“Dada, ah, where did I come from?”
“Why do you want to know? What type of question is that?”
“The teacher asked me to write an answer to the question - where did I come from.”
“You tell the stupid teacher that you came from your mother’s stomach to be the sweet baby you are.”
“Dada that is not what the teacher said.
“One child in the classroom says he is Tolai, the other says she is from Roro and like that.
“I said I was from Gerehu and the class laughed at my answer.”
The father nearly dropped his lime bottle and took a quick look at his daughter.
He looked pensively towards where his wife would be. She was raised in Gerehu.
“Ewa, where are you from?”
The wife came to the door with her pot. She was trying to get evening meal ready.
“Why do you ask that stupid question to me?” she asked.
“Darling, you know I was raised at Gerehu. My father, he was born fatherless at Hohola to his Iggiri mother.
“He grew up around the Elcom compound with a Tolai electrician family and when he was old enough, he kidnapped my mother from Boroko market who came in with her Bush Rigo parents to make market,” she said.
“The two love birds fled to Tete Settlement at Gerehu where I was born and grew up with the Apos. That is where you tricked me into marrying you.
“I can tell you that my father is not Tolai nor is he Iggiri as he looks more like a Kerema. My Bush Rigo mother does not want us to know our grandparents. So I have mix-mix Iggiri and Bush Rigo blood but the other,” she sighed. “So I guess I am from Gerehu.
“That I have told you many times and for the children’s sake you need to tell us where you come from. You also need to be from someplace.”
“Sah lah wah!” The father looked at the peeled betel nut in his hands. It was losing its colour. He swallowed the bile deep in his throat.
He looked at his daughter who sat eagerly waiting for an answer. She was not going to be laughed at again in class.
The mother stood still in the doorway.
Agitated, he looked upwards. Tears crept into his eyes.
“Shoot, daughter, I just don’t know. I was found wondering in the Boroko drains by a young Buang woman who adopted and cared for me. Including putting me in school.
“When I was in grade three, she married a highlander, an Apo, who took care of us. I know only ten Buang words, most of them swear words. I also know other swear words that are said around the drains that can make your hair go blue.
“My highlander step-father was killed by enemies from his village before I could learn of his place. My mother remarried her own ples mahn who mistreated all of us.
“I could have killed him so before I did that I moved back to the drains of Boroko. It was by luck that I found the clean work at Boroko Motors. It allowed me to move out of the drains.”
“Then one Sunday afternoon, I saw this angelo looking at me washing cars at the sales yard. She was interested in the cars, not me.
“I tricked her into thinking that I owned the cars in the yard and she fell for me. The rest is history.
“That does not mean that I am Buang. I am just from Boroko.”
The daughter looked into her father’s face with teared up eyes.
A knot formed in his heart and the mother banged her pot as she turned back to the kitchen, her own tears falling in quiet streams.
What were his children going to say, he mused.
Hi, I am Buang and my father is from Boroko and my mother is from Gerehu. That answer, even outside the classroom, is going to cause a lot of laughs.
He called his daughter over, hugged her tight and pulled the iphone from her pocket. He placed in on the ground and, picking up his own phone, called his Kaintiba friend.
“Bara, is the old man still there? If he is, can he come over for a couple of nights?”
“Sure, anything wrong.”
“No, I want him to tell some tumbuna stories to the children; they are watching too much Rambo and Angry Birds on the phone.”
He let his own tears fall and wiped them off his face while the daughter looked on.
“Darling, I cannot tell you even one tumbuna story that will say I come from that place. When Bubu Kaintiba comes he will tell you stories that you can tell the class.
“I will hold you iphone so you can listen to his stories and not watch movies until he goes back.
“Tell them in your class that you are Kaintiba.”
Derived from a joke doing the rounds in the police cells that young people do not know where they come from, nor their parents’ language nor their parents’ culture. These responses are inciting custodial violence against children and impose a need for parents to be mindful of their obligations to keep in touch with their tok ples, culture and singsing traditions.
An adapted and shortened flash fiction from Baka Bina’s next anthology, ‘Veno Vena’.