As she sat under the mango tree watching the beautiful sunset, Mmboga was lost in deep thought as her life had lost all of its beauty. Her once vibrant beautiful eyes were filled with sorrow and a distant look. Ever since she got married to her handsome prince Jack all things had gone from rosy to thorny.
Her traditional wedding was the talk of the village and for ten years, no wedding had come close to what they had. Jack happened to be the only son of the village chief and his father did all he could to ensure the day was a success. Celebrations lasted a whole week. The whole village danced and ate to their fill and those who enjoyed the local brew were not left behind because Maria the renowned village brewer was hired to supply enough busaa so that no one was uncatered for. As for the mama’s milk and tea flowed like a river. Everyone was happy and wished the couple a long love filled marriage.
Mmboga knew a lot was expected of her. As she wore the princesses crown and made merry a lot weighed on her mind. Yes, she was the village beauty and had clinched the trophy by marrying the prince. However, a lot of rumors had been doing rounds about the village prince and why he had delayed in getting a wife. Some said he was too choosy, others said he was abusive while others claimed he just hadn’t found his rib and that’s why he took some time to make his choice. Mmboga didn’t know what to expect and was a little pensive, her sisters-in-laws, however, did a great job ensuring she felt at home and relaxed. She was pampered and had someone attend to her every need.
The honeymoon period didn’t last for long though. Being the first and only daughter in law of the chief, she was under pressure to give birth to a son who would inherit the chieftain after his father and grandfather. The sooner this happened, the better for the entire family. Jack played the loving husband role very well. He did all he could to please his wife and after a few months she was pregnant. His mother couldn’t hide her joy and his sisters were all over his wife pampering her. This somehow got into his head and he started being arrogant and rude to his wife for he felt like she was getting all the attention that was meant for him. He gradually changed and started drinking, smoking and using all manner of drugs. He was no longer the darling husband she wedded a few months ago. Life was unbearable but she stayed put. On the outside, he played the gentleman but when he got to his house, all hell broke loose. It was difficult to convince his parents and siblings of his brutality.
Jack had indeed turned into a jerk and a stranger watching from the sides would be made to believe the wife was forced on him yet he had courted her for several months before getting married. Whenever he coughed, tripped or had a disagreement with his boss, all the blame was shifted to Mmboga. Beatings, no financial support, and abuses were the order of the day for her. Her pregnancy couldn’t take it. She tried to be careful, eating well and smiling through her pain but one evening during her fifth month, Jack came back home drunk. He staggered towards the door and knocked, unfortunately, she was fast asleep, something that hadn’t happened in awhile and she didn’t hear the knock. He staggered back a step or two and came rushing to the door, he missed the door by an inch and hit his head on the brick wall. His once handsome face was partly cracked with veins screaming and blood gushing out like a water tap that had been opened. She had the commotion and came to check what was happening. His family also heard the noise and everyone came out to find out if they had been attacked by thugs or what was going on. He was rushed inside and given first aid as they waited to take him to a hospital for some stitching.
The blame game begun and his once loving family started hating Mmboga and blaming her for all the negative changes that had happened to their son and brother. They ridiculed her and treated her like a pauper. Yes, she came from a humble family and they knew this when their son courted and married her. So why the negative energy now? She couldn’t bear the stress anymore and one evening as she lay hungry and stressed, she felt wetness on her dress. On touching it, it was blood. She called for help and when her sister in law showed up instead of helping her she mocked and laughed at her “you are so pathetic you can’t even do a simple task of carrying a baby to term” she taunted. She didn’t have a penny to her name, her husband was nowhere and she couldn’t get anyone to help her get to the nearest clinic. She dragged herself as she continued to bleed crying for help which was not forthcoming as her in laws looked from the sides. A few steps from the gate, her husband showed up and instead of helping she kicked her severally and hurled insults, she collapsed and lay unconscious for hours. Her family finally came to her rescue but it was late and she had lost her pregnancy.
Life was not easy and she had to make numerous trips to her father’s house just to get something to eat and cry her heart out to her mother. As her once loving in-laws had turned into enemies who made sure her life was a living hell. She had three more miscarriages within five years because of depression and he now labeled her a good for nothing woman who could not carry a pregnancy to term and because of this, he started bringing young girls to their matrimonial bed and forcing his wife to sleep on the floor.
The few times he managed to spend with his wife could not be compared to their once blossoming love life that was the envy of the villagers. By chance, she got pregnant again in their seventh year of marriage. Saying she was happy was an understatement, she now had a spring to her walk and her face had a little spark but she did all she could to hide the excitement from his family lest they caused another miscarriage. Jane was determined to do all she could to carry this pregnancy to term even if it meant shifting from her matrimonial home. Luckily for her, her husband got a job in the neighboring village and this meant he could only come home once a month. She almost held a party to celebrate this awesome news but chose not to for fear of making him change his mind about his new job. One month into the pregnancy and Jack was off to his new duty post and this meant some calm and peace for Jane.
She chose to spend most of her day time helping her mother at her small grocery store and coming back in the evening. It was a bit calmer at home and Jack never failed to disappoint as he never showed up when he promised to. With no telephone or any other formal way to communicate, Mmboga went about her duties. Although she somehow missed her husband, she was glad he was away and she could enjoy some peace and calm, something that had been evading her for seven years just a few months after the day the village elder pronounced the words “do you Jane Mmboga take Jack Madurenge as your lawfully wedded husband for better and for worse.”
Her pregnancy was uneventful and 40 weeks later she put to bed. All this while, Jack never showed up not even after several messengers were sent to alert him of the fact that his wife was heavily pregnant. He preferred to spend his weekends at the village bar being entertained by young girls. This went on for months and he only showed up three months later because he was broke and needed some financing from his father. He showed up somewhat sober but the moment he looked at his wife his anger started to build up, it was as if he had been bewitched that any time he looked at his wife he grew angry for no reason. Insults and beatings begun reason being his wife had given birth to a baby girl who looked more like her mother than her father.
After enduring all this for seven years and her parents advising her to stay put and play her wifely role no matter what, she chose to call it quits and start life afresh. With tears rolling from her eyes, Jane held tightly to her three months old baby and made herself a promise “as long as I live, I’ll never shed a tear because of a man.” She packed the few belongings she had in a green paper bag and left for her father’s house. The hurt she had endured both physical and emotional was no longer something she could tolerate after her husband of seven years brought home a girl young enough to be her daughter as his second wife. As she sat under the mango tree, she pondered on what step to take next. With no proper formal education to boast of, she had limited options to better her life but she was determined to be a better person and fall in love with herself deeply.
Salome, her mother watched from the kitchen window, and as the clock ticked, sadness engulfed her and a sharp pain pierced through her heart just looking at her once full figured daughter who was the village beauty now a shadow that one would hardly recognize. The villagers were gossiping a lot and people looked down on her daughter because according to her community’s traditions a woman who ran away from her matrimonial home was viewed as a failure. But being her mother and a woman, Salome had to hold her daughter’s hand and help her reorganize herself for there is no greater bond than a bond shared between mother and child.
As darkness set in and the villagers retreated to their huts to prepare the evening meal, Salome lit a fire and prepared a meal for her family. She made sure to prepare her daughter’s favorite vegetables; a mix of muto, kunde and mrenda just so she could eat a lil for she had completely lost her appetite. With a full moon lighting up the quiet village, the family gathered at their favorite spot; the mango tree to have their evening meal. Once everyone was fully filled and they had retreated inside, Salome sat down with her daughter for a heart to heart talk. They talked late into the night with both ending up with teary eyes and Mmboga feeling a burden lifted off her shoulders.
A week later, she left for the city to look for a job and mend her life. Things were not easy for she had no friends or relatives to turn to for help. She did odd jobs to survive and rented a room at the Majengo slums in Nairobi where she commuted from. Weeks and months passed and all she earned was spent on rent and food with no extra cash for savings but Mmboga was not one to give up easily. One day as she washed clothes for one of her regular clients, lady luck shined upon her and the lady offered to make her part of her staff at her cleaning company where she would work half day. Though the salary paid was not much, this meant she had a stable income and she could still do her part-time jobs to supplement her income. Indeed the dark tunnel was starting to light up and her once sad face was beginning to light up with a smile…
No matter how terrible things might appear, domestic violence should never be tolerated and it’s never too late to start a new. Don’t let yourself be a statistic in the death register just because you want to please your family and friends, remember you only have one life, guard it jealously and never let anyone make you feel like you are a lesser human being.