No Sweetness Here
Another post on a short story, “No Sweetness Here” by Ama Ata Aidoo! This story expresses the varied struggles of an African woman. Why do I mostly take up short stories for my posts when many bloggers are busy reading bulky novels? Because short stories always leave me with a deeper understanding of life and that too within limited space and words. You don’t always have to eat a full-size cake for just a cupcake could still smack you with the same taste and feel. So, No Sweetness Here, one of Ama Ato’s collections of stories, is a platter of everyday battles of African women.
Chicha adores Kwesi and his beauty though she knows that beauty does not play a vital role in a man’s life as it does in a woman’s. Yet, she enjoys teasing Maami Ama that she would kidnap Kwesi if she had to leave this place. Though Maami knows that Kwesi is Chicha’s favourite pupil, the idea of separating Kwesi from her whips her hard. The 10-year-old Kwesi is the only point Maami Ama could hold on to and move on.
The whole village is preparing for the next day’s celebration of Ahobaada (a local festival). But there’s no such shine of celebration on Maami Ama’s face, something has been troubling her. In the middle of her conversation with chicha, she discloses: do you know that tomorrow I am going to have a formal divorce? Yes, she and her husband aren’t living together but tomorrow is the time to acknowledge it in front of the villagers.
Chicha knows Kodjo Fi is a selfish and bullying man, and he gets on marvelously with his two other wives. However, she is worried about Kwesi and asks, what will happen to Kwesi? Maami Ama replies that they might ask me to give him to his father and I would struggle but if the elders who settle the divorce insists, I wouldn’t refuse.
The day of Ahobaa begins with a happy reconciliation for Maami Ama. Her mother’s family, who’d been quarrelling with her since her mother’s death, has now agreed to give all her jewels to Maami Ama, as per her mother’s wish. Ahobaa is a season of goodwill! But the divorce settlement is yet to start…
The School works for the day as the Education Ordinance doesn’t declare holiday for local festivals. Chicha is eager to watch Maami Ama’s divorce settlement which starts at 1.00 pm. She asks the children to wait for her to come back and dismiss the class. She hurries to Nana Kum’s house, where the case is going on. It is crowded, being a holiday, and after the eating and the drinking of palm-wine in the morning and midday, divorce proceedings certainly provide an agreeable diversion, especially when other people are involved and not ourselves.
Chicha elbows her way to where Maami Ama is sitting and Kodjo Fi’s family opposite her. Maami Ama looks at Chicha and says, the case has been settled already and I am a divorced woman. The air around them is filled with opinions and judgements. It’s four already and she realizes that she needs to run to dismiss the class. She takes the shortest route to reach the school, only to find her class empty. But, the books of all children are lying on the desks. They need discipline, she tells herself. However, she finds Kwesi’s table clean which isn’t a surprise for he must have taken his books home.
On her way home, she sees the whole school at Maami Ama’s place. She runs to the circle of crowd… Kwesi is lying flat on his back and his right hand is swollen to the size of his head¾ a snake has bitten Kwesi. People began to tell what happened, but she hears only Maami Ama screaming, I am drowning, people of Bamso, come and save me!
Although Ama Ata hints at the separation of Maami Ama and Kwesi, right from the start, we’re forced to assume that Kodjo Fi might claim Kwesi’s custody. Perhaps, this fate of a ten-year-old is completely beyond one’s imagination. Despite the story’s dramatic undercurrents, Ama Ata’s portrayal of Maami Ama is an exponent for the community’s women and their strive to move on!
Ama Ata Aidoo (1942)
A Ghanaian writer, a person with strong affliction to African Traditions, Ama Ata Aidoo strongly believes that freedom of Africa means freedom of women. She has won many literary awards and was the Minister of Education in Ghana. Her writing concerns more with western influences and its impact on the roles of African women. With many short stories, plays, children’s books and novels to her credits, her most famous works are the play Anowa (1970) and the novel Our Sister Killjoy (1977).
I’ve always wanted to put my reading experience into writing—venting out. With the fecund digital and social space, I’ve decided now the right time to plunge into my ambitious desire of getting to know as many women writers across the world, through their works, regardless of their geographic and ethnic existence. Yet, I’m against the idea of branding my blog as feminist as I choose to read on them purely for the writers’ purport and their ardent works.
I’d like you to be a part of my reading journey and get to know along with me the women writers who’ve been silently transfiguring their areas of interest.