Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's Year's End Again

Happy New Year
Photo: Nevit Dilmen

December is here, harmattan is sweeping the land, and Christmas is upon us again. The year always crept up on us, moving surreptitiously one day at a time until Bam! January 1st became December 29th.

And what a year this has been for Nigeria. With the intractable Boko Haram insurgency in the north to the dollar going for 280 naira to endless queues at petrol stations, there’s no doubt 2015 has been rough sailing for most Nigerians. And the saddest part is the storm won’t be relenting in 2016, considering Nigeria’s late and weak attempt at divesting from its crude oil cash cow.

That said, this year has been interesting, if not exploratory one for me. Earlier this year, I ventured off on a solo trip to Senegal and The Gambia as recounted here and here. It was my first pleasure trip alone and a surprisingly empowering one. Not only was I alone, I didn’t know a single soul in those countries which thrust me out of my comfort zone, activated the Indiana Jones in me (Ok, I admit I wasn’t chased by a rock), and gave me free rein over when, what, where and how I wanted to spend my time without consulting a second opinion (the best part). Like meditation, solo travel is an exercise in self-discovery or rediscovery. In it, you find what interests you and doesn’t, who you are and aren’t, and what matters most to you without the burden of playing the accommodating travel companion.

Speaking of comfort zones, I started contributing to a radio station in March on account of a Journalism and News-writing course I enrolled in last year, and realized an hour of talking live for a consummate introvert can be daunting sometimes. My foray into radio broadcasting also reaffirmed what I already knew: that my chain of thoughts work better with a pen; that in the realm of communication writing will always be king, or in my case queen, for me.

Did I say writing? Yes, I’ve been working on a novel since March, but took long breaks away from it mid-year after coming down with writer’s block. Thankfully, by September my affliction had subsided, and I returned to working feverishly on it, week in week out—an effort that has yielded over 80,000 words and an equal measure of dread. When I started writing I worried about finding enough words for a novel. Now, I’m fretting over the brutal editing process and the fact I still have more to write.

Liposuction, I heard, is no simple procedure.

Anyone familiar with the novel writing process knows it’s a lonely journey with perseverance and doubt as constant companions. It’s like crawling into the dense forests of the mind, choosing the strongest twigs and coupling them in a manner that allows connection with another human mind. One of the curious things about this deliberate crusade is that second opinions is more harmful than helpful during those initial drafting stages, so the writer relies solely on their creative powers.

 In a way, writing a novel is like experimenting on a cure for a disease. The scientist slaves day and night away in the laboratory, not knowing if her sacrifices will reap any rewards. And yet she trudges on, because the thrill and the glory are in the process with the end result being the cherry at the top. And that’s the thought that keeps me writing, especially when those clouds of doubt loom large.

I don’t know if this novel will ever see the light of day or if it will remain in a folder, but what I do know is I’m going to finish it. And when I do, I’ll write another and another until my knees are sore from crawling and every strong twig has been used—even if for my eyes only. Why? Because there’s magic and glory in the process.

On that note, have yourself a gloriously magical 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Taxi Driver

Photo: europe.autonews.com

“Let’s go to Adanna’s house,” I said, still in my red check shirt and maroon pinafore.

            “Are you going in your school uniform?” my best friend Nkiru asked, smearing Vaseline on harmattan chapped lips and ashen elbows.

            “Yes, let’s go.”

           Outside, with no protection from the harsh sun from above and the heat rising from the baked concrete below, we desperately flagged the first taxi in sight—a rickety car with a cracked windscreen, rusty chassis and a missing side mirror. After haggling over the fare, the driver had a change of mind and agreed to take us to our destination for free.

            “I like students so I dey help dem anytime I fit,” he said, flashing kola-stained teeth at us in the rear view mirror.

            We smiled brightly at him in response, silently praying he would not make any strange detours. It was ten days to Christmas, and scary tales of taxi drivers hypnotizing and abducting passengers for juju were told with alarming frequency. A simple answer to an innocuous question was all it took for the spell to work.  

            “Una don close school?”

            I shook my head. Nkiru nodded hers. The man didn’t seem to bother about which was the right answer, jumping to his next question.

            “Which class you dey?” He was looking at me.

I lifted four fingers, using the other to indicate Nkiru and I were both in primary four.

            “Eeeh.” He seemed genuinely pleased with our scholarly progress and encouraged us. “Try eh. Try.”

            The driver’s attention then turned to the radio. He mumbled a curse in a foreign language whenever a clear signal failed to materialize. Finally, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ boomed through the speakers behind our heads. Satisfied with the sound clarity, he turned his glance back to the rear view mirror.

“I go take another road,” he said sternly.

The smile was gone.