“why?, Mr paaki, why?… Why you come here?,” M’basi asked, wiping the sweat off his fore head with the back of his hand. The hot sun showed no mercy to the men in the boat.
“pardon?” looking up from his map, eyebrows raised. Park asked,
“what did you say, ‘him-basin?”
“My name is M’basi! …Merem-Abasi Saun-San, not a him-basin!” he retorted.
“likewise, I’m Park not pa-pa-ar-keey…”, Park stuttered, his British accent preventing him from perfectly mimicking M’basi.
* * * * * * * *
Park is a controversial man, well known for his doggedness and obstinate refusal to compromise. It was rumoured that he never gives up; that, that was how he was able to get the Queen of England’s approval to explore the River Niger basin.
* * *
M’basi was the only guide in the village who could speak english. The village chief had warned Park of his ostreperous attitude and his weird disposition to learning new things before he gave him to Park as a guide.
“He never loses an argument”, the chief said through an interpreter.
Park didn’t really have a choice, ostreporous or not, winning arguments was also Parks turf.
* * * * * * * *
Still expecting an answer, M’basi repeated his question.
“Why you come here? Why you want to see the end of our river?”
“Well, I am an explorer, I love to discover new grounds… you know I like to kinda break records…” Noticing the confused look on M’basi’s face, Park asked, “…You understand me?”
“Nor, nor! but me know that break be something like destroy… abi?”
“Hmmnn …yeah, something like that”
“…but the catechist been say…” M’basi continued, holding the paddle with one hand and spreading out his other arm like a preacher, “the thief cometh, but to steal, to kill and to destroy!”
“so are you a stealer, a killer and a destroyer, Mr Paaki?”
Park scoffed at M’basi’s conclusion, “no, no, no… I didn’t mean that kind of break”
“Then what you mean?” M’basi pressed further, his dark innocent face squeezed quizzically.
“You have to understand that break does not always mean to destroy”
M’basi didn’t blink, he was still confused and he kept his gaze fixed on Mr Park. Mr Park ran his hands through his hair, folded the map and said,
“You see …sometimes in english language a word can have more than one meaning…”
“-huh -more than one?”, M’basi cut in. “But the Bible is in English language, abi… is not it?”
“It is, but it exists in many other languages!” Mr Park curtly answered, trying to find the link between the Bible and what they were discussing – English language.
“Because the catechist been read to us from the Bible, that say, let your yay be yay and your nay be nay…”
“hey, hey -let me explain, relax okay?” Park said, Shaking his head in admiration of how much M’basi remembers from the Catechist’s Bible classes and also at how dumb and confused the bare chested black man was.
“no, no, no,… what is hey? I say catechist tell us say- yay be yay and nay be nay -not hey!”
“Forget it!”, Park snapped.
“The best thing to do is to keep quiet, teaching or arguing with M’basi is a futile fruitless endeavour”, Park thought to himself and concentrated on his map.
Although he so much hates to lose an argument/ debate, he knew silence was the best move to outsmart M’basi.
Sailing silently across the River Niger, the two men rowed in unison. Distinct yet similar. One was clad in only shorts and the other in a three piece suit. M’basi had the big head, wide eyes, broad shoulders and the intimidating biceps. Park however had a small figure, slumped shoulders and tiny eyes – accentuated by his round specs.
The only thing they had in common was their quest for knowledge and of course, neither of them likes to lose an argument.
They kept mute for hours until lunchtime unlocked their mouths.
Mbasi brought out a calabash to drink some palm wine when Park suggested that he washed it.
“what you talk?” Mbasi asked innocently.
“Wash your bowl… you understand me?”
“Nor! what is warsh?… Yay! me been see it for catechist hand”, M’basi said pointing to the band on his left wrist. Park could see that M’basi was describing a wrist watch
“No, noo, noo o! that is a wrist watch, I mean wash! Wash!”
“Warsh?” M’basi repeated, cracking his brain. Then he suddenly exclaimed!
“yah, yah, Waaarrrsh!”
“You understand me now?
“Yay! Catechist been say, warsh and pray, that ye enter not into temptation!”
“No, no, no, Wash, to clean,… Not like WATCH!… watch?! That’s like look- look out!”
“But you say before that warsh is a hand rope?!”
“yes, that’s a different word, what I said is wash not watch!” Park was frustrated, “you know what?! -Forget it!”
M’basi stroke the paddle as while he pondered on the warsh word that has so many meanings. “I should warsh?”
“Yes! like clean with water! wash!”, he scooped up water to demonstrate. “Wash!”
M’basi nodded and grinned, “yay catechist been say…”
“-No! Not again! Oh!” Park interrupted,”I have had enough catechist said this, catechist said that today… so just forget it!”
M’basi assumed that to be an order and he replied,
“nor, nor, nor! that one me can’t do! It not do-able! you cannot force yourself to forget something.”
“yay!” M’basi continued, “to forget take time, I cannot obey that now!”
“I have had enough; can you please keep quiet for the rest of the day?” Park screamed and loosened his tie. It was a hot day and dumb M’basi was making him sweat!
M’basi opened his mouth to say something, “keep quiet?! I been think say-”
“ -Pleeaase, I beg you …no more talking please.”
How Park hated succumbing to people… how much he hates to beg, Oh! How he loves to teach people what they don’t know!
But how would he teach a dumb obstinate smart-ass?
When Smartest meets Dumbest…I guess -some rules are bound to bend!
Prince A. T. ™
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