By Yetunde Arebi
If you are looking for a place to catch up on all the latest news and gist in your neighbourhood, a visit to the salon is your best bet. There, you are likely to meet those who have spent donkey years in the neighbourhood and know the residents in the area and sometimes what goes on in each house. Indeed, many salon owners and their close pals are living encyclopaedia of people and events in their environs. Yes, someone must come to the neighbourhood salon for a reason and while at it, they sure will drop some bombs. How the bombs are delivered depend on the relationship or disposition of the person giving this information.
Mind you, a simple gist in the hands of an enemy neighbour may turn into a potent and deadly weapon to ridicule and embarrass a target. So, one just must be careful, both as owner and client. I love my visits to the salons. I have quite a number of them for different purposes. You should too. Why? I long discovered that most of them have their area of specialty. Not all of them are good in all the services they claim that they provide. So, I have a salon for retouching my perm, another for fixing of the weaves, Ghana weaves, plaits and braiding somewhere else, and the list goes on. The different locations ensure that the gist is different from the other too.
And so I was at my neighbourhood salon a few weeks back when a woman I had not seen in a long while walked in. I was happy to see her because I’d missed her in a way. She had a thriving provisions shop a few blocks from my house and because she sold in bulk, her prices were reasonable too. I often bought school stuff (biscuits, sweets and juices) for my little girl from her. But she suddenly closed shop some months back and I was forced to look elsewhere. I was happy to see her. We exchanged greetings and she told me she’d gone to the village for a while. She was back now and would soon reopen her shop. I wished her luck and that she should take care of herself. She booked an appointment with the salon owner and left. Immediately she walked out, the gist began.
“So you know Mama Ada” the hairstylist asked me and I confirmed the link. I quickly realised there was a story itching to be told. I refused to let it go, latched on it, and switched on my aproko antenna. “I hope she is much better now from her illness” “What sickness?” she asked. “The sickness that she inflicted on herself or real sickness?” She sniggered. “It is very obvious that she was very ill. Can’t you see how lean and unkempt she looks?”, I said, trying to convince her of my observation. “ Aunty, she is not sick oh. It is depression that has turned her into a sick woman. Abi you did not look at her properly? She is now like a ghost of herself oh”, she announced. “Depression? What can she be thinking about that is so serious as to lead to that? She had better be careful. We only have this one life to live oh” I said. And quickly added, “so what happened to her”?
“Aunty, ayo lo npa”! (She is a spoiled brat) she blurted out. “When someone is happy and has all she wants at her disposal, why would she not go and look for trouble? What did she want that the man was not giving her? Yet, she was not satisfied. She had to go and disturb the man’s business. So she got what she deserved”, she began explaining. Trust me, by now, I was all ears.
According to the story, Baba Ada is a businessman who decided to think out of the box. He bought a bus, but rather than use it for commercial transportation, he went into partnership with schools in the neighbourhood and ran it as a school bus, picking pupils in the morning and dropping them off after school. Business was so good that he soon bought a big coaster bus in addition. He drove the Coaster bus while he employed a driver for the bus. He had problems with getting reliable female assistant to take care of the kids and man the door and so kept changing them until a certain married woman in the neighbourhood approached him for the job. Married with five kids to an abusive man who could not meet the demands on their young but economically too big family, Grace had to look for a job in addition to her pap making business. The two hit it off right from the beginning and were a wonderful pair to behold while at work. Grace and Baba Ada would be seen at the end of the drop off runs, washing and sweeping out the bus together. Their closeness rubbed off on their families and they all soon became friends.
Women will always be women. Mama Ada and Grace also became near inseparable, perhaps due to the close knit relationship between the woman and her husband. They began buying same fabrics and even attended parties together. Grace’s five kids became regular visitors to the house and everyone was happy. Signs that all was well was visibly evident in Mama Ada’s business as she soon changed her retail business to wholesale. Her new style of dressing and lifestyle changed. She filled out in all the necessary places for an African woman. No one was in doubt that Mama Ada and her husband had ‘arrived’.
Then the devil struck. Rumours started going around that Baba Ada and madam Grace shared more than a cordial working relationship. For real, they were lovers and some nosey-parkers had spotted them a few times at places they ought not to have been. They decided to make it their business to inform Mama Ada that she was friends with her enemy. Or how else can you describe a friend sneaking around with your man without your knowledge. Such a person would not hesitate to murder one, given the opportunity, a Yoruba adage says. Mama Ada literally spat in the air and caught it with her face. She went wild and confronted madam Grace with what she’d been told by the bad people. Grace may have been preparing for such a day that their secret would be revealed because she was said to have denied everything and convincingly too. Though the relationship became strained, they still tried to patch things up and moved on. But Mama Ada’s friends, or do I call them enemies, would not let her be. They continued to pump her up with stories of the illicit affair until she could take it no more. She picked a quarrel with madam Grace, and ordered her husband to sack her and have nothing to do with her again.
Sometimes, I wonder what we think of ourselves as married women. We assume that by signing those papers, we have been conferred with some extraordinary and superficial powers over our men’s libido. We turn ourselves into monitoring spirits, watching their every movement, ready to dislodge any female who dares cross the sometimes ridiculous boundaries we set around them. Many of us outdo things in the belief that we must do everything to keep our homes and that the man belongs to us and us alone. I am not supporting infidelity in any form, but a woman must be wise and choose her battles carefully. There are some battles that you don’t jump into, especially if they are not at your door steps. But Mama Ada did not know this and it is obvious she had no one to guide her. Her demand that madam Grace (whose true beauty had now crept out of its hiding place where it was hidden due to hardship and abuse) be sacked fell on deaf ears. Baba Ada was reported to have informed his wife that she had no stake in his business, just as he had none in hers. She could not therefore dish orders to him on how to run his business. He was said to have reminded his wife about the stress and losses he’d incurred dealing with inefficient young ladies as assistants until God brought madam Grace to him. Even Mama Ada’s youngest sister who had come to live with them from the village had not been of any help too. He said his business had only gone from good to better since Grace joined him. (Baba Ada now owns two Coaster buses and his seed small bus). Besides, Grace was a married woman with five young children, and he was definitely not having a relationship with her.
But his words were not enough to convince Mama Ada. The seeds of distrust, hate and vengeance had already been sowed into her soul, she must deal with the intruder competing with her for her man’s attention.
No one knows who advised Mama Ada, or how she came about such an idea. But she convinced herself that her next move will do the trick. So, off she went to madam Grace’s house to tell her husband to keep his wife busy at home so she would leave her husband alone. Grace’s husband, a neighbourhood acclaimed championship boxer went into a rage; perhaps from the confirmation that he was not doing his job well as the man of the house, or that a mere woman could talk to him so shabbily or from the embarrassment of having the neighbours hear all that Mama Ada had to say, no one could tell. But that night, he descended on Madam Grace like he’d never done before, sending her straight to the hospital with a broken jaw and rib. Not done, he threw her belongings out into the street, swearing she was no longer allowed around the premises, not to mention inside the room and parlour they lived in.
If Mama Ada thought that she had finally dealt with her enemy, she was so wrong. On hearing what his wife had done, Baba Ada swung into action. He took over the care of madam Grace, hospital bill and all. While still at the hospital, he rented a two bedroom apartment for her where he parked all her belongings. It was a sweet home coming for erstwhile poor madam Grace. But it did not stop at that. Baba Ada without warning drove to his village with madam Grace to introduce his new wife to his family. After all, she was now a free woman, he said. This was what sent Mama Ada to the village and not any illness. Madam Grace and her five children now together, all cared for by Baba Ada. We must be wise as women.
Do have a wonderful weekend!!