The Third Musketeer
The war has been going on now for about five months. But to me, it seems like it has been going for all the fifteen years of my life. I sometimes remember the time before the war, when we were just children at Aunty Eunice Nursery, living with our parents, eating well everyday and swimming every Saturday in the Estate pool. I still remember my Government teacher at St Gabriel College, Mr Jibowo. He was fiery headed teacher who I overhead the other teachers call Malcolm X. Compared to the other teachers who were simply instructors and had no politics; he had politics, and was in the opposition party – The Hope of the Common Man Party. I remember the street in which we lived in the estate; it was perpetually bent, just like a parabola, so it was impossible to stay in one place to see the whole street. You kept walking and the street came to you, in bits and bends, dotted with cashew trees and any shrubs the house owners loved. It was beautiful, but you only enjoyed the beauty if you kept walking. But all these belonged to a former age. In the face of the war and my separation from all I had previously had and known, all the niceties of my pre-war years just evaporated from my reality. What was real now was the lack of water, the rationed food, the dirt, the tents, the prayers for survival, the bombs, and the soldiers who guarded us, the Red Cross, and the fact that maybe this change was permanent. This was real, the other was not.
Our own refugee camp was in the UN held territory, where the peacekeepers were staying. The place that became the refugee camp was before now the camp ground of one of the Pentecostal churches, it was still undergoing construction before the war broke out, when the UN came in with a peace keeping force, and The Red Cross people turned it to a place of succor to people like us, the church did not object. We have a school, for the smaller kids, and a chapel. There is a small library filled with old books, fitted with three benches and three tables. The camp was only for women and children. The day I came, or better said, the day I was brought here, some men who were wounded and homeless came here to seek refuge. They were turned back. The camp only held women and children, and more women and children were coming by the day. Yesterday another set of refugees came in, many of them mortally wounded by shrapnel. The medical staff worked all night, to save those who could be saved.
Milk is life. At least Tope said so. So when we returned from scavenging, looking at the airplanes and wandering this evening to find that milk had been shared to the children by a certain church that came in with relief materials from a neighbouring country. We were crestfallen. More crestfallen because we got nothing from the scavenging journey, not really nothing if half a yard of a nameless kind of wire counts for anything. The expression on Tope’s face when he saw that we were late was sour, as sour as the milk my father used to supply to the Gherian Army before the rebels took over and he vanished. SEE MORE ON PAGE2