The following day, after a long night of sweet, blissful dreaming, I woke up to find the sun more colourful, and when the birds chirped, I felt I could comprehend their language. Every object I touched had some strange voluminous texture, and the air smelt and tasted like deliciously prepared food.
I think you can understand the sheer excitement of fresh young love, my daughter, since you’re in the process of getting married to the love of your life.
Back to that day. We had agreed to meet each other under the baobab tree, where we first met, your mother and me.
“And then, ‘Kamogelo. How come you’re up this early?’” my mother said to me, while she prepared the morning porridge for the family. “Slept too early perhaps? Because you’re definitely not an early morning person.”
“No Ma, I just feel a new lease on life. I’m somehow inspired. It’s been a while since I felt this way,” I replied, with a glittering smile, thinking of how eager I was to see Lesedi.
For the first half of the day, I herded the hungry cattle, and watched over them until they were tired. Later I found some shade to rest in, and thought carefully of what I’d say to Lesedi to win her over.
As dusk fell, she appeared from the far distance – a thin, brown, stick figure, that grew more beautifully plump with each step, as she came closer into sight.
“While the sun is eaten up by the day, a star with dimples twinkles and beams ever so excitedly, and those with wishes kneel and pray … By the gods. A chandelier!” I sang this song of praise as she came closer, and all the nerves that had earlier subdued me, quickly disintegrated.
“How are you Kamogelo? Ha ha! Hope you had a good day, silly.” Lesedi spoke shyly, with her gaze turned to the ground, and her legs brushing the heads of the tall grass to-and-fro as she walked.
“It just became even more joyful. Thanks for asking,” I responded jovially, as our eyes locked.
And before we knew it, our lips intertwined in passion. (Mind you, it was only the second time in my life kissing.)
The following three weeks we spent intensely in each other’s space. We’d go out shopping, on dates, and promised to stick together to someday see the world and beyond. We became as inseparable as a doctor and his stethoscope.
And we knew that we wanted to spend eternity together. So, we promised to introduce each other to our respective families.
Back then, as you know, the rules were strict. As a man you couldn’t just show face alone, to the girl’s family, without your elders tagging along with you.
And having met my parents first, upon their delight and pure adoration of your mother, it was my time to go ask the Mampuru family for their daughter’s hand in marriage.
It was to happen in the afternoon. My two uncles, Kwena and Tefo, were set to accompany me, so they arrived in the morning for preparations. The spirits were high, and the joy deafening.
“The man of the moment, ladies and gentleman!” my comical uncle Tefo said, with his squeaking voice, while brushing drops of his drink from both corners of his mouth.
Uncle Kwena chimed in, hoisting his scotch whiskey to the air, with his brute muscles exposed beneath the floral shirt, “Come sit among us men!”.
“Come sit and sip, you lanky giraffe. And tell us more about the girl you’re marrying. I hear she’s a real looker, with ‘twins’ that could feed four generations in sequence … lucky bastard!” Uncle Tefo said playfully, and everyone laughed.
“He takes after me, of course,” Uncle Kwena exclaimed, beating his chest ever so confidently.
“Hayi, stop filling my boy with nonsense you two,” my mother retorted from the kitchen, where she was preparing a meal for us to eat before we headed out.
All the while, my father stood parallel to where I was sitting, intensely brooding, and looking at me, with a surprising air of pride, buried underneath a withheld smile. From the looks of it, Lesedi had truly won his stubbornly hardened heart over. During the entire morning ruckus, the only words he’d stammer were, “She’s indeed a good girl.”
When the sun was at its highest peak, we squeezed ourselves into Uncle Kwena’s Toyota Corolla: me, my father, uncle Tefo, and an acclaimed village praise poet. Affixed at the back was the trailer, which held two cows that symbolized unity These we were going to sacrifice to the Mampuru family, to initiate the lobola talks.
After a meagre 20 minutes’ northwards within Sekhukhuneland, we arrived at the Mampurus. I had never been there before myself, and Lesedi only wrote us the house number and directions.
Behold, before us was a very, very big, modern house, resting with a backdrop of huge arable land. And at close sight, people who seemed like servants flitted about, attending to their errands.
While I was courting Lesedi, one of my old friends, Molefi, had playfully claimed that Lesedi was of royal blood, and I was punching above my weight. Which, of course, I assumed was a speech driven by jealousy. But daughter of mine, I was deeply wrong.
“Skies of the Marota, Basotho, Bakone, open up and shower us further in glory …” The praise poet began, while the rest of us were staggered and confused.
He grimaced uneasily. “By the gods your son is either truly lucky or looking for trouble. This is one of the late Kgosi Sekwati Mampuru’s descendent households. This is royalty. We’re nothing but the servants of the name. Luckily, I have stature and notoriety across these northern hinterlands. Who knows, we might be given the time of day to even present the gifts to the patriarch, and present our proposal,” the old man said and smiled wryly at me.
I remained in the car, and the elders drew closer to the gate to command some attention. A man in blue overalls came to talk to them.
The conversation took almost half-an-hour and by the look of things, it was not going in our favour. Suddenly, my father stormed off in annoyance, and came to the car, thudding the door and sitting down in the front seat, cursing.
“This is not the medieval times, you know. Can you believe the bastards want 30 cows to even begin the talks? Thirty damn cows!” he said furiously, banging his fist against the dashboard. “Maybe you’ll have to find someone else, son. I know people from well-off families. You should’ve seen the father, looking at us irritably from a distance, without even engaging us.”
Just then, we saw our praise poet being allowed to enter the premises to speak on our behalf.
Soon after, head turned down to his heavy feet, the poet walked out of the Mampuru compound. We all picked up the air of disappointment in him, and all came to the same conclusion.
“Son, it’s as I said. We must rejoice we were even borrowed an ear by Chief Uhuru Mampuru. For having dared to step into his premises, we’ve been penalized both of the cows. And I must sadly say, he wholly disagrees to your proposal. He objects, saying his only daughter will not be wedded to a mere herd boy with no history of being able to provide for his family.”
The moody silence in the car, after we’d given up the cows, and not been given the slightest audience, was deafening. We looked at the series of trees, shrubs, and far-way mountains; at our shoes; at the dashboard; but never into each other’s eyes. ‘Embarrassed’ didn’t even begin to describe how we felt.
Tell us: Do you agree with Uhuru Mampuru’s point of view? Or should love be the only thing to consider?