Chapter 1: KANO, 1965
THE BEGINNING AND THE TRANSFORMATIONS
Ayisha was nine years old when she resumed duties as a house help in Alhaji Musa Idris’ household two years earlier. She was tall, very fair in complexion and had curly, long hair. Her father travelled from Katsina, where they come from, to live in Kano to help take care of cows belonging to some rich Alhajis. Her pointed nose made it easy to tell she was Fulani by tribe.
Her responsibilities included helping in domestic chores like doing the laundry twice a week, washing dishes after every meal and helping to get water and firewood for daily use. It was also her duty to serve Alhaji Idris his meals and stand by while he ate after which she immediately cleared the dishes.
This is because Alhaji Idris was a rich man. His huge dark frame and the way he carried himself said it all. He had over three hundred cows, four wives and 20 children. Apart from Ayisha, he had three male servants- all eunuchs, who ran errands for him, took turns to guard his very large compound and, above all, took turns to accompany his wives to the market whenever it was anyone’s turn to go there and shop for soup ingredients and other household items for the family’s consumption. This was to prevent any man expressing more than a casual interest in them and vice versa.
His very large compound comprised of eleven huts. He occupied the largest one, his wives occupied one each, his children occupied four with the children from each wife occupying one, the three male servants occupied one and Ayisha occupied one- the smallest. The huts were made of mud with thatch coverings. Beautiful patterns were also drawn on them as well as on the wall surrounding them. The wall was made of wattle daubed with mud.
Alhaji’s eldest children took turns to take care of the cows. Indeed, not a few people envied him.
One evening, Ayisha brought in his dinner and, as usual, positioned herself in one corner of the hut waiting for Alhaji to finish eating so she could tidy up. She had noticed his eyes roving lustfully over her body for some days now but thought nothing of it. After all, she was just a maid, she reasoned, and Alhaji had four wives. The last one- Halima-was so beautiful men ogled at her whenever she appeared without her hijab. These occasions were so few, one could count them on the fingers of both hands in a whole year.
“Come and take away the plates,” Alhaji called out bringing Ayisha out of her reverie. She rushed to, immediately bending to pick the dishes. Her wrapper, which is tied around her chest, momentarily slipped off exposing two tiny breasts. Ayisha immediately dropped the dishes, tied the wrapper firmer over her chest and returned to her task of clearing the dishes- a mistake by all indications.
It was all Alhaji could do to contain his excitement. He kept swallowing the saliva threatening to trickle down the sides of his mouth unable to say anything.
* * *
As soon as it was midnight, Alhaji Idris, holding a lamp, sneaked into Ayisha’s hut. She had always left the door shut but unlatched since the gate to the compound was always manned by one of Alhaji’s servants round the clock and incidents of robbery and other such vices were rare in Kano at this time.
For a moment, he just feasted his eyes on the body lying naked before him on a mat illuminated by the lamp in his left hand. Saliva started dripping from his mouth. Two minutes later, he moved his right hand to one of her breasts rousing Ayisha from her sleep. She was going to scream before Alhaji warned firmly and desperately: “It’s me. Keep quiet!”
Ayisha became instantly confused.
“What…what… what do you want from me rankadede?” she stammered fearfully.
“Keep quiet and do what I say!” Alhaji commanded huskily moving his hand lower.
Ten minutes later, with sweat pouring off him, Alhaji sneaked out of the hut. His lust had been satisfied. Ayisha lay in a heap with blood flowing from in between her legs. She had tears in her eyes from the pain. Shock and fear had made her obey Alhaji and open her legs to receive him. She even thought, at a stage, that it was a dream she would soon wake up from but it was not.
Ayisha ensured Alhaji Idris never visited again as she made sure her door was firmly bolted from inside before going to bed. She was too scared to tell anyone about the incident after Alhaji’s stern warning to deal with her if she did. She even felt no one would believe her so she made up her mind to keep the incident to herself.