Vol. 20, #4
I have had some car trouble. Climbing a steep hill in heavy rain on a very narrow track, I came upon a lorry stuck and totally blocking the road. I attempted to turn the toyota land cruiser around on that very narrow road with deep rain dug ditches on each side. The car slid into the ditch and stayed in the ditch as I drove back down the hill with the car at a 45 degree angle with two wheels in the ditch. The scraping by rocks, roots, tree limbs and gravel did a lot of damage to one side of the car. I I spent ten days in Arusha as Indian panel beaters restored the car.
Enoti seeks forgiveness…
OleNagol was angry, so angry that he would not greet his favorite granddaughter. He had given orders that she was not allowed to approach his cattle camp. For Enoti to come near would mean death, cursed to die by her grandfather.
Enoti’s father Lemalali, a good friend of mine, died some years ago of a brain tumor. The lump on his head got bigger and bigger. Finally, I took him to the hospital in Arusha where doctors operated to remove the golf ball size growth. Kasiaro died on the operating table.
Enoti was left to be given in marriage by her grandfather. The old man chose a good friend of his, an age mate, a very old man. Enoti, having no say in the proceedings, was taken to the village of her husband, becoming the fourth wife of a man in his late seventies. The three older wives had the old man firmly in hand. Enoti got left out in everything. When there was money for clothing, the other wives got it all, Enoti was soon dressed in rags, the remnants of what she was wearing on the day she was married. Her husband gave her one pitifully thin milk cow that hadn’t had a calf in a couple years, so she had no milk to drink. Her co-wives managed to monopolize what little money there was for corn flour also, so Enoti had almost nothing to eat, and was reduced to sitting by the fires of the older wives existing on the left overs from their cooking pots.
She stuck it out for three years then eloped with Kimat, a young man whom I had sent to technical school for auto-mechanics and now had a good job as a driver with an organization working to help the Maasai of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Kimat built a house for Enoti and was able to buy her clothing and give her money to buy food to cook nourishing meals for them both.
Her grandfather was beside himself with anger, outraged that Enoti could so defy him by running away from the husband he had chosen for her. He publicly cursed both Enoti and Kimat and would have nothing to do with them.
The young couple tried everything they could think of to win over the old man. They sent delegations of elders on three different occasions to OleNagol with gifts of tobacco, honey beer and blankets. First went age-mates of Kimat’s father. They were turned back at the gate of the village. Next a delegation of her grandfather’s age-mates agreed to try. They were admitted to the village and given milk to drink but returned to tell Enoti and Kimat that the old man was adamant; he would not forgive them. Finally they sought the help of Birikaa, one of the most famous medicine men in all of Maasai land. His home village is not far from Endulen and Kimat often gave him lifts in the car between Endulen and Ngorongoro. Birikaa, a man universally feared in all of Maasai country, went to OleNagol and, although he was received as befits royalty, he had no better luck than the first two delegations.
Enoti and Kimat were desperate. A year and a half had now passed since their elopement and they were no closer to regularizing their union than they were on the night a hungry Enoti, dressed in rags had stolen away from the village of her husband and three older wives. Extreme measures were called for. A ritual, undertaken in only the direst circumstances, was decided upon. The ritual of Oseki was the only thing left to try, and because I was such a close friend of Enoti’s dead father, I would be the one to implement it.
Oseki is a kind of tree. When every other avenue fails, branches of Oseki are cut and carried to the elder refusing to forgive. If the cause of Enoti was just and true, OleNagol would curse himself by refusing to forgive. But Oseki is dangerous because If Enoti was in the wrong and her case not a just one, Enoti herself would be forever cursed by God.
In fear and trepidation, I agreed to go. Kimat and a couple of elders briefed me on what I should do and say. On the way to the village of OleNagol I cut a strong limb of Oseki with plenty of leafy branches. On my arrival at the cattle camp, I stood outside the village holding my great branch of Oseki in front of my like a shield. The old man together with all the women and children came out of the village to greet me clearly filled with consternation at seeing me with Oseki. They invited me to enter the village, sit by a house and drink some milk. I refused, holding my Oseki more tightly than ever, saying that what I had come for had to be dealt with first. I would not enter their village as a guest till my mission was accomplished. Well said the old man, let me bring a stool and a gourd of fresh cool milk out here so that you can sit and refresh yourself; then we can talk. Again I refused, saying that I could not sit down or touch a drop of milk till I had said what I had come to say.
I told OleNagol that Enoti was sick in heart and in body (In fact she had just been released from our mission hospital after a three day bout with a undiagnosed ailment). I explained to him that Enoti could no longer live estranged from her beloved grandfather. She was in imminent danger of simply wasting away. She had sent me with my branch of Oseki to beg for peace and forgiveness. Please, I said, forgive her and bless her. She cannot live a day longer knowing that you are angry with her. He was caught. What could he do? If he sent me away, he was calling the curse of God down on himself. He compromised. OK he said, let Enoti come and stay with me. I will bless her and she will remain at my village till I decide what to do with her. But I am still angry at Kimat and I don’t want him to come within shouting distance of my village. Make sure he stays far away from here. Feeling that I had won a very important battle and not lost the war either, I sat with the old man “ate the news” with him and drank his delicious curdled milk. Listening to my report, Enoti and Kimat were pleased. They felt certain that once Enoti was in the camp of the old man, always his favorite in past days, she would win his approval of Kimat also.
Enoti went to stay in the village of her grandfather the very next afternoon. Early the following morning, the old man forgave and blessed Enoti. In the midst of the cattle lowing impatiently to be milked and with the whole village looking on, OleNagol sprinkled Enoti with milk and honey beer from the special gourds of blessing, restoring her to the family.
Enoti stayed with her grandfather for a month. During that time, as we had hoped, she won him over completely, even to welcoming Kimat into his village. Two months later Enoti and Kimat were married with proper Maasai festivities.
I am happy to report that two of our Osotua program students, a girl and a boy, that have just finished Form IV not chosen by the government to continue, have been accepted into private Form V programs. Three others, girls, have been accepted into Ekoneforde Teacher Training School.
Till next month…