By Tafi Mhaka
When I was in primary school, I could not stand having my cousins come home for the Easter or Christmas holidays. I hated having to share things. I had to share sweets and biscuits with them. I had to share the TV remote with them. I had to share my small radio with them. That meant I had to listen to their favourite music at times. I hated that. I had to share the experience of going to watch the odd movie my folks could afford to take us to. I also had to share my clothes with them. This included my favourite cap and jacket if need be. And I hated that.
I could not play with my friends from school whenever my cousins came home. Between my friends, my cousins and I, the chemistry just was not right most of the time. I loved playing games with my cousins. But I hated sharing. I hated sharing my bed. I hated waiting for them to finish using the bathroom. I hated sharing a plate of food with them. Breakfast was usually shared in one big plate. We would all have a cup of tea placed in front of us – and pick bread and jam sandwiches from one big plate.
Lunch followed the same pattern. We would each have a glass of syrupy juice and some biscuits. And we usually had pap, meat and vegetables for supper. We would all instinctively count the number of pieces of meat in the huge plate placed in the middle of the circle we formed at meal times and work out how many pieces of beef or chicken each of us would have that evening. I hated this. I hated having to share my dinner with them. And I hated myself for being so selfish later on. I just hated it all.
I hated going to the rural areas to visit my grandmother over the Easter holidays. Because it meant spending Easter far from home. And I hated travelling on some cranky bus and eating boiled eggs and dry buns for breakfast as I journeyed to my ancestral home. I hated the travellers who boarded the bus with noisy chickens confined in flimsy cages. I hated how happy everyone looked.
I never had much luck on the long distance buses: I often found myself sitting beside a friendly woman with a child who never stopped crying. I hated having to accommodate her child next to me and buying food for her when the bus stopped for refreshments. I also hated having to converse with her for the entirety of the trip.
When I got to the rural areas, I had to fraternise with so many relatives, who found great pleasure in introducing themselves to me and explaining how closely related we were. They insisted I remember their names and where they lived and made feel so very much at home. I cannot say I have ever met such nice people again. They gave so much love for nothing in return. But I hated this. I hated them. I hated everything. I preferred the comfort of my home in the city.
I had to learn to skip breakfast while we tilled the land early every morning. And when an aunt brought breakfast to the field we were working in, it was not the variety stacked with neatly sliced sandwiches. We would normally have sweet potatoes or yams and a cup of tea for breakfast. We only had bread on Saturdays or Sundays after an uncle who worked in the city came home for the weekend.
I hated sweet potatoes and yams so much. I hated tea. I hated tea with sugar. I hated the life they lived. I hated the smoke-filled hut we spent evenings in while my grandmother and aunts cooked supper. I hated walking outside in the evenings for fear of meeting ghosts in the dark. I hated herding cattle and goats on Saturdays and Sundays.
I hated not being able to watch TV, and thought about all the wonderful programmes I was missing: Such as the cartoons I enjoyed so much. I would think about the first day of the new term at school and not having a thing to say about what great movies or TV series I had watched over the holidays. I would hate spending the holidays in the rural areas, and then hate myself for hating this. I also hated the way my friends laughed at me for spending so many holidays in the rural areas.
I came to hate the things and people that made me the person I was. Like the big extended family I had then. I hated not being to escape that life. I hated myself. Until I grew older, perhaps wiser, and accepted who I was. I hated myself until I began to accept the people who love me for just being me. I hated myself until I began to accept my life for what it was. Now, I am proud to say, I hate myself for hating who I am for so long.