I Drank Tea in December
The two writers laughed aloud as I ended the story. Not that it was the kind of thing that one likes to hear in the morning. Some would quickly go on their knees and pray that the “cup” passes next door. But pray as they might, it is a “cup” that we all must drink from.
By cup, I am not referring to the cups of tea in our hands that we now resumed to enjoy after telling them the story. DD Phil, the romance writer who the ladies like to call Filemon, with a stress on the last syllable, was looking dreamily. Sitting with his right hand supporting his chin, his left on the chair, and the suspended tea cup on the table, one would have thought that he was plotting a scene in his next fantasy novel.
Of course, the story that I was telling them was more fantasy than real. What is real again in this world? For Val K the poet, sitting with all the cares in this world—his legs wide apart as the poles—everything (and that includes life) is poetry. It is no wonder that someone says, “Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyways.”
Whether the story was a comedy or a tragedy is another matter. But it was a story about life. And whether life stories are sweet or bitter is for you to judge. Look at the verdict of these people.
A chief of King Edwin says: “The present life of man is like a sparrow.” Apostle James, a Bible writer, calls it “a mist that appears for a while and then disappears.”
But the story was more about equivocations—double tongues. And is life not a tale of equivocations? So, after I finished the story, we resumed our tea drinking and compared the story with other equivocal tales.
The first to come to mind was King Croesus who went to consult the oracle before embarking on a major military expedition. He was assured that if he went to war, a mighty empire would fall. He believed and went to do battle. But the empire that fell was his!
And then there was Macbeth who was thoroughly deceived by the witches. He didn’t think that tress “move” and he never believed that there was any man not “born” of a woman. But he was dead wrong. Equivocation did both people in.
The best of such double tongues, however, was that of the great hinter who was warned that he was to be killed by an animal on a certain day. So the finicky hunter refused to step into the bush on that day. But lying in his room, the head of one the animals that he had killed which he had suspended on a rafter, got loose and landed a death-blow on his head!
When I got the message to proceed to the country with God speed, however, the first thing that came to my mind was not a word that began with letter E. And then the message became more incessant: You must come home in December. I refused the invitation. Yet, my people sent an emissary who spoilt the case for not explaining why I was wanted back home. So I tarried in the city, waiting for the war of the cyclpos.
January 10, 2005. I sat down to read a letter from home. And then came the sentence: “The juju priest who said you will die in December died that very month and has been buried.” That was when I knew the reason for the distress call in December. I had been required to come and to make sacrifices to impotent gods to survive December. Pity the “authoritative,” “all knowing” juju priest. Didn’t know that death is everywhere. Didn’t know that he was prophesying his own death. Didn’t know that I was enjoying my tea way back in December. Equivocation.
Mohandas Gandhi said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you would live forever.” That has been my guiding principle. Who is afraid of death? Someone said “the tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.” What matters in the end is not how long we live. But “it’s the life in your years, said Abraham Lincoln. So the question that we should ask ourselves is, How would I be remembered? Not a few people care if they were remembered for vileness. But even if you were known in your lifetime for some spectacular achievement, it adds to nothing.
If the Bible were a book of epitaphs, the second verse of Ecclesiastes is dear to my heart. It simply states: “The greatest vanity! Everything is vanity!” And that’s the dinkum oil.
As we take our tea, with DD Phil and Val K happy that their controversial writer is still alive, the fact remains that we must die of something someday. And if my people supposing I was dead had wept over me and buried my effigy, I will have the singular honor or infamy of being mourned and buried twice.
Yet it is good to be alive.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arthur Zulu is an editor, book reviewer, and author of Chasing Shadows!, How to Write a Best-seller, A Letter to Noah, and many other works. For his works and FREE help for writers, goto: