Memoir: Once Upon An Owambe Party


It would be tongue-in-cheek to tell you that the prospect of meeting my friend again was the only thing that filled me with ecstasy. It’s been long since I last tasted party rice, and this friend of mine had invited me to one. I had envisaged a scenario where I’d just sit and empty plates of food while the rest go about the usual hustling and bustling. But providence took me from the very seat where the plates were supposed to go down to somewhere at the back of the tent where I was sentenced to serve drinks. You might as well call it the outskirt. Well, it wasn’t an utterly bad idea given that I was just a step away from the place where all the food came from.

It wasn’t long before people started coming to ask for drinks to complement the plates of rice they had just emptied or received. At that time, it dawned on me that I wasn’t on the outskirt; rather I was in the village square where the real event took place. By the way, the art of getting food instantly, without embarrassment, in parties is a story for another time.
While at it my eyes fell rather by accident than design on a woman begging to be served. Her voice was small and tremulous, but piercing. And every now and then one of the servers would yell at her and she would recede to one of the poles that served as support for the tent. From what I can tell, she wasn’t a beggar. And although she was in the same attire, she couldn’t ask for food like the others who considered it their birth right. I looked into her eyes - they were hollow, deep with the pains of a lost world. The child beside her had the same set of eyes, pregnant with untold tales.

A moment later, one of the women serving the food pushed the task of getting water to wash the plates to the others and this woman volunteered, with strange eagerness. I watched as she disappeared into the crowd and in no time she was back. At that moment one of the servers asked her the kind of food she wanted. Clearly, the old woman knew that fetching water was the only way she could get their attention.

It was after they served her that I realized she came with two more kids. They were in some kind of clothes that had since lost their trends to history: high shoulder pads and bulgy from waist down. They looked hungry, but the smell of food seemed to have awakened their dying sprite.

More people came for drinks and I lost concentration. When I looked in her direction again she was smiling. At who? I didn’t see. But it was as though she was crying. I have never seen a smile so sore in my entire life.

Somewhere along the line I lost sight of her again. The next time I saw her was at my friend’s place, after the party. It didn’t seem like she lived there and she and her kids looked different this time. They were in some worn out casual wears and a huge pile of unwashed plates lay before them. 

PS If you ever come across people like this, find it within you to show mercy. Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog and if you have one or two comments to drop, it would be most welcome.


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