Life is a joke
Take it seriously
It was the day the aroma and the taste of our homemade tea changed - forever.
Our mother (bless her) would wake up every morning to make tea for the whole family. No one knew how but somehow, it was that tea that kept everything in order. It was served three times a day and whenever a guest arrives.
A damaged teapot that looked like it had gone through so many battles is still sitting somewhere. If it is ever was misplaced, it could easily trigger a civil war inside our home. It is always there in the background, almost ignored, and yet never failed to provide the tea that held the home spirit together.
One day, our big brother - as if he discovered a new world all by himself – came from outside looking so proud and confident. We all knew he was up to something. His face glowed, his eyes glittered and even the way he walked changed. But there was a footprint of mischief stamped on his smile with that stupid childish expression – ‘I got something you don’t’ – thing!
It was late in the afternoon – just when we were all having our homemade tea – in peace.
He pulled out a small packet no one had ever seen before and asked for hot water only. We all looked surprised and our mother refused. She was unwilling to boil water again.
No way! I am not wasting my hot bed of charcoal and water! She shouted.
He roared back like a lion!
She had no option but to give in to avoid a war.
He got his boiling water in a glass!
We never drank tea in a glass except on special occasions. We had them in plastic or metallic cups too hot to handle.
Mind your lips! The tongue would say, terrified the heat might rise beyond its taste bud tolerance. The short and abrupt sips begin before the taste is lost – fast – a hit and miss practice, really. Standard daily routine! We were good at it.
But on that day, something happened. This big brother of ours who was supposed to set example to the young, opened that small packet he brought from no-one-knows-where and pulled out a rectangular bag held by a thin long thread with a tiny paper holder at its tip.
He looked at all of us – one by one – with that mischievous smile again!
A glass of hot water and a dangling tea bag ready for the plunge with a bunch of hypnotised wide-eyed and god-forsaken brothers and sisters waiting for a miracle.
What was a clean glass of hot water turned to tea in 10 seconds! Voila!
He took a sip… and another and another, and said, “This is what you call a proper tea,” with that smile again and he knew exactly what he was doing.
The problem was he didn’t know where he was going from that moment on.
As for us and as of that moment, the home tea – the tea we forgot to cherish and took for granted for long – was devalued. It never tasted the same again… until we all grew up and had a cup of tea with a tea bag for free.
Now, all we want is the tea from that teapot! That, we declared, was the proper tea!
So sweet and nostalgic!
A few years later, our big brother left home. They said he went to Addis Ababa to study. A few years later, he came back.
He looked different. Even that mischievous smile was wiped off his face. He looked serious.
Would you like a cup of tea? asked our mother.
I have far more important things in mind, he said.
He was talking about and unsure of joining the ELF or the EPLF.
He always had to join something… anything – groups, clubs, friends, gangs, things. He just wasn’t the kind of guy who could stand on his own. He had to stick to something otherwise, he would break apart.
I have some important decisions to make! he said, with that new look.
We had no idea what he was talking about. For us, it was easy to spot the difference. It was the letter ‘P’. Pure and simple!
But nobody knew what it stood for and so we asked him.
He said we were too young to understand.
And the F?
Forget it, he shouted back.
So for us, it was ‘Eritrea Liberty Forget’. We didn’t like it and we went on with our lives.
Some time later, he disappeared again. News spread round that he joined the EPLF to liberate Eritrea.
Many, many years later, we found out that he left a couple of children somewhere but no property.
After many years, news spread round again that he was spotted in Cairo.
What is my son doing in Egypt? asked our father who wasn’t part of the scene – till now, that is.
He appeared from nowhere and said, I always knew one of my children would be king, and disappeared – never to be seen again.
Maybe he wants to join the ELF now, said one of us.
He made the wrong choice then – try something different, you know, suggested another.
What? Liberate Eritrea all over again? asked another.
Where is Cairo anyway? asked one.
Egypt! You stupid! was the reply he got from some other.
Maybe he wants to join the Mummies? He always wanted to join something, said someone.
Maybe he doesn’t know Eritrea is free?
I need no liberation from no one except Jah! declared another.
Has he gone Rasta now? wondered another – bewildered.
Who is Jah?
Emperor Hailesellasie appeared from nowhere and said, Ethiopia stretches her hand to God! and disappeared.
How come no one told me about all this stuff? asked the little one – with a blank face.
You weren’t even born, man, he was told.
You didn’t ever exist! Boy!
Maybe he wants to join the Muslim brotherhood? said the other.
I like brotherhood, said the sister.
What planet is she from? wondered another
You are supposed to stand for sisterhood! No? asked one of us.
I don’t like my sister, she said.
What the hell is going on here?
I don’t know.
You all look like children in adult bodies? asked one.
You got a problem with that – Bro!
What is he doing in Cairo anyway? another question from somewhere.
Maybe he is thinking of buying a new teapot – a new Egyptian teapot – a gift, who knows?
What is wrong with our teapot? shouted one of us – in defence of the old teapot.
Well, come on man! It doesn’t look like a teapot anymore, doest it? said one – with absolute resignation.
By the way, that battle-hardened teapot is still there - making the homemade tea.
Our big brother is not into teapots anymore. You remember what he said to our mother a long time ago? We were reminded by one.
He said he has more important things in his mind!
Maybe he wants to be the king of Egypt?
There is no such thing called king of Egypt!
Who is the king of Egypt?
He is no king! Brother!
What is going in Egypt anyway? asked one.
They want democracy and not Moursi!
Egypt is a gift of God. You want the Nile! shouted Moursi.
What did he say? asked one of us.
You are in denial! replied another.
He is the one who is in denial!
What is the Nile anyway? wondered one who we thought had better ears.
It the longest river in Africa! Stupid!
Jah! Easy Man!
Forget the steam here! Look upstream! shouted Moursi.
What is he talking about? asked everyone.
The Dam! The Dam! shouted Moursi.
What Dam? asked everyone was shouting – including members of the Muslim brotherhood.
I like brotherhood, said the sister.
The Dam in Ethiopia! shouted Moursi.
Bomb the damn thing!
Our Brothers in Eritrea will help us! said Moursi.
You see, said the sister, maybe that is why our big brother is in Cairo!
To save us from this damnation! said she – with absolute certainty.
Maybe that is why he joined the Muslim brotherhood! she said – quite excited.
Who else can help us? asked Moursi.
All the rebels along the Nile and much further! suggested someone.
You are in denial! shouted the people.
We are in the Nile not in denial! Moursi shouted back.
It’s hot in here, man.
Where is our big brother then? asked one.
He could be anywhere. Who cares! so said another.
He is still our brother, said the sister.
All of a sudden, the door opened and our mother came in.
What is all this shouting about… calm down! It felt like an order alright.
Silence reigned – at last.
Your tea is ready, she said, to no one in particular.