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Adi & Praja 119

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 9

Issue 119: The woman

Thus a primitive type of exchange currency was invented – in our days long replaced by money, cards credit cards and electronic transfer devices made in a factory.


(the woman from the west)

Moimoi and her mother were strolling around near the bank of one of the rivers, and from the west came a woman with a child on her arm. Moimoi immediately liked the child. It was a beautiful boy, sitting on the woman’s arm, the lower part of his body covered with some colorful textile. But the woman didn’t look cheerful. When she saw that Moimoi, her mother, brothers and the other children looked at her child she approached Moimoi’s mother and sighed. She said – in a hardly understandable language: O, o. I am a poor lady. My sister is a poor lady, and we can no longer keep this boy. Won’t you have it? Moimoi’s heart jumped. Immediately she said: “Ma, let’s take it.” But her mother said at once: “No, how can we take it? You have already two brothers. And who will take care of him?” “Me!” said Moimoi. The boy, who had been crying on his aunt’s arm – because he felt that the meeting between the two ladies was not for a good purpose – as if he knew that he would never see his mother again. He must have been four years old. Then he turned his little curly dark red-brown head around and his eyes met those of Moimoi. Instantly he stopped crying. They looked at each other as if spellbound. He stretched out his arms to her. And then she said emphatically: “Mama, I want this boy as my brother.” Mother was astounded by her fierceness. Moimoi wasn’t that fierce usually. She kept insisting, despite the counterarguments of her mother. Mother now noticed that there was nothing in the world with which she could make Moimoi more happy than with this ‘brother.’ And the thought came to her mind: ‘Well, why not, he looks beautiful and he will belong to the whole village.’ And she gave in. Moimoi danced of joy. Even her real brothers liked the idea of an extra playmate. But then the mother of the boy changed her attitude. She said: “But you will have to give me something in return, because I am very poor.” That was a disappointment, but Moimoi immediately offered the chain of blue and green beads she had just got the day before. Her mother was astounded again. She had been so happy with the beads ! And the women accepted this, if she would also get a basket of shells. Baskets were one of the trade items from Moimoi’s village, and some shells were easy to get. And they gave it to that lady. So everything seemed to move in the right direction for Moimoi.

Then the boy’s aunt took the child under his armpits to give it to his new mother. The little boy looked with wide open eyes, but didn’t protest. Then they saw his legs. Or rather stumps of legs. The lower part of the boy was completely disabled. His legs were small and formless and stiff and curled forwards and upwards. He could not stand, only sit on his bottom with his legs curled before him. Moimoi’s mother faltered, then became red (as far as visible on her near black face) and then shouted: “You witch, no bitch, you cheat! Let the evil spirits of the forest descend on you !” At that the aunt of the boy became ‘pale’. But Moimoi said nothing. She was as nailed to the ground. She was filled with compassion. A tear dripped from her seven year old face. She walked to the boy and embraced him, and refused to let go. Mama, we have promised, and he needs help. He will be my best friend. I will take care of him. I want to keep him. But mother thought that these were just Moimoi’s momentary emotions, and realized that the ‘care’ Moimoi could take would merely consist of cuddling him, and that mother would have to take care for all physical problems, perhaps to the distress of the village. But the two boys – who always had the same opinion – agreed with Moimoi, and in the meantime the woman who had brought the boy had quickly disappeared between the crowd (and, by the way, keeping the colorful cloth for herself.) And so it happened that Moimoi had three brothers now, and her parents four children. Mother thought what her husband would think and say – but as women were more powerful in that forest society than men, he could complain, but finally she was the one to decide about major matters.

Two more days they stayed on the ‘supermarket,’ and Moimoi and the boy were inseparable. Mother was worried and silent. Then they all returned home. The boy had to be carried always, and an eye had to be kept on him every second. But he was so cute – that means the part above his waist, and his eyes were exceptionally deep and bright, and he wanted to investigate everything. Within a few days he chattered enough of his new language to communicate, so that everyone, the men, the women and the children in the boats loved him, and all wanted him in their own boat for some time. Moimoi always accompanied him though. She was too concerned that he would fall in the water. The boy was ever cheerful.

Moimoi’s father had a hard time in the beginning. His protests wouldn’t help, but he realized that their easy life was going to change. He also realized that his new ‘son’ could never become a hunter, and should always have to be cared for. But the whole village pleaded with him to keep the boy, and finally he adjusted himself with real happiness to the new situation. Within a week the little boy was a normal part of the family and the village, and nobody thought of him as an outsider. In later years, when the people asked him, he did not remember any event earlier than when he met Moimoi. So he had become a full part of the community.

In some ways he was a little different. His color was a little lighter than of most people, and his face a little taller. His eyes were not so pitch dark as those of most people there – some brownish glow was hidden in his irises, which you could see clearly when the sun shone on his face. Nobody knew where he came from, except that it was from the west, from the direction where the woman who brought him had come. But from where exactly, and how far? Nobody had the slightest idea. He could not tell anything of his past, for that he was too small and didn’t remember. But they had asked him his name, and then he had murmured ‘Shano’ and that is how he was henceforward called. People didn’t even know whether that was his actual name, or just some murmured word, but they had never heard that name. It didn’t matter. A strange boy could have a strange name also. And nobody loved him less for it.

Apart from his handicap he grew like all other children. He seemed not even to realize at that age that he had a handicap. He had always been like that. He was just he.

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