Today we have a creative non fiction piece by Ikeogu but we’re doing something special with it. We would like you to read it and give it a title in the comment section. Best title will be decided by Friday evening by our amazing guest judge, Abiodun Awodele aka Maskuraid. The prize is #1,000 free airtime (see free data money o).
Enough talk now, get reading and start naming!
I am sitting at the balcony of a house my heart has left, a place no longer home. I am looking at some really badly behaved children, and I am having a debate in my head.
I am asking myself if it is really all that important to have children, to leave behind a little slice of humanity to carry your name along. I am wondering, quietly, about the men we idolize and eulogize, whether they had children for the singularly selfish reason of wanting their names to live on after their demise.
I am thinking of Stephen King, who has written some of the finest stories this world has seen. I am wondering if, had he decided not to have children, the world would be starved of his genius. I think about Dean Koontz, whose writing is so beautiful it can bring you to tears, and I wonder whether he has children.
I think of Nna Anyi Achebe, the “father” of all African writers, and I wonder if he would have liked to have “Papa Bomboy” or “Papa Uche”, or whatever his children’s names are, slathered across the front of his book, rather than his given name of Chinua Achebe. I think of Wole Soyinka, whose works have been performed on every stage calling itself a stage, and I wonder if he thought his very existence was defined by the children he had.
I ask myself again, whether having children is not the ultimate act of selfishness, a vain attempt at defying death, a tiny, insignificant middle finger in the face of time. Time is that unrelenting taskmaster, rolling forward on his giant truck with clocks for wheels, obliterating all who stand in his path, a combine harvester in the field of eternity.
I am thinking of Igboland, and institutionalized patriarchy, and the subtle de-legitimization of the girl-child. Of how a man is not deemed fulfilled until he has a son. Of how a woman is not secure in her husband’s house until she has borne a son. Of how men go out to have affairs in the hope of having sons, when God in his infinite wisdom has deemed it fit to surround them with daughters – perhaps a recompense for the way they treated women in their youth.
I’m wondering what kind of mindset will make an Igbo man name his sons “Ahamefula” meaning “may my name not be lost”, “Ikemefuna”, which means “may my strength not be lost”, and “Amaechina”, meaning “may the path never close”. All for male children.
I am wondering whether I am a person at all, in its real sense, or if I am merely an extension of my father, an attempt to swim against the current, an echo of a defiant shout given voice by my ancestors. I wonder how much of my father is in me, when all that was me in my father was separated from Mr Nwachukwu as less than a teaspoon of genetic material, and cocooned inside my mother for nine months.
I wonder at the frugality, when it comes to child bearing, of the super wealthy and mega rich, who have so few children that they can count them on one hand and still catch a ball with fingers left over. Then I contrast it with the poor, who think that productivity in the bedroom and birthing bed is more important than productivity of the hands and accumulation of skill.
I am thinking of adopted children, how it feels to be unwanted, given up, what it means to be nobody’s little slice of humanity, nobody’s attempt to evade the grim reaper, or to go unmentioned in the history books.
I think of certain characters in the Christian bible, worthy of mention only because they begat someone, who in turn begat some other nonentity, and on and on, until the trail pauses at a person of some consequence.
I wonder if that is all I will be known for, the begetting of another child, another life to swell the teeming ranks of humanity, crowding and overcrowding the planet. I think about a busy life, about children badly behaved because parents, claiming to be working hard and building a life for the children, are forgetting to build the children. Then I wonder how much of them is in themselves, and how much is simply an extension of their parents. And after all the questions I have asked myself, myself shoots one back:
If I am but an extension of my father, what is my unborn child an extension of? Is he not already dehumanized even before his birth?
I think briefly about a title for the piece, and decide to leave it blank. My editors can decide.
Ikeogu Nwachukwu claims to write non-fiction and stage drama, and in between, he cooks, eats, and holds long, rambling conversations about the uncertainty of life. He lives and writes from Ogun State.