It was a hot, dry afternoon. Grandpa was sitting outside, on the verandah, wearing a white singlet and locally made shorts. It was printed of beautiful, brightly colored fabric with twisting patterns. With a newspaper folded neatly in half, spectacles on top of the newspapers, on a small stool bedside him, and an half empty glass cup containing a small amount of palmwine ’emu’ Grandpa was the very picture of contentment as he sat in the shade of the mango tree. He whistled a catchy tune, from the late Christy Essien Igbokwe, the song ‘Omo mi seun rere’ and pushed back the locally made adjustable chair so he could lie down for a while.
Meanwhile I kept sitting and wriggling and moving, were I sat on the rough cement floor, made restless by the heat. After much fuss and stress, I still wasn’t getting anywhere and had only succeeded in rubbing my buttocks raw through the thin fabric of my khaki shorts.
He sat up, looked at me and smiled. And with a crook of a finger, beckoned to me. Quickly I stood up, dusted my short bottoms and walked to him, where he lay in the fragrant shade of the mango tree.
“Ahmed, why are you restless?”
“It is hot, Grandpa. The heat is far too much for me.”
“Yes, it’s hot, but soon it will rain. It’s always hot just before it rains.”
“I wish it rained everyday so it wouldn’t have to be so hot. When will it rain Grandpa?”
“Soon child, soon. In the meantime, how would you like a story? Perhaps, it might make time pass faster. Plus it’s a story about a rainmaker.”
“What’s a rainmaker?”
“A person with the power to call down rain from the heavens.”
“Okay Grandpa, I’m all ears.”
And this is the story he told…
“Once upon a time, there was a prosperous little village surrounded by hills. It was a slow sleepy place, with farmland that was very arable and yielded fat crops. The people were happy and content- maybe too content? One cannot say just yet.
On a particular day, a day that started quite unremarkably, similar in its arrival and existence to the days that came before it, and the days to come after it had passed, an elderly woman made her way to the village square. She wore clothes that were tattered at the edges from long travelling, and had a small satchel of clothes and food. She didn’t look like anybody important.
She hoped to find a place to rest for she was making a long, ardous trek, she just wanted to rest. After looking around, she was unable to get a place to stay. People shut their doors in her face, some were particularly mean, insulting her before sending her away.
And so she went back to the village square and prepared to pass the night on the ground, in the open.
Just as she settled down to sleep, someone tapped her. She opened her eyes. There was a woman standing before her.
“Hello stranger,” she said “do you not have a place to sleep?”
“No,” replied the elderly woman “no one would let me into their house.”
“If that’s the case,then come with me. My hut is not so big, but surely it can contain both of us.”
And so the stranger found a place to stay for the night. The woman who rescued her was a widow named Abeke, a kind soul, and she prepared a meal of porridge with vegetables and smoked fish. The stranger ate till she was full. Then she was given a clean mat and several wrappers, and a corner of the hut was properly swept for her to lie down and sleep.
The widow lived alone, she had no children. The following morning, Abeke prepared breakfast for them to eat, and after they had eaten, she took her hoe and cutlass, ready to go to the farm. But the stranger asked her to pack up everything that was important to her instead and come with her. After much persuading, Abeke agreed. And together they left the hut. The stranger led Abeke to one of the hills and they began to climb. It was afternoon before they got to the summit. There Abeke set down the load she had been carrying and stretched her legs.
“I want to thank you for providing me with comfort, for having mercy on a stranger.”
“It’s nothing,” said Abeke “I also could be a stranger in need of help someday.”
“True,” the elderly woman replied “and this act of kindness will prevent you from sharing in their fate.”
And she began to sing, softly, barely above a whisper.
“Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,
Let the people give their thanks, let the rain fall down in sheets,
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again.”
As she sang, rain began to fall, on the village down below. But she kept on singing, and the rain kept on falling, and soon the words to the song took a different turn-
“Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,
Let the rain flood all the streets, let the people cry for help,
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain again and again,
Let the sheep and cattle drown,
Let the crops in farms be ruined.”
And as she sang, her voice rose to a higher volume, becoming louder with every line and so the rain intensified, lightning striking different huts in the village along with a few unfortunates who were unlucky to have been outside for one reason or the other, wind blowing off thatched roofs and the rainfall so heavy that the streets were soon flooded, the water coming up inch by inch until even the biggest huts were covered up.
Abeke watched in horror as some little figures tried desperately to stay above the water, but eventually failed, slipping in and drowning. The rainmaker continued to sing until there was nothing left were the village once stood, but a large expanse of water, up to three quarters of the hills that surrounded the village. There were no survivors, except Abeke.
She turned and touched Abeke on the forehead. She felt like someone took a hot branding iron to her forehead and as quickly as she felt it, she felt cold all over, and then all was as it was before.
“I have given you the power to also make rain. With it you can become a very important person. I wish you good luck in your travels, for you must find a new place to stay. But if you ever pass by Shomekun village, ask for the hut of old Ewatomi the rainmaker. You are always welcome in my house.”
And so she left. Abeke found her way to a neighboring village were she found out that the old woman had spoken true, and with her powers of rainmaking, soon became rich.
She eventually remarried and bore children, and in all her prosperity she never forgot Ewatomi, the old rainmaker.”
As Grandpa finished the story, I sang the first song, softly, the song for rain. And suddenly the sky was dark, and I felt something wet splash against my nose. A raindrop. It was followed by another and yet another and we quickly packed everything and moved inside the house. Grandpa pinched me on my cheek and said merrily
“Looks like we have our own little rainmaker after all.”