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The card under the table

By | July 26th 2010

By Peter Oduor

Who would marry the daughter of a witchdoctor? Did I hear you say not you? Well, do not be afraid since the company you are in can elect a Kenyan president.

Africa is full of witchdoctors, diviners, sorcerers, seers and medicine men. They form part of our society and grudgingly people have come to accept them. Many, however, only seek their services when they are in trouble. Marrying their daughter is never on anyone’s mind.

To the average woman, it is almost a curse to be born to a witchdoctor or medicine man. Getting a normal man to marry is difficult. It therefore forces the daughters of such people to lie about their parentage.

Dinah is a good example. Married happily now for six years and with three children, Dinah has her aunt to thank for her luck. Her father was a witchdoctor known in the whole of Kisii and her mother died many years ago.

When the time came for her to marry, she and her aunt hatched a plan. She would live with her aunt for at least three years during which time any man who wished to ask for her hand in marriage was to be introduced to her aunt as her mother. It worked and her husband knows her aunt as his mother-in-law.

Given that they now work and live in Nairobi, which was her idea, chances of him ever finding out the truth are almost nil.

This man is lucky because ignorance is bliss. Other men aren’t so lucky. The rude shock they get when they find out secrets about insane in-laws, questionable traits and hereditary medical conditions in the family is akin to the smell one gets when a door to a cubical with a dead rat is opened.

When your ugly past rears its head, most people try to hide away from it. This is the predicament of 26-year-old Julie. A secretary by profession, July is tall, elegant and is a striking beauty.

Julie is happy that she is getting married in December to Abraham, whom she has dated for the last two years. They are cohabiting while waiting to formalise their marriage next year.

Adopted babies

But hold on a bit before you say Amen! Behind the faÁade of her fetching smile and beautiful face there lies a secret known only to Julie and her mother. The third party who knew of the secret died last year and that was some quack doctor who secured her second abortion that went awfully wrong. Now Julie can never give birth. Her uterus was damaged during her abortion three years ago when she wanted to join a secretarial college.

Her mother had advised her to go for it not knowing that she had procured another abortion while in high school.

The whole process had gone well until three days after the abortion, when cramps in her stomach sent her back to the doctor who had attended to her. What happened after that was a medical blunder that Julie regrets to date.

Abraham loves her and wants babies. They will have the babies. Only that they will be adopted. Asked whether she will let him know, she replies, "I am human too and deserve a happy life, which for a woman starts with a husband. I feel guilty for doing this but I can’t tell him."

Many women are familiar with things like Copper Tee and Tubal Ligation, especially those who are dating men they do not want to have children with or if they are mistresses.

Blame it on the alcohol or on a young man who could not keep his mouth shut, but Jackline and her husband are undergoing counselling sessions to try and salvage their marriage of eight years. The cause of the problem is an utterance by her younger brother during their mother’s funeral.

It was double grief for Jackline as she had lost her mother and was now on the verge of losing her marriage as well.

The funeral ceremony had almost ended and in accordance custom, the mourners, especially those close to the departed person, were giving something ‘small’ as a way of consoling the bereaved.

Vincent was a respected in-law. He was a man of modest means who strove to do what was expected of him. He had come to mourn his mother-in-law together with some respectable members of his clan.

Prestigious academy

Then came the time for giving out his ‘small’ token. He gave Sh5,000 and all hell broke loose. His wife’s younger who, happened to have taken one bottle too many, walked to the group and belched loudly.

"We feed you, our in-law and your wife plus two children. If…you… you…hic…thing(k)…I…lie…hic, ask mama Boi where she got...got…the……the…..money to start and expand your hardware store…"

There was silence. Pregnant with anticipation, the in-law tried to dismiss the young man but he was not finished yet.

"You thing(k)….you...are...a man… You…you are nobody and all this village knows it. My mother…gave your wife money to start the ... hardware store when you were still tapering with finances like a duck. Me...I tell you only Jesus, I tell you only truth...I tell only heaven… I tell you for asking and I tell you for free. You are not a man. Your mother-in-law feeds you!" and he staggered off.

The truth was laid bare. Truth that Vincent’s wife had kept secret. A truth that rocked their marriage. Now they are on a counsellor’s couch.

Samson’s wife attended a prestigious academy somewhere in Nakuru for her primary school. She went on to one of the highly sought national girls’ high schools of the 80s and finally did a degree in advertising at a local university.

Guatemala university

Two years after her graduation she met a handsome man at a workshop that her company had sent her to. They courted and fell in love, and then they married.

After the marriage Samson, who related his story with a pained tone, said that nine months into their marriage he had succeeded in finding a better paying job for his wife. He had paid a bribe of Sh45,000. All that was needed were the papers. Then trouble started.

Shortly after getting the job, the woman said that there had been a fire at their home. All her documents were burnt.

Samson suggested that they go to Kenya National Examinations Council and her university for replacements. She said she would go. She said she went but didn’t get the documents. Then she became evasive and angry.

An investigation by Samson revealed that after Form Four, his wife had attended a catering college but her uncle fixed her with the company where he worked.

Samson’s Sh45,000 was gone. There was a major row in the family. Were it not for the intervention of Samson’s brother, he would have divorced her.

Some women, especially the ones who studied in the seventies, eighties and nineties have a knack for lying about their academic achievements or lack thereof. They will cook up degrees and spice them up with friends from college who you will never meet but only hear her converse with on the phone.

The smart ones will have even gone down River Road and authenticated their imaginary degrees with real fake certificates. Men who are not keen lap up their lies only for them to be shaken by a surprise call later in the marriage.

Some of the women talk of degrees from Pennsylvania or Guatemala, universities only known to them.

Enough has been said about secret bank accounts which are maintained by women to the complete ignorance of their husbands.

It gets worse in the case of a wayward wife who gets money from the men she sleeps around with, puts it in a secret account and uses it to feed her husband, children and develop the home. The secrets women keep in marriage!

Clothe me in ignorance, wax my ears and give me bliss.

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