About 15 years ago, my mother sent me to go and buy some ingredients to add to what she had. She was preparing our evening meal. Our meal that night was going to be rice and a sauce. We rarely eat rice so I was besides myself with happiness, and with excitement, I walked quickly so I could get back home early. As usual, people had gathered under the ebony tree to buy pork from the man who sells there, the meat would be accompanied with pito from the woman who brewed it just across the road. I greeted them as I walked to the market. When I was almost past them, one of them called and asked who I was, but before I could reply, someone chimed in ‘helpfully’, ‘That’s Bruno the drunkard’s daughter’. It was said so loudly that everyone heard it, and they laughed. I was a child then so the laughs meant nothing to me, and I marched purposefully to finish my errand.
Years later, the incident had become one of the hazy memories we tug at but only remember incompletely, and in my case, it was just how much I had stuffed myself that evening. I had come home from university (I was one of the few who had finished SHS and got lucky) during a holiday, one of the few moments I spend at home, with my family. I went to town and on my way home, I passed by a drinking spot. My dad was sitting with some of his friends under a mango tree and I stopped by to say hello. One of them asked who I was and my father proudly said, ‘She’s my daughter’ but the man laughed over it and said he should stop telling lies. I told him it was true but he said how could my father have such a beautiful, grown-up daughter like me. He nearly said more things but I think he checked himself because of the look I had on my face. Fast forward, my father passed away in 2018 and at the funeral when my brother and I went to read a tribute in memory of him, people were shocked that he had such grown children. A lot of them have seen my father in his worst state; when he is hopelessly drunk. They never expected anything good to come from him. To them, he didn’t look like a responsible man who could have a family yet there were his children, whom he had taken care of, put through SHS, and one eventually got a master’s degree.
I used to feel embarrassed any time people talk like that about my father, but now, after reflecting over it I have accepted that this is who I am, the drunkard’s daughter! and I decided that the drunkard’s daughter will not follow in the steps of the drunkard. She has seen the mistakes of the drunkard and she has taken lessons from them. So she resolved on that day when she was referred to as the drunkard’s daughter, to make her family, especially her father proud and shock everyone, especially those who tagged her the drunkard’s daughter. And she did exactly that, though he wasn’t alive to see her graduate from her master’s programme, he used to proudly tell everyone his daughter was a master’s degree. He would call me time and again to ask what programme I was reading, and what programme I studied for first degree, and I would answer him and smile after every call, feeling glad that he was already proud of me. Anytime he called to ask such questions, you would know he is telling the people in his company that his daughter is a karekye (a learned person). It’s rather unfortunate things didn’t go as I wished but I know he is still proud of me.
There are many ways people could have used to describe my father, he was a plumber, he was an evangelist, he had a place of work, he had a hometown, he had a wife, he had family members that were/are popular and so on but people chose to describe him using his weakness. Yes, that is how a lot of people look at others, always highlighting their weaknesses and saying negative things about them. Some do it deliberately, others just don’t know. Or let me say that is what they know, they don’t know how to say nice things about others other than criticising, and their criticisms are not constructive.
That is what happens around us, people will not focus on your positive attitude and good deeds. Your negatives and bad deeds, even if it is just one will always overshadow and outshine whatever good thing there is about you. It is even worse when we do this to ourselves. As individuals it is very important to think positively of ourselves, not to say you should forget the negatives, but think of how you can address the negatives. Negatives are not so bad, but don’t let them drag you down. Being called the drunkard’s daughter was heartbreaking and discouraging. I felt that was all I could be – a drunkard’s daughter. A drunkard’s daughter! But today, I think I am more that the drunkard’s daughter from years ago. I am beautiful, I am intelligent, I am smart, I am blissful, I am confident, I am a strong woman, I am important. But most importantly I am a role model and a mentor to many young people in my community.
Many of us may be embarrassed by some of the things our parents do but we don’t always have to let those things get at us. Rather, we should let them be the reasons why we want to be better people. Maybe, without the critics and negative opinions from people, we will not want to become better versions of ourselves. Maybe if people had said something like ‘that’s Bruno’s daughter’ other than ‘the drunkard’s daughter’, I might have been content with the recognition. Calling me a drunkard’s daughter got me feeling bad and embarrassed, hence my resolve to be better and at least get someone to refer to my father as the ‘Master’s student’s father’. If you have ever looked at someone and judged them because of their parents’ conditions, know that you may just have discouraged and killed their dream. Not everyone will look at these things and want to work on them. Those description of me as the drunkard’s daughter made me feel that nothing good can come out of me because even if I do my best, people already have their opinions about me. I do not hold anything against those people, I just decided to let that remind me of how society sees me and how I can change society’s perceptions about me.
If you say things that will not help people learn and improve their lives, then you may as well just keep quiet and let them be. If you can’t keep quiet about it, then try to rephrase what you want to say. That way you can easily get the person to think about it and work with it. For example, if someone keeps doing something wrong and you want them to stop doing it, you don’t just tell them, ‘The way you’re doing this is wrong’, rather, try saying something like this, ‘Have you thought of doing what you’re doing this way or that way?’. You will most likely hurt their ego in the first instance and they will not be willing to accept your corrections. The latter manner will be met with gratitude; that you didn’t put them in any situation that might be embarrassing to them and also, you have pointed them to other possibilities. Think about it
As we mark Father’s day, I am celebrating this great man who was referred to as a drunkard and who was seen as a useless person, I am also celebrating all the men who are seen as “useless” and are not regarded with respect in society. You may not know their worth but most of them are specialists in their fields. If you don’t believe ask me, my father was one of the best plumbers in Wa, weeks after his death, people were still calling his phone to come and fix their pipes for them. To all these unsung heroes and stars who are struggling to shine, I say Ye garebanye (congratulations)! The judgements we pass on them weigh them down that they get even more addicted to their bad habits. Some of them just need to encourage them to become better people but no, we would rather not. And after all the drunkard went through, you’re reading his story written by the drunkard’s daughter. CHEERS‼!