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Gift Fumulani’s posthumous answer

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It must have been due to the innocence of youth that, while the world around yapped about Gift Fumulani the musician, I took every trip I took to his Chilomoni home for granted.

I mean, once, when the sun was blue, I used to stay in the same neighbourhood with Gift.

In my case, it was not just a question of staying in the neighbourhood Gift also called home; it was a question of visiting the artist every now and then.

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Those were the days when Ulemu Teputepu— may his mighty soul rest in peace— was simply, not Ulemu or Teputepu but, a guru. He was UT, the Guru.

And it was UT, the Guru who introduced me to Gift.

One afternoon, after eating mmemo in Chilomoni Township, Blantyre, UT, the Guru simply said: “Let us go somewhere.”

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The somewhere, some 200 metres away from our homes, happened to be Gift’s home.

We found Gift, a responsible father, walking around with a baby. The baby was crying and Gift was moving around with it, cooling it down. He was carrying the child in his hands, actually.

I think there was something special about Gift, for the child cooled down.

Straight away, Gift, the man of wisdom, started talking.

‘Do you know that, sometimes, rats can be wiser than people?” He quipped.

I was taken by surprise.

After all, don’t we learn that scientists— yes, those mortals who, sometimes, wallow in the blasphemous talk that hinges on questioning the existence of God, the almighty— sometimes use rats when experimenting with drugs, before they try the drugs on human beings?

But here was Gift claiming that, sometimes, rats can be wiser than human beings.

“How can that be?” I asked, before UT, the Guru interrupted me, telling me to let Gift speak.

“By the way, this is Gift Fumulani,” UT, the Guru said, introducing Gift to me.

I thought the opposite should have been true. UT, the Guru should have introduced me, being the lesser mortal, to Gift first. But that was not the case.

Anyway, this was UT, the Guru speaking. I had to listen.

Somehow— I do not know the reason— UT, the Guru cut Gift short, and introduced another subject.

“Have you heard that they are about to start drilling boreholes at Chilomoni Mountain?” UT, the Guru said.

This got Gift angry. Angry not with UT, the Guru. Not angry with me. Angry with whoever was hatching those plans.

“I understand that we have the forestry people at the base of the mountain. They will not accept that evil plan,” Gift said.

It was clear that he was passionate about natural resources.

Just that it was sad that he did not continue the talk about rats being wiser than human beings.

Well, Gift went before us. I mean, towards the way of all the earth. So did UT, the Guru. Gift went first actually. So, Gift cannot tell me how wise the rats are.

But, somehow, I got the answer. Some weeks ago.

Do you remember the earthquake that shook our faith in the stability of the ground some weeks ago? Yes, that earthquake that shook Blantyre, Nsanje and some parts of the country.

Two minutes before it started shaking the ground, I was standing somewhere; buying bananas from a man we simply call Angoni. I call that man Uncle Paul.

As he was about to hand the bananas over to me, rats started running out of holes under his bench. He has a bench, and the bench rests on stones. And the stones, I learned, are home to rats.

So, two minutes before the earthquake hit, rats started scampering in all directions. They were coming from under his bench.

We wondered as to what was happening. He had no clue. We were no wiser than the rats.

Then, shortly after, the ground started shaking. The aftershock of the earthquake which, we later understood after the Department of Disaster Management Affairs issued a statement [of course, after liaising with the good people at the Geological Surveys Department], had its epicentre in Nsanje District.

I was relieved. Gift had answered me from the grave.

Rats are really wiser than human beings. Sometimes.

Rats knew that the earth would shake soon, and started scampering for safety. They were running for dear life; the life scientists play around with when they experiment new things on rats. In this case, the rats beat us, human beings.

I will no longer wait for an answer from Gift. I am relieved because rats gave me the answer themselves.

I am at peace. Oh, there is no better feeling than that of relief.

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