The main character of my unpublished novel, Katikati ya Theluji (In the Middle of the Snow) is an African young man who, in his early 30s, finds himself in the middle of Europe in search of what he was made to believe was a worldly paradise.
But to his realization, the dream turns into the nightmare that haunts him every single day. Worse enough? Even after having found no paradise in Europe, he is so deeply trapped into the hidden traps that he fails to get himself out of the hell he is in!
But, at least, as he was that much down, he finds some strength to tell his story in the hope that it would reach to his continent and might help others not to leave their beautiful nations in search of illusions.
It is from this point that Zidikheri is taking us step by step into his own journey. All the way from his remote village in the Indian Ocean Island of East Africa, he shows us all that motivated him in the beginning and all that demotivated him in the end.
The young Zidikheri who arrived in the developed world at the beginning of winter was so positive, so optimistic and so energetic and, of course, so handsome at his early years. But scene after scene, a Europe he never knew earlier began to introduce itself to him and the poor old man we find at the bench on the park is now a Zidikheri who is so lonely, so worn-out and so close to his death.
Forcefully but gently, this ‘other’ Europe – which he calls the real Europe – starts to unfold the bitter realities that were never mentioned in his pre-arrival knowledge. He had known the Europe of hopes and of milk and of honey. He was provided with the Europe of worries and of stress and of depression. The Europe that was released via media and literature was not at all what he was living in reality. “The Europe on the television screens”, he says “is the Europe packaged for commercial purposes!”
It was only at this stage that Zidikheri realises the traps by which he was already trapped. Yes, there are traps and not just one. So many. Few are visible, but most of them are not. “They are invisible,” he says. Using his flashback memories, he helps us to see how he got into each trap and how he failed to get out of any.
Remembering a fairy tale, “The Rabbit and the Sticky Statue” narrated to him by his grandma Hobo Mzuri in his village, Zidikheri displays how he was himself the rabbit of the tale and Europe the sticky statue.
In the tale, the Rabbit was breaking the regulations by sneaking in the night to take water from the village well, which was reserved for daily use during that summer season. The village had decided that it wouldn’t use the water in the night so as to get the well fills and purifies itself and there would be a shift for families who would be allowed to collect water on daily basis. That system would make sure no family goes without water for a long time. But the Rabbit did not abide to the regulations.
It did not take long before the villagers found out that their water was becoming scarcer and dirtier. That meant someone was going there in the night. So they decided to have a watchman from then on. But as genius as he was, the Rabbit managed to outsmart every watchman by his sugar-washed words and tricks until the village resolved to set a non-living watchman, which could not communicate – no listening, no talking, no feeling. They had found out that once you allow the Rabbit to talk to you, you would never get out of his traps. But this sticky statue would do the job!
And yes. On that fateful night, the genius Rabbit came to perform his old tricks and magics, telling all the sweet stories and giving all promises. But the watchman was not responding. He even threatened him, but in vain. “What a person who doesn’t even blink after all I said and did!?” He asked himself and then he decided to face him physically.
The moment he punched the watchman with his right hand, the arm stuck and he couldn’t get it out. “You release my hand, otherwise you get another punch from the other!” He continued to threaten. And so it was. When the left arm got stuck, he used the right foot, and when it did not come out, he used the left. Now he was remained with his stomach and head. And they too got stuck. When the villagers came in the morning, they saw their thief.
Using the last part of the fairy tale, Zidikheri admits that he, too, was made to stick unto the sticky statue though he was not sneaking to take anyone’s water in the night. He came legally to the place where he believed to be a climax of advancement and personal growth. But the place demanded everything from him. First, it asked him for his commitment and when he gave it, it asked for his time and when gave it, it asked for his energy and when he gave it, lastly, asked also for his freedom, which he had to give it too.
Through his narration, you are able to see the great losses that many people of his like are incurring. From failed marriages to broken families, from financial setbacks to life of pretendence, the Zidikheri’s ordeal is a tale of how an African village hero is reduced to zero by the sticky statue of Europe.
As much as he was giving in to it, the statue was sticking him to itself until there was no part of him that was anymore his own. By the time he realises how lost in his course he was, he has already gone too far to turn back. And in the middle of the Christmas snow, all alone in the park, he receives the angel of death.
Do not miss the book!