By Patrick Sikana
Do you know the place called Kalahari in Lusaka? It’s somewhere near the ERB offices, off that road that joins Alick Nkhata at Football House. They sell goat meat at Kalahari. Good goat meat. There’s this guy called Moze. I can give you his number if you want. Call him and make your order. Tell him, “I will be there in an hour,” so that you don’t have to wait when you get there. He roasts it with onions. It’s neither wet nor dry. It’s just right. You will feel the pepper at the tip of your tongue and the spices tickling the back of your nose. It comes with fresh chibwabwa and nshima. Try it. You will tell me. In fact, you will pay me.
I like goat meat. Roasted, fried or boiled – I just love it! So the last time I was in Lusaka, I went to Kalahari for some. It was a Sunday afternoon. On my way back I drove down along Mosi-oa-tunya road from the Woodlands roundabout, towards Nyumba Yanga Stadium. At the junction with Chilimbulu road a Tata truck had rammed into a Prado. So a snake of traffic had started forming as I approached, and I got jammed just after passing Lake road to my left. For the next 30 minutes, nothing moved.
Now, across the road, on my right, was a large man in his late 40’s or early 50s. He was clearly overweight and short. He was wearing sandals. From the size of his feet, I knew he was Lozi. They need wide feet for walking on the sand. He was clutching at a black plastic bag which looked like it contained some hopani meat. I don’t understand Lozis. Between goat meat and meat from an alligator, they will choose alligator meat, any day. Seriously?
Anyway, so where was I? I was telling you about this large man across the road. The Lozi man. He was with this small, lovely girl about 3 years old, dressed in those wonderful flowered frocks that kids love and some pink shoes with what looked like bells on them. I bet those shoes made sounds when she walked. I bet when she left the house she was walking while looking at her shoes. She had these chubby cheeks and was clutching at a brownish teddy bear that perhaps the man might have bought for her from Pick N Pay in Woodlands. From the little girl’s chubby cheeks, I could tell the big man was the father.
She seemed so happy, that little girl. Happy and innocent and beautiful. Perhaps they were going to the birthday of her cousin Etambuyu in Chalala. She had been looking forward to the party the whole week. She couldn’t wait to slide and swing and bounce on the jumping castle and eat ice cream and chips and some of the hopani meat I suspect the man was carrying in the black plastic bag. And when she would be tired of walking, maybe she would ride on her father’s shoulders. You know the expression “cute as a button”? That expression describes that little girl.
So the two were standing there looking up at this big flower tree right next to the ZESCO sub-station. You know those trees they plant along roads in Lusaka? It was one of them. It had these large orange petals. The man was staring up and the little girl was staring up, and from the car I could see her neck, ringed and folded with baby fat. She clutched at her teddy bear with her pudgy little hands. Then the man started jumping up, trying to grab at the large orange flowers but he couldn’t reach them because he was short and overweight. He kept jumping and missing. The flower was too far. Every time he jumped and missed the little girl giggled because his big belly jiggled. Then I started giggling too, while fearing that if jumped one more time, the contents of that belly would spill.
Now we are all sitting in this traffic that isn’t moving. I looked around to see if I was the only one being entertained – and sure enough most motorists were watching this man jumping for his daughter. What a herculean task, I thought. (I can’t remember the last time I used that word, herculean – LOL).
He put down his black plastic bag and, with renewed vigor, resumed the jumping. But the missing too. At some point I thought, ‘Hey what would happen if I went and helped him get that flower?’ But then again it would not have been the same for the little girl because all she wanted was a flower from her daddy, not some intrusive guy who had just eaten goat meat. Plus the daddy might take offence at trying to outshine him before his girl and punch me in the throat, and that would make the motorists giggle. And that would ruin this little girl’s day. And who wants to spoil a little girl’s day? Not me. I had other things to worry about. Like the goat meat I had just eaten. Meat is not good for you.
I wondered why he couldn’t just lift the girl on his shoulder and have her pluck that flower. But again, that’s not the same, is it? Because he wanted to GET it for her, not have her get it. So he jumped. And missed. Jumped and missed. Poor daddy. The little girl giggled and giggled. I bet motorists silently rooted for the short chubby dad. We all rooted for him, willed him to jump higher. Daddy kept jumping. And missing. Then he started laughing. Daddy jumped and laughed and missed and jiggled and the little pretty thing giggled. At some point I wanted to roll down my window and shout, “YOU CAN DO IT PAPA! YOU CAN DO IT!” But that was a private daddy-daughter moment, right there on the side of Mosi-oa-tunya road. It was a priceless moment for a father to jump for his daughter.
You will not believe this, but that man eventually exerted himself and plucked the flower. I swear I was so happy I wanted to clap. Imagine if all the motorists had started clapping for daddy, like people do when a pilot lands a plane at Zanderij International Airport in Paramaribo after a mad turbulence over the Atlantic? Or in the movie “Olympus has Fallen” when they anounce “the President is alive.”
Daddy bent and handed the flower to the little cute thing in those shoes (which I wanted to steal and hang in my car). She beamed and giggled and put the flower to her nose and smelled the unrelenting love of her father. Daddy picked his black plastic bag that which probably had some hopani meat, grabbed the little angel’s hand and together they walked away, oblivious at how they had changed the onlookers with this momentous expression of love.
I swear that was the purest thing I had seen in weeks, especially now after the elections have made everything so rabid and putrid. And this morning as I sat in church I was thinking about them; that man and his daughter and it just makes you mushy, to see that affection and dedication and love.
Maybe that little girl goes to kindergarten. Maybe she goes to that nursery school on Chilimbulu road near Katungu in Libala. Maybe on Monday, the following day she was in her classroom adorned with paintings of cartoons and big numbers on walls, and she sat at her small desk doodling with crayons and giggling with her best friend Cindy while turning her nose at Jimmy because he’s a boy and mum said boys are bad for you.
And that dude, that chubby daddy, the daddy with the heart of a lion, was probably at his office that Monday and nobody got to know what he did over that weekend. When his mates asked him how the weekend was, do you think he told them that he plucked a flower for his daughter? No. He probably said, “Ah, the weekend was so-so, boss. Nothing much happened.” Nobody will ever find out that when his daughter wanted a high hanging flower and he was too heavy to reach it, he refused to give up and kept at it until he got it.
If you went to that little girl today in school and you asked her who she thinks is her hero she won’t say teacher Christine. She will probably say, “my daddy.” And if you asked her why she would have probably told you that “because daddy jumps and daddy jiggles until daddy gets the flower for me”.
Isn’t life beautiful, friends? Isn’t that the purest form of beauty? And love? When we decide that we will jump, and jump, and jump no matter how high the flower is, no matter how heavy we are, and no matter who is watching until we fulfill the purest desires of those we love? Stop waiting for an opportunity to wrought a mighty act of Devine grandeur. Often it’s just those little things that make us big heroes.