The other day my meditation instructor launched into a strict, no-nonsense beratement of the listener. The kind which Mr. Sebuliba of Bingos would employ on the day he returned the mid-term papers. “Some of you, I don’t know what you’re doing in this class. Simple things we studied just the other day. What should I do for you, eh?” He’d go on and on about iron and oxygen and all those pesky symbols on the periodic table.
The periodic table is a weapon of mass destruction, if you can believe it. It will destroy your ego, confidence and consequently lower your academic points. For 4 years at its mercy, you’d learn to surrender to the frequent humiliation when Sebuliba passed to you your paper with 30% written in red in the right hand corner. But overtime, you got used to the marks and for some of us you even considered Chemistry, an O Level major subject, dropped.
You dropped it in your head and only showed up to classes and exams, did what you could and exited. I won’t need this shit after school anyway. So after some time it was not the marks that were humiliating. It was the voice in your head, triggered by Sebuliba’s little disdainful speech, telling you that you’re a failure. And in that moment, not even your 95% in both English papers would convince you otherwise. The mind is powerful. And like my meditation instructor noted from the feedback he often receives, we all desire to silence it.
“I can’t stop my mind during meditation, some of you keep saying. Why do you want to stop your mind? Do you want the liver and heart to stop too? Let it be!” Ahhh. Omushaha kayatabuka. One would say in my language. And as a meditator who often seeks to silence my mind, I knew I was being called out. I also understood what he was saying – intellectually at least. The meditation teacher and Sebuliba might employ that method in the hope of scolding us into doing better. Needless to say, the mind often remains more powerful than the will. If the mind says you’re a failure, you will never master the periodic table. If it keeps talking while you meditate, you’ll never cease to want it to stop. And so the pattern goes.
A man cut a bunch of matooke from my uncle’s plantation in Bushenyi on one rainy night. He took to his house where his wife and mother-in-law live. They prepared a meal and ate. You see, matooke, and all banana plants are at peak growth season in Bushenyi. Bogoya is harvested every other day. Matooke ripens in the plantation. There’s plenty at lunch and dinner and so much remains even after the neighbours and visiting reverends are fed. It’s ridiculous how much Matooke is in the Ankole sub-region right now.
Point is, this man’s cutting of a banana bunch from a plantation which he doesn’t own might be considered theft by the constitution. But it is as inconsequential as it gets. A hungry family was fed by matooke that could have gone bad anyway anyway. No harm, no foul. As fate would have it, this man’s family happened to each catch a stomach ache that night. Totally unrelated of course. I mean, I have a slight stomach ache right now and I haven’t cut anyone’s bananas.
Yet the man for avoidance of doubt walked over to the house in the middle of the night to apologize. In a society where some people have resorted to occult business as a means to curb crime, (and who can blame them after police spokesperson Enanga’s advice to motorists) nothing can be left to chance. He admitted to having taken a bunch of matooke without asking and said that he was ready to do penance in exchange for his family being spared.
He was sent back home with an invitation to come back for more bananas. There was no penance to be done and the stomach aches were purely coincidence. Possibilities he likely imaged as well. Yet he had been unable to go to sleep with that nagging feeling in the mind that he could have royally fucked things up. Last night I slept to the sound of the same meditation: stop the mind’s chatter. And right before I surrendered my consciousness, I thought about Sebuliba, the periodic table and the inadequacies my mind conjured up from attending Chemistry class. I thought about the man who took the bananas that made his mind go bananas.