Nkasiobi was the pride of her parents; when she was born, a prophet had told them that she would marry a prince, but the parents had not taken those words seriously. However, as Nkasiobi fondly called Nkasi by everyone, grew, her parents began to see that perhaps the words of the prophet would come true.
Nkasi was beautiful, with skin as dark and luminous as polished ivory. Her natural hair was long and black like the hair of the Gypsies that often frequented the village to trade. She had long legs, with trimmed calves, that upheld well rounded hips and a slim defined waist. Her breasts were round and plump, but they were not sagged, they pointed upward to the sky, like they were always in supplication.
But people didn’t just fall in love with Nkasi because of her beauty; it was her smile that did something to the heart of people. One could never tell, when Nkasi was sad or happy, because she always wore a dazzling smile, and her laughter was lilt, like music to the ears.
Nkasi’s mother: “Nkasiobi, chai, my daughter, you are beautiful, and before long, all the princes in the world will come to Umuidim, to ask for your hand in marriage”
Nkasi: “Hmmn mother, I know I am beautiful, but I am not banking on my beauty oh. I want to be something other than a beautiful girl; I want to be great mama”
Nkasi’s mother: “What are they filling your head with in school. Look here, when you are done with your secondary school, you will get married and give me beautiful grandchildren. Leave school to those who have not been blessed with beauty” she retorted. Mother and daughter heard a cough and turned to see Nkasi’s father, he had been listening to their conversation.
Nkasi’s father: “Nkasi my daughter, do not pay mind to your mother, she doesn’t know anything beyond being a wife and raising children. You are a special child and destined for great things. You are greater than Umuidim, you will go farther than where your father trod” he said.
Nkasi: “Thank you papa” she said with a smile. It was no wonder that, her father was her favorite parent because, her father understood the restlessness of her spirit, but her mother, who had never been outside Umuidim, only knew one purpose for a woman, which is to marry and bear children.
Nkasi’s mother: “My husband, don’t mislead our daughter, you know what is at stake. See Dede’s daughter, after all her education, she is still without a husband because of what we are. If God has blessed our daughter with extreme beauty, so as to cover the flaw of her heritage, you shouldn’t deceive her that education is more important” she said and left the room, stomping her feet on the ground like a teenager when throwing a tantrum.
Nkasi took the advice of her father and became the best she could be, she read voraciously, even books that were beyond her age and class. As a result, she became the brightest secondary school student in Umuidim. When she wrote the WASSCE, she cleared all the subjects with distinctions, the best result in the whole of Nigeria. The state governor was proud, that the WASSCE best student was from his state, so he gave Nkasi a scholarship to study in any University of her choice.
Nkasi had always wanted to go to Lagos; her father who used to live in Lagos with his parents before they died and he lost everything and came back to Umuidim, always had tales about that beautiful city with its dazzling lights, and the yellow and black stripped buses. So, she wasted no time in filling University of Lagos as her first choice in the JAMB form purchased by Umuidim chief.
As expected, Nkasi passed her JAMB exam with flying colors and before the end of September, the postman brought a letter with her name on it. She had secured an admission into UniLag, to study Medicine.
Though her mother liked all the praise that was coming to her daughter, she was not happy with the fact that her daughter had to go far away to school. She did not even like that her daughter would be going to school. She had asked from Dede’s daughter about the course Nkasi was going to study, and she had been told that it would take a minimum of 7 years for Nkasi to be a doctor.
The villagers were happy that a daughter of theirs was the Nation’s best student, but for some reason unknown to Nkasi, she was not celebrated. Few people came to say congratulations to her parents, even the village chief came, but they didn’t stay long. Also, Nkasi caught the sad look in her father’s eyes as he watched the visitors come and go. She wanted to ask him, but she knew that her father would tell her that it didn’t concern her. Nkasi wondered when her parents would be able to talk to her like an adult, rather than a child. But she didn’t allow that dampen her spirit, neither did she allow the fact that her two best friends stopped talking to her since she was announced the country’s best student and awarded a scholarship.
Nkasi smiled as she remembered the Award ceremony, it was the first time she had seen her parents go to a gathering in the village. But she was quick to notice that they brought their own food, and did not eat of the food that the villagers ate. Nevertheless, Nkasi was not bothered by that, how could she? When everyone looked at her with admiration, she was the first person in the village to achieve such feat. The governor of the state had come down to Umuidim because of her.
Nkasi’s mother however, had mixed feelings about her daughter’s decision to further her education. She wondered what her daughter needed education for, when she would end up in a man’s house, bear his children and take care of the home. The thing that worried her most, was the amount of years her daughter would spend studying the course she had chosen. Would she end up like Dede’s daughter, who went to school but couldn’t find a husband, and came back to the village, hopeless?
Nkasi’s mother: “Nkasi, you will spend 7 years schooling while your mates are giving their mothers, grandchildren?”
Nkasi’s father: “Has anyone come for your daughter’s hand in marriage? Have you forgotten who we are? The only chance Nkasi has is to go outside Umuidim where the curse will not affect her” he replied.
Nkasi: “Papa, what are you talking about, what curse?” she asked
Nkasi’s father: “Never mind my daughter, it doesn’t concern you” he said and patted her back.
Nkasi’s mother: “Since you are bent on going to school in a far place, please my daughter, be wise and don’t allow any man steal from you, what he has not been given”
Nkasi: “I am going to school to study and nothing else, mama”
Nkasi’s father: “We are not saying, you shouldn’t have a life beyond your studies, but my child be wise in all you do. I will have to get a phone and call you from time to time” he said. He was happy that his only child was bringing him so much praises. Didn’t they say, nothing good could come out of a cursed people? Well, my daughter has proven them wrong. He thought within him, with a smile evident on his face.
Nkasi: “I have heard all you said and I will not bring you shame” she said as her parents blessed her, and gave her all the things they wanted to give her, for her sojourn in the West.
Early the next day, Nkasi set out for the journey to Lagos, she felt both excitement and fear. She was going out of Umuidim to pursue her dreams, but she was going alone. Her parents had always been there to shield her all her life, but for the first time, she was totally alone. The journey was tiresome, she sat in the bus for hours, her supple butt were hurting, and the joints in her legs were knotted together, but she did not complain, determined to be a big girl.
When they got to Benin, the driver parked in front of a row of shops that were partially obscured by long trucks; some sold food, some snacks and other things that travelers would munch on their journey. The place was dusty, with the sellers having their hairs painted with red dust.
Nkasi: “Please, is this Lagos?” she asked, disappointment on her face because, what she was seeing, was nowhere near the picture of Lagos her father painted, and she knew her father could not lie to her. The passengers in the bus burst into laughter and she heard some call her ‘JJC’, meaning Johnny just come. It was the driver who explained to her that this was not Lagos, but Benin, where they would rest briefly and eat before they continued on their journey.
After they had stretched their bodies and eaten, they continued their journey. Nkasi didn’t know whether to be happy that where they stopped was not Lagos, or to be sad, because, she wanted the journey to be over already. When they finally reached Lagos, and passengers began to alight, she didn’t ask again, for fear of being laughed at. She sat tight inside the bus.
Driver: “We don reach Lagos oh, here na Ojota oh” he said. Nkasi alighted from the bus, and stood inside the filling station, with wide confused eyes.
Question: What are your thoughts about Nkasi, will she achieve her dreams or will her heritage be a stumbling block?
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