Sunday, April 12, 2009

Short Story: A Private Experience by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"Chika climbs in through the store window first and then holds the shutter as the woman climbs in after her. The store looks as if it was deserted long before the riots started; the empty rows of wooden shelves are covered in yellow dust, as are the metal containers stacked in a corner. The store is small, smaller than Chika's walk-in closet back home."

Chika and her sister Nnedi had been in the market buying oranges and groundnuts when the riot started.

"It had all started at the motor park, when a man drove over a copy of the Holy Koran that had been dropped on the roadside, a man who happened to be Igbo and Christian. The men nearby, men who sat around all day playing draughts, men who happened to be Muslim, pulled him out of his pickup truck, cut his head off with one flash of a machete, and carried it to the market, asking others to join in; the infidel had desecrated the Holy Book."

Inside that store, Chika and the woman are an unlikely pair. The Woman belongs to the working class and Chika to the higher strata. The woman is Hausa Muslim and Chika is Igbo Christian. Initially Chika disparages that woman but slowly she changes as she finds that the woman is ready to share whatever little she has. Like her scarf, the threadbare one, probably the only one she owns, to tie a wound on Chika's leg. Chika too is grateful for that. In her grief of being separated from her sister, she shares the grief of the woman too, whose daughter too is lost in the riots.

Ethnic riots separate communities, yes. But they also bring people closer. Those ones who belong to different stratas.

"Later, Chika will read in the Guardian that "the reactionary Hausa-speaking Muslims in the North have a history of violence against non-Muslims", and in the middle of her grief, she will stop to remember that she examined the nipples and experienced the gentleness of a woman who is Hausa and Muslim."

In todays volatile world, where riots are very common, this could have happened anywhere. Adichie does not disappoint. Do read this story online here.


Teddy Rose said...

I really enjoyed the story! Thanks so much for the link.