She slowly opened her eyes to the gentle sound of her father’s voice, telling her it is time for school. Kajata disliked waking up early, but the melodious sound of her father’s voice, gentle shakes and sometimes even tickles sure made the process better.
“Immoh,” he said.
“Yes, Baba,” she replied. Kajata jumped out of bed and started her morning routine.
Kajata held on to the rubber bucket in the bathroom to help maintain her balance as her older sister Mariam, who was tasked with bathing her, carried out the job briskly. It was rough but fast as she felt the bite of the cold harmattan breeze blowing through the bathroom window. Morning showers were daunting, especially during the harmattan season. Soon the ordeal would be over. Regardless, her sister complained the whole time, about Kajata being old enough to bathe herself, but Kajata ignored the familiar rant as usual. Neither of them could wait for it to end, just to do it all over again the next day.
Kajata got ready with her father’s help. Smeared with cocoa butter and Vaseline, a full belly and uniform on, she was set to go. She held her father’s hand as they walked into the cold morning.
“Baba,” she said.
“Yes Kajata,” he replied, looking down.
“Why do you prefer to walk every day? Don’t you get tired?” she asked.
“Because walking is good for you Kajata, and no, I don’t get tired. It makes you strong,” her father replied – the same way he did every time she asked the question. He knew what she was hinting at; she wished they did not have to walk every day.
“We will be there soon Kajata,” he added, smiling slightly.
They arrived at the school gate and hugged, and as always, she held on for too long. Kajata loved her father but also disliked her teacher.
“I don’t want to go to class Baba,” she fussed.
“Kajata you have to stop doing this. You are no longer a baby. How are you going to make your mother and I proud if you do not like school?” her father answered.
“I’m sorry Baba, but my teacher is wicked, and she beats us all the time,” she replied, hoping he would recognise the desperation in her tiny voice.
“Kajata, remember you are here to learn! You have to be obedient and listen to your teacher.”
“Okay, Baba.” Kajata answered.
“Be good now, and I will see you after school. I might even bring you a present,” her father replied as he stood up to leave.
“You are the best Baba in the whole world! I love you so much.”
“I love you too, now hurry and get to class.”
Kajata walked to class, already anticipating her father’s return. She glanced back at her father as he walked away and felt that it was impossible to love anyone more than she loved him.
That was a long time ago. In fact, it felt like a lifetime ago. The new Kajata disliked her father, and their relationship was far from loving, at best, it was just cordial. Kajata could barely recognise her pregnant self as she felt hollow. She sat on her bench next to her full tray of patch grannat and looked around at the dusty road, packed with barefooted kids throwing balls at each other playfully in front of the crowded house she now called home.