Typically, fables are moral lesson tales that have animals as the main characters – like the stories on greed where the hyena always takes the starring role, although I keep wondering which animal between a hyena and a pig is greedier.
I suppose it is easy for the hyena to win this one hands down, seeing it’s quite an unfortunate-looking animal that laughs at everything.
Pigs? Pigs we can forgive – they have human-like eyes (I understand their hearts are this close to human hearts) and they are oh-so yummy. Come to think of it, humans could take the greed cup quite easily – never seen a species hog (see what I did there) everything that comes its way as the human does.
The wise tortoise. The cheeky monkey. The shrewd hare. All those tales have been recycled over and over. Imagination does not seem to live in the fable streets. The only thing that has evolved is children (and tourists) thinking animals can talk. Blame animation movies, Lion King, and other realistic animal-oriented animations.
This is not a literature lesson though, it is a fable with a difference because it involves human-animals, and unlike the traditional fables that are works of fiction, this one did really happen.
A wedding between two villagers took place. Weddings are still a big deal over here. We remind each other to get kitenges, and we mark our mental diaries so as not to overlap events. If you invited me to State House on the same day there is a village party, I will most likely skip it, I think.
If an audacious villager decides to have an invite-only wedding, we ignore that and invite ourselves shamelessly. The only way to have an invite-only wedding is to take it out of a 100km radius. Anything less and we will find our way. We don’t go down without a fight.
“We are going to eat rice,” that is what we say when attending a wedding. ‘Eating rice’ is a broad meal consisting of those two pieces of mostly imaginary meat found inside a soupy cold stew, rice with yellow food colour, a drop of pilau whose only claim to the pilau family is the colour, over-cooked cabbage mixed with grated carrot, and to complete the cuisine disaster, a thin slice of dry watermelon or a slice of bitter pineapple.
There is of course the piece of cake just enough to feed two ants, but who is measuring? The taste and the presentation are beside the point.
Dress up, laugh together, sing for the bride, and pretend to eat
The point is to dress up, laugh together, sing for the bride, and pretend to eat (because people leave half the food on the plate, later to be eaten by random dogs).
‘Never not have enough food’ is the cardinal rule, but someone broke it. Less than half the guests got food. Scandal. Not having enough food to feed a million guests can only be done by mean people. Unforgivable. People grumbled and walked out in protest with their money gifts tucked in their armpits. You don't feed villagers, they don't gift you.
A couple of weeks later there was another wedding. People were not taking chances so they went with half-full stomachs, ready to stage another walk-out if necessary – I think they actually wanted there to be no food; more drama, and gossip.
But a moral lesson had been learned. The wedding two weeks earlier was quoted by the master of ceremonies, “We are generous people. We shall feed you until you cannot eat anymore, unlike a certain wedding that happened recently.”
That family is now marked. That wedding will be quoted for generations, cited as an example of what happens if you do not feed guests. Fable. “Weddings, especially during these hard times, are a place for the hungry to feed. It is a place for emaciated village dogs to chew a bone. You cannot compromise on that.”
Village wisdom – dogs matter too.