Literary Zone

Short story: Punishment and Reward

9 December 2019 at 02:40 | 1555 views

Punishment and Reward

By Koyie Mansaray, Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire*

Two girls were born in the same year. They lived and grew up in the same neighbourhood. Their village was called Kombaya. One was called Damba and the other, Madusu. The two girls grew up together and became inseparable friends. Damba’s parents were well-to-do; whereas Madusu’s parents lived in abject poverty. In spite of her affluent background, Damba was humble, kind and respectful. Madusu, on the other hand, was arrogant, selfish and disrespectful. Damba never missed an opportunity in counselling her close friend to show respect and temperance in her dealings with the other villagers ,especially the adults. However, Damba’s wise words of advice fell on deaf ears. If anything, Madusu’s insolent manner got worse and worse. She treated almost everybody with impertinence, the only exception being her own biological parents, Pa Yandi and Mama Bambe.

As the two friends grew up and became elegant, young ladies, the whole village community took notice of these inseparable friends of contrasting characters. The village elders virtually fell in love with Damba and her admirable qualities. On the other hand,, they shunned Madusu and treated her like a pariah on account of her unbearable insolence.

As they moved around from compound to compound, Damba would lend a helping hand to relieve some older housewives of the usual domestic chores. In exasperation, Madusu would often upbraid her friend, urging her to, instead leave them and would add: “Dusu, when will you stop giving these good-for-nothing hags, such a help? Do you want to be as idle as they are?” But Damba in her characteristic kindness, would reply:’It’s only a kind gesture with a nice spirit behind it. In any case, we are growing up and one day, we also may need some younger persons to give us such helping hands.” Madusu did not give a damn as she snorted out in disgust at her close friend’s persistence and readiness to help others.
In addition to her serviceable nature, Damba was also generous to the poor and needy in her village. From the allowance Pa Kulako ,the village store-keeper, gave his older daughter, Damba would share a good proportion of it with persons in need.
Madusu manifested another insidious aspect of her character by being excessively greedy and selfish. She never took kindly to the generous disposition of her friend. One day, while Damba was hindered by an urgent family errand and sent ,through Madusu, a certain amount of money to complete the medical bills of one ailing local child, she failed to hand over the said amount to the sick neighbour in need .Madusu later concocted a story that she lost the money on her way home. In feigned annoyance, Damba told her friend:

“Since when have you become a penny-pincher from a sick boy? Time’ll tell, as you sow, so shall you reap,” Damba warned her close friend, jokingly.

‘I swear, the money fell and that was how I lost it” Madusu attempted to defend herself.

Damba had to hurriedly raise another amount which she herself took to the seriously ailing , young man.

Notwithstanding Madusu’s many instances of misconduct and insolence, Damba continued to treasure their friendship. In fact, she still confided in her friend, sharing her most intimate plans with her.

To most Kombayans, it was puzzling and intriguing why Madusu’s growing misdeeds and impertinence never succeeded in corrupting or diminishing Damba’s sterling qualities. If anything, Damba grew all the more in doing good and being generous to all and sundry. She therefore continued to be admired and adored by most of the locals.

One young man who came to admire and fell in love with Damba was a recently transferred health inspector to Kombaya from the regional capital. Mr Sigismund John, the health inspector, was an eligible bachelor. He had been very busy with his studies and never allowed the search for a future bride to distract his attention. From the very day he arrived in Kombaya and set eyes on Damba, he was practically swept off his feet. It was love at first sight. Damba’s charm and natural beauty had an irresistible effect on him. After just a week of his arrival, he started strategizing as to how best to woo and date this ravishing village beauty. It was not until after two more weeks of long-distance scrutiny from behind the bed-room window of his two-bedroom official quarters that he made up his mind to summon much courage to launch his love offensive. Damba kept Sigismund in a two-week suspense, before finally accepting to date him. Damba only accepted Mr.John’s advances after she was assured that the relationship would be crowned by a serious decision: a holy matrimony between God and men. The whole Kombaya village, therefore, looked forward to a first highly successful wedding in their village between a local girl and a young civil servant from outside from the very moment they learnt about the seriousness of the love affair between Damba and Mr.John.

Unbeknown to Damba, her close child-hood friend, Madusu was turning green with jealousy each time Sigismund John’s name was mentioned in a conversation. Madusu became the only inhabitant of Kombaya who did not approve of the love affair between her close friend and this handsome young man from the coast. She had been nursing an intense desire to supplant her close friend, by wooing and wresting from Damba the first love of her life.

Madusu then went into action. She devised a diabolical scheme that would put an end to the promising relationship between Damba and Sigismund. She moved to the neighbouring village of Kaya to enlist the services of a formidable witch-doctor called Bassi-Kolo. In no time, Damba suffered from a sudden paralysis in both legs. She lay on her bed in utter agony. Bassi-Kolo also gave Madusu a powerful talisman that would over-power and render subservient any male companion of her choice.
On her arrival from Kaya, Madusu proceeded straight into action. She invited Mr.John, who had been lamenting over the sudden paralysis of his fiancée, Damda. As soon as Mr.John stepped into Madusu’s bed-room, he was transfixed and started acting like a zombie. There and then, Madusu seduced him under the captivating effect of the mesmerizing talisman. The once faithful Sigismund John, spent two days and nights in Madusu’s arms, feeding deep on the irresistible love potion. Soon afterwards, the health inspector dumped the ailing, paralysed Damba. To the utter dismay of all Kombaya, he proposed to marry Madusu. The whole community of Kombaya reacted with horror .However,Sigismund’s mind was made up and nobody could stop him from getting married to his new-found love.
In spite of the general boycott of the villagers, the couple solemnized their wedding in a low-key traditional fashion, witnessed by only the bride’s family members and Mrs.Aduke John , who came all the way from the coastal home of Sigismund. Retired Pa John, the bridegroom’s father had never favoured his professionally-trained son to take a bride from among the local villagers. He therefore did not make the journey to attend his son’s wedding.

Meanwhile, the profoundly disappointed villagers of Kombaya were genuinely sorry to behold Damba in her unexpected, wretched state. Many herbalists were consulted in a bid to heal her, but to no avail.

Many locals offered to be carrying out domestic chores for the ageing Pa Kulako and Mama Manti in Damba’s stead. The search for Damba’s cure still continued unabated in Kombaya as this was one community that stood solidly together. The inhabitants were unanimous in attaching a great value to good character as exhibited by Damba. Her ailing state, therefore, became a major preoccupation to the majority. There is no gainsaying that, the Kombayans profoundly resented the betrayal ,treachery and heartlessness of Madusu. It was unheard of in their community for someone, considered to be a close friend to stage a coup de love against a supposed friend by snatching away his or her future spouse. Some even suspected that Damba’s paralysis must have been inflicted by some foul means for which Madusu might have played some key role.

As the joint effort to heal a gentle soul like Damba’s gathered momentum in all of Kombaya village, the local Pentecostal Assembly Church members also started committing the ailing, young woman’s condition to their Lord, each time they came together for their mid-week prayer time. One day, one of the brethren reportedly had a divine revelation: Damba’s paralysed condition was the work of a neighbouring fetish. The handicap could be reversed through a period of fasting and prayers, lasting for not less than two weeks.

This revelation was like a magic wand. Damba’s family members, however, kept it a top secret. They and some close family friends started the two-week fasting and prayer the next day after the announcement from the church was made. With diligence, they fasted and prayed throughout the day from their homes. They carried the paralysed Damba to the church every day before breaking the fast.

On the thirteenth day of fasting and prayers, in the evening, as they were about to end the closing prayer at the church, Damba miraculously stood up on her two legs. She took one step; two steps and began to walk briskly as before. Then she broke into a short sprint along the middle aisle. She ran back and forth
In a tremendous outburst of emotion, the church exploded into jubilation of singing and praising God. Damba led her family and friends home all of them exceedingly joyful. They proclaimed the name of this wonderful God, who restored the two legs of Damba. In so short a time, the whole village square was full of dancing and singing to celebrate the restoration of the lower limbs of one of the worthy daughters of Kombaya.

Meanwhile, at the health inspector’s quarters, there was an uproar and agony as Mrs.Madusu John writhed and squirmed on the floor. She was struck with paralysis in the right leg the very moment Damba regained the use of her legs. In addition, she was wobbling around, half-naked, the hair disheveled and muttering unintelligible words at first. Then suddenly, she burst out into an outright confession of her wrong-doings which afflicted her once trusted, close friend, Damba. She then rushed out and started feeding ravenously from the nearby dustbins and rubbish-heap. She then let out a deafening yell:

“Yes, I was the invisible hand behind Damba’s paralysis,’’she stammered out. ” I betrayed the trust of friendship. Today I’m in pain because of my selfishness. My people, go and tell Damba to forgive me. I know my state of insanity is terminal. But I wish to die convinced that Damba has forgiven me” Madusu drawled in conclusion.
Madusu’s case worsened as days passed by. Sigismund John was profoundly embarrassed and dispirited by the unexpected fate of his young wife. As the captivating effect of the talisman wore off, he decided to walk out on his insane, handicapped wife. He quietly requested his superiors at the Health and Sanitation Ministry to transfer him to another station, where Madusu was not likely to set eyes on him again. As the saying goes, the effect of any love potion is but temporary.
At the same time, Damba’s beauty and elegance became more evident as her popularity widened, being the village’s only miracle child. Everyone wanted to have a gentle word with her and interact with her everywhere she went. People even came from the neighbouring villages to catch a glimpse of this wonder-kid. One of the people who came from the village of Kamaron was a charming bachelor called James. On seeing Damba, he was drawn to her like iron-file to a magnet.
James was from a relatively wealthy family. He was of a humble, sympathetic character. His peers and the adults spoke well of him. On returning home, James told his parents that he had found in Kombaya village a girl who would be an ideal better-half for him. After one week, Pa Saidu Toronka, and Mama Sundu, James’ parents came to meet Pa Kulako and Mama Manti in order to ask for Damba’s hand in marriage.

Damba and James Toronka’s wedding, six months later that year, was the talk of the whole region. Both the inhabitants of Kamaron and Kombaya were involved at every stage of the event and the couple received gifts of every kind. In short, the two villages that were once antagonistic to each other dating back from the inter-tribal war period, forged a new sense of understanding, all resulting from this marriage between a son and a daughter from the two communities. On account of his good character and leadership qualities, James was destined to be the future chief of Kamaron who would have as his close friend and confidant, his wfe,Damba.
The inhabitants of Kombaya later formulated an adage based on the betrayal of Madusu which says:

If you misconstrue my sincerity to be naivety, you’re bound to be struck down while I gain the reward of everlasting joy. This adage continued to reinforce the usual sense of probity and moral standards exhibited by the inhabitants of Komaya as well as those of the surrounding villages for many more centuries.

*Koyie Henry Mansaray (photo) was born in North-eastern Sierra Leone in a village called Kuruto. He went to the Koidu Secondary School in Kono District, then the Methodist Boys High School in Freetown. He trained as a teacher of French and Modern History at the then Milton Margai Teachers College (MMTC), doing a year abroad at the University of Dijon in France, where he obtained the Advanced Diploma in French Studies. He later took a Bachelor of Arts With Honours in French at Fourah Bay College and went to teach French at the MMTC.

He started full-time print media work in the mid 1990’s. He went on to edit the Weekend Spark weekly and after three years, was recruited as one of the Sub-Editors of The New Citizen. He became the General Editor of the short-lived newsletter called THE TRUE SIERRA LEONEAN of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy(MRD), based in Conakry, Guinea.

He then served as the Advocacy and Public Relations Officer of the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone (EFSL) for nearly two years. In 2007, he was appointed as the Publications Specialist of the Mano River Union HIV/AIDS Project, publishing a quarterly bulletin of project activities in English and French. He at the same time served as the Communications Officer of the MRU Secretariat. In 2010, he was recruited as Proof-reader and Reviser in English at the General Secretariat of the African Development Bank. He was re-assigned as Editor Assistant at the Corporate Language Services Department of the ADB in October 2014. On retiring in August 2016, he went to serve as Translator and Reviser in English at the Traduc-Co Interpreting /Translation firm in Abidjan. He is currently the Secretary General of the Association of Former Staff Members –ADB(AFSM-ADB)

As regards his educational background, Koyie Henry Mansaray has an Advanced Diploma in French Studies,(1978), Higher Teachers Certificate(1979), B.A With Honours in French(1989) from Fourah Bay College and Master of Philosophy in Linguistics (2010) from the University of Sierra Leone.