Mr. Arowodun’s compound contained two unpainted buildings on a-plot sized land; one called The Villa and the other Aso Rock. One of the buildings, a face-me-i-face-you apartment, contained 10 rooms – 5 on each side and a storey building which has 2 two-bedroom flats down and a 4 bedroom apartment upstairs for the landlord.
These buildings were very close to each other, leaving only a manageable parking space between each. The storey building was the first that greeted your eyes as you came in from the gate; you’d hardly know there was a smaller building at the back of the upstairs.
It was a sunny Wednesday in Mr. Arowodun’s house, the compound as silent as a grave yard, and the air was filled with sweet aroma of some delicious delicacy that could make an overfull man still salivate for more.
Mr. Arowodun stood at his balcony that morning as usual, feeling proud of his accomplishment as the only man in his family to build a house and also making a living out of it.
Enjoying the quietness in his compound as the paramount ruler of his house, he was more of a loner but he didn’t care. His wife and child had left him years ago.
He was hurt at first but now he seemed satisfied contented with his life and has gradually put away all thoughts that had disturbed his mind. He felt he needed God in his life more than ever.
Inhaling deeply and sharply, he stopped suddenly as if he had injected poison into his body.
“Iya Basira!!!” He barked, as his voice echoed back at him as if it were mocking him. “Iya Basira” He shouted a second time from the Balcony, as the second building was where Iya Basira resided, knowing full well she could hear his voice through her window. He called yet again.
“Iya Basira!” a voice called out mimicking his English-Yoruba accent in the other building. It wasn’t an echo. It was Precious.
“That Edo girl has started again,” He said to himself. Leaving the balcony, he began walking down the stairs, before her sharp heavy Yoruba accent pierced the atmosphere of the compound.
“Baba Oko mi, ayam here sa!”iya Basira, the food seller in the compound replied.
On a second thought, he turned back to the balcony to reply her since she was standing downstairs already.
“Iya Basira!” He said coolly as he looked down, his arms resting on the railings of the balcony to look down at the short dark woman standing below with Ankara wrapper tied around her bust downwards.
With her face turned up to face him, she replied. “Baba oko mi, eka aro sa,” She said, bending her knees a bit. Despite her age, she was still respectful.
“What is good about this morning Iya Basira?” he said sternly.
“Nothing sir,” iya Basira replied like a student replying her teacher after doing something wrong.
“What is today?” He asked.
“Wednesday sa,” she replied.
“Iya Basira, of everybody in this compound, am sure you know my rule every Wednesday.”
“Baba oko mi. I should know, ish not me sa.”
“Ish not you, then who is it?”
She clapped her hand using the back of her right hand to hit the front palm of her left hand indicating she does not know.
“Then who is that person?” He shouted furiously, and with that tempo of anger he stumped down the stairs going to the other compound.
“Whaaaat!!!” The Landlord shouted as he looked provokingly at Chukwuma, realising he was the culprit.
“Hei! I’m sorry sir, oga Landlord!”
“Sorry for yourself!” The Landlord shouted back. “What are you going to do about this? My sanctimoniously adored dress for the spiritual period where I commune with my father, Holy and consecrated for…
“Oh, Oga Landlord, don start. All this grammar no go solve the matter,” Precious said with irritation as they were all impatient to know what would happen next after all the shouting.
“Abi o,” Iya Basira said.
“And how is it your business and concern ehn? Kilo kan e n be? Mtshewwwww,” He hissed.
“Oga Landlord, na beg I dey beg you sa,” Chukwuma apologised, “I’m very sorry sir. I no know say you go dey my door this early morning.”
“Chukwudi abi Chukwuma or whatever your name is. Are you new in this compound?” He asked, furious.
“No sir,” Chukwuma replied.
“How long have you stayed here?”
“Three months sa.”
“Good. So you will tell me that you’ve not heard of the rule no cooking on Wednesday mornings till after 12?”
Chukwuma knew the rule and had never fallen victim of it because he hardly found himself at home Wednesdays morning. He was either out because of work or at a friend’s place to have breakfast. Not even Iya Basira could cook to go and sell because of this rule. But that day was different. He wasn’t feeling too okay and he had to eat food before he took his medicine, and so he prepared jollof rice.
He specifically took it to the window behind his room and not the kitchen so he won’t arouse suspicion from anyone, not knowing the aroma was going straight directly upstairs to the Landlord’s apartment. Thinking the Landlord must have gone to the kitchen after everywhere was silent, he decided to rush out of his house to throw the pepper water away and hence the unfortunate collision.
“I know sa, but oga Landlord, I no feel fine.”
“So you’re not feeling fine and that gives you the audacity to embark on cooking and worse of all, in your room and not the comfortable kitchen provided for you and other co-tenants? Chukwuma you are leaving my house today.”
“Aaaaaahhhh!” They all exclaimed in unison.
“Aah! Baba oko mi, ma se yen, (don’t do that)” Iya Basira said. “He say e no feel fine, e take meresin and he supposed to chop. Ejo sa, e ma binu, (please sir don’t be angry)” Iya Basira said as she went on her knees, pleading on Chukwuma’s behalf.
“Ah! Iya Basira, stand up,” Mr. Arowodun said.
“Nooo! Let me be here,” She was adamant.
“Oga Landlord, nor be so dem dey treat tenant o!” Tessy said.
Precious clapped her hands and spoke in a sarcastic manner, “Wonder shall never end ooo. Eeehh!”
“Sshh…keep quiet ooo, Precious, abegi ooo!” iya Basira said to douse the rising tension.
“Wetin I talk now Iya Basira?” Precious said.
“I just regret ever accepting you as a tenant,” the Landlord was saying, “I don’t know what I was thinking when I thought you as a bright promising young lady.”
“Oga landlord abeg no come find my trouble this morning, cause na here I si down, I no contribute for una matter. Me sef na beg I take beg you, just leave me as I dey where I dey ooo,” Precious replied in her own way and in strong terms.
All the while, Chukwuma stood transfixed, happy that confusion was setting in and soon his matter would be forgotten. To wash the landlord’s Holy sanctimonious spiritual cloth wouldn’t be a problem. It’s just surprising how a Landlord would dictate when a person should cook and when he should not, and at what hour of day.
“I don’t have issues with you so I’m just going to ignore you. Now you Chukwuma!” he said turning to Chukwuma.
“Yes sir,” Chukwuma quickly answered, courteously.
“Do you realise I was fasting? Every Wednesday or any other day I’m fasting no one is allowed to cook in this house?”
“Oga Landlord, I was not aware ooo,” Chukwuma pleaded. Shooo, so his fasting affects everyone in this house too? Chukwuma thought to himself.
“Iya Basira is well aware of this and has even respected that rule; she wouldn’t even sell at that point in time, till it’s the appropriate time. If hers is concerning livelihood and yours is just your health, then you have no excuse.”
“Ah noo, Oga Landlord! I no gree with dat one. Sho, my own na die mata. Abi if I die here, wetin you go tell my people? You go carry me go home?”
“You go die first make we know weda I go carry you home or make devil bend your neck.”
“Oga Landlord, e never reach like dat,” Tessy came in, not liking his last statement directed at Chukwuma.
“But they say health is wealth na. At least, if I no go school I still know something,” Precious said.
“Precious, I have told you I am…”
“Sorry o oga Landlord. I just want to know, what is it that would happen if we cook?” Tessy asked, in a sweet mocking gesture known to Precious very well, but seemed innocent to others.
“Nice question. You see in this house, it is impossible for anyone to cook without the aroma disturbing one’s nostrils. That is why sometimes there is a distortion in the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide in this compound, especially when there is the mixture of different combo of aroma, sometimes creating a sort of disorder in the pleasant smell of…”
“Mtshwwwww,” Precious hissed, stood up and opened the door to her room. “Iya Basira, your leg never pain you, abi you dey wait for baba oko to release you?” She said before entering her room.
“Why does this Ibo girl lack respect? She doesn’t even have a tiny bit of accordance for the elders.”
“Oga landlord,” Tessy said, impatient.
“Yes my dear,” he replied looking back at her.
“You’ve not yet answered my question,” she told him.
“And what is your question again?”
“Why shouldn’t we cook when you are fasting?”
“Exactly what I was trying to explain before that disrespectful child walked out on this meeting.”
Shoo! This thing don turn meeting now now? Chukwuma said in his mind.
“I undergo a spiritual cleansing whereby I commune with my creator every Wednesday, morning and you see, during that period, I must do away with anything food because I have to satisfy the spirit man by starving it of anything called food. You know this serves as catalyst…”
“Ehn… Oga Landlord, the thing be say I no cook say make u come chop, na the way belle dey do person,” Chukwuma interrupted his long talk.
“You still have the audacity to talk?” the Landlord flared in anger. “Chukwuma, do you know that smelling of food alone can break someone’s fast? In short go and bring that food.”
“Eeh! Aah!” Tessy and Iya Basira, who had stood up as soon as Precious had entered her room, exclaimed together in disbelief.
Find out all this in next episode