Mmapule hated going to the hospital. The place gave her such discomfort, however this was the only way she could see her mother. She became involuntarily admitted there, following an unforeseen nervous breakdown. Mmapule tried finding out what drove her to this point, but her questions remained unanswered. She was in the visiting room, awaiting the nurses to usher her mother from her room. She stood by the window, looking outside and was saddened by the sight right before her eyes.
Despite numerous efforts, South Africa, especially Cape Town did not endure the water crisis of 2017. Once nicknamed the mini Europe of the country, 27 years later, the city had become an area concealed with immense debris. The once majestic, breath-taking mountains were now mere hills covered in sand. The crystal clear blue seas that used to engulf the city succumbed to the drought and turned into dark, mucky lakes.
Mmapule was still wallowing in melancholy, when her mother tapped her on the shoulder from behind.
“Happy belated birthday,” she said to her.
“Oh, Mama, you startled me. Thank you,” she said giving her a warm hug.
“It’s a pity that they did not allow you to join us last weekend,” she said smiling feebly.
“Don’t worry, I am here now. If I carry on taking my medication diligently, I’ll be out in no time,” she said rubbing her gently on the shoulder.
Mmapule put on a brave face, so as not to dwell on the matter any longer. She began telling her mother about the party.
“Dad baked a cake, or least tried to. We ended up giving it to the dog. It really was so tragic, that the dog sniffed it and just ran off,” she said chuckling.
“Your father can barely fry an egg! What led him to believe he could bake entire cake?” Sniggered her mother, while shaking her head.
“I guess, it is the thought that counts. Mama, there is something I need to share with you,” said Mmapule now holding her mother’s hand delicately.
“Are you having nightmares again?” Asked her mother worried.
“Yes, but there’s more to it now. Maybe it’s just a hallucination, but I saw her – the old woman in my dreams. She was there at the party; standing behind the guests,” she said quivering.
Mmapule had been having these reoccurring dreams of an old woman, that spoke to her in a foreign language. Initially, she believed it was her way of dealing with the absence of her mother. She thought the dreams were a subconscious manifestation of the longing she had. Her mother was always interested in listening to her dreams and today she was visibly astonished by these new developments.
She grabbed her. She held her tightly against her bosom, before whispering softly in her ear.
“Mmapule, listen to me very carefully. I knew this day would come, eventually. The old woman in the dreams is your grandmother; my mother. The reason you never understand a word she says is because she speaks to you in our ancient, tribal language,” she said, still holding her firmly.
“Mama, I am sorry, but this is all peculiar to me,” said Mmapule perplexed.
“Hush child and listen. You come from a long line of Rain Queens – that is why I named you Mmapule – one who brings rain. On my 18th birthday, I was supposed to reign as the next Rain Queen, but I was unsuccessful,” she said softly.
Mmapule slowly pulled away from her. Although still very confused by all of this, she could tell her mother was unwavering in her conviction. She just stood there, listened without uttering a single word.
“You are the chosen one to be my successor. This is your gift; your destiny and you need to embrace it. You may be our only hope for eradicating this devastation,” her mother said with her eyes bulging out.
Could all of this be true? Should she believe her mother, in spite of her questionable mental condition? She contemplated it all until she got back home, since it was too much to digest all at once.
Later that evening, she was still processing it. She sat at the dinner table across her father in deep silence. She replayed the entire conversation that she had with her mother, and couldn’t let it go.
“You have barely touched your food. Is everything alright? Did your mother have another relapse?” Asker her father all concerned.
“No, she did not, but she shared something with me and I need to ask you. Am I this legendary Rain Queen?” She asked, looking at her father.
Her father dropped his cutlery on the table. It was as if, he was seeing a poltergeist. Judging from his reaction, it became clear to her, that perhaps her mother was not deluded after all.
“All this Rain Queen absurdity is the same reason why your mother ended up in hospital,” he said shaking his head.
“So, that’s also my fate? I am going to lose my mind and end up in the same ward with Mama? All because I am supposedly the next Rain Queen? Dad, please help me understand,” she pleaded with her father.
“That is your problem – you are stubborn like your mother. Fine, if it’s the truth you seek, then so be it,” he said infuriated.
Mmapule was surprised by her father’s sudden rage. Nevertheless, she sat there attentively but was very anxious to finally put all the pieces together.
“As a last resort to save the country from the water predicament, our tribe was approached by the then president to do the sacred Rain Dance. Your mother was the reigning Rain Queen at the time and she was more than determined to make our people proud. When the time came, she performed the Rain Dance, but not a single drop of rain came,” her father paused for a moment before carrying with the story.
“The president was so upset since he had such high expectations. Out of anger, he then changed the constitution and banned any form of traditional practise. Our tribe was tormented by other tribes and we were blamed for this new act,” said her father with sorrow in his voice, while Mmapule carried on listening to him.
“Me and your mother were then shunned by our tribe. We were kicked out of the royal compound like stray dogs, and moved here to Cape Town. Your mother carried the guilt throughout the years until she had a breakdown,” said her father upset.
“But Dad, maybe things will be different this time around. I just need to decipher what the old woman in the dreams. . .” said Mmapule, but was abruptly interrupted by her father.
“I’ve already lost a wife and I have no intentions of losing a daughter as well. This discussion is over and you must forget about this nonsense,” he said and continued eating.
Mmapule tossed and turned the entire night. The contrasting views from her parents still echoed in her ears and kept her awake. She got up on sat on the bed, since she couldn’t get any sleep. In the pitch black darkness, she saw a faint figure standing by the window. Believing it was her imagination, she swiftly switched on her side lamp, but the figure remained standing. It was the old woman from her dreams.
The old woman began beckoning at her again, muttering something she couldn’t comprehend. Although she had some reservations, Mmapule found the courage to get out of bed and walk towards her. She looked in the direction where the woman was pointing; it was a clear, open field and she knew what she was being instructed to do.
She hastily got out of the house and ran to the field. The closer she got to it, she could feel strong sensations that had taken over her body. She felt a tingle from her toes that surged all the way to her head. Suddenly, her hips were swaying from side-to-side, as she moved to the beat of the drums that she couldn’t see. She heard the joyous chanting and clapping from women she couldn’t see. She closed her eyes and let go of all inhibitions. She lifted her hands high up in the sky and started to perform the sacred rain dance.
She was still in trance, when she was disturbed by something wet landing on her forehead. She felt more wetness, now trickling down to the rest of her body. She slowly opened her eyes and she was in sheer astonishment. It had not rained in over 20 years, but there she was, absolutely drenched at the centre of it all.
The rest of the country and the world called it a miracle; a blessing from above. However, it was on that evening that Mmapule restored the dignity of her people. The legacy of the Rain Queen lived on.