Thursday, 7 February 2008

On……the way home last night (or On prejudice and prejudgment)

They were pubescent and perhaps a tad immature the two girls on that train. At that age the thrill is in rebellion and non-conformity. The irony, of course, is that non-conformity is itself the ultimate form of conformity. There is not a single fad under the sun, nor ideology, nor fashion sense that does not find company in the minds of a significant number of others. I give you the Goths as an example; they rebel by piercing various parts of their bodies, dyeing their hair, using eye shadow liberally and slapping their faces with paint and powder. And yet are they really different from the half a billion other Goths you see around? They are so different in fact that they outnumber the so-called clean cut kids one sees in any given school these days. But here I am again, doing what I do best, digressing. We must return to the tale of those two girls on the train.

So there they sat, nattering and tattling, those two girls on the train, observing, yet disregarding, their fellow commuters on the southbound District line. It must have been sometime between 6 and 6.30 pm, for the carriage was only three quarters full, and most of its occupants had at least one seat available, except those that elected to stand. The girls possessed, to a magnified degree, that ugly quality that we humans hold, to identify the physical imperfections in another, and to scrutinise, and to ridicule and to quietly rejoice that we are free of that flaw.

This was a trip that the two girls made routinely and they would whittle away the minutes by indulging in their favourite pastime – prejudice and prejudgment. As I have said, it is a game that we all play in one form or the other. Most people have the good grace to jettison the malicious thoughts the moment they enter our minds, others will go one step further and whisper between themselves, children will point, our girls spoke out loud. You see they had a secret weapon in their armoury – a foreign language. Though they had adopted the mannerisms and dress sense of the young British afro-carribean, they still spoke Yoruba with a verve and fluency that did not allow for easy interpretation by the idle eavesdropper. Theirs was not the corrupted Yoruba of the Lagosian, infused with lazy slang and Westernisms, no theirs was conc Yoruba. It was the Yoruba of the natives, the kind that Oduduwa himself would have spoken even as he laid his head to rest all those many years ago.

And so it was that their target today was a middle aged, white man who sat directly opposite them on the train – a most un-Yoruba looking of gentlemen. He was of unspectacular appearance but one of the girls had decided to take offence at the existence of his blotchy, bulbous nose, his parched skin and his old, slightly tatty , clothes. The other girl had gladly joined in the verbal beatdown – conformity abides.

Oh! How that poor man's appearance was corroded with those tongues of acid. They abused him from Earls Court to Parsons Green. Parsons Green to Fulham Broadway. Even at Putney Bridge there was no let up to their vitriolic comments and laughter. The gentleman sat down concentrating on his newspaper, occasionally putting it down to check the name of the station, oblivious to the insults that were raining on his head.

As the train approached Southfields station he folded his newspaper neatly and parked it into his old leather briefcase and rose from his seat. He was an ungainly man and his rise was far from graceful, yet when he stood at full height and ambled towards the door there was something faintly magnificent and noble about his gait. Before reaching the door he turned and looked at the girls, who were still playing their game, regarding them properly for the first time. He looked at the girls square in the face and said to them "Thank you for your very kind words. May your future children live good lives and may they bear no resemblance to their witch-mothers" He spoke in flawless Yoruba.

The train slowed to a halt and the doors parted. He strode unto the platform and he would not have seen the look of inimitable shock registered on the girl’s faces, nor would he have witnessed as they sat there, mouths agape, remaining speechless, for the rest of their journey and for evermore. He would not have seen any of that, the most un-Yoruba looking of gentlemen.

39 comments:

J Adamthwaite said...

I'm glad firstly that the man decided to speak to them, but also that he waited until he got off the train to do it. I'm also glad that they didn't choose someone more aggressive to attack. I wonder if their lesson has been learned.

I enjoyed this story; it was very nicely written.

UndaCovaSista said...

Damn! I got beaten to first spot. Aah well...
Let me go and read the post, sha. Oh, the anticipation...!

Jaycee said...

3rd...I'm improving in my stalker moves...he he. Let me go and read....

UndaCovaSista said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UndaCovaSista said...

Did that really happen, Atutu?
If it did...serves them right and i hope they were suitably motified by their conduct. Makes me recall a conversation i had with a friend recently...We lamented the apparent lack of compassion, empathy and even sympathy for one's fellow humans prevalent in today's society. It SUCKS!!

Jaycee said...

Lolllllllll...

Oh my goodness, the white man spoke yoruba. I wish I can imagine the outrageous looks of shock on the girls' faces. Was this a figment of ur imagination, or did this really happen?

Enjoyed this story..as always. Story-teller!

Rayo said...

lmao!! Classic, I've heard so many stories about this happening to people. It even happened to me once, when these two ladies started talking about my sister and I in Yoruba so we decided to start speaking the language too. TheIr reactions were PRICELESS!!

30+ said...

4 SHIZZLE!!!

Olorun lo mu won

guerreiranigeriana said...

lol...that shit is hilarious...people don't seem to remember that the world is becoming more global everyday...nicely written though...elegant choice and use of words...

Naapali said...

A couple of years ago I was working the graveyard shift in this small hospital emergency room in rural Minnesota (as if all of Minnesota isn't rural). An octogenarian couple walked in, the wife was not feeling well. I cared for them and the conversation turned to my origin. It turned out they had lived for many years in Jos, a few miles from where I went to school. There son was currently in Jos and a grandchild had just been flown back to the US from Jos for medical treatment. They spoke fluent Hausa. Who woulda thunk it?

Thanks for reminding us to be on our best behavior.

Bunmmy said...

lmao!!!! gosh i'll just sink into the ground!

nice story, great suspense!

onydchic said...

ha. busted!

fantasy queen said...

now thats a lesson learnt...
becareful what u say in public, u never know whos listening!
a classic way to keep em' chics mouth sealed shut for a very very very long time to come.

Flowers and Poetry said...

I'm speechless (as usual), you always tell a good tale, well done!

Jaja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaja said...

Tell me it didnt really happen. Tell me.

When I'm out with my siblings, I comment on things and people in my native tongue, Ogba. Even in my Port Harcourt few people understand the language. It gives me this sense of liberty.

Once, when I was younger, we had a guest who was a bit relunctant to leave after we had told her my older sister whom she had come to see was away for a week or so.
"it may be that she wants another drink, dont you think?" I told my sister in our native Ogba, with a smile, before our calm guest who was reading a mag.. I said plenty other things. Forgive me I was 9 yrs old. Of course you can guess the ending. When our guest was done resting, she said to us in our native Ogba, " Let me go now..." I died a million Times... I have always been a shameless child, as trite as it may have seemed, I grappled at apologising and said I didnt mean ill...
I have sort of learnt since then... But I must confess that there is secret pleasure in it... But then one should never attack harmless, non-offending people...

geisha said...

the moral of the story is clear; you have to be embarrassed to learn not to embarass.
but let us out of the misery of our barely stifled curiousity- did this in fact happen?

Today's ranting said...

O ga o.One can't be so sure of people around them. People just start ranting about all sorts of shit in public places(thinking they are safe to do so)especially on buses oblivious to the fact that there could be someone who might as well understand whatever language they are speaking.Shame on the girls.

bumight said...

lmao!!! I have learnt my lesson well on dat...or have I?...ok, no! my friends and I still switch to yoruba whenever we are talking in class and we don't want any of our other classmates to hear. They dont...except this indian boy that is picking up a WHOLE LOT of yoruba!

Atutupoyoyo said...

Yes this is loosley based on an event I witnessed once. Appearances can be indeed deceiving. In my native state which borders Plateau, did you know that there is a small population of caucasian indigenes who speak Tiv and Hausa as fluently as any Northerner?

Zephi Fahrenheit said...

wow.
being mean does not pay

atutu how are you?

Anonymous said...

OMG!!!
Quick question tho... fact or fiction???

Lola Shoneyin said...

This often happens to my husband. Because he's mixed race, marketwomen, drivers etc often make known their intentions to exploit him, believing he couldn't possibly understand the language. When he finally decides to shock them, it's hilarious!

Well told, Atutu. Well told!

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

u know the same thing almost happened to my aunt. She and a friend were at a party and this naija chick came in with her white husband. They were not insulting him but querying between themselves how they did not know that the other lady's husband was white and how come they had missed the fact that she had two kids.
After they had moved on to other matters, the white man's wife came over to ask her husband something. And he answered in fluent and unaccented Yoruba.
My aunt did not recover from that experience.

classybabe said...

This actually happened to my friend in jand.
Some yoruba women were talking about my hair and wanted to know where i did it,but none of them wanted to come up to me;i just kept a straight face like i had no idea what they were talking about.

Anonymous said...

I find it quite intriguing that you made teenagers seem so evil. In real life, they usually just shoot the breeze because they are bored and move on to their next target.Remember their pre-frontal lobes are still developing, so they are still building character. It would have been better if the characters were adults. Just a thought.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

What a wonderful story. I hope those girls learned a lesson. I was once insulted badly by a Yoruba taxi driver who had no idea I was Nigerian. Upon getting to the Court, (running late for a case), I told the man that at his age (he was a real Baba), he should have more respect for people and not resort to insult anyone especially a 7 months pregnant woman in her own language.

His mouth dropped and I made a report to his taxi service about his unprofessional behavior.

Anyway, how you dey, Uncle Atutu?

Afrobabe said...

wow...I do it as well...shit happened to me in lag...hmmmm a topic to blog about....:)

Onome said...

dose girls got wat dey deserved....psheeeaawwwww...

darkelcee said...

Yuck!

that is what fela meant when he sang....
"when trouble sleep yanga go wake am we im dey find....palaver e dey find"
i enjoyed this story

Isi said...

this gets me really angry. who are we to 'treat' another with such disdain? *hiss*

Carlang said...

lol.
i've heard so many variations of the same scenario but it never ceases to ring with humor.

Nice write up by the way.

I\m thinking of having a book written by Blogsville members. DIffrent chapters by diffrent people.

Like all my great ideas it;s just that..

An idea. lol.

Hope Val for you was better than mine..

SOmehow lord of the Rings doesnt seem as nice the 17th time round.
Even with surround speakers peaking..

princesa said...

Poor girls...they learnt their lesson am sure!

Atutu love, whats up?

Naija Chickito said...

What a story! I think that even though this is a story we all can identify with, the way you told it made it seem so new(?, for the lack of a better word) and truly intriguing. For me, the essence of the story is, if you have nothing nice to say (in whatever language) about someone, don't say anything at all!

Bubbles said...

Serves them right! Being able to speak a foreign language seems to give some people the license to kill, so to speak.

I enjoyed reading every bit of it. Thank you, :)

@ Anonymous, if then don't learn their lesson now as teenagers, when will they ever.

Bitchy said...

Did this really happen? (Obviously my comment comes yonks after all the others.) How is it that a white man with a bulbous nose can speak and understand Yoruba and I can't???! Urrgh. Tis indeed infuriating.

Bitchy said...

Atutu, I'm winning the race oh. Two posts in one week!

And please next time you see a woman accepting that kind of rubbish, give her a slap for me? Ta hun! Xxx

ablackjamesbond said...

lol...good for them!

khasiat sarang semut said...

Sarang Semut Papua
Buah Merah Papua
Rumput kebar Papua
Kayu Akway