Journalism & art at PNGAA speaker series
Moses Tekwie honours his father’s legacy

Japheth and a tale of two men

Village crowdDANIEL KUMBON

FICTION – It was an urgent call from Japheth that alerted Delisa and The Old Man to the problem. Calls from other relatives in Bumbu village soon followed.

Japheth’s former husband had just been chased away from the vicinity of the new house.

In the company of a bunch of hooligans and brandishing a bush knife he had threatened Japheth, Delisa’s uncles and her sister demanding his share of the bride price.

“Pei bilong me wei? Hao na yupela lus tingting long mi, papa bilong Delisa. Bilong wanem? Pei bilong mi stap wei?” he shouted at his former tambus and in-laws.

[Where is my share of the bride price. How did you forget me, Delisa’s father? Where is my share?]

The man and his cronies had been drinking and come with the intention of causing trouble. He still had a bottle of beer in his other hand. Nobody would go close.

Japheth’s relatives mobilised quickly and soon a large group of villagers confronted her formed husband and the intruders. But he kept shouting, insisting he should be paid.

“Em marit em gutpela. Tasol mi askim long hap pei bilong mi.”

[It’s OK she got married. But I’m asking for my share of the bride price.]

One of Delisa’s uncles was having none of this.

“Bilong wanem yu lusim ol, na go? Yu no kam lukautim ol. Yu wanem kain man kam askim pei,” he yelled in response, a ferocious look on his face.

[Why did you leave them? You ignored them altogether. What type of man are you to ask for a share?]

“Mi bin rong long lusim ol tasol pikinini meri em bilong mi. Hao na yupela lus tingting?” said the former husband, now looking for sympathy.

[I was wrong to leave them. But the girl is my daughter. How could you possibly forget me?]

He swung the bush knife wildly, swearing at the people of Bumbu village.

The uncle was now staring at him hard, adopting an aggressive pose. Behind him now were more than twenty Bumbu men. It was clear they were ready to attack.

“Pasim maus na go. Kisim ol lain bilong yu go nao tasol. Nogut mipela paitim yupela olgeta.”

[Shut up and leave. You and your mates get out of here. If you don’t, we’ll give you a fight alright.]

The former husband took a few steps back. So did the hooligans.

“Mi laikim pei bilong mi. Delisa em pikinini bilong mi. Mi papa bilong em.”

[I want my share. Delisa is my daughter. I am the father.]

“Yu save kism nating ah? Yu noken bik maus tumas. Go nao tasol,” the uncle said with derision.

[You think you get things for free? Don’t be such a big mouth. Get out of here.]

“Husait tokim mi long go? Yu mas gipim pei. Yupela kaikai pek....

[Who’s telling me to go. Give me my share first. You eat…]

He never finished the sentence. Japheth’s relatives and the Bumbu villagers had heard enough. They rushed her former husband and his thugs and began to beat them up.

Outnumbered, they turned and ran, the ex-husband making one last threat as they clambered into a car which seemed to have been stolen.

“Mi bai kam bek paitim yupela na kukim haus. Nogat orait holim pei bilong mi stap.”

[I’ll be back to fight you and torch the house. Get that bride price for me.]

“Nogat sem bilong yu long kam krai krai,” the villagers called after them.

[You have no shame to come and beg.]

By now most of the people in the village had been attracted by the noise. There was an excited discussion about what to do next. It was agreed the police should deal with the ex-husband and his mob.

A couple of people had filmed the incident on their mobile phones. They were already sharing the video on Facebook. They had clear pictures of all the hooligans and the registration number of the vehicle.

The video went viral and Facebook was immediately alive with comments and warnings. Some of these came from the highlands, the wantoks of the man who built the house – The Old Man.

Soon Delisa and The Old Man heard their phones ringing.

Japheth spoke to The Old Man. She was now afraid. Her ex-husband knew the area well – the village, the market, the gardens - and he seemed to be lurking. For now, they were safe, they would stay indoors.

The Old Man settled each caller with soothing words and then sat on the verandah to carefully assess the situation. It seemed tense but he doubted the ex-husband would turn to violence, especially now social media was alive with the incident and the police had been alerted.

But The Old Man understood the anger. After-all he was Delisa’s biological father. He had tried to intimidate Japheth, which was totally unacceptable. If he had addressed the issue calmly, and approached  the village court magistrate, he might have received a fair hearing.

Most village court magistrates in the country were wise, they made good decisions. This The Old Man knew. They were even admired by some of the highest judges in the land.

They were vital in keeping the peace and keeping the country together. Otherwise it could fall apart amidst much lawlessness, chaos and confusion.

The ex-husband should have approached the Bumbu Vilis Kot or register his complaint with the nearest local court. He had been wrong to drink and stir up his cronies and threaten Japheth and her people. That was wrong. Very wrong. Stupidly wrong.

The Old Man called Japheth and said something that surprised her. He told her to get his phone number  to her ex-husband. Perhaps the village court chairman or village councillor could organise that.

Bilong wanem mi bai gipim namba, em wanpela longlong man stret?” Japheth exclaimed.

[Why should I give him the number? He is mentally disturbed.]

“Gipim namba tasol, em liklik samting. Mi bai toktok wantaim em.”

[Just give him the number. It’s not a big issue. I’ll talk to him.]

The Old Man remembered the wisdom of the hausman. ‘Give to eat what somebody wants. Not everything. Just the black part of your fingernail you cut away.’

And the elders would also say, ‘Extinguish the single flame first before the fire burns the house.’

Then he told Japheth, he wanted his wantok to come and check her house regularly.

Em orait, larem em kam,” she said.

[That’s OK, let him come.]

“My wantok is a nice chap. He will look after you and the house. But I’ll tell him not to confront your ex-husband with violence. That’s not to happen.”

Not long after, Japheth was happy to see a company car come to a stop outside her house. The Old Man’s wantok stepped out and walked towards the house. He was that same man she used to know. She knew he was the father of her small boy.

The Old Man had said she would need his services one day.

That day seemed to have arrived.


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