Happy January 7, folks!
On my way to work this morning, I was listening to Dan Gata by Jeremiah Gyang, a very underrated singer and song composer from Jos. (Which we all know is the greatest city on earth, thank you very much.)
A line in that lovely song calls for people to bring out their “Molo,” a traditional wooden string instrument often found in northern Nigeria and the middle belt area.
That line in the song took me back many years ago, to when my grandmother – Ruth Kangyang Danja – played her Molo.
I got to hear and listen to many Hausa and Berom songs through the sounds my grandma made with her Molo. She enjoys singing. She used to sing for a group of Berom women dancers. She also played the Molo while the women danced around her and other musicians. Great times.
Often, when we heard her play on her instrument, it was always an indication of her being in a bad mood, which never really lasted more than two hours. Lol.
She is a sweet woman, but there are times she gets too moody that everyone stays away. Haha. But I always got my way with her even when she was in her zone. Whenever everyone stayed away, I moved closer. She loves me for that and I also pride myself as being one of the few people who can be around her at any time.
My grandmother, who was born at a time when my people didn’t really keep formal birth dates, is one of the strongest women I know. We believe she’s somewhere between 80-90 years old.
At some point in her life, she was a trader. She traveled to far places in the north to buy grains and farm produce. ( I got to learn of names of places like Saminaka, Sabon Tasha, Hawan Kibo and the likes.)
We looked forward to those trips because we were sure to get treats like sugarcane, fresh exortic fruits and many more.
I particularly enjoyed listening to her travel tales. Many times, she told us of encounters with thieves. Some of those thieves would use very seemingly innocent conversations to get you distracted before they stole your money.
I’ve never met anyone who tells stories as good as my grandma. Numerous nights without electricity were spent in her room listening to stories of how great the Berom people are. How many battles they fought in defending Jos, how welcoming they are.
Under many full moons, she’s drawn invisible links on how we are related to one person or the other. From her tales, I think I’m related to every Berom person on earth. ( see one reason why I think The Nigerian Husband could never be a Berom man? Lol)
In her very vibrant and strong days, Ngo (mother in Berom, but a word often used as a form of respect for an older woman) was very enterprising and hardworking.
Her husband, my grandfather, died a few months before I was born. I grew up knowing her to be very hardworking, but from all I’ve heard, she worked just as hard when he was alive. She never waited or depended on a man.
From all the stories I’ve heard about him, he supported her in all her ventures, he loved her and protected her. She was his pride. Like Ngo, he was a very upright member of society. I don’t think there’s anyone who could dig up dirt on him. I never met him, but I feel proud to be his granddaughter.
Also, my grandmother is very generous. She’ll give her last to make sure everyone is okay. I remember many nights, we’d eat our dinner but rush to her room and watch her eat. Even though we always had our meals, she’ll share hers with us. Traditionally, most Nigerian homes don’t eat enough meat, my family was no different at some point. Ngo would share her two pieces of meat with us. A lot of the times, she didn’t have a knife close by, so she used scissors to make sure how ever many of us that were present got equal share of her two pieces of meat.
In keeping with her generosity, while I was a boarding school student, each time before I left for school at the beginning of the term, I was assured of that extra, sometimes only pocket money from my grandmother. She didn’t have much, but she always gave what she had. She still does.
Ngo is still as classy as her old age allows.
I have many mental images of my grandmother standing before a mirror combing her grey short natural hair. She always had her head tied, but she never neglected the hair underneath. Ngo was very neat. Unfailingly, she always had a bath at a particular time.
Ngo has a sometimes tough exterior, but once you get to know her, you know she’s really an angel. She’s very protective of those she loves. She’s a gangsta.
There was this time a thief broke into a neighbour’s kitchen. Ngo, in all her braveness, single-handedly caught that thief and she gave him a good beating. Thankfully, in those days, most thieves never carried dangerous arms and didn’t harm a soul – they were mostly after your chickens and food – so she could afford to beat them and not fear for her life. It was good community jungle justice in those days. You beat a thief and he never returned to that community and you never heard of thieves for months, sometimes years.
This post may be getting a bit too long, but there’s no post too long when it comes to my grandmother.
My grandmother is also a huge believer in Christ. She was a devoted member of the women’s fellowship. She hardly missed prayer meetings, Bible studies and church activities. She was/is a generous giver when it comes to church donations too. Most Sundays, she gave us tokens for offering. Only God can bless her for all she’s done for me, my siblings, cousins and all those she’s ever come in contact with.
She was never afraid of disciplining us. She hardly beat us, but when she did, it was nothing more than a lash or two with very stern talk on what you did wrong and how not repenting from your actions would lead you to hell.
There are very few women that come close to the caliber she is made of.
I’ll want to continue making her proud. One thing she’s been telling me a lot lately is, her wish to live long enough to dance at my wedding. I really want her to. She’s so proud of her grandchildren that on my sister’s wedding day, she stood up abruptly in church and announced with pride “that’s my granddaughter.”
Ngo Ruth Kangyang Danja is my grandmother. I love her dearly.