He spares no finances in the education of his sons. The latter do not take into consideration the enormous sacrifices being made by their father. They live luxuriously and squander their funds.
They enter into marriages of convenience which are later to blossom into true love after the twins sons settle down to raise families. But the marriages are not in conformity with what the twins' parents are familiar with and so fail to gain the necessary recognition and support of the twins 'parents. These latter connive with each other and secure a wife by arranged marriage for each of their twin sons.
The twin sons lured home by the huge financial benefits which acceptance of the arranged marriages would bring, acquiesce to the arranged marriages, collect the benefits abandon their new brides and disappear back to America.
Fame and fortune smile on the abandoned brides when two of the biggest economic pillars of the community fall in love with, and marry the abandoned brides bringing them over to America.
Mischance and curiosity again bring one of the twins into an unplanned collision course with his abandoned former bride and the law.
The law of retributive justice appears to take its toll on the estranged former bridegroom and his brother who had grossly alienated themselves from their roots and denied their children the opportunity of speaking even the language of their fathers.
Time the healer of wounds is expected to bring about the healing even in the midst of the failed expectations of a distraught father, a garrulous society and a rapidly changing world.
A compelling story plays out, with intrigues, deep cultural attachment, squander mania, manipulations, financial arm twisting, love, cheating and a mother's unflinching devotion to his children.
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ARRANGED MARRIAGE And THE VANISHING ROOTS
By Oliver Akamnonu
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Dr Oliver Akamnonu
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE FLIGHT AND THE FLEEING
Eberechi was a well renowned merchant. He had little formal education, just enough to enable him to read letters in his native language. He could also pick up a few words of the English language by spelling them out aloud. If he had heard a similarly sounding word then he would immediately recognize it. He was known to be a very intelligent man by his peers. His only handicap was that he did not have the opportunity of going to school beyond the first two terms of the first year of primary school. His widowed mother could no longer afford to pay the two dollars per term school fees.
Eberechi was withdrawn from school at the age of eight years and was apprenticed to his elder brother who had (been) "freed" from apprenticeship in the business of importation and distributorship of fairly used clothing materials popularly called "okrika". The name "okrika" emanated from the community through which the initial contacts were made between the Europeans and the African native coastal dwellers. Eberechi's elder brother Meosi was a little luckier since he had more years of formal education. He had attained the third grade in school before their father died resulting in the inability of their widowed mother to further train her younger children. Having reached the third grade in school Meosi was able to read simple English words and also to write the native language as well as a few English words. He was therefore often asked to write letters for the rest of the largely illiterate traders who did the importation and distribution business with him. Often Meosi would have several people in queue waiting for him to read or write letters for them. A lot of times he would have little time to attend to his second hand clothing business because of preoccupation with other extraneous issues like having to write letters for his illiterate neighbors. Meosi would often protest aloud about the many people who would gather in front of his shade to dictate letters in the native Igbo language for him to write for them. Others would clutch letters which they wanted Meosi to read for them. Often these were letters which the neighbors' oversea business partners had written.
Meosi would occasionally incur the wrath of some of the letter writing or letter-reading applicants He would in such situations order Eberechi to retrieve the chairs that were removed from his little office and on which the applicants sat while waiting for his return if he was not originally in the shade.
Most times Meosi would ensure that he placed business before pleasure by ensuring that he would first attend to his customers who came to try on the dresses that he had for sale before purchase. He would then tell the letterwriting or letter-reading favor seekers to hang around until he was done with his customers. He would then tell Eberechi to stroll around the precincts of the shade and convince passers-by to come and try on some of the second hand clothes and to purchase same if it fitted them.
Canvassing for customers around the precincts of one's shade was an acceptable means of getting customers provided the solicitor did not accost a customer who was already standing right in front of another neighbor's shade.
"Every one of you should get back to his shade" Meosi would order the letter-writing applicants if he had customers waiting to be attended to. Some of the letter-writing applicants would be filled with envy for Meosi who appeared to have everything going for him: he could read, he could write and he had customers who were waiting for him.
His order would be grudgingly obeyed and a few of the people concerned being Meosi's senior in age and in the business of buying and selling would grumble silently and subtly threaten to deal with Meosi when he would come seeking to buy second hand clothes from them on credit basis for resale. Since he did not have much money Meosi was fond of buying and stocking his wares on credit basis. He would collect materials at wholesale prices without paying and then pay back the amount en-block after disposing of the goods. As Meosi's creditors were all illiterate, no bilateral agreements or documentations were done in the course of the transactions. All the transactions were done verbally and human memory was depended upon for remembering the amount of money owed and by whom it was owed. Occasionally cut pieces of broomsticks were used to tabulate how many dozens of goods were sold on credit to any particular individuals. Symbols were used to denote persons, often using peculiar characteristics of the persons to represent and recognize them. A debtor could be recognized by his being left handed or by the fact that he had marks on his face or that he limped. Any little distinguishing factor was utilized to denote the individual.
In the case of Meosi who stammered, his creditors would identify him on a wooden board with the drawing of a man with his tongue deviated to one side.
If two debtors manifested identical characteristics the complexion of one which might differ from that of the other would be used to differentiate between the two individuals. The debtor who was light in complexion would be painted with a white chalk while the debtor who was darker in complexion would be painted with charcoal. Confusions often arose but these were almost always easily resolved. The traders exhibited great sense of honesty and comradeship. They all believed that if a trader told lies to cheat his fellow trader that evil would befall the cheater's business. Even though many of them were recent converts to the Christian religious faith, it was not the faith that was the restraining force against evil deeds. Rather it was the fear instilled into them by their background African Traditional Religion which restrained them.
The latter religion preached that evil would beget evil and that the land had certain abominations which would naturally be redressed. The religion did not preach the turning of another cheek. It rather preached a non-documented doctrine that was akin to the Law of Moses: an eye for an eye. It did not preach the doctrine of an all-forgiving God. It preached the doctrine of "death to the sinner". It preached the doctrine of retribution and restitution. Amadioha the god of thunder would strike dead anyone who fouled the land. And cheating a business partner or falsifying figures in business-deals between consenting partners could be interpreted as fouling the land. A lot of the interpretation would be decided by how painfully the oppressed or aggrieved party cried to the gods or invoked their intervention.
After the demise of their father, Meosi assumed the roles of both an elder brother and a father to Eberechi who was about ten years younger than Meosi.
Eberechi learnt fast. Even in spite of his lack of formal school education he was a very intelligent young man. He displayed a lot of dexterity in helping customers of the "okrika" clothing business to try on the dresses. After he must have clothed a customer with the dresses he would stand to one side and appear to admire the attire while showering praises on the beauty of the attire. He was known by most other apprentices as a very astute and uncompromising bargainer when it came to securing and retaining his customers. Sometimes he would be seen pursuing prospective customers down the market alleys while persuading them to patronize his master's (Meosi's) wares. He was known as "Ebere kekere" (little friend Ebere) by the other shed owners. Ebere was the shortened word for Eberechi.
Eberechi was so friendly and so persuasive to prospective customers that most of the latter could not resist patronizing him. Eberechi's successes in enticing customers occasionally got him into trouble. These were the occasions where he would follow the prospective customers past the immediate precincts of Meosi's shade (market stall) into the precincts of the neighbors' shades. On a number of occasions his apparent overzealousness in seeking customers had led him into enticing away a customer from his immediate neighbor's shades. On one occasion even after Albert the neighbor's newly recruited apprentice had warned Eberechi to mind his own shade and steer clear of Albert's territory, Eberechi had continued to entice the customer who had walked past his shade.
"But it is only my mouth that I am using" Eberechi had told Albert. "Do you want to put a shield to the sounds from my mouth?" Eberechi had continued as he continued to persuade the customer who had already left the precincts of Eberechi's shade and was standing in front of Albert's shade. The customer ended up not buying from either Eberechi or Albert.
As the customer was moving away from Albert's shade the enraged Albert who felt that it was Eberechi's intrusion that robbed him of patronage from the departing customer briskly moved over to Eberechi, dashed forward and pounced on him. The fist fight that ensued saw a lot of the wares on either market stall strewn all over the street. A badly bruised lip on Eberechi's end and a traumatized face and black eye on Albert's end were the resultant effects of Eberechi's overzealousness and rather loquacious use of his mouth.
After that day Eberechi changed his tactics for attracting customers to his market stall. He would stand in front of his shade and face another direction from where the customer was. He would then put his index and third fingers into his mouth and then blow between his fingers. He had learnt the peculiar art of producing whistling sounds by use of his fingers and his tongue. It was an art which he alone among his peers could perform.
The loud whistling sound produced by Eberechi would usually turn everybody's attention including that of the customer, in the direction of Eberechi's shade.
Eberechi soon discovered that he could achieve the same effect of attracting customers to his market stall by use of his whistling sound as he could achieve by verbally calling them.
The neighbors did not like Eberechi's whistling but they could not accuse the latter of calling their customers away from their shades. It was an art, a very successful albeit 'seductive' business strategy and only Eberechi among his peers possessed that art.
It was soon time for the annual Ikeji festival when people from all parts of Arozogu would be expected to return home.
The people of Arozogu clan had largely converted to Christianity. But they were great traditionalists and believed strongly in the one festival that bound all of them together. The Ikeji festival was initially an annual event that symbolized the emergence of the new yam that was harvested from farms that were located close to people's houses. Over the years the festival had come to symbolize the period of the year when the head of every household would slaughter an animal in memory of the forefathers of the kindred.
Meosi had prepared extensively for the festivities. He had invited some of his "trader" friends especially those who were in the business of "okrika" clothing with him.
He had also renovated the little two room mud house which he built in the village.
On the actual day of the festival Meosi who since his father died had suddenly become the eldest male in the household was expected to perform the traditional ritual of making offerings to his fore-fathers who along with the gods were represented by wooden carvings. One carving stood out clear among all the others, the Ikenga the chief messenger of the gods.
Arozogu people did not worship the gods. They merely "revered" them. They poured libations of wine and pieces of kola nuts to the gods and asked them to come and participate in the feast. As the pieces of kola nuts were poured out the native chickens and lizards would gather at the site and consume the offerings. The gods would thus have been appeased and it did not matter who consumed the offerings.
For many years the Christian mission had opposed the Ikeji festival. With time however the church had come to a compromise with the natives in an understanding by which Ikeji festival would be commenced by church services on the first day of the feast. By so doing it was believed that the festival had become Christianized. The natives could go and celebrate whichever way that they wished apparently including the sacrifice of animals to the wooden carvings. Of course the churches certainly did not approve of the latter practice but they found difficulty stopping it.
That particular year was a very significant one for Eberechi. It was the year that he would be "free".
The apprentices often referred to completion of the five year apprenticeship as "freeing".
It was a kind of graduation from the process of learning the trade of buying and selling. The five year period was for those young men who had matured well enough before becoming apprentices. People like Eberechi who joined the apprentice ranks at very tender ages often required up to ten year tutelage before the status of "freeing" would be conferred. Such people who would thus have spent long apprentice times were often very proficient and street wise.
On this particular day after the four day Ikeji festival Eberechi had worn trousers for the first time in his life. Even though the wares which he sold in the okrika business often included used pairs of trousers, Eberechi never wore trousers. He was considered too young to wear trousers. He always wore shorts and loose jumper dress which in conformity with the hot weather was often more comfortable than pairs of trousers.
Meosi even though Eberechi was his brother was obligated to provide for Eberechi the usual things provided for any apprentice who had completed the apprenticeship or as was used in local parlance, who was "freeing". These included some of the materials which the former apprentice traded on. With these the freed apprentice would start off his own business. He would be provided with some of the articles of clothing which they dealt on, some cash and often payment for a sub shade (market stall) in a section of the market. Often three or four apprentices from different masters who were "freeing" in the same year would be provided a shade together. The sharing of a shade by three or four people made it easier for the shade to appear fully stocked with goods. A scantily stocked shade did not conjure confidence in the minds of customers. Not only would a single recently freed apprentice not be able to maintain a full shade, he would not be able to have enough cash to stock the wares which would fill the shade since he would not have credit facilities from the bigger merchandise importers. Often a full year's rent for the shade is paid in advance by a group of four masters for their "freeing" apprentices.
Eberechi was now a free man in the sense that he was now master of his own affairs. The shielding influence of and the need to abide by the directives of his brother and former master Meosi were now removed from him. He would henceforth take his own decisions and be fully responsible for his actions.
He was fully decided on succeeding. His major problem however was his near complete illiteracy.
Eberechi was hungry for education. He was by virtue of his many years of apprenticeship fully versed in the art of retailing of "okrika" dresses. But that was not where the money was. The money lay more with importation of these materials. The major distributors who bought from the importers made money but the major gains were made by the people who actually brought these materials into the country and who sold them whole sale. The downstream distributors benefited from the crumbs. Without the ability to import and without the ready cash to buy wholesale in large quantities Eberechi knew that it would be an uphill task for him to ever take a leap from the baseline situation in which peasant retailers always found themselves.
Excerpted from ARRANGED MARRIAGE And THE VANISHING ROOTS by Oliver Akamnonu Copyright © 2010 by Dr Oliver Akamnonu. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 THE FLIGHT AND THE FLEEING....................1
Chapter 2 ABC IN BUSINESS: CASHING IN ON "ONUKU TRADERS"....................11
Chapter 3 EBERECHI GOES "INTERNATIONAL"....................21
Chapter 4 THE AMBITION TO EXCEL; THE GRAND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE....................28
Chapter 5 IN "THE LAND BEYOND, BEYOND"....................39
Chapter 6 MENACE OF THE BINGO....................48
Chapter 7 DAD COMES VISITING....................65
Chapter 8 THE GREAT REVELATIONS....................77
Chapter 9 HUMILIATION IN A DISTANT LAND, RECLAMATION OF AN AILING CULTURE....................88
Chapter 10 CULTURAL IDENTITY CONFLICTS WITH REALITY....................105
Chapter 11 LIKE THE FIRST, SO THE SECOND....................127
Chapter 12 THE ENCOUNTER: THE DRAMA THAT WAS MORE THAN COMICAL....................138
Chapter 13 THE FATHER, THE SONS AND THE PARTY BOMBSHELL....................145
Chapter 14 ATTEMPTING TO CARRY OFF AMERICA....................157
Chapter 15 ANOTHER FEATHER TO HIS CAP....................166
Chapter 16 MENDING FENCES ON BEHALF OF A RELUCTANT FATHER IN-LAW....................175
Chapter 17 "ARRANGEE MARRIAGE" FOR UNWILLING HUSBANDS IN THE DIASPORA....................182
Chapter 18 GREAT EXPECTATIONS GONE AWRY....................192
Chapter 19 CONSPIRACY FOR POLYGAMY....................204
Chapter 20 A WIFE WHO WAS CALLED A "SISTER"....................217
Chapter 21 REAPING THE FRUITS OF A DOUBLE LIFE....................227
Chapter 22 A SCHEME PERFECTED, A TREACHERY GONE BURST....................235
Chapter 23 Alienation In The Interest Of Peace....................248
Chapter 24 Managing Double Living with Style....................252
Chapter 25 "Oga Theodore": The Man from America....................261
Chapter 26 The Shepherd as a Wolf....................271
Chapter 27 Siege by Cupid....................280
Chapter 28 A revelation and an exit strategy....................297
Chapter 29 The moment for reflections....................308
Chapter 30 Heavenly match made on earth....................321
Chapter 31 AN UNCEREMONIUS END, A NEW BEGINNING....................333
Chapter 32 A chance meeting like no other....................342
Chapter 33 Bliss, contrasts and similarities....................368
Chapter 34 Broadening of the gap....................375
Chapter 35 UNFORTUNATE DISCOURAGEMENT FOR A BENEFACTOR....................391
Chapter 36 CITIZENS AND ESTRANGED ROOTS....................399
Chapter 37 ADIEU TO THE LAND THAT WAS ONCE HOME; WELCOME TO THE ERA OF THE VANISHING ROOTS....................410