BEAST OF BURDEN
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A story of Adidi the “House Help”
Written by Egwurube, Samuel
In story books and other reference materials, most often than not, a donkey strapped with logs of load, transporting them to desired destinations of the master, or strapped with an agricultural machine tilling a farm for the master who in turn for services provided gives the donkey water depicted the phrase ‘beast of burden’.
In our society today, especially in urban and suburban cities and towns, there are countless beasts of burden. A situation so prevalent, that it can pass as a culture.
10 years ago in Idundu, a small isolated village in Calabar Municipal Local Government Area of Cross River State, South South, Nigeria. Recollecting her last encounter with happiness, Abidi reminisced on how she used to play fun kids games with her friends, sing and dance, laugh and run freely in the rain.
All that was brought to an abrupt end when at the age of six, an “aunty” from the city visited her father requesting for Adidi to accompany her to the city with flattering promises of sending her to school up to university level and other promises of good life for the young lad. Adidi’s father Mr. Udosen turned down the offer but later revisited his decision after several pressures from Adidi who felt her dream of being a doctor is slipping away; she managed to convince her mother who eventually joined her campaign and persuaded her husband to give the offer a go. Mr. Udosen reluctantly obliged.
Now leaving in Nyanya, a suburban area in the FCT, Adidi wakes up earlier than the Devil; sweeps the compound and house, mops the floor tiles, washes the two cars owned by ‘Oga’ and ‘Madam’, prepares breakfast and the four kids for school (still running errands at intervals). Eventually, when all is settled and everyone leaves, she does the dishes and head to school most cases few minutes to ten.
Mrs Ada, Adidi’s teacher, recounts her level of absentee as documented in the attendance register. She further stressed lateness and poor concentration during the few days Adidi turns up. She sought to inquire from Adidi why she has made herself the black sheep of the class, but “she wont give up a word” said the teacher. Adidi’s friend Yetunde averred that Adidi is always the last to school but run’s off before the closing bell giggles.
Upon return to the horror her life has now become, Adidi hurries to make lunch before the kids return from school because failure to serve lunch upon return will mean a risk of missing school for at least a week after rounds of beating. She emphatically stated that her madam dishes a little soup and adds water to it before giving her. When asked if she gets to eat meat? She smiles in a sarcastic way and replies “I only eat the smell while stemming the meat or when I steal it”.
Come night fall after returning from the day’s sale of sachet “pure water”, Adidi makes dinner; her ticket to the meal is a hundred percent sale. Done with the dishes and ironing of the kids uniform as the clock ticks to midnight her worst fear comes calling. Adidi has been sexually abused on many occasions by her “Oga” as she simply calls him, who after the gruesome act threatens to beat her and return her to the village or better still kill her.
Adidi has been turned from a child into a beast of burden carrying logs of physical, psychological and emotional load of abuses. She only desires to complete her Senior Secondary education and laments her final submission with tears rolling down her tender eyes “if only I had listened to my father”.