What you are about to read till the last word I promise you is a story that took place in a very remote village deep down Busia county, in village called Mabunge telling of a real issue “BRIDE PRICE” . First say hello to my friends who are going to help me tell it.
*The Village Pastor*
We would have called him a different name but for maximum effect lets go with that. I am sure you know how they dress. An oversized, shiny brown suit, no, bright yellow. Surprisingly good leather shoes, a gift from a church member who resides in Nairobi but received a miracle from his prayers.
Have you noticed how everything in the village tastes better? I mean everything. It is real and genuine. Anyway, he is in this story because he presided over the bride price payment. He has never received a share of the bride price and now that Derrick has written to him requesting his presence at an urgent meeting he has no choice but to oblige.
Go on; say hi to Derrick the groom. The dissatisfied groom, the angry groom, or was Derrick just being Derrick, you will be the judge of that. He is 35. He owns a car, actually two cars. He bought the second one yesterday because he was travelling to the village and they can’t see him with the same car twice. He has been living with Grace for three months now as they plan their first wedding. Ooh, Grace is the bride, you will meet her later. In the three months, Derrick has complained that grace does not know how to cook, clean, comes home late and to make matters worse, she has not conceived. He feels he paid way too much a price for what he received.
I feel like this a good page to introduce Grace because she is sitting next to Derrick in their new car. To her, they are coming to the village for the weekend. She graduated last year with a Bachelor of Laws and is currently pursuing a master’s degree for like two months now. Derrick has not said anything to her out of the ordinary apart from his usual complains. In her defense she knew how to cook or so she thought. She was just too busy. In between her job in a male dominated law-firm and her evening classes it was impossible to meet the outrageous expectations of Derrick.
He expected her to be home by eight. That is too early even for a teenage girl who is in love. Besides, she used to stay out till midnight when they were dating. So why is he all of a sudden behaving like her father? Why did he even want his clothes washed by hand when they can afford a washing machine which he has blatantly refused to buy? So she takes his clothes to the drycleaners sometimes when she gets the chance.
Allow me say one more thing about her before I move to the next character. It is not that she did not want to get pregnant. She did. Not just right now. She only wants one child, a daughter preferably but she has not told Derrick. I personally doubt if she will considering she always hides her birth control pills in her big handbag full of pockets together with her painkillers for her cramps. Okay that is too much information for now. I don’t want to seem biased I want you to make an independent judgment.
As Derrick slows down to allow a half naked boy bully a few cows down the stream in the hot afternoon sun with a huge stick, a familiar face suddenly appears on his side mirror. It is Abili, the village madman. Let’s just call him Abili, it sounds cool. He opens the door for him. Ever since he ran mad like a year ago, after a confrontation with Derrick over Grace, maggots finally laid eggs in his big toes and ooh my was the hatch bountiful! Somehow, Derrick saw past all that and ushered him in the back of his new car.
Past the stream up the road, Derrick hears a motorbike from the left where the road disappears into. He is forced to slow down giving Abili the chance to open the door and jump out. I am tempted to kill him at this point using this motorbike I have imagined but he is already mad. I am not that mean. So let the motorbike catch his dirty, torn blue jeans on his left ass. Let it drag him down the road where he is just coming from in the car. Let him be dragged just long enough for Grace to notice and come out screaming to stop the rider. The bike stops but Abili rolls a few times before hitting the side of the road and he sleeps there dead-like for a few minutes then gets up, starts laughing hysterically and just as quickly dashes into the bush nearby and vanishes.
Let us leave that mad man alone. He is lucky I didn’t kill him. I want us to follow Derrick into the compound and find out what he wants. Of course on the road we are leaving a small crowd of villagers who had gathered to watch. The villagers have always whispered that Derrick had something to do with Abili’s madness. The coincidence was just so great that Abili should run mad after a confrontation with Derrick over a woman that Derrick soon after pays a bride price for. It goes without saying that Derrick does not know anything about this, I am just gossiping.
He finds the pastor, a few elders he had invited and a lot more he had not invited already waiting for him under a tree. I will try and breathe life into as many characters as my mind carried on that day.
“Baaba, nende Bakhotsa nende Bosi abanyalire khula ano inyanga ino. Bakhesia nende mirembe kya Omwami. Mirembe bosi.” After the greeting he starts to speak in a calm yet firm voice.
“With all due respect, I don’t know any other way to say this so I am just going to come out and say it. I know you are all waiting to hear what I have to say. My kinsmen, when I came here to ask for your daughters hand, did you not assure me that she knows how to cook, clean and even bragged how fertile she looked? Now, today I am not here because she fulfilled all you people said but because you lied to me. In fact, you people stole from me. Your daughter could not manage to properly accomplish a single thing you promised me. Instead all I ever hear about is equality in my house. If I wanted to live with a fellow man, I would have lived with my small brother, at least he can cook. To cut the long story short my elders, I have returned her back to you. I don’t want her again. I want my money back with profit. That’s all.”
Take a paint brush, deep it in a tin of wet embarrassment and carefully stroke half her face. Take another and soak it with anger mixed with guilt then paint the rest of her face. She felt being stripped naked one part at a time by his words and there is nothing she could do about it. Her mouth was shut closed by the confidence in which Derrick spoke. She had no choice but to cover her newly painted face with her hands.
“Calm down my son. It has not come to that. I am sure we can still resolve this.” The pastor tried to float reason in the air to no avail.
“How much money did you pay and how much do you want back?” Meet Agrippina the pastor’s wife. She always accompanies the pastor wherever he goes. She does not want to give the devil the chance to tempt her husband. The only alone time the pastor gets is when he retreats to the prayer mountain in Katoloni, Machakos. He goes there for fasting and prayer, sometimes even for forty days. At least that is what I heard him tell his flock one Sunday. I know this seems like an insensitive question to ask right now but she was curious to find out how much educated girls go for.
The congregation back in the village was not rich enough to afford the pastor a rich lifestyle. He had only brought fifty thousand Kenyan shillings to her parents promising to bring cows later. We both know he never went back. There was a time she had tried to talk him into going to preach in the city but he refused quoting his calling. The village is where the Lord sent him and therefore in the village shall he serve his master.
“I paid one million like three months ago. After that, I have secured a job for their daughter. I have paid tuition fee for her master’s degree. I have built her father this house and bought him that car. She eats my food that she does not know how to cook. I buy her everything she needs including those fake nails. Despite the fact that she is working, I never see a dime from her. If I had used that money to invest or just deposit in the bank, I would have made returns by now. So I have brought her back to you people so that I can collect my investment with whichever little interest it has made.”
Agrippina has always been taught that bride price is meant for appreciation to the girl’s parents for bringing up a wife for the man. She had not encountered a man appreciative enough to cough out such a huge sum before. Is that what education does for a woman? One million for a woman, who can’t cook, clean or bear children? For far much less and a promise which seemed impossible to pay by each passing day, she has tirelessly cooked, cleaned and pushed out five sons for the pastor and one daughter.
Even Chakula knows how to cook and clean. She has given birth to a fatherless daughter to prove she is fertile but still no man is willing to come forward and pay her bride price or even just promise to pay. She still believes up to now that no one notices when her door opens at ungodly hours of the night to pull in all sorts of figures. Don’t ask any further but I heard the pastor was once caught leaving her house in the morning. When asked, he said he was praying for her. She was ill. After all, our Lord accepts everybody in His kingdom.
I feel like this is a good time to introduce the guy who is supposed to pay back the bride price with interest together with a legion of faceless figures behind him whom I shall attempt to give life to if words allow me that gift. He has five wives. Grace belongs to his last wife Doli.
Mathehe spent all the money on his wives. Let’s just say he is not in a position to pay back the money at the moment. Even if he was, he would not allow it. The shame that that will bring him after all the bragging he did in the village about Grace and her husband, words are unwilling to reveal right now but we can assume that he does not want to face it.
At thirty, Grace was not getting any younger either, if rejected by Derrick; she has little chance to secure a marriage again. Not from the same village at least. Not to mention how rare it is to nail a guy like Derrick. Rich, ready to spend and all he expects in return is a submissive wife. That does not seem like such an impossible task the way Derrick is painting it with his careless words.
“Have you tried alternative means of communication? You know women are like children. Talking alone does very little to convince them sometimes. Does your bible not allow such kind of means pastor? My son have you tried it?” Mathehe added.
*The views expressed by my friends in this story are strictly their own and do not in any way reflect the feelings of the author. *
“You are right my friend. Were it not for the frequent use of my hands to guide my wife away from bad behavior, I would be dead by now. She thinks the cows I took to her father’s home I found at the road.” Meet Albert everybody. Albert is a true traditionalist. He chastens his wife whenever he feels it’s due. She acts like a child sometimes. He has to keep reminding her of her place. When you meet Nangira, the wife, she is the submissive type. She cooks and cleans but for some reason, even after giving birth, her husband still finds fault with her using his fists more than his words to correct her. If you ask her, Albert is the ideal husband. The marks that only magically appear on her face in the morning are always explained away by her soft voice.
“We have no money to give you back my son, please just control your wife. Are you not a man? What you are asking for has never been heard of in this village and my daughter will not be the first to go down this road of shame.”
I am sure you are wondering why Grace is not trying to say something in her defense. She is. She is just not allowed to voice her opinion out loud in the presence of men. Surprisingly, religion that was thought of as being unfair to women requiring them to live their lives in constant fear of their husbands, now allowed women like Agrippina an opportunity to accompany her husband to meetings such as this and voice her opinion in as much as it was unwelcomed.
If logic would not appeal to him, then perhaps religion would. So our pastor gives it a last shot. “My son, I know you fear the Lord. Consider Christ the groom of the church, the price he paid for her. Once a sacrifice has been made it cannot be undone. Soften your heart my son. Accept your wife back.”
Grace is crying. She has been crying ever since she got here. Now she is on her knees begging Derrick not to leave her behind. All the tears rolling on her fingers and into the nails have melted the glue holding them together. As she held onto his trouser begging him to stay, some of them fell off. “This is my last decision. If you people want me to stay with your daughter then this is what you are going to do; Contact my kinsmen declaring your interest to have me take back your daughter and set a date for you to come and pay my dowry. You have one week.”