At the backyard, of which a part of it was not floored with cement-like the other portion of the compound ground, there were plantain trees—three of them, a hut where different size of clay pots are, used for easy burning leaves and every other item needed to be burnt before being grinded to a spiritual powder which, in Yoruba land, is known as ẹbu. There were also a mortar and a pestle made from wood and another from iron. They were used for pounding leaves, roots, and every other thing poundable so it could be transformed into another form of a spiritual powder. Many times, live kittens would be forcefully burnt to death in the clay pot or pounded to death with the iron mortar and pestle.

Her father was not just a Chief Imam, but also known as Alfa Jalabi—a clergy whom his followers spiritually seek assistance from whenever they are in serious dilemma. He was a soothsayer who would consult through the white sharp sand in a small wooden tray permanently placed on a table inside a room he regarded as his office and through a rosary of which he tied, at its head, a knot made of black, white, and red thread, the devilish djinn that would vaguely whisper to him what would happen in the future.

“Jameel!”, her father called the younger brother three times before he could respond. He was already awake, but he wouldn’t answer until he was called multiple times. Not that he had ear impairment, but it had become his habit not to answer the first call. When he heard his name being called for the third time with a cross voice, he realised that there was a fire on the mountain. He traced his father’s voice to the backyard and he quickly rushed there.

Paaah! This was not a sound of a round of applause, but the sound of the slap smacked on Jameel’s face when he got to the backyard. “Why didn’t you answer when I called you?”, the father asked. “I… I… I…”, Jameel began to stutter a response due to the slap that made him forget everything including his name. It was as if there were shining stars illuminating in front of him. “Would you stop stammering and go to the generator room and bring the keg of petrol? Nonsense!”

Ro’unaqah was angst-ridden and helpless. She heard the vehement conversation between her father and her brother. She sensed that her father would set all her khimar ablaze should she pack them to the backyard as she was instructed. She seeked her mother to beg her father to retract the mischievous decision. “Mummy! Daddy would burn all my khimar. Please, help me beg him. Please, mummy!”, she couldn’t hold her tears as she was pleading with her mother. “Arrr! What is all this báyìí nítorí Olohun! You too know very well that your father is not easy to be calmed whenever he is angry. I will help you beg him”, her mother assured her, “moreover, food is ready. Everyone should come and eat and postpone this hijab issue to another day”, she added.

Jameel had already brought the keg of petrol to the backyard. He didn’t know what was going on. “What would daddy use petrol for? After all, we use firewood and, at times, coals to burn ẹbu. Moreover, we don’t have to use petrol to start fire when we have kerosene”, Jameel was whispering to himself when his mother and his sister arrived.

“Where are the khimar I asked you to bring here?” the father strenuously asked Ro’unaqah who was hiding behind her mother. She couldn’t answer. She was crying and begging her father not to burn her khimar. When her father persisted, she was thinking of promising him that she would never wear khimar again, then her mother too started begging on her behalf. “Baba Ro’unaqah, please for Allah’s sake, forgive your daughter. She had promised me not to wear it again, please. Food is ready, please let’s go and eat now that the food is still hot. Please, ọkọ mi”, her mother pleaded, but was snubbed and cold-shouldered.

“I’m still the head of this house and whatever I say is the final. Jameel! Go to your sister’s room and pack all her khimar down here!”, her father ordered. Jameel couldn’t hesitate because he vividly remembered the fiery slap that seized his sight for a moment and replaced it with imaginative stars. He quickly went to the room and brought them.

“Abu Ro’unaqah, remember that this child bought all the khimar with her money. We don’t have to go to this extramile to stop her from wearing it. You have instructed her not to wear it again, that should be enough. She would never dare you to not follow your instructions. I don’t think setting her clothes ablaze is the solution. Please, mo fi anọbi Muhammad bẹ yín”, her mother continued begging but all to no avail.

Ro’unaqah too didn’t stop begging. She felt down slowly on her bended knees. She was sobbing her heart out while she was begging. Then she began to feel exasperated, and the fact that she couldn’t convince her father made her petulant. The irksome act and the sacrilegious aspersions of her father would want to make her curse the day she was born into the family, but she had learned from the lecture of Dr. Asif, an Islamic lecturer in the university, that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had warned against cursing a particular day that is seemingly bad. She tried to bury her sordid reprisal in her furrowed heart that bled ocean of tears. She couldn’t act rashly against her parents.

Jameel had brought all the khimar. The father instructed him to pour the petrol on it, then to set it ablaze while everyone was watching. Few minutes later, the sky was darkened by the smoke with Ro’unaqah’s heart, too, was darkened and cloudy with anguish and resentment.

To be continued….


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