Tabu : Part 1

“Tabu! Tabu! Wake up!” Shouted Nasike as he tried to shake his brother out of his sleep. Tabu, who was tucked into a sleeping bag on the floor of their tiny bedroom, still had sleep pooling over his eyelids. In an attempt to ignore his brother and turn away, Tabu replied in agitation. “What is the matter, can’t you see am sleeping? What happened to courtesy and respect these days?”

Ignoring his brother’s obvious irritation, Nasike gave out a sarcastic laugh. “See who is talking of respect. If you have any sense of decency you will wake up right now and stop our mother from making a fool out of herself.”

Just as Tabu was about to give a sly reply to his brother’s remarks, the bedroom door flung open, suddenly letting in a gush of bright light into the cramped, dim and cave-like room. It was their mother.

“My son, the wonderful doctor, wake up my darling, everyone is waiting for you,” she said, gazing lovingly at Tabu, who was now struggling to sit upright, attempting to keep his eyes wide open. The excitement in her face could not be hidden under the huge layer of make up she had on that day. You could tell it was something she didn’t do that often. She was dressed in a faded , worn-out but elegant blue African kitenge, a head band to go with the outfit, matching shoes and a fan.

Although Nasike was tempted to say how ridiculous he thought the situation was, he gave his mother a smile and said, “Ma, don’t worry, I will get your beloved son ready. Just go and continue preparing.” And with that, she turned and left. By this time, murmurs of people talking and laughing outside their house could be heard.

Tabu was now wide awake. “What is she talking about? Who is waiting for me?” He asked, looking confused.

“I told you, you need to stop smoking too much weed. That thing is not good for you.” Nasike said, making sure the door was properly shut.”The prodigal and beloved son, the supposed doctor from Europe,” he continued as he headed to the small sqaure-shaped window in an attempt to open it. “This is your welcoming party. The whole village has been summoned to come. Heh, even Aunty Lucy shaved her beard to come today.” Continued Nasike, struggling not to laugh.

Tabu also wanted to laugh but a hollow feeling in his gut convinced him otherwise.

“You should hear how she was talking about you at …”

Before Nasike could finish his sentence, the door flung open again, forcing him to keep quiet. It was their younger sister, Sara.

“Don’t you people know how to knock anymore? Can’t anyone have some decent sleep these days?” Said an angry Tabu, who had now gotten out of his sleeping bag and was trying to move a pile of clothes from a stool so that he could sit on it.

Startled by his brother’s anger, Sara stepped back and said, “sorry Tabu, I didn’t mean to just bulge in. I just wanted to tell you that there is group of women from the nearby village, who have brought a young boy with them. The the boy is seriously sick, and mum promised them that you would have look at him, if they came to your welcoming party. I was told to call you.” With this, she left and closed the door behind her.

Suddenly it dawned on Tabu. This was real. He wasn’t dreaming this. A whole village had gathered to celebrate him.

“Oh my God this is really happening!” He exclaimed. He started shaking, his palms now sweaty and his mouth dry.  Tabu felt panic begin like a cluster of spark plugs in his abdomen. Tension grew in his face and limbs. His mind tried to play out how that day would end. His breathing became more rapid and shallow. 

Then, as if to open a wound Tabu would rather have heavily bound, Nasike sat on the floor next to his anxious brother and said the most unwanted words at that moment.

“So,” he paused, taking a deep breath. “When are you finally going to tell them that your coming back home from Europe was not planned. When will tell everyone that you were actually deported and that you did not go to any medical school? You disappeared abroad for eight years, doing God knows what! We barely heard from you. Medical school, you said. ….”

“Hold it right there,” said Tabu standing up. “I didn’t hear you complaining the couple of times you asked for money, which I sent you. When you were asking me for money, did you care what I was doing or how I got the money? So, don’t ride your high horse with me as if you have never made mistakes in life. Who are you to judge me?”

Nasike now stood up to face his brother. “Look, this is taking us nowhere. I am the one you called for a favor. I am the one who took a bus all the way to the city to receive you from the authorities. I did what you asked, and I have kept my mouth shut.  I even went on with your lie that you had come back because you had finished your studies in medicine. Puuuh..couldnt you have chosen a better lie to tell…” Nasike paused for breathe. “Couldnt you have said that you are an artist, a businessman or something close to something you can do? You just had to be a doctor!” Nasike, now trembling with anger, moved away from his brother to face the window.

“Look, It has been six weeks since you came. I have had to watch you fool everyone. I have had to watch people worship you as if you have brought them manna from heaven. Nobody even bothers to ask for proof. Your word has suddenly turned to gold. And me? The person who has been here with them through the hardships, the poverty, I am forgotten and pushed into the background. Its like i dont exist anymore.”

Tabu wanted to reply, but instead took a seat again on his stool. His head was now throbbing with a headache. As if someone was hitting it with a hammer. He knew his brother was right.

“Look around you Tabu!  This is real. And you have brought me into it. The rest of our family is out there, making a fool out of themselves. The whole village as come to celebrate Tabu, the fake doctor!”

An awkward silence ensued.  It continued for what seemed like forever. Then, footsteps could be heard coming towards their bedroom door.

The footsteps stopped and a loud knock followed. They both knew who it was. The only person, who had the decency to knock on the door that morning, was the person that Tabu feared the most.

“Tabu, wear the Kaftan I bought you yesterday and get yourself out here. I cant wait to show you off to the elders. You have brought great hope to our remote village. How long do you still need to get out here?” said a voice so intimidating, but yet so proud. It was their father.

Even though he hadn’t gotten into the room, both boys stood upright with respect. Nasike turned to Tabu, as if to signal him to say something.

But, how could he? How could he tell the man he had worshipped since he was born that he was nothing they thought he was.  A man he respected so much. A man whose approval meant everything to him. How could he tell this man he loved so much that he didn’t follow the plan set eight years ago? That he had never stepped inside a classroom at any university, despite acquiring a student visa. The man who eight years ago, sold all his land just to buy him a plane ticket. The man who had so much hopes and dreams for him. How would he start explaining the big trouble he had gotten into, therefore leading to his deportation? How could he, at this moment, admit to being nothing but a fraud?

He started to think of how this would impact on his mother, his sister, and the rest of the people who had banked on his success.

Tabu swallowed hard, he shook with fear. He knew that whatever he did or said next, will have a huge impact on him forever….

Cover image:


Philly Yambo Makora


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