Ritual Knife

I remember that cold December morning with a lot of nostalgia. My father rose very early at the crow of the first cock. I saw him through the window of my room that was slightly obscured by the dew that covered the panes. He stood at a strategic point in our homestead to ensure that my brother and I didn’t leave. He knew I dreaded this moment. The moment when my blood would be shed to the ground to show solidarity with those who went ahead of us. I had no choice but to submit to the dark forces that had conspired against me.

A black pick-up halted at our gate a few hours later. It was an old Datsun that had covered several miles on the sands of time and I knew for sure that the time had come for us to go. We climbed at the back together with my brother and met a number of other boys in our age group that were sentenced to the same fate as ours. Others by their parents, others by their own will. My father waved as the pick-up fled. I never wanted him to see my face because I was not happy with this.

I wish there was a way in which I could get to the circumcision parlor without using this pick-up. This pick up was known in the entire village to be the initiates’ pick up. Some boys saw it on the way and literally took to their heels leaving us bursting in laughter. We threw them insults that they were not brave enough to face the knife. We even told them never to play with us. This succeeded in distracting me from the impending danger. We passed a few girls on the way. They carried buckets on their heads and without support, the buckets stood steadily on their heads only sometimes swaying slightly at the swinging of their hips. As we passed, they recognized the pick-up and shouted, “Udhi nyange!” this meant we were going for circumcision. It was shouted in a mocking way that I felt embarrassed.

One by one we got into the improvised theatre in a local primary school classroom. We were to get in one at a time because the surgeons were only two against twenty or so boys. Those who went before me came out strong. I admired their courage. I went in. I removed my clothes and submitted myself to them. I felt like I was offering my body as a living sacrifice. The first injection of local anesthesia went deep into the base of my manhood. It was so painful that I protested loudly. In fact I almost kicked one of the surgeons but he moved out of the way of my legs and the legs went into the air. My man felt heavy for the first time, so heavy that if I were to stand, he would have brought me down. At stitching time, the effect of the anesthetic drug was slowly abating and the pain was incredible. I am glad it came to an end fifteen minutes later. Those were the longest fifteen minutes of my life.

Going back home was trouble. People now knew that we had faced the knife but that was none of my problems. The road leading to my village is a loose marram road with a lot of rocks and stones along the way. We sat behind the driver with my brother. The Datsun was a double cab by the way. Whenever it hit a stone, I would literally stand holding my man gently to avoid the impact caused by the rugged terrain. Sometimes I just did not anticipate bumps and the impact would be crazy. My brother was silent all this while, occasionally he would show his teeth when he could not contain the pain. The boy next to him was moaning. You would think it was a lady doing so under intense pleasure from her lover. Oh my! That day I found myself in a pack of cowards, did I show courage myself? No. Why? I don’t know.

Healing was as horrendous as the procedure itself. I had to sit in a particular way or sleep in a particular way to ensure that there was peace between me and this guy of mine. Passing water was hell on earth. I had to wait for several minutes for the water to flow and endure the pain it caused. Afterwards I would gently sink in my bed with a towel around my waist. Mourning. My brother was recovering uneventfully. Once in a while he would shout in the night when the stiches held a piece of cotton and was pulling his flesh as he tried to pull it out. He shouted like a movie star who was destroying his greatest enemy. I laughed. Two days later I suffered the same fate when my towel held the stitch at the upper part of my manhood. I tried to pull gently but the pain was too much. I took a blade, cut the string attached and I was relieved but part of the string remained attached to the stitch. It was supposed to stay there, till the stitches fall off.

Now I took you through all that because last Friday, I was the surgeon passing the rite to a young boy from the street family. It was an experience that reminded me of my very own day. The difference was, this small guy was brave and he came in panting. He was escaping from his colleagues who wanted to circumcise him in the streets using a broken glass as the scalpel and alcohol as the disinfectant. I agreed with Somerset Maugham when he said,

 “For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they are born, the city apartment or farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. It’s all in these things that have made them what they are, and these are the things that you can’t come to know by hearsay.

Everything basically went like mine. He was lucky he found a good nurse who gave him a few clothes to carry on with his life in the streets. This was a young man who was a son to none and a brother to many. Life had not prepared him for the dark alleys and cold nights but he seemed to be getting along quite well.

He dressed up in a hurry. I think he was rushing to show his friends that he had successfully become a man. I forgot to tell him that the local anesthesia would soon wear out. He moved out quickly and true to my word he started feeling pain just as he was exiting the door. I used this slow down moment to ask him to come for dressing on the third day.

Author: Dr. Kiaye Oliver

I am a dreamer. I love medicine. She is generous. I am also in love with literature, she makes me see the world the way I want to and sometimes the way it is.

2 thoughts on “Ritual Knife”

  1. Wow! Nice piece of writing. Great experience there! I like the way it’s from a first hand experience. Really interesting stuff!! Keep up the writing talent!

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