The man who stole sleep from his in-laws

When Tuzahungirahe married Umutoni, she was very young, very young. He married her because her father had the biggest piece of land in all the hills, and her mother was the most hardworking woman in the land. Her banana grove stretched from one hillside, across the valley, and up the next hillside, and her hand, was so good that everywhere the eye looked, the plants were bent under the weight of huge plantains and bananas.

When Tuzahungirahe married Umutoni, she was very young, very young. He married her because her father had the biggest piece of land in all the hills, and her mother was the most hardworking woman in the land.

Her banana grove stretched from one hillside, across the valley, and up the next hillside, and her hand, was so good that everywhere the eye looked, the plants were bent under the weight of huge plantains and bananas.

Many were the house-wives who resented Umutoni’s mother bitterly for if a husband thought that his wife did not grow enough food to feed the household, he would beat her and say, “Go to the garden of Umutoni’s mother and learn how a woman works to feed a man.”

And any man who passed by her garden on the way to the woods or to the well could not help burning with envy. With such abundance of food at his in-laws, Tuzahungirahe thought there was no need for the man who married the only daughter of the home to break new ground and trouble his wife with growing more food.

And so, in Umutoni’s home, the tall elephant grass remained unchallenged. She did not know why her husband should be so fond of her parents that he suggested a visit to them so frequently.

“Umutoni,” he said, “When was the last we saw your parents? Your mother must be dying to rest her eyes on her only child.” So they would set off husband and wife, and spend a day, filling themselves with all the good things that were thought fit to set before a son-in law.

Then they would return home, loaded with plantains, yams, ground-nuts and simsim, enough to last them until the next visit. And every time Umutoni asked, “But what about my hoe? When am I going to start making my own garden?”

Tuzahungirahe would reply, “You must have patience, my dear wife. Don’t think that every woman starts married life with a garden of her own.”

The first year of Umutoni’s, marriage came to an end, and another year started. Still she had no garden of her own. Her husband gave her one excuse after another. While other women planted, or harvested, Umutoni and her husband passed time on the road, to and fro, to visit her parents. And every time was the same.

They ate their fill, and carried enough to last till the next visit, until famine came and scoured the land. Yet, season after season, Umutoni and her husband depended on their parents for food.

The famine lasted a long time. Umutoni’s mother did not have much to give them now to carry home. Her garden was almost empty.

As time went on, they carried less and less, until there was nothing at all to take. On the way home, dangling his empty arms, Tuzahungirahe said nothing. And when they got home, they went to bed without a blaze in the fire place, for there was nothing to cook.

This put Tuzahungirahe in a very bad temper. The next day hunger was scratching at his insides the way a mad man scratches in the dust. “Umutoni,” he said to his wife, “I have a pleasant surprise for you.”

“What is it?” she asked. “A new home,” he replied. Thinking that he had gone and cut down new bush, all unknown to her, Umutoni clapped her hands with joy. “I will make sure to plant lots and lots of sweet potatoes,” she said. “And beans should not take very long.”

“We shall go and live near your parents,” he said.
She was not listening. “How glad mother will be,” she said, “with no more fear of making this long journey through the hills. And as for seed, I can always beg from kind neighbors. My mother always said no woman ever begrudges another of seed.”

“Listen to me!” he shouted her down. She turned to look for the reason he needed to bark so loud. “The place we are going to move is right next to your parents. No more will we need to make that long journey when we want to visit them.”  

Contact: benjis07@yahoo.co.uk

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