been fed up with my stories by now. Had I not have you as friend, my life would have been worse off. I'm grateful that I have someone I can confide in." "What are friends for, Laraba?" I start in a bid to comfort her. "I wish you would have the chance to attend my cousin's wedding so that we will talk some more," I advice. So I expect to see you tomorrow okay?µ She merely looks at me with tears streaming down , her cheeks., I turn and walk towards the waiting car that came to take me home wondering when all that palaver in her family was going to end. I guess it was the fault of the head of the family, laraba,s father. He should have gathered enough guts to organize his family if really he has had the guts to marry up to two wives.

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Two I know understand my parent addiction with setting standards and drawing moral laws. Such trait was more visible in my father. With all his Fulani inclination to shyness, he was never tired of telling us what I needed to know about life. He had confessed that really life is simple but that is not to say it is easy. ´One must bear that in mind and that the best thing to do is to take life as a simple journey, the rest would take care of itself. One thing we should bear in mind is that intent is all. A day after my encounter with Laraba being a weekend, father overheard me talking to her on the telephone, agreeing with her decision about getting married as the answer to her problems. She confides in me that she might run away if her step mother,s cousin habi continues to hate her for no reason, and her mother not saying anything to save her predicament, except preaching to her that patience is a virtue. "My cousin who befriends habi instigates my father, saying I stand the risk of getting pregnant should he hesitate to marry me off because I have been as wayward as ever lately, just because I went to a party which he wasn·t invited, but had wanted to attend. Father had believed him and warned to expect a husband from him, if within a month I didn·t bring out a suitor" she sobs over the telephone. ´Why wouldn·t you get married to Isa and end it all, he might be a good escape route, you would have the chance of being your own person.µ I advised. Isa being her flirty boyfriend who had finished school a long time but does not care much and do not have a steady job
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was the only rescuer I could think of then. He had said that as far as he concerned he didn·t see any reason for going to school in the first place, since he is making enough money buying and selling, he had explained that he is much contented being a business man. Just then my father came up to me as if from nowhere. I stopped. He cleared his throat after giving me an intimidatingly long stare."A good husband is the answer and not just marriage. If you choose the wrong husband, it is no answer at all. There is no hell on earth, like a bad marriage." he said and walked past me. There was a pause in which nothing in the room seemed to be moving but the clinking of my costume earrings on the telephone receiver. "Hello.µ I managed to say. "Hello, laraba, that was my father«.," Father came out again and continued ´Your friend shouldn·t do what she would regret.µ Father smiled suddenly, enjoying the mood. ´I'm sure you will make your friend understand that. Of course, she's got to have a husband to look after her. It is understandable, but, as far as I know, that is only one possible solution but the overall solution lies in the fact that she should solve her family problems , she should face it and do something positive to arrest the problem instead of rushing into marriage because of it." he noted. I was not sure when laraba replaced her telephone receiver, but I heard the sound of an engaged tone.

We were sitting near the window, looking out at the bright sun that shone on the school garden of my school. "I could neither go through all my thoughts so as to make them clear but I know how hellish a forced marriage could be. I don't know how I
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feel now about the affair going on around me either," Laraba explains to me. "Nothing happens until God wills it. You would marry the husband your father forces on you only if it is your fate.µI assured her. "I have read and seem to understand it, that there are places on this earth where understanding reigns, where you don·t have to fight to be understood where you are you are automatically at peace with yourself. A land of awareness where respect to people,s choice and reasoning are all usual state of things in other places but not here and maybe not now. Quite sad laraba, it is said that once your parents choose something or someone for you, it is in our best interest that you accept it or else you become a loser in life, for not being the person your parents want you to be.µ "There is no time for lamentations, what you need to do know is to plead with your mother to understand your state of mind which am sure you she would. Tell her enough, let her into the hidden recess of your mind trust her. She is your mother depend on her to help you fight this misfortune. I call it misfortune because marrying someone you love is involves enough doubts, how much more doubt would you incur if you marry someone you don·t love? This is indeed a huge problem laraba. God knows that.µI conclude. After that conversation, we went to the cafeteria. Later in the day I went home in low spirits, confused at the state of our society or is it our culture? And full of sympathy for my friend,s predicament.

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On my way home, because that day shittu our driver had been on errand I decided to trek home since our school wasn·t far from home. I stopped at the nearby chemist for my weekly dose of vitamin c because I had always been somebody who is vunerable to cold symptons. Soon as I had brought my supplement I headed for home. met Mamud just outside the gate. ´I had been looking for you Rabiat,µ he said, giving me that, flashy smile of his. ´I am just about leaving for home, I thought you had been back from school already.µ Mahmud was a tall, dark and handsome young man who had admired me for a long time. He had even been to Zaria to see Auntie Halima to confide in her his intention of marrying me. He somehow appeared serious, but I used to call his intentions ¶so-called.· He kept insisting he was not rich enough to marry me and that he needs time to be really ready. "How rich must you be to marry?" I had asked him sarcastically, since in never believed in lavish spending for the sake of love. "If it were you I would marry, I would have to earn much before venturing into it that·s the only thing I know.µ he replied. '1 would always feel offended thereafter. Apart from sadaki nothing in particular is so important. All the rest are customs," I contended. "Would you then want to be given out on sadaka?µ He once teased during one of our discussions. Apart from the way it might be interpreted, I wouldn't, mind, provided I love the man I said. I believed if there is enough love, then there is nothing to be scared of about arranged or sadaka marriages as far as there is respect. The issue of
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high bride price and expectations of costly items and the search as well as preference for 'Ready made' husbands, are usually the problems that undermine the solidity and strength of a marriage in a society like ours. I still recall my childish attempt to hide my real feelings while answering back at the time we had that sensitive conversation. It was evening then and, no one existed but Mahmud and I. That was when the whole world was happy and every man a gentleman. How could I explain the sense of excitement and warmth I used to feel whenever I saw him? When his romantic as well as candid eyes met mine and his melodious voice speak the words that felt like music to my ears the words of love I always long to hear«.. Wait till you meet Mahmud then you would understand what I mean. `He has charm, a certain magical something that makes him special. He had a way with people which makes him quite unique. Infact he is a complete human-bieng, as the Hausas might say.

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Three

The car picked out race as we speed, passing by the hills, valleys and rimaye trees. The weather was cool and suddenly the walls of the city were in sight. Zaria lay ahead of us with its eighteenth century parody of classical architecture, made from mud bricks and clay. When we eventually arrived, the driver halted the car in front of our family house. Our apartments were luxurious enough, with costly furniture and beautiful ornaments of decoration on the shelves. The family photograph smiled to you before the entrance that yields you to the presence of the sitting room. There were my father, mother, sister, brothers and I. We were welcomed minutes later by grandmother's pleasing remarks. She could not wait for us to meet her. In the next compound which was originally the family house. The one we lived in was my father·s modern apartment. Grandmother, was a fat woman with an enormous bosom and a rich, heavy voice. She looked less than her sixty -seven years on earth. She had some food brought to us immediately. My Granny's errand boy, Musi, made sure the dish of tuwon shinkafa with shuwaka soup were arranged enticingly with the refreshing zobo drink and alkaki to finish with.

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Musi had a knack for making us laugh our heads off to tears whenever we had the fortune to be in Zaria and he happened to be home. Grandmother made sure, at a stage that he was attending evening lessons. She argued that had she not done so on time, his stupidity would not only have been irritating but could, to borrow her words, "be dangerous." Granny's comical quarrels over trivialities was not the most fanny episode that ever made us believe Musi was indeed a character, but the label on the door of his room not far from Granny's, since he was still young enough to stay in the compound. The label, which was the size of a political campaign poster, was pasted with pap. It bore a picture of Musi, looking as if drenched by heavy rainfall holding a five hundred naira note. Beneath the shoddy picture was an inscription in Musi's handwriting: ¶life no money is danger.· And so it read, and as I read it for the first time I knew what he was trying to communicate was true even though the vocabulary needed correcting. Auntie Hajara, a second cousin of my father's, was a dark, tall and graceful woman with open teeth to go with her dark lips. She was the favourite of her husband's three wives. She had arrived at Zaria two days before the wedding ceremony started. Grandmother always trusted her to arrange everything. And she had always been up to the task. Mama was not feeling very well, so she didn't come to Zaria with us. As soon as I sighted Auntie Hajara approaching, her to exchange greetings. "How did you leave Alhaji? I hope he's doing fine," I greeted, then asked after her numerous children. "Oh, he is doing fine. He left his briefcase at the Jeddah airport and seemed worried as to whether he
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was going to recover it or not. My Indian-designed necklace, which I gave him to exchange for me, was also inside," she said. "It is really unfortunate. I hope he gets it back," I prayed. Just then a cousin of mine, Ibrahim, ran towards us to inform me that I had a visitor. "Who is he?" Auntie asked. "He is tall and dark in complexion," he replied. "It must be Mahmud," I told her. I remember he promised to attend the daurin aure if he could make it. "Rabiat, it is high time you got married. I have discussed with your granny. Did she tell you about it?" "No," I said, she didn·t tell me anything.µ I walked past her to continue with my preparation for the wedding feast. We were in the midst of the wedding ceremony and there was the sound of kalangu music all over the place. Girls and women, mostly relatives, were having a great time dancing seductively as the music rented the air. In the background, the girls sang a famous hausa theme song, chanting: Aiye mama ye iye«.. Aiye mama labo labo«.mamaye iye! Da aure yana raka aure, na biki mun tafi tare!

As I danced with my friends, I sighted somebody resembling Mahmud amongst the crowd. I stopped too stare. It was Mahmud. I excused myself and rushed to meet him halfway. ´So you have kept your promise.µ I said shyly. "Dearest of all dears, if you dearly love me, what on earth could possibly make me take back the promise I made to you?"

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he started. "Give your best in this affair and leave the rest to me, rabiat. Just tell me you would love me till the end of time.µ "I promise." I answered, covering my face with my scarf. So for half of that day I was dazed with my love for Mahmud. When he had gone, an hour after he arrived, I had felt his absence spiritly. I had taken him to a reserved part of the house and entertained him with some snacks. The following morning, when everything was over and calm, Grandmother called me to her room. She sat comfortably on her raffia mat that one would have thought she was glued to it. With some pleading tone in her voice, she told me that Auntie Hajara would like to make a match between her brother-in-law and I. "She asked of my consent and I said it should be left to you," Suddenly, I felt numb. Not believing my ears. I sat there on the floor, thinking of Mahmud whom I was supposed to forget if I was to cooperate with my aunty,s latest suggestion. "Did you hear me?" Grandmother asked, eyeing me from the corners of her eyes. "Yes.µ ´What did you say?µ ´What can I say now? I shall think over it." I answered. "You ought to, and the sooner the better. I shall talk to your parents later," she added with all seriousness. I got up to go, almost dazed with such a complex and disturbing news. Laraba, who was reserved and thoughtful throughout the day, noticed a sharp change in my mood. She could not help asking what the matter was. Although I had been judged stupid or rather naive by people who did not understand my ways, I knew what I was ready or not ready for,
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and I also know what I want and what I don·t want. I am an individual. I thought, disturbed by the turn of events. It was not until we were in the car, on our way to Kaduna in the evening, that I disclosed to Laraba my predicament. "You are lucky to even have an arranged proposal like this. If it works well and' you do love the new suitor, it might even be better than if you had picked him up from a crowd yourself. "That would depend on your luck, if I may say so:' she concluded. ´Yes that sounds like the truth but I hate being taken unawares or rather being treated as if I don·t have feelings.µI answered. Just then a Peugeot 504 station wagon passed us by, with my sister karima and friends and her friends. The boys wished to stay for more days in Zaria, to participate In a football match. I waved at their car rather absent- mindedly as they waved back. Well, I started to think if I could give it a try things might be good since aunty would do only what she did at the best of my interest. My problem is that I would feel so bad should Mahmud be disappointed with me and beside I do love him too. Enough love not to want to let him down. I was used to believing he would be my life partner in the near future. Who was I to believe that now? Something told me it could never, ever be so. I had wanted to wait for another year, when he would have obtained his degree. How would my father react?

"Well Rabiat," my father cleared his throat, looking so charming, so anxious to help me in any way he could. "Let me explain why I approve of this marriage, everything had been explained to me." He pause to look at me. ´A beautiful girl like you lives in constant danger of being
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misled as soon as she is old enough to go about, sometimes even earlier," he continued. "Yes, father, but...," I started to say. "Believe me:' he cut in. "This is a good match. Socially, the Nuruddeen family are beyond reproach. I have no doubt you will find Mohammed good company as a husband.µ ."1 can see the truth in what you are saying father, but I wish..." I stammered. "I know you are thinking about your promise to Mahmud. We all know that. I shall discuss with your mother and pray to God to choose the best for you. If I could have my wish, I would prefer you to get married and continue with your education but you have to like your husband first, see him, and decide. He said. ´I am confused.µ I stammered. ´It is only natural to be confused in such circumstance, Rabiat but you should be willing to give up what you have been for what you are meant to become. Do not get stuck, and bind yourself to the past. Move forward and see what is in store for you. Let us pray for what is best.µ I suddenly realized my father was speaking the truth and wanted only the best for me. ´If the best for me was to accept that offer of marriage, I accept it father.µ I answered quietly. "May God bless you," he said happily. Mohammed came to see me days later. The visit looked somehow

formal to me. Or how else could it be? He came with his friend from Kano Mohammed was soft-spoken, with a serious but pleasant face. He was not as bold as I had imagined. He was not good with his words because he was hesitant in talking. His friend did most of the talking and assured me that Mohammed was on the quiet side. His friend also

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told me that my consent was all they needed to set the ball rolling, that they wanted the wedding to take place as soon as possible. According to them, money was no problem. They left soon after lunch and I was left at the mercy of my thoughts. In my thinking, I knew quite well, I might like him, while my heart was pounding, burning hot within me. And my eyes were shy to meet his as his meet mine«I had a funny feeling, a feeling that told me I have to go on as I had just begun. So since the day mohammed came I knew he was the husband for me. My reason? Not that I knew of. I had hoped we would now love and go on loving each other for keeps. But what about Mahmud? I felt a pang in my heart suddenly. Mahmud wiped the sweat on his forehead and asked with a seeming shock, "Are you in a dream, Rabiat, and do you think what you just told me is all that I deserve from you?" "No, it is not so«. I mean I am just going to give in to what my parents think is best for me.µµBut rabiat, you have to rethink your position, I never imagined you leaving me like that«oh life, and soon I soppose?µ ´Yes my parents said they are quite ready.·· ´Well they can be successful people with money and everything and I know in one way or the other we are seeking ways to find happiness and fulfillment. But we must realize that success alone cannot bring about happiness.µ ´Yes I know Mahmud that·s why I am seeking it and this time I seek it through my parent,s blessings.µ "But you can't! What about me? You can't just throw me out as if I never existed in your life," he almost screamed while I gazed at him helplessly. "I am sorry...," I said.

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"But you swore I came first, didn't your?µ He remindS me accusingly, tears gathering in his eyes. I turn my head away. "I did," I answered meekly. "You were there in the beginning you were part of me, part of my happiness. You'll always be in my memory..." "Oh shut up!" he barked. He got up and headed for his car, leaving me alone, deep in thoughts confused ashamed and guilty for having to hurt him. I just stood there deep in thought. He came back five minutes later and said he was sorry. He held my hand and said, ´I wish you luck and happiness." He stretches out his arms as if he was going to embrace me. We never embraced. I had been brought up in a culture that judges it shameful to exhibit spontaneous gesture of affection. In the end, I merely sat down on a bench and stared into nothingness after he'd left. I felt crushed and guilty and miserable. I loved him with all my heart. I knew all the sadness and the mockery contained in those three words. Feel for me or despise me, I confess it with the same honesty to say the truth. When I saw laraba later in the day, I told her what transpired between Mahmud and I. "You see," I continued, "Now that I have accepted Mohammed's offer, it is only proper I prepare myself for all the eventualities. "What are you? Laraba asked jokingly. "A philosopher or heartbreaker?µ "I think it is impossible to be one without the other," I answered calmly. It was a disturbing circumstance.

The bridal portmanteau was brought in two weeks later. There was so much of everything that made relatives to look in awe. There were one dozen of bangles and six sets of necklace too. The cosmetics box

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included designer perfumes. In fact, there were no cheap things even the atamfas were block Hollandais while the laces were Swiss-made. "I wouldn't want to get married, but with these goodies, I'm going to give it a second thought," said karima, my younger sister. "The trouble with you is that you know nothing about life.µI scold karima , in a bid to control her exuberance. ´Whatever it is all about, it is wonderful- with all these gifts." She insists. "Mama and I would then go and stay with the husband I shall eventually get so that she would do whatever I cannot do. I am sure nobody minds." She finished. ´The trouble with you karima is that you know nothing about the people of this world.

"I would then depend on Mama to help me decide on difficult matters concerning the marriage, I am too young to go by myself so I would not go want to go without Mama." I was tempted to tell her that no man tolerates a rival, not even a female rival to his wife's affection and that she would have to be on her own and that marriage is not a bed of roses. I was also tempted to tell her mama's chance of living with her permanently was impossible. I got too confused by her innocence that I didn·t know how to start. She should be educated in the ways of the

world and quickly too because she is getting to her eighth year and she would be out of primary school soonest. I know in a few years to come the simple illusion of her girlhood would be gone, she would learn the hard facts of life. Its better she knows the facts of life as soon as possible so that her lack of awareness would not be a minus to her. Girls like that

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must be taught how to become women, it is not corruption to teach children ways of the world. It is education. Four

The wedding took place at last finally. Guests said it was more than just a wedding ceremony. Many of my friends had attended and one of such friends was Laraba who played the role of a bridesmaid very well. Lanti was there, too Why not? As a specialist in lalle flowery designs, she made some designs that she said were strictly for brides. The designs had heart shapes and flowers all over my palms and feet. The wedding ceremony lasted three days in all. The thought of leaving behind all the people I used to know became too much for me. The thought of leaving the life I used to lead gave me sleepless nights. The thought of leaving Kaduna behind was seemingly unbearable. All these thoughts struck like a spearhead in my heart. Leaving my brothers, sisters and parents pained me the most. With the finality of a door being slammed on some chapters of my life, I accepted my fate with calm indifference. Mohammed had once told me some sweet words the last time we spoke on the telephone. "Rabiat, I would neither have liking nor pity, I must have your heart of hearts as you would have mine." I understood exactly what he meant was love, loyalty and commitment and that was exactly what I had and very much wanted to offer. I had surrendered myself to this marriage, bearing in mind that surrender was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choic e and besides I like mohammed. He had charm and he is kind.
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The day I was to be formally taken to Kano, I twitched with the contemplation of the new life I was entering. That was where I had to live with Mohammed and his family. I was eighteen years old then. I wrote in my diary. I am to enter a new life«. I assured my already confused mind. I was blind with tears«. I couldn't write any more. I remembered Mahmud«.then I prayed in my mind to forget him. As we drove to Kano, I was greeted by ease in my mind once again. I wondered why my mood kept fluctuating. In those miles along the twisted roads not far from some steep rocks, I sighted some familiar villages. In a particular village, it was a market day, with so much traffic hold up, as the farmer and their customers bargained for cash crops while some half naked children chased chickens around. We arrived Kano towards evening. That evening, I can recall, was still and cloudy. Kano, with its scenes of attraction, seemed bright and welcoming. In procession we drove by the gidan makama museum. I sighted some visitors and tourists with their cameras, before we arrive lugard Road. As soon as we reached our destination, the guard, an old man, opened the gates to let us into what was to be my residence. The mansion was stately indeed. The garden was beautiful, with surrounding trees and walls round it for added privacy. The sitting rooms were well stuffed, with all the necessary modern luxuries. All were furnished

magnificently and only one room was empty, though spacious. It was in this room that my relatives would do my danki. I could not hide my delight upon the, discovery that my home would be quite comfortable.

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The house-help, a man of about fifty years, came in to welcome us. Soon, there was so much hustle and bustle, as the visitors helped themselves to food and drinks. Later, Mohammed came in with his friends to welcome us. Pleasantries were exchanged. Thereafter, Mohammed asked if he could have a word with me and I rose shyly and followed him into the adjoining room. "I hope you like your new home," he said, looking at me admiringly, for I was smartly decked from head to toe. I was in pink and white lace material, with some pearl necklace to go with. "Yes, am happy" I answered. I glanced at him as he smiled at me. Bright eyes whether in a man or woman are a great advantage, and he has them. Even baldness when it is only over the forehead as in his case is rather becoming than not in a man, because it heightens and adds to an intelligent face. I cannot dispute it. Mohammed is a handsome man. He seemed to like clothes with only a bit of embroidery for simplicity. He informed me that his business associates had arranged a dinner party which we were to attend with his friends and mine only. I assured him that we would be ready within an hour. The following day, my room was decorated with so much presents that it would take twenty-four hours to sort out the luggage. Auntie Halima land several other relations did the danki. Aunty Bilkisu supervised them and made sure had all the necessary household items. She kept sending the house-help with one thing or the other. Laraba, my sister and others amused themselves with video movies on the television set. Meanwhile, Grandmother had been comfortably seated and was enjoying every happening with pleasure.

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The following day, they were gone and I set myself with befitting energy for my new duty as a housewife. I called it new because everyone I used to know was not with me. I missed my sister and Laraba most. And before granny left, she gave me a prayer book from my grandfather and begged me to be as good as I could be. I fell on the bed and cried and cried when everyone finally left. New life of people, and new changes I only hoped I could be a good wife to Mohammed but we needed to understand each other first of all. That·s the most important thing and luckily I didn·t have to make a great effort towards that. Mohammed seemed easy to live with. "Have you ever been to America?µ Mohammed asked me a week after we married. ´Ofcourse not.µ I answered laughing. "I've never been there either, but they say it is like London, only that it is a busier. I think we will enjoy our honeymoon there."

After our trip to the United States, which was very interesting and refreshing, I remained peacefully at home in liberty and rested well. Dear Mohammed... He seemed to be quite happy with me. My parents were relieved to know that Mohammed and I were happy. Mohammed was really odd sometimes, of course and I always told myself that when one has to live with somebody on the same roof for as long as marriage permits, one ought to be patient and very understanding, In as much as he was not perfect, life was fun when he was around. Life had glamour "You are wonderful, Rabiat," he would say. He said he loved my sense of humour best and I loved his kindness. "See?" I would say. "Since you said I am wonderful, I will remain so."
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Much later, I talked to Mohammed about going back to school but the first question he asked was, "Have I ever left you penniless? If not, then forget it" he remarked. "I wouldn't stand my wife going about', and going to school is definitely going about."As expected of a submissive wife I lower my eyes and promise compliance. I told him I entertained the fear that he was going to impose kulle on me. But he said he would allow me to visit a few of our friends and shop, but not to go to school. I let the matter drop since there was nothing I could do about it at that time. To console me, Mohammed made sure we went for outings whenever he had the chance,

Umar and Asabe were the closest friends we had in Kano. Umar had allowed Asabe to teach in the Kano State College of Education. I used to think Asabe was so lucky to have had such a privilege. Over and over again, I toyed with the idea of insisting on going for further studies, but I was dissuaded from that by the expectation and finally the arrival of my daughter, a'isha, at the begining of July. Even though I had a nanny for her, I never realized how trying babies could be until then. She was a beautiful baby all the same. I had a husband and a beautiful baby before I was thirty. Many women spend the greater part of their lives without getting that far! I was grateful for my luck so I gave thanks to God for that. I did occasionally wonder where all this was going to lead but came to the conclusion that I could foresee nothing but good in the situation and hoped for the best in the future. My home was comfortable and quite

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full of love with the arrival of the baby, and I decided that being with mohammed was a desirable occupation after all. "We have been married for three years now, haven't we?" asked mohammed, looking, at me, with his mouth full of rice. It was the day we visited asabe,s house, and she told us that the following week would be their first marriage anniversary. "Yes, three years, that's true," I answer. Asabe's husband, umar had excused himself to go to the toilet. When he came back, asabe reminds him of his promise to buy her another car. I was surprised because I didn·t expect her to talk about such matters at that time even though we had become like family. "Asabe, for God's sake stop pestering me about that promise again," he bellows "This is the wrong time to raise it," he admonished, looking a bit furious. "If indeed you are not willing to give me a concrete answer say it, let me know so that I get used to the fact and our friends here can be witnesses, ´Why should you raise this topic now?µ ´I raised it because I had just seen a car advert some seconds ago.µAsabe answers, staring blankly at the television. "Now, do you want to imply that you care more for my money more than you do for my peace of mind?" he asks angrily. "I had told you that there is something personal I had wanted to use the money for." The scene was getting too embarrassing for mohammed as well as I "I think you two understand each other," said my husband, who was obviously more embarrassed than I was. "You shouldn't behave in such a childish manner."
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"It is easier to go to Kaduna on foot than expect this woman to understand anything. Her pettiness is disgusting," Umar said while glancing at his glass, as if the glass itself contained understanding and not the zobo drink therein. "You see, he is short-tempered. The lightest thing makes him flare up," Asabe said, looking at mohammed through her large but tear-dimmed eyes. ´He is tired of me«.µ "She doesn't care a hoot whether my money comes in by hook or crook, she just wants to spend. What kind of woman is she? Is that how all women are?" he wonders aloud. "I thought you said you would do anything for me because of the love you have for me. Little did I know there was something concealed," she fired back. ´In all I told you, I never told you I was going to deprive myself to please you.µ Rather than witnessing such a brawl, mohammed ushers umar out to the other room to discuss and bring the whole thing to a halt. "Rabiat, don't you think men are bloody liars?" asks Asabe. "He would have slapped me if not for your presence. He is damn too shorttempered and deceitful. Don·t you think men are brutes?µ ´Well, they could be, but I think we owe it to ourselves to be patient with them.µ That's all I can say." Who would trust a woman's word? Especially when she was angry with her husband? I reasoned. "How can I be happy? How, eh?" she wails. "As happy as you deserve to be, but judging by the way you put money above all else it·s a bit of a task.µ
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I found it difficult to answer her questions for fear of going beyond decency and making known what was not with me. I excuse myself to see whether mohammed was ready to go and, as if she read my thoughts, she said, while getting up, too, "I must apologize for my loss of temper. Let me come along to meet them outside." While we were outside, the storm between the couple had subsided. As, we drive home, mohammed became quiet. I ask him wether it was his friend,s quarrel with his wife that set him in a bad mood and he answers ´No.µ Was he thinking about himself? At one time it seemed like there was something wanting in him, and in myself which hindered me in understanding him as I ought to. Maybe it was his mounting moodiness everytime we were together. In all the past years we had been married, I had an experience to believe that marriage was not an easy step. As my grandmother would have put it, it ¶It is a war for women.· Sometimes we travelled to Lagos for the weekend. An in-law once told me to count myself lucky for the small breaks, which I did. Mohammed's last trip to Lagos was not consoling at all, to my greatest fear. I know most men show something of their real character at home in their houses, which they have concealed elsewhere, but after some slight misunderstanding he changed his homecoming attitudes, He became more impossible to please. As far as my previous knowledge of him was concerned, Mohammed had already showed a mania for order and regularity which was not a new revelation to me. He found fault in almost everything I did.

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If I took a book from his bookshelf, as I often did, he would follow me and put it back. If I cook something delicious he would criticize it. He would pick up the tiniest scraps from the carpet and complain to about my untidiness. When something was missing from his tea tray he would shout at me as if I had insulted him. I had already detected small annoyances which appeared to have troubled him every time he returned. Why was it that I couldn't calm his mind no matter how hard I tried? I wonder if I was the one that irritates him or not. Obviously it became obvious I was the one. I tried to console myself that it would come to pass«.. I started becoming very scared of the future of our marriage. He does not have any reason that I know of for behaving so annoyingly, It is certainly trying to any man's temper to be met by irritation. When he himself becomes irritable and besides two wrongs cannot make a right, so I always try as best as I can to make sure he comes back and meets me in a pleasant circumstance. His favourite meal of rice and beans had been my speciality, but whenever I cook it to please him he tells me he hates it. Ofcourse he always met me pleasant enough countenance, but inspite of that he always practices his rounds of irritations. I always kept to myself then in order to keep myself from being further irritated myself. Soon I began to feel as if I were trapped. Even so, the days and weeks passed on peacefully. They were unhappy times. After a year and more than fifty quarrels with mohammed,s inconsiderate behavior I started to get depressed. As mohammed had talked me out of making many friends thus busying myself gossiping, as he said I took to being much on my own except for kande,s company or few visits from my inlaws. Mohammed had shun my company and
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kept mostly to himself the few times he stayed at home. As time passed I felt increasingly alone. I suppressed my emotional feelings and began to sleep poorly and overeat, gaining unwanted pounds. Soon mohammed started complaining that I was getting too fat for his liking. One day as I lay comfortably on the carpet in the sitting room, music filtered through the loud speakers of my compact disc set. The set was not so loud, as little a'isha had been laid on the settee, having her early evening nap while she sucked her fingers. Some negative comments were being made about her here and there; and about what a lazy little girl she was. It was a hot and still evening, with no one else in the house except the two of us. Kande the cook who had been with me for the past two years, had gone to a nearby shop to purchase some much-needed household goods. As I lay there enjoying the music, I felt if embracing me, I was enjoying life, not because I didn't have problems but because I could handle them as expected. I had trained myself to be persevering enough so I thought I was coping fine. Just then the telephone rang. When I picked up the receiver, I was greeted by auntie hajara's voice. "Hello, is that you rabiat? I am in a hurry for the late evening prayer, but could you please see me later?" "Okay then, I answered and replaced the receiver, What's wrong? I asked myself, the tone of her voice was not friendly at all. She did not sound her usual self could it be that my grandfather had died? I wondered. I knew he had stroke.

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I finally went to see auntie hajara that evening after m ohammed had returned and permitted me to go out. I drove all the way in a thoughtful mood. I met her watching television. I sat and exchanged pleasantries. She was holding a cup of tea in her hand. "Help yourself, she offered at once. I thanked her and declined. I was anxious to know why she called me. "Well," she said, pouring herself some more tea and not looking at me. "There is so much complaint about you lately, rabiat." "What sort of complaint?" I asked, rather surprised. "It's about your domineering attitude. Your husband's relations are not happy that you do not let aisha interact with her other cousins. What are you hoarding her for if I may ask?µ She adds with a pause. ´Well, I am not hoarding her and besides I let her do some socializing ofcourse. Just a week ago she came back from this house. It is not fair, do I now have to be dictated to on how to bring up my daughter?µ I explain rather irritably at the whole issue. "Lately, your husband has also complained that you don't heed or keep to his rules." "You are not making enough sense. I don't understand what exactly my fault is in this case," I reply. ´Why didn·t he complain to me himself?µ I just don·t understand.µ I finish. "You will, some day," she said mischievously sipping her tea. She left me guessing what the matter was. "As to this, I don't have a word to say for now," I finally gain some breath to say. After thanking her for what looked like an advice, I bade her goodbye and left. Back at home, I found out that mohammed had already retired to bed. I could not contain myself of anger and irritation as I tap him on his back. "What is it?" he growls, his body rigid.
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"Mohammed, please, I will like to know why you went and complained to someone else, instead of drawing my attention to my faults!" I enquire. "Oh, rabiat, stop nagging me and go to sleep, for God's sake!" he snaps. Soon, he started snoring. A longtime passed as I lay on my side, trying to sleep. My mind was aflame with questions. What was it really that I had done? If there was something then what was it? Was there no excuse for me? Surely, the condition in which I found myself was quite frustrating. Certainly, I did make sacrifices, but what did I get from them? I was not begging to be praised or hailed because that was not the reason for my being a good wife. How could I stop mohammed talking to people about me and insisting on discussing me with them? What was the problem with inlaws?µ I remembered my faith in God. Soon, I went to sleep. "I feel something is happening and you are not telling me," I told him, as we were having breakfast in the morning.

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"Look, rabiat, I am merely tolerating you because of a'isha, I can see you are getting more radical by the day.µ "Suit yourself but I cannot see any reason why you must tolerate me because of somebody else«.µ ´I am sure aisha is more than ¶somebody else· to us rabiat, a point of correction, I cannot say I am happy with you.µ He explained rudely. ´Well, continue with what you intended, since you prefar to dramatise rather than discuss our problems if indeed we have any. Honestly mohammed I am disappointed in you.µ I replied and walked towards the kitchen to give kande some orders. ´Me too.µ He said with a hiss as he left. "Are you okay, madam?" Kande asked me with a tone of concern. "I'm all right." I simply replied. After mohammed had gone out, I tried to tidy my room

but I found that I was doing it rather absentmindedly. Mohammed's character so calm and quiet, what could he mean by telling relations so much about me? What had I done to deserve this? There isn,t anything serious to be talked about as far as our marriage is concerned. I was surprised when I heard him talking with his friend umar about me just the other day. I recall why he looked surprised and so startled when, all of a sudden, I opened the door to the room he was making the call in. In order not to be seen as eavesdropping, I kept mute about it, since he was not talking to me directly, even though he was talking about me. That had hurt me so badly that I started to reject my meal this time, I got thinner and he complains that my lack of patience was getting the better of me. It had become such a blow to realize my husband had either lost

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the urge to communicate directly to me or he had made his mind not to. Either way I didn·t find it funny at all. It must be about six months since I last wrote anything in my diary. Having finally made up my mind to desist from writing down almost every happening in my life, I no longer wrote down my conflicting emotions. Yes I suffered internally. I had thought I should deceive myself as most women do during such trials and continue to pretend all was well. But in an effort to get over what was really happening, I jotted in my diary. I had already began to notice some apparent changes in the attitude of a lot of mohammed,s friends too which surprised me because I never expected them especially umar to desert me in the way he did. It was only sadiq, the friend who came together with mohammed on the first introduction years back who listens to my predicaments. It was only him that bothered to know how I was whenever he calls from damaturu where he resides. I had been so frustrated that I copied his number from mohammeds phonebook and called him to complain. He had sounded surprised at everything I told him and promised to discuss with mohammed and get back to me. He never did. So for several months now I had been surviving like a zombie telling myself that women are born to suffer«.but why? I searched inwards. Nothing«. I had not done anything to deserve what I was getting. What happened lately was something that made me realize that the issues surrounding our marriage was getting the better part of my assumptions. I then began to understand that I could not sail through my marriage

unblemished«.I needed to be rescued. By whom? By God. First and foremost. I hope I could gather enough strength to fight for my right. I

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I want the right to be sane. The right to be judged, before being sentenced. The right to be happily married«.Oh God! I broke down on the floor and cried my eyes out. I began to realize that no matter how much I tried, I knew we were not meant to understand much of each other anymore««Something seemed to be wrong awfully wrong«« I was not telling anyone yet. I had to keep my secrets. It is hard for a woman to confess that the man to whom she has given her life is the man of all others who cares least for the gift. How often I heard people laughing at women who marry poor men. How often they made congratulatory speeches about my place as regards to being the first wife of a rich person like Mohammed. Oh l envied those in poverty. It had made them their ownselves it had unburdened their expectations and freed them of being slaves to financial status. I was not expecting much from Mohammed but what happened last night was not something that could keep my mind from wondering wether he ever loved me in the first place or not. If he was indeed not the person who really agreed to the marriage in the first place, it would have been different, but my aunty had sworn he had never had doubt in his decision about me until lately. Last night we were watching a documentary film on the television on a certain love affair about a couple who had cut their fingers and mixed their blood together in the name of love and made promises. ´Oh that·s very romantic mohammed I wish we do same.µ I said carried away in the couple,s euphoria of love. "Rabiat, stop that romantic nonsense! What do you want, stupid acts like that makes sense to you?" he snapped. I am in no mood for your whims.µ He said, while getting up to go to his room. Leaving me there looking stupid and dejected.
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Men do not know how hurt we get, and how well we remember when they say hard things to us women. It would have been better for me if I had cried but instead I dried up my eyes and that hardened my heart further I felt less for him. Eventhough I had pretended not to be hurt, I was crying helplessly from the inside. I let the memories of happier days come back to comfort me. What else do I have to look to for consolation? I must survive. I used to think what 1 would be like if it had pleased God to bless me with poor husband, I would have been a carefree woman in a cheap, neat, atamfa sitting at home waiting for my husband while he was earning our daily bread. Working for him, loving him all the more because I had to work for him and be patient for his lack of wealth. Pleasing him with delicious dishes for supper that I had learnt to make for his sake. I would listen to my transistor radio while I wait for him to come back. I would never have been lonely enough to think of anything else because we would be friends, relations and much more. My faults towards mohammed? Not yet clearly known to me. After many days of soul searching, I made myself understand that mohammed,s treatment was due to the fact that he was simply tired of me«.but is that possible? Is that the hard fact? I chased that demeaning thought out of my mind.

The warning that showed me my extreme position came silently from him. The trip he made for days without a word of goodbye was very provoking. He just packed his things by himself, and placed some amount of money on my dressing table and walked out without a word.

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After two days, he came back without a call. I am afraid to confess that men of my generation have given a new form to the oppression of women; by mistreating them in a more quiet and cold way«.and that·s wicked. I again began to search myself. Undeniably my character had been full of romantic expectations, but I had minded the way I project it by not being overbearing or tiresome. As I sat that afternoon face to face with this man whose object in life, whose character and presence by my side at that moment was a mystery to me. I felt like I was in a dream. A kind of dream I would very much like to wake up from. My deepest fear of rejection, had become a reality. It was his voice that broke the silence. From this position of helplessness and humiliation, I was rescued by just few words that told me the unexpected truth. "I am just not happy with you and I don·t have much feelings for you." ´Why? And what happened?µ I had asked stupidly confused. I shall tell you in my own time,µ he ruled. ´But please do tell me now.µ I pleaded. He kept silent. I felt stupid and already discarded.

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Five

I believed mohammed might tell me what I did point blank as expected. I got really tired of the trauma. I had told him how little I understood everything. Then into the void to which compassion should have filled he showed negative emotion, if he didn·t ignore my questions, he ignores my presence. He said he would not discuss anything with me as he hated discussions. That he would act and I would see. "Action speaks louder than voice," he would say. "Why? but why?" I often wondered. I was not a feminist, but I prided myself for being a first -rate woman than to be a second-rate man. I did not care whether I had the vote or not, I was too busy wondering what kind of material I would buy when I go shopping or what sort of dinner I would cook. But in spite of my indifference to feminism, there was a belief I held very strongly and no one could take, me out of. Women are not born inferior to men nor are they born dummies. Most of all we do not deserve maltreatment without explanation. As if we were a not human enough to be treated with respect. Why does a man think that a woman is nothing but an instrument he uses whenever he has a need to? A kind of generator? The question of one's superiority over the other, I believe, is highly objectionable. I resent being treated as if I was less than a human being like a piece of clothing with no emotional feelings? Or like someone he believes he has the right to trample on, and treat as he wishes without consideration. I reckon it is male arrogance, for instance, whenever mohammed
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classifies, women into the same category with servants and children. I find such more a torture«« No pleasure in eating or drinking; not even in communication. Why should I be subjected to such suffering? Such mental torture, and emotionaly suffering rejection in every way without exactly knowing how and why I deserved it? I continued to wonder. The strange thing, in retrospect, was the purity and integrity of it·s a brotherly feeling infact a feeling of kinship. It was the selfish and possessive feelings men and women usually share. My feelings had its quality and could only be located in mature minds. Be that as it may, it was even a protective feeling that was why I wasn·t telling anyone yet, in case I misrepresent him. On his part, he sometimes showed some sign of respect and love but only fleetingly. I remember that, within our third year of marriage, he had confessed that I had been a great blessing to him. Months later he showed me that I was almost a curse to him. That is why when we had a misunderstanding about money, he had insisted that he would make sure I didn·t realize my dreams of making money out of him. ´Rabiat, I know what you want. You want me succumb to your wishes, thereby neglecting mine eh? ´My house is not a place to make money, so get that into your head I cannot stand women who think they are very smart. Besides, I cannot allow myself to be ruled by any woman," he said. "Any woman! Not just you. Am no fool as you would want to believe.µ He finished. ´'If it were for money I won't be here to take all negativities you and your relatives ,some don·t even say or answer to a word of greeting from me and you knew it.µ I cried. ´I don·t know it came to that, I am not ready to force anybody to talk to you. I don·t know what is between you and them and don·t wish
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to know because I don·t see any sense in keeping malice. Infact it is an un Godly practice. Desist from it rabiat, it doesn·t pay and beside it·s a shameful act. I had kept quiet then not having enough words to explain to him that it wasn·t I didn·t want to communicate with them. So he had already sentenced me without trial. I kept mute. There was this time when he called me with a name that wasn·t mine. I threw a tantrum and said it showed I have no place even in his mind. The way he stood there almost ashamed and helpless touched me, so much so that when I looked at him I felt ashamed of myself. I pardoned him without hoping for apology. With his calm and quiet disposition, I thought it was one of those things. Sometimes, so many things that did happen made me doubtful of Mohammed's sincerity but I had always stupidly given him excuses. Is there someone else in his life? Another woman? I don·t know because he doesn·t seem to behave like a man in an affair yet. One thing that is obvious though is that he doesn·t care for my feelings anymore. Or does he? Looking back, I can say for the past year or so, he had been complicated and more unpredictable than before. Whenever we were seated in the parlour he didn't care whether I was there or not, or seemed to be pre tending not to acknowledge my presence. I used to wonder at the shamelessness at which he shows his negative side to me. Yes there is a shame in disrespect, malice, enemity, and ignoring whom you are not sopposed to ignore. It is shameful to maltreat for a long time without apology or even the slightest remorse. I had gathered enough courage to talk to him about our relationship but every time I tried, he shouted, "Leave me alone!" How long do I wish to stay in this situation? I usually

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ask myself. I decide to give it more time. ¶Patience is a virtue.· So the saying goes. In order not to encourage gossips about our marriage, I kept things to myself. I had never at any time told my side of the family about my circumstances. I needed to be patient, perhaps tolerant in that case. That was why I prayed. Yes, I did. While abhorring rigid beliefs and bigoted superstitions, I had nevertheless inculcated in myself a strong faith in the essential benevolence and mercy of some force that controls our destinies. God. Although I had the gift of not publicly flaunting my faith, I all the time tried to imbibe my faith through my actions. To me, true belief was something less overt but more profoundly individual. I had faith in God and stayed sane. It was under such a circumstance that a'isha returned from a holiday visit to my parents. She was so happy to have stayed with her grandparents. This could be seen from the excitement written all over her face when she finally got home. "Mummy, see my doll and her clothes. Mummy, we have been to the polo club with abba. Mummy we...," she breathlessly kept recounting places of interest, she had been to and how much fun she has had. Dear a'isha, she was so adorable independent and been named after my mother at mohammed,s wish. He had promise to put his late mother,s name when another girl comes. There I was, thinking as I held my head in my hands watching her. Having been enlisted at a nearby nursery school, she was about to go to her last class before primary one. I had already started imagining aisha as a growing child without her

real mother to help her through the trials of growing up. I felt sad about
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the fact that eventually that was how It was going to be. If things don·t get better. Kande,the cook, was an elderly woman from Kano who for a long time had been employed by only those who appreciated the value of good dish. She never stayed long in a place but had promised that my employment would be her last ¶bus stop· she assured me of being with me for as long as possible and pledged looking after a'isha very well since I had sack her nanny for stealing my good jewelery some months ago. For Kande, it was prayers that she lived long enough to bring up aisha herself as she said. "She should have another sister or brother by now." She would always remark. I used to not find her remark funny because it wasn·t. Mohammed doesn·t seem to notice wether I was a woman or not. He had even forgotten his marital duties. I rang my parents to tell them about the tension between us, the truth being that I felt really threatened. Mother just sighed over the phone and begged me to exercise more patience. My chest tightened and my eyes flooded with tears, but mother said I shouldn·t cry. ´Maybe your husband is planning to take another wife.µ She says without emotion. My heart gave a strong beat. She promises to discuss with my father. ´Wait till we discuss or else he would say am taking matters into my hands.µ I still preserved those relics of my constant quarrels with mohammed and his relatives. It seemed my husband no longer needed me, and his relations had sensed that and looked down on me the more. It was always easy for him to forget I ever existed, no matter how close I made
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myself to be to him. Is that the right manner of getting another wife? I scolded myself for thinking there is a right way. Ofcourse there is no right way to exchange affection from another, to some other. It can be done anyway-anyhow, depending on the people involved and the strength of their commitment to each other. I started running short of housekeeping funds, while getting leaner and leaner by the day. The day I stood in front of the mirror and noticed how my face had become I knew I had started miss my shine and shapely cheeks. I looked much older than my age. Some of my friends and even some discerning in-laws of mine noticed how I was trying to pretend that all was well. I never explained though they obviously knew I was suffering. Well, where nothing would work, nothing would actually work and turning the nothing over and over again would only help in profounding the nothingness. All I knew was that I was in trouble. Even when I met asabe at a wedding party, I could read the looks she was giving me. ´How have you been rabiat?µ She greets with concern. "I had wanted to call you later." "Fine, I got invited, as it is," I reply, adding, "How is umar doing?" I could not confide in asabe, for talking to someone like her about mohammed would amount to back- stabbing him. Asabe had always discussed her problems with him and confided in him the trouble with her husband. How would I begin to tell her mohammed was also a ¶brute· as she calls men Her bitter complaint was umar's love for women and almost every friend of his was aware that . She had once confided in mohammed, to my hearing; that she only hoped that none of his
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promiscuous blood would flow in her son's or daughter's veins when she eventually gave birth. Damn asabe! Trust her talking that way. When she asked about mohammed, I told her all was well. And so it was, in a way. Mohammed was affectionate and considerate. I was loving and cheerful but it was only an act. It was false through and through«. And beneath the falsehood I could feel my marriage disintegrating. Just then, a cousin of mohammed's passed us by, holding her plate of snacks and a bottle of coke She smiled at asabe but looked me down and quickly disappeared before I could say anything. I froze inside, the feeling was very challenging. I had started to feel I deserve much more respect than I was getting and I doubt if I can continue that way. I must do something«.this must end. At home, I thought of giving laraba a telephone call, as I usually did whenever I needed someone to talk to. Of course, I had other people's numbers but could not open up to them as with laraba. I happen not to be one of those who are particular about distinction of rank and status of person so even though laraba was getting married not so well off and is only managing because he just finished school ad looking for work. I had acquired someone better off across the years, but laraba is my best friend and that where she stays. All the same, each of my friends had her place. I picked up the telephone and dialled laraba's number. After exchange of pleasantries, I asked if she had any faith in the spiritual power of the marabout. "Marabout?" she whispers as if she had never heard

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that word. "Yes!" I answer in desperation. 'There is something I would have him guess for me." "Please, rabiat, be careful about how you go about things. Desperation is not an excuse. You answer to your problems should come from self reflection rather than intellectual analysis or complex practices like marabout,s guesses. Don't you remember the story auntie halima told us about her marabout? It is all psychological," she concludes. In a flash, I remembered how auntie halima narrated that story of a friend of hers and a marabout. She, and her friend had gone to complain about her husband's constant aggression whenever they misunderstood. She had told the marabout that she would pay him any amount if he could do something about her case. The man said to her, after writing on a piece of paper: "Have no fear, If you obey these orders, there could be no such thing next time; you won't quarrel with your husband again, God forbid." "Oh, I would keep to any rule Malam, I will most certainly, Simply tell me what to do," she assures.

"Any time an argument crops up, hide this piece of paper which the spirits have empowered me to write and let it stay under your tongue. Press it down and keep your mouth shut," he admonishes. "Go to your room without so much as a single word, while the paper remains under your tongue. You shall tell me what happens when next you return," he concluded, as they thanked him while giving him some money, Two days later, my aunt's friend went back to the marabout and gave him more money with it million thanks for making the spirit stop her
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husband's aggression, The marabout asked her to keep the piece of paper safely in case of further disagreements and aggression, "Poor woman," auntie halima said, "She didn't know that it was the piece of paper under her tongue that kept her from answering her husband back," Certainly, life is never without problems, and nobody,s goodness or cleverness could ward off problems totally but at least one ought to do a bit of job in making sure the problem doesn·t get the better of him or her. I remember my friend inlaw jummai and how in a mild way she tried to make me understand something. Jummai in her own way had warned me, I remember that. She was a decent, middle-aged woman and aunty to mohammed who had taken a liking for me. She had been like a friend to me. With her, I had felt very comfortable. She was understanding and beautiful at the same time. There was something about her manners and appearance, however, which I could not make out. She was withdrawn into herself to the point of downright secrecy but the way she communicated to people, it was as if she deeply cared. Later I got to know she loves people but ¶from afar,· as she had always says. She had taken a liking for me ever since we gave birth at the same time and same hospital. One day she came to visit me and there was a look on her face I couldn't describe, which suggested to me that she had something on her mind. She stayed for some time and when at last she was going, she warned me, to be careful of my husband's likes and dislikes. At home I began to doubt whether my faculties were in danger of losing their balance. Anxiety threatens me. There was something she wanted to tell me but didn't have enough courage to do so. Is it because she thought I didn·t have the courage to assimulate what she wanted to
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tell me? I had seen that by the way she was asking me questions. Checking me in a polite manner.

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SIX My husband,s second cousin arrived the house. It was after a few days that I got to know that she was to stay with us for a while. Nobody told me more. It appeared nobody respected me enough to explain further. I just saw her. I had to mind my business. A'isha was happy to be with an aunt at home, as her childish innocence revealed. I, too, made sure Tani felt at home with us. Nothing should be denied her, let alone her cousin's attention. Barely a month after her arrival, the number of visitors to our house multiplied. "You could help yourself to whatever is in the refrigerator, there's no barrier for you in this house," I used to assure her. One afternoon, I was relaxing in the company of a'isha in the parlour, watching a comedy on the television. A'isha loved watching this particular comedy over and over again. She was sipping her orange juice, while I read a magazine with mine in hand. My predicaments had lessened and mohammed seemed to have mellowed in his rash treatment, I was beginning to think it was just a phase. I was so comfortable that I could combine reading and watching, a bit of what was interesting in the film. I suddenly overheard some dragging sounds and, for a moment, I recognised a familiar tone of voice. It was tani and some of her friends on a visit. Obviously, they were home-bound and tani was walking them to the door. As they were walking past my sitting room, they stopped at a point not far from the kitchen. At least that was where the voices seemed to be coming from. I overheard tani telling them what a miserable fool I was. It came to my earshot. I was shocked.
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"She can't even cook well. She's so lazy that she allows kande to do most of the household chores, in fact, she is getting too much for her boots and have to be reminded of her duty as a wife or else«µ She refuses to finish the sentence as one or the friends burst into a deep laughter, apparently in support of tani's commentary. "She could be so possessive. Poor mohammed! I'm sure he has regrets marrying her," she adds with disdain. "I thought she was really ideal." remarks one of the friends. "Huh!" says tani, "Mohammed is being patient because of the child. He was only giving her chance to right some wrongs or else she would see the other side of him so he told anty hajara and aunt told somebody who told someone that told me." "What kind of woman is this rabiat?" one of the friends wondered in a mischievous tone. "You could imagine how much he seems tired of her.µTani adds with a titter. "Forget about mere suggestion by anybody. You shouldn't marry him for that reason, just make sure you love each other first." "There's no doubt he loves me so much, that he sees in me, ideal wife..." I increased the volume of the TV so that I could hear no more. During the rest of the movie, I was just staring into nothingness deep in thought«..completely destabilized. Tani was not more than sixteen years old. What made her to be so disrespectful as to discuss about me the way she did is beyond my understanding, but in my imagination I could not place what wrong I did to her to deserve this. Well, I knew then that I had to adapt myself

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to staying with someone whose external attributes were okay but who was swallowed up by the all-absorbing ambition to use and be used. As I later found. It seemed I had no choice also but to stay with a man who had developed a habitual scorn for reason and whose intellect was at best used selfishly. I later knew. I prayed that night when I retired to bed, earlier than usual. When I looked back on what happened that evening, I wondered at the wicked selfishness of some women. How she did to me what she wouldn·t want to be done unto her ? Of course it cannot be entirely her fault. It takes two to tango. She has to be supported by mohammed himself for her to have reached this far. I had noticed mohammed paid more notice to tani than before, she had appeared to be aware of his attention without showin g that she had been moved by it, how cunning. Well at least I had begun to make sense of my predicament. I wondered why mohammed eyes me when I brought his usual evening tea and quips, "It is only tea that could be presented well in this house, maybe that was why tani cooked her own food by herself. "If you did have a complaint why do you prefer to keep me in the dark? Go on lay your complaint. What I know is that this is my seventh year of cooking for you and if you could bear my food for those years I don·t see how you can complain about it after it had improved by the years.µ I explain quite angered. "When I do have the time I shall discuss it with you," Mohammed answers in a slouching, sulky way, which left me only a little wiser than I was before. I did not wish to repeat the question and perhaps provoke an impertinent reply, so I walked away.

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He was clearly out of love, respect or sympathy with me. I knew that I had an idea about what was happening but try as much as I did, I could not trace it to its source besides I hate being suspicious. Anything was better than brooding over my own gloomy thoughts. I read some magazines or tried to watch movies any time remembered them but I always ended where I had begun«with no understanding.

The hands of the clock finally showed half past one midnight. With my heart beating against my chest with the force of a hammer, I went straight to bed, thinking hard after trying to watch television for hours. So serious was my ordeal that I was uncomfortable about what the future had in store for me. God! I thought I could cope quite well, little did I realize I couldn·t cheat nature«.I am a woman with feelings and feelings don·t lie. So my feelings had been telling me to feel the pain my trial is dishing me. How on earth did I deserve deceit or whatever it was I was being dished? Time to reawaken. What have I done to be so shabbily treated? I kept on wondering every now and then. I picked up my diary and wrote: I am being asked to cut my heart and survive without it. Perfect nonsense. What do I do? There is a dignity in closeness like that of husband and wife. Secondly there is trust and respect. One could not part with it or take it against one's will from one's husband without deserving it, I know that. But don·t I deserve it? The troubled scene happened at four o'clock in the afternoon. The day was hot. The only thing I could remember was that it was a Saturday and Sunday followed next. In my unhappiness I had told him that he

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was up to something which I want an explanation for. He refused as usual, and as he was passing I held on the door insisting he talks, as my heart as I can feel it was on the verge of breaking down and something had to be done. He pushed past me, forcibly as I feel on the concrete tiles and headed outside without even a look backwards. Many women curse their fate whenever they are in a trying circumstance. Yes there is fate and there is free will. If I had the ability of reaching people's mind I would tell them not to curse their fate but curse the direct reason for their anguish and try to do something about it; because fate is not destiny even though they go hand in hand. Fate is a full stop command from God while destiny is also a way one follows with a comma, question mark and even exclamation mark! So I started thinking of life without mohammed, therefore without tani«. ofcouse that is going to be my destiny. God gave me free will«.so I am going to use it!·· Mohammed came to make it clear to me that Tani was moving out to one of his relation's house to sort herself out, because she had had enough share of my troubles. When I asked in truth why he really believed I was the devil while Tani was the saint, he merely hid behind his stubborn silence, The silence I detested. I could not estimate the mess I found myself in because I had told mohammed that the picture he showed about himself outside his house was different from what he was inside. All I could remember was his shouting at me, "Who do you think you are? You dare not talk to me that way! I am past that, picture I show? My boot what do you mean? I would deal with you for that«.!" Within seconds he was gone from my view.
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As I stood silently in front of the window, looking out and wondering what kind of trouble I had found myself in and what I ought to do when kande and aisha would come back, thanking God that didn·t happen in their presence. I heard mohammed's footsteps coming back from the garden, no sooner had he been seated comfortably than the look of the room took a sad effect. I felt negative energy. "Mohammed, tell me the truth. Please, let me know if you intend to take tani for a wife," I asked, scarcely able to believe that my fright was not a dream. "Look, rabiat, give me a break. I cannot tolerate your childishness and your suspicion." he thundered. µI told you several times that I would tell you on time if that·s what I wanted to do. I expected him to be more sentimental. I thought he would have a feeling of pity for my wounded soul, because my soul had already been wounded and my heart broken and my confidence shaken. I thought he was going to give me a consoling hug and tell me all would be well«. "You know we all need at least an hour's rest every afternoon.µ He says, interrupting my thoughts. ´So am going to rest rabiat, I just came back only to apologise for pushing you down and hope you forgive me.µ I keep quiet. He walks away. I felt a lump in my chest. I had wanted to make him happy. Tani would rather destroy it by momentary gratification of her vanity. The way she was going about the whole affair was quite without human feelings. I was amazed at her words being so unlike her or rather the way I had thought her to be; A girl whom I thought was a sister to me. But how much did I know of human propensity? There are some codes of behaviour belonging to the world of women, yet foreign to the eyes of men. One of such is pretence and surely tani had it. Maybe he deserved her
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maybe not. Like a caterpillar, mohammed had woven a cocoon around himself; he had excluded me from himself and it pained me deeply because deep down in my soul I knew him to be an angel of a man before and is much saddened to know that had changed so drastically and so mercilessly. If only he could spot the difference between one woman and another and check himself, he could have seen where and how he went wrong. I knew it was too late. He wouldn·t care to

change. His selfishness wouldn·t allow him. Our relationship became like an ice cube that had just been chucked into a raging fire, dissolving mindlessly in the flame with no way of getting back into the refrigerator where it belonged. "Mohammed," I said, standing over him as he lay propped up on a pillow, staring at the design on the rug. "I would want to be free of your marriage bond.µ ´Ofcouse you can ask me for divorce, since you have told your parents enough lies to convince them that I am a brute.µ Answered mohammed while getting up. I heard you have told your mother so many lies as expected." ´I kept silent thinking. Seeking divorce is considered a taboo word from a woman, but I must be free. I want to be sane. I know that more often than not, women are not expected to seek divorce even when there is a just cause. It is considered a shameful act for a woman to find fault in her husband. It is the husband that enjoys the freedom to find fault in a wife. That I think is very unfair. Under religious law fair is fair for both male and female. Under society,s law fair is fair only for men. Quite sad. There was coldness in his voice which told me that we were much more apart than I ever imagined. I was in the danger of being left with
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my own unaided efforts after having lived in much intimacy with my husband and at the same time welcoming a frozen coldness that I had thought wasn·t in my destiny. A confirmed change had indeed come to stay in our marriage signalling an end. "If you choose to understand me, you can, but it you don't choose to then it is too bad.µ He finished. ´I don·t understand youµ I said. ´Well?µ he said. "In other words, you don't care. I have to think of other reasons to stay with you apart from loving and caring, a better reason for my own good before everything ends between us. ´I can see you are not ready enough to give me my saki.µ I say. He turns and pretends to sleep.

Auntie Hajara must have known so much about my ordeal, going by the looks of pity she threw at me. Everybody knew, except myself, till of late. I could not have known if not for the conversations I overheard. Since mohammed was not ready to be straightforward, the short cut to knowing the truth about my situation was through the thousands of accusations made against me«. rabiat doesn't cook well, doesn't take good care of the house rabiat isn·t this, rabiat isnt that. Where did I go wrong? I continued to look inwards. I saw that I was not less than the rabiat that was once admired for her sense of this and that three years ago. I had not changed, except for the improvement in my sense of reasoning, so I can say I only got better. As for mohammed, people made thousands of excuses for him, giving him the benefit of doubt and like other victims, I was automatically declared a jealous woman and sentenced without trial.

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There were so many spies on my utterances. I was therefore careful, though I did not fail to show my disillusionment and the hope to get done and over with that kind of union. Moreover, the best way to not living with is living without. In fact, I had no desire to be regarded as a martyr, sacrificing peace, personal liberty and happiness in the name of marriage. No, not at all. I know under religious law that marriage is worship. Worship involves a clean and clear mind. Infact a sound and dedicated mind. I am sure nobody would believe me if I say I had either a clear, clean and sound mind« I should not be trusted if I lie about that. If I do not need a divorce I knew that at least I need a break. I did not fail to see tani in all that was happening. The looks she gave me the few times we met, were enough to set me on fire, but I held on and was patient, though already devastated by the turn of events. Then, by behaving that way my folly and weakness were perceived. I was seen as being too foolish to notice an ongoing affair. I knew all was being done solely to make me blow up and however hard I tried to hide my feelings, I could not get them to understand that I was just being my sensible self by not dramatizing the issue as they would have expected me to do. All my life I had lived through a glowing example of people who don·t accepted defeat, even if defeat was a foregone conclusion. I felt really remorseful to know that sooner than later I have to accept defeat. My mind told me to detest moral cowards, and to despise those who would not fight for their right to live, who surrender, themselves without attempting to fight while blaming other people thereafter. I fought, tolerance and patience being my weapon. It seemed I was losing. I must give up and stay sane.
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What was I doing here, wallowing in self-pity and crippling with anxiety over what I had no right to control? If circumstances ordained that I should stay, then I would do so and accept challenges as they came. If not so, be it. All I know is that I must try to survive that problem, but can I? It it,s fact that as every right thinking person knows, that there should be a limit to what any person could tolerate. Thank God that there is a natural law which states that a person has the right to love what he loves for himself, and vice-versa, as long as it does not tamper with anyone's peace. I realized the fact that we do not owe our life to something or someone other than ourselves, and we are at the mercy of none other but our creator. I believe that those women who accepted their husband's inattention are much more wicked than the men themselves, or else why should you allow someone to treat you as if you were less than a human being and not do anything about it? I wondered. So I decided to do something about my unbearable circumstance and quick, before I get mad.

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Seven

A prisoner becomes so exhausted in his cell by the strain of waitng, that he could barely be restrained from rushing into the court to know his fate. That was how I felt. I had to abandon all caution to the wind. I could not continue to stay in this bondage. Besides, why should I want to remain in bondage? What I understood then was that men do not have lasting emotions but mere whims edging them this way now and that way later. "Women are like children," Mohammed once told his friend to my hearing."You have to start with them as you mean to go on that·s the only way.µ He had kept on evading the topic of marriage, trying to deny it, yet he proposed to Tani and set the ball rolling. "You know how jealous women can be," warned one of his friends. "In rabiat's case its more than expected. Anyway, she has never thought I would come about any other woman, since she thought she's God's gift to me, as she always assumes.µ It pains me to remember all their comments. They were wrong. What I simply wanted was for the issue to be discussed so that I know what to make of it and make up my mind wether I can tolerate it or not. Or are they trying to insinuate that I do not have a personal right to choose what I can bear? How I should feel?µ As I sat by myself weighing my options, I suddenly heard a sharp knock on the door.

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"Pardon me for intruding. I just wanted to make sure you are all right, seeing how you kept in since morning," said kande.

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"I'm all right, Kande. I have been busy reading, I answered. Indeed, I was reading, but my thoughts kept distracting me. I was thinking how I could explain things to those who meant the world to me, like aunty halima and uncle aliyu who had been away to china as Nigeria's ambassador. I learnt he was on his way back, after spending five years on the job. He used to be my most favourite of all the others. Having explained to my parents and Laraba earlier on, I believed I owe it to these people because of the care they had shown so far. No matter how straight things were assumed to have been going, there was nothing I could do other than confess to all those people that my life was not as restful as it had seemed. Reality had made my ideals and dreams turn sour. Time, the hard bad reality, the teacher of disappointing experiences had restricted my happiness. Another reality I learnt was that human beings have neither kindness, faith nor charity beyond what serves to increase their pleasures of the moment. So people circulated rumours so much so that I could not have recognised myself any more«I continued to suffer reality. Suprisingly the rumour-mongers certainly had answers for everything they said which fitted so well into their story, and sounded so right and rational. Was there any part of the story that could be said to be a lie? Of course there was, but there is difficulty in separating facts from fiction, especially as they were interwoven with a unique skill. It has been said that most liars of this world make use as much of the truth as they can. Inspite of all that, am I to believe women are a mistake and should they remain so, as long as our society stick to that belief? I did not share this

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fact at all. Do women always have to be the losers? No. I sincerely believe being out of marriage is unfortunate, but the misfortune is not the woman,s alone. Besides it·s a way of redeeming a woman,s right, since she is usually the victim and the loser. Divorce is justifiable if either of the couple is being victimized, but it could be another chance for going on another level a level of great consciousness. Leaving past experiences behind and building a newer life. I believe that no matter how thick your dossier of what has gone wrong, you can start a new dossier with time. In life,s struggles, we should be able to see our higher possibilies« So as I made up my mind to survive my issues in order attain my higher possibilities. I told myself that I could always become better than I always have been. It is lucky for society that modern technology had improved communications that one could get so much messages across through the telephone, internet and many other ways so within no time I had communicated with aunty halima, others and laraba at length. But I had not spoken to aunty halima for some days now. Her phone had been bad, I learnt. My parents had gone for the umrah in Saudi Arabia weeks back. They had to spend two weeks. At last I got aunty halima who immediately said she would come over with immediate effect. I started looking forward to discussing so much with her and sampling her much needed opinion, that I experienced a bit of peace for some time.

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My conduct had been misrepresented and my motives misunderstood, and it had come to that because I had decided to leave the house at last without a word to anyone. Not even kande. It was assumed that I was indeed the victor and had been rumoured that I indeed left the house with so much of mohammed,s money. Lastly I got accused of being a woman not worth her name for not staying and fighting things out. All I wanted now was to be left alone; at least there was nothing of a relationship of husband and wife any more between us and each of us knew and accepted that. So what was the fuss about? Society believed Mohammed shouldn't have withdrawn his pretensions to the honour of being a good husband. Thats the kind of society I grew up in, the kind that is made up of people eager to find out their neighbour's faults and slow in admitting theirs. What annoys me is that those backbiters were not much better than the people they condemned. Aunty hajara on her own side had confided in Auntie halima that she had interceded to restore my name to its former state but in vain, because my inlaws had claimed not to have understood my ways and motives. So when aunty halima told me that, I had laughed out loud and said I didn·t need that at all because I know people like to believe only what they wish to believe and besides what would my good name earn me in society since I am not contesting or looking for a position? Aunty Halima had laughed with me calling me a stubborn girl. ´No aunty it is not the normal stubbornness, mine is the stubbornness to survive.µ ´Yes I believe so too, yes we often fall into the crisis of imagination. We get stuck and bind ourselves to the familiar like thinking, if this happens this is surely to happen. Without knowing that allowing ourselves to be trapped in a particular version of the past or
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the familiar could make us static. That would prevent us from freeing ourselves from what we were so that we become what we are meant to become.µ Aunty had finished. Now that I realized I could not stay longer than my senses would allow me and I had learnt what reality was, I felt like a historian who had his scripts rewritten by an astrologist. Since I could not get people to know my exact fear, I thanked God. Those fears had been uncalled for even though they are concrete fears. The normal fears of being abandoned or discredited and disowned, These are the fears. After being compelled to change my beliefs by my recent experiences, I have come to the conclusion that my fears are unfounded. As far as society,s condemnation of my decision was concerned, I have discarded my fears. How did they expect me to want to fight over a husband who doesn·t care a hoot for my feelings? A balanced person doesn·t fight for what is not his or hers. As tough as it had gotten at some point, I had found it difficult to believe that my plight was not a dream, I always flipped through the pages of my diary to check and make sense of my feelings. It explained nothing about what actually puzzled me. I have got to act or I go mad! I wrote, as the situation became increasingly intolerable. I did not want to leave a'isha even though her father might come to take her back if I venture to take her along as expected. Considering how possessive he could be about her, I knew that I would have to forgo aisha if I were to get divorced. Well there isn·t much I could do but forgo her«.. It is better for her to have abscounding mother than to have a mad one, that·s the simple truth. Besides, our tradition postulates that the dignity of

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especially the female child is being in the custody of the father. So I have to accept the fact that I must part with aisha. I can try that but first I must get used to that fact I must leave her in the hands of his wife tani. I needed a conscientious kishiya, not someone like tani. I also needed someone more devoted and committed to the responsibility of a housewife, someone less selfish, someone who would like to get on with A'isha. Oh God! I broke down and cried. Inevitably, perhaps, Mohammed became engaged to Tani. But it was not until I went to my parents on a yaji. The engagement took place a week after my departure. I left aisha with auntie hajara. He said I went away without his consent and that was why he finally decided to marry tani. The ceremony came so quick as it had been well planned in advance. How hypocritical that I was never kept in the picture right from the onset. Mohammed always gave excuses to cover up his faults, and point to mine so much so that with his kind and pleasant manners, nobody disbelieved him when he gave an excuse of my having gave him reason to marry by being impossible. It was indeed depressing to see lie triumphing over truth. My problems made me talk back as sharply as possible and most times as rudely too. That was when the world went mad and I was certified to have got myself into that madness. Whenever I went to sleep, hours passed as I lay on my side searching for a blink of sleep. Even though Mohammed's rejection of my person was not unexpected, as the pressure he mounted on me was enough
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warning, I still found it hard to bear and find it harder to forgive myself for not rebelling on time. But then, am only human and liable to regrettable situations. I stopped regretting. "He seems to have behaved in a most unforgivable way.µ Laraba said when I disclosed everything to that happened bit by bit a day after I came back to Kaduna. Laraba, who had only once been a visitor to my matrimonial home, was surprised by the whole story "He should have respected you enough to discuss with you and put your feelings at ease, because you are his wife and you deserve consolation when you are offended . There are many civilised and mature ways to go about getting a wife. I thought he loved you enough not to treat you the way he did" She paused to look at me. "Do not be angry. But have you done anything wrong to deserve such a treatment? Something we don·t

know, something more terrible? You know us women; a lot of times we instigate our husbands, and suffer the most as a result." "Laraba, I can't say I am near perfect but I can't just remember having done anything offensive, except perhaps loving life itself by being as happy as I can. I remember I had heard some hints that most of the lies his relations are fabricating against me because they have the assumption that I had been squandering his money on things that did not matter, and that for a woman to be so contented with her life, she must be up to some mischief: They also: believe I had bewitched him through a marabout. I don't understand how people could he that narrow-minded and sentimental. I never flaunted anything or overdid anything."

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"Listen, rabiat listen. The best way to handle a nightmare like this is to come to terms with it, '"Said laraba. When she had gone, leaving me stewed in the throbbing ache in my heart, I tried to listen to some good Indian songs, those numbers I had always loved a great deal but to my surprise they didn·t sound as consoling as they used to. My friends always found that part of me odd. They tended to wonder how I enjoyed a song from which I could not understand a word. I had lived for my simple comforts and also for love, duty and selfsacrifice. Yes sacrifice. Love without sacrifice is like tea without sugar but I wondered why and how bebi my childhood,s friend got her in a worst state than she would have been without it. Since I returned home to Kaduna my parents have been absent. My mother in her own quiet way had told me over the phone that me that they had sent somebody, an elderly relation, juma from zaria to discuss further with mohammed on what had been happening and wether there was a complete divorce or not. I had waited for juma to come to the house before my parents came back so that I ask her what really happened between her and mohammed but she couldn·t come back as she said because he mohammed had travelled at the time she arrived his house in kano. What made matters worse was the fact that she juma didn·t have a phone. So as it was, they arrived on the same day with baba and mama. In the evening when they were rested a meeting was called including uncle aliyu. "If you have no influence to make him happy or make him believe you, what is the use of this marriage?" my mother had said after juma had

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told everyone the uncomplimentary things mohammed had said about me. "Ah! I know what such behaviour means. He must have been trying to make it clear that he is not interested in the marriage anymore. Oh my, why did we ever let you marry him?" She covered her face with her gele and murmured to herself behind it. I tried to quieten her with, "Mama, how could you have prevented my marriage, it had been fated.µ I kept quiet. "I am angry with people who always do bad when they pledge to do good," she said. Uncle aliyu who said nothing throughout said I should stay a bit at home while tempers subside. In zaria, grandmother just guessed something had happened. She had commented on my having lost weight and my manners more restless than ever before. The annoyance which had beset me had not allowed me to present myself at my best. I had been acting very clumsy. After lunch I had a nap and woke up ages later. I woke up to stare at grandmother busy spinning her cotton into thread, which she would use to make majanyi. '.Rabiat," she said after I had prayed, "Before I forget your friend Bebi is now just next door to us. They had been transferred from Yola at last. I am sure you would like to see her as she had always asked after you. When would you go to see her?" The Bebi I met that day was not the person I used to know, I had last seen her just when she got married. Bebi mohammed at eighteen years of age was beautiful, always talking pretentious nonsense, and always flirting with every man she met teases the hell out of them with her jokes, she used to be very vain and always got her own way with men.
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It was because of her that I discovered men could be innocent beings after all. Mrs bebi audu, now aged thirty years, sat for hours without saying a word having been tamed into timidity, her once pretty face sad

looking. In fact nobody could see in her what everybody once saw, the beauty and carefree attitude all gone. She sat quietly, either embroidering a cap for her husband. I became more surprised when her husband came in, she gave him a look of submission and welcomed him with a smile. The only clue to an inward life, was in the form of suppressed jealousy when her husband gave me more than the necessary, when he kept asking me questions, thus showing something that resembles a special interest or attention. Bebi had told me that she never went out except to the hospital. Apart from that, she always remained indoors. The extraordinary change evident in her was beyond all doubt for the better, seeing that it had transformed her into a different, silent and unobtrusive woman who was never in the way. How far she was really reformed is another question. Once a wayward Hausa girl till her relations hardly knew her again, her husband looked like a man who could tame a tigress. If he had married me, I would have probably been like her and should have behaved myself when he looked at me as she does behave herself. I am not sure whether her husband should be commended or not. People said he charmed her, but to me, he was just the picture of a man, a man of strong character. Throughout my three visits to bebi, I had only once or twice seen sudden changes in her expression and in her calm voice, which led me to suspect that her present suppression might have sealed up
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something rebellious in her nature which used to roam easily in her former self. Never before had I seen such a change produced in a woman by her marriage as I had seen in bebi. I went back to Kaduna after a week with grandmother, fully back to myself. The following day I found myself with not much to do or somewhere to go. All had been quiet and I was almost alone in the house. After sitting in my room for a while I ventured to go toward the back of the house for stroll, I felt restless then I walked up to the window and started looking out. The path to the 'boys' quarters'- zigzagged through the yellow neem trees. It was a summer, warm and sunny. I watched sharply a massive spider's web spread across a lower branch like curtain, so fine that I

almost couldn't see it. After an hour of almost uninterrupted solitude by the window, I felt calm and refreshed. The usual sounds of hustle and bustle in the house were not there, they had all gone to zaria. Grateful for the privacy, I consumed a massive dosage of fresh air while my hindi tapes rolled on. After some time, I collected my dinner, ate, read and went to bed earlier than usual. It had become my newfound routine. Days later I was escorted back to kano after a decision had been reached on my behalf. If my decision had been sought I wouldn·t have agreed to go back to mohammed, but alas it wasn·t . Next time, I would insist since it has been a shame on my side to go back on my own without the husband or relations coming over to coax and beg me into going back, and under some stated conditions. That is

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the rule of ¶asking back· after yaji . All that didn·t happen. There I was cheap and available. Mohammed had travelled out of town but to be back same day. I met kande at home and was very excited to see me back. ´Praise be to God for bringing you back again. I had been praying you know«µ She took excuse to go bring a'isha back home. They were all pleased to see me safely back. By the time Mohammed returned home, it was already evening. "Welcome back," he stammered as he waved and walked away to his room. Having acted thus I sensed he still took me for granted. More so than ever, because he couldn·t even spare some minutes to welcome back me properly. However, personal motives apart, appearances had to be maintained, especially in a'isha's presence who had been chatting excitedly about her newly acquired pet a kitten aunt hajara gave her, and with which she had arrived holding in a basket. I recognised the fact that it was only proper not to talk about that shaky union which I knew would over sooner than I had expected. About an hour later mohammed came to meet me in my sitting room when I was about to have my dinner. "I have found a good primary school for a'isha," Mohammed said, searching my face with a frown, while smiling a little uncertainly. "That's good," I said, my eyes glued on the TV set. My father's advice now sounded hollow, irrelevant. ¶Rabiat always be true to yourself, only then would you be true to others.· I no longer knew who I was, let alone the true self I held so dear. There I was confused to know how to behave towards the person that I had once

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cherished in my life. He quickly disappeared after some minutes of disappointing silence. All the night, I paced up and down the room trying hard to concentrate on the television I had in my room, I tried to brush away sentiments in an effort to reduce my options into terms of cut and dried reality. I could return to Kaduna again to flush away the seed of this love-hate relationship between mohammed and I for good or remain and bear the consequences for the sake of a'isha despite the arrows of a garrulous society and an unfriendly husband. Or should I give in to the demands of my emotions and get lost in a far away land? One other option stood out - the latter option. No more thought, pains or decision-making just me myself and I in a tranquil far place«. This, of all my options, was to me the most tempting, the easiest, and simplest. But, then, what would that do to my parents? I could destroy myself, yes. I would also ruin aisha's chance of having a mother and my parents of having a daughter, not only because they would have lost me but also because I would have disappeared like a coward and that seemed a childish option all of a sudden. There was only one choice left, to stay and watch, and that is the most difficult option of all. But at the moment it was the one that represented very few complications. It also called for destruction, but only mine«because I think am becoming mad. I must confess that I had been thrown into an overwhelming disappointment. I know that we are programmed to have an unrealistic expectation from our television movies and romantic novels. So we expect people to be always caring, always considerate, always loveable, always giving ,
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but these romantic illusions too often leaves us feeling cheated and disillusioned, betrayed by our own ideals« my ideals. Yes our own dreams. Knowing that, I had let go of my dreams, I still found it difficult to make sense out of this hurt feelings I had been having. Was it because mohammed never apologized about shocking me with the decision of marrying tani? Or is it because I thought I had been made a fool of by being deceived to the very last thus being treated as if I was a just a lump of meat with no life, no feeling? I say yes to both reasons. All night long, I paced up and down thinking, thinking, and thinking. By dawn I arrived at a decision. It was a decision that was like a gust of wind, which came naturally. It was the only decision that was available to me. And with, the emergence of that decision, I felt some relief and stirring of emotions. I have decided I did not want the marriage at all and no matter what.

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Eight

The bride arrived at last for the final tarewa because during the first three months it was only the engagement that took place. She came in with her relatives who were so pleased with the affair ending up in their favour as expected. The prospect of any remarkable change in the house seemed disturbing. One person in the house who had avoided being dragged into the whole affair was Kande. She came that evening to ask if I would wear my brown lace buba as she had brought out and ironed I said to her I wouldn't mind, just to please her as she had insisted I look my best for the occasion. She said she was going with a'isha to the house-help quarters at the back of the house. It was a friday. Days must have passed but I was unaware or so it seemed. Although I might not be a good judge, but I must say the way men act whenever they are about to acquaint themselves witha new wife is quite an inconsiderate, and brutally unfeeling way. I must say that I would look up to no man except by the way he would treat me. I am not disputing the fact that It is in the nature of man to be polygamous, and could therefore could marry as many wives as permitted by his faith and as many as he is he can look after.Up to four being allowed. So my faith says and I must accept that, and I do accept. What I didn't accept was the callous way mohammed went about it. I had expected Mohammed to marry again, even at the time I married him he never promise me he wouldn·t. What I wasn't expecting was the way he had gone about it. "A way is always a way I had been
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cryptically told by many people on various occasions."Rabiat, you shouldn't bother yourself looking elsewhere for a one-woman male and no matter how, so just take your situation calmly and you will get used to it" "Who do you think you are, as to try to caution any man from 'fulfilling his dreams? It means you have a long way to go rabiat" I was told. "You are not the first person it had happened to. You should only be mildly jealous." "He is only asserting his right as a man. Making trouble with him and his family wouldn't stop him." It seemed everybody was against my reasons for feeling hurt. I really did take personaly. Besides, everyone has the right to their own way of dealing with life or even accepting it. I surely have the right to be angry at what angers me. I know anger blocks happiness and gives out negative energy which in turn returns to the bearer, but in the circumstance what am I expected to be? I know anger make the world a polluted place to live, and I never wanted to help in the pollution but I am only human so I cannot pretend to be something that I am not. All these criticisms, the slanderous remarks, the neglect really unbalanced me psychologically. And no matter how I tried to direct it outwardly, it never really works and because anger is a double edge sword, if it does not meet the object it wants, it ultimately goes back inwards to attack« Thus my foundation, my truth, had been shaken and I had been made defenceless. I am victim of dis-ease of the mind. Meanwhile, my father's repeated warning rushed back to me: "No matter what happened to you, never give back negativity in return, and
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it is our duty as human beings to forgive and forget as freely as we hope to have it done to us." Yes I would have loved to practice all these universal truths but how? In my uncompromising as well as dejected state how on earth was I to make sense of something which ceased to be sensible enough for my sensibliities? A lump in my chest hardened. Self-pity fumbled up, overwhelming me. What am I doing here? I kept asking myself. Removed from my family and everyone I used to know that ever loved me, misrepresented and confused and somehow rejected«.? Consumed by melancholy I did what I had promised not to do in this case. I buried my checks on my knees and cried. For how long I wept I did not know, all I knew was that I felt better. With a'isha's birthday approaching, I couldn't dwell on much self-pity. I must be strong if only for my daughter's sake. I had told mohammed about the birthday and suggested we celebrate. But he only wished me good luck. He seemed not to care much about what I did or didn't do any more. I have had to wait for hours, any time I wished to have an audience with him. Whenever it was not my day as his wife, I never even had a glimpse of him. In fact, he had completely ignored my presence. A day before a'isha's birthday, I took some time to distribute the cards to some friends and mohammed's relatives. "Well, which kind of drink do you need zobo or kunun zaki? Mohammed's relation asked me. I had dropped Suwaiba's cards and had stayed longer to chat with her mother who was a cousin to

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Mohammed. Suwaiba and aisha got on so well that they made her and I closer. The room I was sitting in was a large one with tilted windows, a high ceiling and a patterned chinese carpet. Just as we got talking about mohammed and the marriage, she assured me that if I remained

patient and calm, I would get over it most sooner than I expected. I listened to all the advice she gave me. ´Women everywhere complain about their husbands ofcourse, one doesn't give adequate household money, one is abusive to wife or the children, another drinks and so on.µ She intoned. "These are criminal complaints if I may say so I only try to encourage any woman to stand firm by her legitimate rights and not to accept any injustice just because she believes her oppressor should have known what he was doing, she should be the one to know what she was doing and seek justice for what she had been getting from him. Being patient is really good but it should not be used as an excuse for stupidity. ´Let me tell you rabiat, there are hundreds of women who

marry men without being understood, or even respected by them and have learnt to love them only after marriage instead of before. Some external reasons such as family agreement, money, or success being the main reasons. I could not deny the fact that woman really amazed me, to be so selfcontented, so decisive so full of wisdom in heavily male- dominated society like ours I can say that it was not a negligible triumph.

Obviously, she received much support from her husband, himself a male of enlightenment. I remember Mohammed's description of her husband as a man who could be led by women's deceit. I instantly knew
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that he was just not pleased to know that there were men who treated their wives as if they were human beings. She had acertain fragility in her nature, while her husband looked like a heavyweight boxer. They were quite an odd couple at sight, knowing that despite the physique there was a wonder in their marriage. "Did you pay one hundred naira for the alligator pepper?" "Yes, that is twenty naira each," answered Kande. "And have you bought three chickens?" "Yes." I was in the kitchen that afternoon, because it was my cooking day. I sensed something in the air but could not explain what it was exactly. "Madam, it seems you are carrying a faraway look in your eyes for a long time. Take things easy and don't bother yourself with what doesn't concern you in this marriage, Just do your duty, your best. This is the kind of life we had been born to lead." Kande said, as she turned off the kitchen tap and went on to fry the tomato, pepper and onion paste for stew." She continued. "I am just a strong but ageing woman, a victim of lost love, my second husband left me for another woman, but in your own case, I advice you to try and see the better part of it, and accept him for what he is because he didn·t leave you, he wishes to stay with you, and t o balance his faults, he has many fine qualities.µ What fine qualities? I tried to remember them. Yes, quiet, kind and handsome I refused to acknowledge that. Besides those are all external qualities. What of consideration, tact and the ability to decide for oneself? Anyway, it was his lack of consideration that made him decide

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to marry tani at the nick of an eye. He was too selfish to weigh the pros and cons, and too insensitive to care about my feelings. The first day she arrived, I should have met her with respectful affection, which would drag us further into hypocrisy, but I could not. I would not be an actress, I refuse to be one. And that is my greatest fault. "I have no understanding to spare! Keep your hypocrisy to yourselves." That was what I told the bunch of people who gathered to talk to me and deliver me a lecture on the art of pretending and acting. To act like I did not care is the best attitude. I did understand that I was second best to tani and that was that. I am not disputing the fact that a man loves one of his wife best, but I cannot bear being the victim, I have to have a better justification than I had. I am not content with my new position besides my womanly pride cannot accept being a second fiddle. I don·t deserve that in anyway, so I must rebel against it«.. With all these happenings, coupled with Mohammed's shabby treatment, tani took notice and in turn gathered enough gossips and plans. She laid her plans accordingly and integrated all into her scheming. She was called God-fearing and charitable, and I a jealous selfish woman. It was not easy to stay with such people. You could not love them and, if you did, it would be turned away because they would neither return it nor value it. So I stopped being my true good self, as I turned into the person I was programmed by circumstance to be. However, if I should stumble on
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such people again, at least I had the experience to start with and not get too haunted next time. However hard I tried for the success of my already deteriorating marriage and to fulfil my duties my efforts were undermined and unjustly censored and misjudged by those above and below me. "Isn't there any solution?" Laraba had asked me the last time I spoke to her on the telephone. "I can't think of any solution. Mohammed seemed to be buried in his own naivety." Looking outside the kitchen and breathing in a massive dose of air, I forced my anger back. Friendship gratitude and consideration are all part of kindness. That is kind enough, but since I had given my heart, and my love, in return expected the same or at least some consideration. I don·t believe that is asking for too much. What actually surprised me was the fact that nobody cares to know what I was up to since the time my troubles escalated. Everyone kept behaving as if all was well and normal.

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Nine

I always enjoyed those leisurely drives with aisha, as she accompanies me to and from my destination. She could make a good company. My rebellious mood kept getting back, so I had decided to go and tell Auntie hajara about my decision to get through with the marriage. I drove by, watching people in a hurry, some waiting patiently for cabs. Boldly written advertisements on the signboards faced me on the way. I felt alive again. Why won't I open a salon or something? I thought. Already, I didn't have capital, so how could I begin? I am not staying in the marriage am I? I had a mission that day. I wanted to tell my Auntie that after the last quarrel with Mohammed, I had decided that I am already up to the neck about the whole affair and I just want out. The driver had kept Mohammed's car key in the parlour and could not find it. It was a misplacement. All of a sudden tani appeared in my sitting room and said Mohammed had told the driver not to ever give anybody those keys. That it should remain in her care. She farther rained abuses on the driver as he was searching for the keys. ´It is not your fault but your, husband's," Was all I could say as she passed by me pushing me intentionally. "If he had not given you the chance«, you wouldn·t have been thus shameless in your attitude. Holding her sides Tani gave me a look of disdain and felt about laughing. Then she turned and fled, shouting ´Rabiat has gone mad!µ

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The door banged open, violently and Mohammed barged in. He stopped abruptly near the doorway as if afraid to come near me. ´I know how careless you are not to have kept my things properly,µ he blurted out. ´I cannot think of any other way of replacing another key that was lost, I don·t know where the spare is.µ Later in the day it was discovered that it was tani that hid the key. That did it! I'd had enough. When eventually I arrived at Alhaji Nuruddeen's house, the numerous people that gather around the house greeted me on my way in asking about my health and happiness. I went inside to meet auntie hajara. Nana, mohammeds aunt met me at the corridor, and when I greeted her she gave me a mean look and turned away without answering me. I had started getting used to the fact that most of mohammed,s relations were not talking to me. What they meant by that I was yet to know. All I knew was that it was a sign that shows I was not wanted. I proceeded to my aunt,s room. I confided to aunt hajara my predicament as soon as I sat down and greeted. ´I aunty, I think I am not wanted in this family anymore.µ ´Why did you say so rabiat?µ "As you know, most of my in-laws are not happy with my overstaying my turn in Mohammed's house. They don't need me now," I told Auntie Hajara. "What do you care about in them? Are they the ones that married you?" "Of course, in our society when you marry a person you are married to his relations and even friends," I reminded her of the popular notion.

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"There is no need to hate them in return if at all they do hate, you. Besides, it is hypocritical to hate those whom you belong in part. Remember, there is a'isha." "It is because I belong to them partially that I had the right to hate them. Oh, am really disappointed!" I sobbed. ´People might think you stupid if they notice your instability rabiat. µThen, gathering myself, I said gently, almost in a whisper, "Let me tell you something, Auntie. I like other people to think I am stupid and for them to try and enlighten me, thinking I am really as daft as the picture they make of me. I love to see their shallowness, while they weigh my own," "That is quite a wicked way of being smart," she condemns. "I cannot do it to somebody who in simple mindedness has no intention of making a fool of me." I explain to her. She advised me not to take any rash decision lest I regretted. I sat there and listened as she told me how the world was not an easy place to live in and so onm and that I should imagine how difficult it would be for me to find a husband should I be divorced by mohammed. "By the way, what is this stubbornness that drives you, rabiat?" "Aunty, there are hidden meanings in things you don·t know me as I know myself. You cannot understand my predicament as I can see or rather you don·t wish to understand«" "Whatever meanings there are in things, Mohammed has confided in me that he had never for one day ever told you that he wouldn't marry again," she explains. "Have I ever told you that I would accept it if he ever married, and don·t I have the inborn right to decided on what is tolerable or not to
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me?" I snap back. ´Besides, tell me if at all he was going to marry does he have to marry someone I had lived with as a sister?µ "I hope it is not some lack of respect you might have had for men that drives you to such extreme stubbornness, mohammed hasn't done something abnormal by getting married again." "1 understand aunty and thank you for the advice, but you know he shouldn·t have married someone I had practically lived with, because the shock is hard to bear. In truth I never ever dreamt mohammed would treat me so. I began to sob.µ She keeps silent. I said goodbye and took my leave.

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Ten

With the subject of common interest to discuss, aisha being the subject, I found myself sitting face to face with Mohammed, live.

It was not a dream, it was a reality«.. mohammed sparing some minutes with me. He hardly does that. If forced by circumstances beyond his control as in the case of my being on duty, he had always slept off as soon as he senses my presence in the room.

After telling me about his decision regarding which primary school a'isha should be going to, I seized the opportunity to talk to him about the fire in the house, the problems that threatened my existence in the house, and which he already knew had created wide gulf between us. I told him how unhappy I had been lately and as expected, In response, he told me that I could only be as happy as I chose to be. He stressed that the problems arose out of what he, called my unnecessary jealousy, and that he could do nothing about it. "For God's sake, show a little pity even if you don't feel it," I snap at him irked by his refusal to acknowledge my inner suffering. "Rabiat, with all the crimes you have committed against this marriage, you have decided to make deals with marabouts to throw tani out. Just get it into your head, that you can never get away with it, it is not just possible!" Believing that I had to do something quick to save my sanity, I demanded for my divorce letter just as I did a month ago. "Why do you run away from being a woman?" he taunted. "A co wife is a challenge, not a sickness. A brave woman would tolerate her a God93

fearing woman would take it. You are none of the above-mentioned but just a coward, afraid of a little girl like tani." "On what condition would a woman accept a second wife?µ I fired back. "Shut up!" he shouted. When would I be right? Whenever I tried to explain to Mohammed, he would say I was jealous; when I was not complaining, I got suspected. I know that the victims of this world are a lot better than those who play their cards right. I did not seem to be playing my cards right so in my soul- splitting misery, I asked for divorce there and then. After about ten minutes, the house-help came and handed me an envelope with what appeared like a letter. As luck would have it, whether good or otherwise, my divorce had finally been granted. Due to your lack of patience, I mohammed nurudeen divorce you rabiat once. The rope was cut at last. I was free. On the second day of my arrival at Kaduna, I was still very disturbed. I didn't have any regret in my marriage coming to an end but I was just trying to assimilate the drastic changes in my life. I opened the door that led from my bedroom into the sitting room and having passed through, I realized it was quiet. There was a smell of rain in the still heavy air. I put my hand out of the window. No, the rain was only threatening to fall. It had not come yet. I felt at peace.

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I remain gazing out of the window for nearly a quarter of an hour, looking absent-mindedly into the black darkness outside, and hearing nothing except noise on the other side of my parents' apartment. Just as I was turning away from the window to go back to my room, I smelt an odour of cigarette smoke stealing towards me on the heavy night air. I heared a familiar voice as I moved towards the room. It was Uncle Aliyu's. I didn't know when he came back from his ambassadorial assignment. My brother was sent to call me to the sitting room soon as I had finished my evening prayers. Uncle said I should he in my father's sitting room as soon as, possible for a meeting. How vividly that peaceful home picture on that day comes to me, my uncle, father, mother and I all sat in father's living room, I on the carpet prayerful and hopeful that they were not going to decide on my being escorted back to Kano to revive the marriage since it could be done within three months of divorce. You are hereby divorced once« Mohammed had said; if he had pronounced a 'three' divorce, it would not be possible to re-fix the marriage unless I married another man and got divorced again. When I looked at my mother, the anxiety on her face made me realize that her mind was not at ease. My uncle was the first person to speak. He looked at me and said, "I don't blame you really. I only blame the misfortune of your fate and your position in the society, as a subservient daughter and wife. I don't blame your father either because he was caught in the middle, between his loyalty to you as a daughter and respect for your husband and his family. You are guilty of womanly weakness and want of attention to your own best interest, but

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nothing more. I also pity you for having to open up your heart to a hopeless affection." The sudden kindness and warm sympathy met me and appealed straight to my heart. My honour was returned in an instant. I try to thank him but my courage fail me. At last father asked me to go back to my room till I got called again. They didn't call me again the whole day, much to my utter relief.

"Why?" I asked everybody. "Why worry me?" Nobody answered that question and nobody left me alone. Relatives, friends, and strangers all combined to annoy me. "What have I done? I sought to know. It became clear to me by the days that passed by that leaving the house of a husband who is rich is considerd the greatest folly in our type of society. Infact it is considersd a shame a failure a curse. So I was considered too rebellious to be related to, or proud of. This started to happen when people learnt I was the one that sought the divorce. ´Imagine rabiat,s guts.µ They wondered. ´Who is she to want out of that marriage because her husband got a new wife?µ ´How dare she disagree with what God had agreed with?µ they insisted. I had explained my shock and maltreatment of mohammed towards me to those who understood, and ignored those who wouldn·t and had been waiting for such opportunity to condemn me. I could remember a friend of mine saada with whom I had occasional outings. She was embarrassed when I told her that I had heard her conversation with her mother when she asked for permission to attend a wedding party with me.
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"I am sorry but I refuse to let you associate with a friend who despises marriage," her mother had said. "But rabiat is my friend," she argued. "All the same," her mother intoned. Well, I said to myself, I will never barter my personal happiness for the sake of fake dignity. I remember so well the last time my friend,s mother tried talking to me about my broken marriage. "You will have to accept another man's degradation some day, even if you refuse this marriage," she cautioned. "You cannot harbour vengeance against a man." ´I don·t intent to harbor vengeance.µ '"Okay then, why not return to him since he would accept you back? You know that mohammed is not stubborn people that knew him said he is forgiving and a gentle man." Aunty, my friend saada,s mother insisted. Her vehemence and the distortion of her features surprised me. What could I do now when so much had been lost in terms of respect and understanding?µ I did not regret coming out of it. ´I had only saved some more pain.µ I had answered. "Everyone ought to have forgiveness. Surely you must find in your heart to forgive mohammed," She suggested. ´Okay I forgive him, but am just tired of fighting, and besides I cannot cry over split milk.µ I keep my head bowed. Wondering at the complexity of humans, still they pronounced moral judgement on me as if I was the only one who needed it. The way she was defending someone she doesn·t know personaly, who helped destroyed my belief in goodness brought a sour taste to my mouth. And while I sipped my zobo drink, the sourness increased. When I left, her last words kept

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echoing in my ears: "Rabiat you were trained to be a noble girl but you had shamed us!" My world started becoming bearable with the re appearance of sulieman four months after my divorce. Wonderful Suleiman, keeping me sane by loving me, so that in his love, I could see myself as the woman I longed to be«.. Suleiman was a distant relation of my mother's. He had been away in the university somewhere abroad. I never had the interest to know exactly where he had been. I was too young to care then. It was when he came back that I knew he had been to I ndia. It had been almost ten years since I saw him. We met again was only four months ago when he came to pay a visit to my mother. For the past two weeks we had been quite close. In that short period, he had made his way straight to my high estimation and how he had worked the miracle is beyond comprehension because I hadn·t been a mood for caring or sharing any kind of emotion. I could see myself thinking so much about him of late more than I do of Mahmud. Yes I do think of Mahmud time to time since my divorce. Wondering where he was. What is wrong with me? I never found Suleiman attractive until recently. First of all, he possessed what I would ridicule in the most merciless manner if I had seen it in another man. For example, he was obese before he went to the university, he had managed to shed much of his weight, which made him just fat. Before this time, I had always been put off by fat people even though I had always maintained the popular notion of connecting excessive weight with good humour as people assume. People don't believe that I had disputed this assertion
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by quoting examples of fat people who were mean as thin ones, but still the saying goes on. Suleiman's manners and command of the fulani language had assisted to some degree in earning my love. Since he grew up in the village he has had the good luck of learning the fulani language. He had that quiet manner, the attentive interest in listening to a person. He had a secret gentleness in his voice while speaking to a woman, which no woman could resist. In fact, women can resist a man's fame, personal appearance and money but they cannot resist a man's tongue when he knows how to talk just like sulieman infact he has what today,s people call lyrics. My thoughts of sulieman were interrupted as Fatima my new found friend walked in to pick up some books on the shelf. As she stood checking with another recipe book in her hand, I asked if I could use her telephone. I had spent the whole day in her house that Tuesday. Then I remembered my promise to phone laraba. ´Hello laraba, hope you are good, I am sure you have been eager to know what had been happening to me.µ "Of course! Rabiat, why do you have to ask?" She says as I finally got her on the phone. "It's been quite some time she said, sounding happy to hear from me. Laraba was still happily married and living in Lagos. "Quite," I replied. "So how is your new baby boy?" '"Oh, he is doing fine. Have you heard from a'isha?µ

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"She was only here for two days and that was all he father could allow her. Anyway, I am grateful to God she is doing fine. She has been put up in a boarding school" "How old should she be by now, six or seven?" "Let me see," I went into my thinking horizon. "Six years, isn't it?" she asked. "Yes," I said absent-mindedly, my thoughts racing back to the last time I saw a'isha. She was then quite matured for her age and quite happy. What a strong child she was. Even when we went to collect my belongings with my auntys , I had been desolate thinking she would cry her heart out at our parting. To my surprise she was coaxed into believing that I would come back for her and all ended well. I had gone back to Kaduna feeling as guilty and miserable as can be expected. Having been forced by circumstances to be without my dearest daughter, there was never a week I spent without wishing desperately to see her. I missed her dazzling smiles. I missed observing her day-to-day development, which I had made a habit. As I sat, I longed for her, wishing I were a bird that could fly to where my a'isha might obviously had been calling onto me... Tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped it. After we had lunch and were relaxing on the veranda talking, Fatima remarked, "You must get married again, rabiat. Or have your experiences put you off it?" "Perhaps I should master reality first, so as avoid horror based on illusion," I said. "Are you willing to go back to mohammed for aisha,s sake?'

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"As a friend, he might be all right, but when he tries to be a husband, he is so bloody unsuitable. I am not against men or being married but when there is a tie, it is a different story all together." "I understand." "You see, Fatima. I would like to be loved because I deserved to, but not to be treated at best like a bottle of medicine marked 'take regularly at bed time," I explained. "Of course," Fatima agreed, laughing. Mamud came to see me at last. I was too excited to talk when he parked in his new Honda car. I could not wait for him to come in so I hurried to meet him outside. After some time we found ourselves seated in fathers small sitting room alone. He takes a long gaze at me which made me quite embarrassed. He then says. "Rabiat, are you yourself again?" "Enough myself to love you once again Mahmud," I blurt out. "I hope I have a place in your heart, Rabiat, I have heard a lot of what had happened to you... from people." It was possible that someone had told him some stories, because there was no shortage of busybodies in town. I just stare, not knowing exactly how or what to begin to say. "Take your time, Rabiat. You have all the time in the world to let me know when you are ready to start again. I have waited for so long and can wait a little longer," he adds. His eyes shone with love as he finally gets up to go and, without looking at me says ´I shall be with you next week and we shall talk some more." The door opened. The door closed.

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After he had gone, I began to ask myself wether I still loved Mahmud or not. Anyway, I loved Mahmud without pretext, deceit or illusion. That had been in the past, what about now? As I had studied mahmud that evening, I knew he was a friend and maybe even more. As I looked at him again, I knew my feelings had not been hidden. There was something that I felt and which I hope to keep feeling for a long time to come.

Whenever I feel like talking with a friend, I call laraba. And when I want to share some secrets or news I go to Fatima who lives not far away from our house. That afternoon I visited her. We sat at the backyard veranda where the view was fantastic. Under the leather of the clouds, the sun was slipping out and the evening was intoxicating. I felt good. "My husband had taken my son away on a visit," Fatima explained, when I asked after him. She seemed to be in a bad mood. As we sat there talking about the past and the future, while doing justice to the ever refreshing fura. She then disclosed to me that her cousin had ran away to God-know-where and the whole issue had been a bad shock to her. I asked her not to worry herself sick and pray she gets located on time. I on my part told her of Mahmud,s sudden emergence. She said she was happy for me and that she hopes I shall reconsider starting with him all over again. I told her ofcourse I would want to but I wanted to make sure, because I wouldn·t want to hurt him again. Beside there was

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sulieman, and by the way things were going, his interest in me was even more than Mahmud,s. ´Pray too.µ

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Eleven

My grandfather had been hospitalized for two weeks now. When I visited him, he looked so old, so different from my memories of him. It was hard to believe that within that fragile body lay the hero of my childhood. Being on the quiet side, Grandfather never talked without reasons. He was the sort that went about his own business quietly. He had sympathised with my situation which he said was not unusual. "Divorce, whether we like it or not, is not something to be proud of he said. What you people of nowadays need is patience, more patience. Why don't you all accept your differences and live as friends to ward off loneliness?µ He advices.

My grandmother, whom I met there, shook her head and said ´Children of nowadays cannot take what we took in our time.µ I kept quiet, tired of the whole issue. I looked at gradfather thinking that really the human condition is essentially tragic, as anyone over the age of eighty must have seen their friends die one after another. I heard that he was over eighty. My heart skipped a bit, as suleiman came in. My love for him was the more because he believes in my innocence leading to the breakup of my marriage, more than any other person. I on my side, have more confidence in him than Mahmud whom I would have to prove my love for once again. As for mahmud there was my past to agitate and make him jealous. In a flash, I remembered my last date which became
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almost a disaster. We had been to a restaurant for dinner when someone I obviously hadn·t recognised as one of Mohammed's casual friends came in with some gentlemen, probably on a business dinner. They recognized me and they came over. After we greeted, one of them asked if I was the rabi'at that was once married to Mohammed Nurudeen. I said I wasn·t the one. After much insistence, I owned up. Afterwards as I could see he was deep in thought and I said to him not to worry that it was one of those things, but he acted hurt he seemed not consoled with the fact that I even denied being who I used to be just to please him. In short mahmud was a jealous person. "Now, it's suddenly before my eyes that people see you as mohammed,s wife. It hurts me to know that you had once been somebody,s wife, mohammed,s for that matter. And now I can see a lot of people are your former husband's friends. I don·t want remember you had ever married! ´He almost shouted at me. "It was not only friendship that I have given you, it was my heart. I love you and you know that mahmud.µ Don't think you owe me love if you don·t mean it, just because of the past. If it is kindness you are giving me, well I don·t need it.µ ´It is not kindness, its love.µ I assure him. "No. Don't pretend, rabiat! A man senses things, gestures and many more, here and there," He broke off to slump again in his chair, his face dull with despair, "Mohammed didn't marry you by force, did he? You gave yourself willingly because you loved him, You still love him, maybe? rabia't, I should have looked into my heart and found the new growth of love
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that was springing up there and plucked it out, while it was young but what do I do since it is too late to have a change of mind because I had already fallen hopelessly in love with you all over again.µ ´No please bear with me, if really you love me as you had pledged«. You would have given enough time and chance to prove my love.µ I coax him. ´Ok rabiat it is over, it is past. This is my first realization you know and I am such a jealous person and I almost feel ashamed.µ He confesses. The outing later became an outing to remember.

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With the emergence of these two people, Mahmud and sulieman, I had learnt one thing. What I learnt was that no matter how possessive or jealous women can be, they cannot be as possessive and jealous as men. Mahmud was jealous and sulieman possessive. There I was, days after my date with mahmud, I was taking a stroll with sulieman, talking and trying to blend. We were talking about ourselves and the probable future of our love, and we had a lot of argument as to how soon we were going to be married. He got very annoyed and accused me of deception when I said it was too early to discuss that. In mamud,s case, just as I was trying to convince him of my

innocence about my ¶past betrayal· as he calls it; he confessed that he doesn·t trust my promises. I had been trying to escape from the past but it proved impossible. ´ How could I make Mahmud believe I did love him? The suspicion he felt was unacceptable to me. I could not stand it. I had asked him to give me a chance to love him not because I am a woman, but In spite of that fact. ´I hope I am not going to make a fool of myself by coming on strong about this relationship.µ He warns ´No not all Mahmud.µ ´You should believe me Mahmud.µ Back at home I was surprised to see aunty hajara, who came specially to see my grandfather in hospital. ´I had asked of you and was told by your sister that you had gone strolling with your former boyfriend mahmud.µ Aunty hajara remarked after I had met her in the guest room. ´Yes she told you the truth.µ I answered boldly. Just then my mother

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came in. ´I am just trying to coax rabiat into having a second thought about going back to kano, so that we can see what could be done about making another wedding vow since she has only one saki on her head.µ My mother kept silent then after sometime she says ´I thought the matter is over hajara.µ ´She could still be accepted if needs be. Says aunty. Remember this family she comes from is a respectable family and that is exact proof that she can be disciplined to an extent. Suddenly I felt dazed with anger and burst out. ´I am sick and tired of you all thinking that l am some helpless freak who has to be tolerated in the name of family loyalty," I told them. "I am sick and tired of your fatal side remarks, treating me as if I am an imbecile. Of course, I hope to remarry but not just for the sake of it and I am not going anywhere.µ My mother left the room. As a rule, I don't use bad language even though my generation is far less fussy about such vulgarity. If I should be blamed, then I could equally be excused because I had experienced the kind of life in which bad language was an acceptable mode of communication. I'd had to speak to people in the language they seemed to understand best. Later on my mother came to my room and asked me to go and apologise to aunt hajara for the sudden outburst, which I did. Back in my room, I had been trying to sleep but sleep kept evading me. I was thinking. I didn't feel like watching television or talking to anyone.

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As I lay there in silence, I held my breath as the silence came to meet me, the silence of my dilemma. But how could one live with such a sentence and bear the unbearable? People regarding me like a person from Jupiter, Suleiman being insecure, Mahmud being too cautious and most of my relations not understanding my plight. I fell asleep«. "I give you my word of honour, to be by you through thick and thin and to love you forever.!" Oh dear, how romantic. I thought. "I promise to love you forever and ever. I now believe you, rabiat." Meanwhile. I was turning on my side for more comfort. When I woke up, it was a dream! I thanked God there was love circulating in my direction, even if it was in a dream. There was another dream I had again that same night, towards dawn. It had to do with my daughter. 'Do you love me mother?" she asked, looking at me pleadingly. "Of course, I do ,a'isha." I answered. "That's okay with me then," she answered. Still looking at her small physique reassuringly, I said to her "I shall explain things to you when you are old enough to understand." All of a sudden she ballooned into a big woman, like a cartoon character, but had the same looks. She said, "Mother, I understand, you do not need to tell me the hazards of a bad marriage in our society'. You do not need to tell me that given the chance you could have done better. I love you too," she finished. I woke up relieved because I knew A'isha would be the daughter that would always be close to my heart. Later in the day, I took time to visit my friend Fatima. When she hears of the dream, she urges me to go and
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see aisha as soon as possible. I decline because going to see her then was not the best for both of us. ´I am serious about my divorce, so I don·t want the slightest reason to make it look like I wanted to go back. Besides kande is still staying for the sake of aisha and I had spoken some days before my dream.µ I explain to Fatima. After we had lunch, Fatima asks me wether I was in an affair or not, getting to eight months since my divorce. ´Well I am in two relationships now.µ ´You mean you have got a rival for sulieman?µ she asks in a state of puzzlement as I had never told her about Mahmud,s sudden re-emergence, preferring to keep it a secret until all became well between us. To divert her I try to change the subject. ´What about your husband,s remarriage, is it still on?µ ´Mhm«yes I just cannot imagine myself staying married to a man who marries at the slightest opportunity? I wonder.µ She innocently confided. ´Fatima I must say I respect your sense of understanding as far as your husband,s decision to take the fourth wife is concerned. You have a tolerant nature which is indeed a bonus.µ

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Fatima,s eyes flashed with anger. ´You see it is not because I understand or accept, it but it is just that where I came from, men have full power over their women and most men marry at the slightest chance. It is the usual thing for an old man to divorce his first wife and take a younger one to his home, if he does not have enough money to keep more than one. It is quite sad. My own experiences had taught me that men are generally the root cause of women,s grief and frustrations. The sense of abandonment women feel is a disease in itself, but what to do? We must just continue to pray for a time when women would insist on being treated with respect and earning it as well.µ Unsure of how to address the issue of my dissatisfaction with female status in our society, I kept silent. My mind remaining in conflict between my own rebellious thoughts, and our traditional beliefs. Which states that the women should be seen, but not heard. Twelve

The longest night of my life brought no answer nor relief to the problems of my life. I couldn't sleep, I was thinking when dawn broke. The promise of another day was consoling. Time«.a healer of all fate God created. A life suddenly changed, its purpose created afresh its hopes and fears, its struggles, its interests and sacrifices all turned at once and forever into a new direction. This is the prospect which now opens before me like the burst of view from a mountain-top. Life could never be perfect I knew and, besides, perfection could be a very boring affair but what was needed was the strength to survive. It was time for

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reflection and self-realisation. I was fallible like any human being and, within that troubling fallibility, I had learnt so many lessons of life. Coming back to the topic of marriage, if not for the religious injunction recommending it, staying with a partner for the sake of preventing oneself from indecencies, and having direct fraternity, marriage wouldn·t be a circumstance I could personaly wish for because a lot of people do not respect the essence of marriage. Thank God that I was able to think of marriage as a matter of conscience. The fact of having a real reason for it could be a gift, making it' happier and peaceful, and worth getting into. This has fitted the logical imperative of marriage. In fact, it is the greatest challenge that life throws on us. Either of the sexes can be a victim of a particular union, and so It Is up to the couple to learn to educated themselves about the ways of marriage. What we need is a good conscience and enough awareness from both sexes. Since men are polygamus by nature, it is only fair, that women should respect that and do their best to cater for that. It Is only fair that women show some understanding when it comes to men,s needs. The need to have

another woman. One thing I beg men to bear in mind is that, ¶need· has a different meaning than the selfish ¶want·. Being a victim of my fate, I could easily conclude that a one-sided story is not enough to warrant any sane judgement, and that there could always be two sides to a story but as far as I am concerned, this is my story. A few years ago, I was a fulfilled woman, with an intelligent, charming and understanding husband«.had I been wrong in the assessment of his character? I had once heared aunty bilkisu say that men are not worthy of being embraced. Do I have to believe her? I never
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did till the time my trouble with mohammed started. I was not those type of women who form their opinions on what others say. I did well not to have believed her at first, or else I wouldn·t have gone far enough as I did. I smiled at myself. Suddenly I felt many wounds heal«injuries suffered from the past. I had found myself in a reflective mood that night as I tried to snatch some sleep. I decided that I could do the wrong things for the right reasons, rather than do the right things for the wrong reasons, that·s good food for thought. My friend laraba had just arrived from Lagos that afternoon. She had not given birth yet, her pregnancy had given her a lazy disposition. She told me she has cravings for pancakes, so I excused myself to make some for her. I left her and went straight to the kitchen, there while making some paste I kept getting absent minded. I had been thinking about Mahmud, telling myself not to let him down again no matter what. Then my stomach churned. I remember sulieman. I tried to forget Mahmud and concentrate on Suleiman. Suleiman had travelled to jos on a two-week course. When would he be back? I remembered the last time I saw him, he took me out on a stroll the night before he travelled. The moon was out and the stars scattered across the sky like diamonds. "I would accept you in any circumstance, I have made up my mind to get married to you if you do not mind being my wife." he promises. "You see, I love you."

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I had felt silenced, hushed by the goodness of a man who asked for so little but yet gave so much. Emotional insecurity conquered, he seemed a near perfect gentleman. Suleiman stood still and faced me. We were almost of the same height. His clear eyes, his unquestioning love for me, were so childlike, so innocent, so pure... The pancake got burnt and I had to make some paste for another fry. I have decided to write a book. I love writing. I was thirty years old when I started writing; most people started much Earlier though, I actually love to write so that I could explain my most intimate thoughts as they emerge from my brain and curve on paper. The fact that I am writing junk or a masterpiece is not the issue, but the exposition of the most exquisite pleasure and experience. I had been crossing lines after lines of experiences and I know that there is one more line that I have to cross« The ink flows from my biro to reflect a vision I alone could see, which perhaps someday countless people would share. It is without doubt that this moment is the most crucial of my life. I was a survivor and I knew what to do to survive. The survival was my writing. I did what I knew what to do and kept my mouth shut, buried the hatchet and survived. Whoever reads my story would know that like anybody else, I have experienced some disillusions in my life. As woman in the late nineteen nineties, I have a story to tell. I am urging that no matter what happens to you, you should always try and see it rationally and have faith in
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your fate because sometimes your faith becomes more difficult than the troubles you hope to conquer. "Once you have written this book, you would turn your unhappiness into happiness," said Suleiman enthusiastically. I am not a magician but I have a magic wand and I can chant my words. And with the magic wand, I can turn my words into a spell. I Looked down on the floor, and sighted a card that had fallen from my side table. I remembered that it was from Suleiman and I opened the envelope and reread it: Rabiat, you are my one and only«but man proposes, and as we all know God disposes. I sighed and fixed my gaze on the card. I whispered, studying it« Yes, I am now woman enough to know that our destiny does not lie on the palm of our hands, it lies in the fate our creator deals us.

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Glossary The following Hausa words, whose meanings arc given here, have appeared in the story. Atamfa: Wrapper. Alkaki: A delicacy made from wheat flower and honey. Buba: A form of blouse. Danki: Magnificent decoration in a bride s room. Daurin Aure: Formal solemnisation of marriage. Fura: A drink made from millet and cow milk. Gele: Shawl. Kalangu: A type of talking drum. Kishiya: Co-wife in a polygamous home.. Kunun zaki: A refreshing drink made from millet. Kulle: Purdah.. Lalle: Henna

Lefe: Clothes. cosmetics, jewellery, etc., usually presented to a bride-to-be by a groom-to-be: bridal portmanteau. Majanyi: Shawl-like material used to tie up a baby on its mother's back RIMAYE: Silk cotton trees. Sadaka: Giving out a daughter's hand in marriage without giving prominence to the customary material demands.

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