The One Eyed Woman
When Akinyi was born 30 years ago, no one doubted that strange happenings would befall her. As her mother Nyang’isa screamed in pain inside the traditional birth attendant’s mud hut, the only one- eyed woman with one buttock and one breast in the village had walked into the compound. She was a prophet and nobody ever mentioned her name. She was called Sangla.
The sudden heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lighting did not augur well for Amilo. It was as if it was a fait accompli. Nobody knew exactly where Sangla had come from but she was old as the village itself yet kept a straight posture like a tall tree walking through the forest. Curious children who had tried to follow her into the forest where she lived had never come back and no one dared ask her.
One little girl who had escaped reported that Sangla had turned into a tree and then into a snake and then into a hyena and finally into a flowing river. The girl never lived after that. Everyone understood her death. She had revealed the secret of the oracle. Yet another girl who had gone to the forest to fetch firewood had followed Sangla deep into the forest. She surfaced a week later looking frail and confused. She did not die but she became dumb. She never talked again but could often be seen chewing leaves around the forest.
So when Akinyi was born Sangla immediately laughed in a hoarse mirthless voice and spat through a gap in her front teeth as soon as the cry of a baby filled the air. “A baby girl,” she professied as she walked back and forth, forward and backwards in the middle of the compound. “Nyang’isa has delivered a wildcat. Except she is not one of us. This wildcat will not get a husband. I see her married to the whiteman’s books, indeed the books shall be her husband!” Most of the time, the villagers tended to avoid Sangla because her predictions always came true. And when Nyang’isa heard the prophetic words, she wept as if her heart would break. Seasons came and went and it was as if the matter had been forgotten when the missionaries arrived in Amilo. Mr and Mrs John Brown arrived from England one dry morning with good news. The good news was that all children were equal before the Lord and before the law and that boys and girls must be given equal opportunity and education.
The villagers laughed at these foolish people whose gods did not know the difference between a boy and a girl. “Since the world began,” one elder ridiculed them, ” a boy has always been superior to a girl.” “If a boy and a girl are equal, then why is his wife wearing a skirt yet he is wearing trousers!” Mzee Modi queried. Rev Brown calmly listened to his hosts as he quietly drank a calabash of brown sour milk he had been offered by Akinyi’s mother. Akinyi’s father sat solemnly and did not participate in the ongoing conversation. Sangla’s prophesy rang in his memory and he had this bad feeling that the time had come.
After studing his audience, Rev. Brown slowly got up and said, “the ways of heaven are mysterious and you may never understand them until it is revealed to you through the spirit.” He raised his voice as if speaking to some spirit up in the sky far beyond the clouds. “Father, I have been received in this home with open arms. I see a little girl Oh Lord who needs to go to School. Lord soften the heart of the parents so that they may release this servant of yours into your service.Lord, thaw the hardened hearts of these unbelievers so that they too may send their children to join Sunday. Amen.”
The little servant that Rev. Brown prayed about was none other than Five-year-old Akinyi. As the prayer took place, Akinyi’s mother relived the same labour pains she had felt five years back. She too like her husband felt the time had come. But as a loving poissessive mother who wanted the best for her child, she was reluctant. She had expected it to come but not in this way and not so soon. But who was she a mere mortal to ignore the oracles? How could one reject the words of a one-eyed woman who often communicated with the gods.
“Come to Sunday School, Come to Sunday School. Every Sunday morning come to Sunday School. Come to Sunday School come to Sunday School, every Sunday morning come to Sunday School.” Akinyi’s long jurney into the future had began, Although her mother did not understand the white man’s ways, deep in her heart there was hope. She truly hoped that this new religion would save her daughter and that this god whom Rev. Brown talked to directly in the sky would look with favour upon her only daughter and save her from the curse of the forest.
“Do not give away your child to the white man, everyone had pleaded with her,” but she kept her secret in her heart. The love of a mother, greater than any other on earth. When Sangla heard that Akinyi would join the missionaries she gave her a mirror. “My daughter, always look at this mirror every morning and our gods will protect you. Hide it in the wall and do not tell anyone about it, not your mother nor Mrs Brown. The mirror, this had been Akinyi’s secret for the past 30 years until the day her brother Otuoma broke it.
“I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men, I will make you fishers of men if you follow me. If you follow me. If you follow me. I will make you fishers of men if you follow me.”Akinyi would sing the Sunday School songs to her mother. She did not understand the language but the hymns, to her sounded sweet and full of hope. One of these days, she would ask Mrs Brown to tell her what the songs really meant.