One popular folk song for chinkhoswe (engagement ceremonies) and weddings echoes our long held but now debatable view that the man is the head of the family.
I have attended many weddings where women, while tantalisingly gyrating their behinds and ululating in that uniquely African manner that baffles westerners have intoned: “Wamkulu n’ndani m’banja?” to a happy and raucous refrain: “Wamkulu m’mamuna!”
The truth is: only naïve bridegrooms are conned with this apparent ‘crown’ because Blues’ Orators, this is – at best – no longer the case as society has moved on or – at worst – a crown of thorns.
Putting it in black and white, this is women folk’s victory dance for scoring yet another one over men folk because one of their own, the bride’s mother, is now free of anxiety, troubles – financial or otherwise – of sustaining the maiden getting married.
An astute man however gets the message loud and clear, and some even avoid ‘entangling’ themselves before they are absolutely ready to relieve parents of their ‘burden’.
Anyways, after Anamgwagwa and company have sang the needful, and the community and pastors have with blessings relayed the message: ‘here is a lady, please satiate her needs till death you apart’; everything seemingly ends well.
In theory, the two live happily ‘ever after’ until children begin coming forth, one by one, or in twos or threes, depending on the genes.
The family’s growth, unless the young family is meticulous in family planning, rarely matches the rate at which the young couple’s income increases.
The cost of living follows the same pattern, i.e. increasing exponentially to the rate at the family’s stagnant pay packets expand.
And this is the time that then young groom, now a husband and father, remembers why the elderly women were so happy to award him headship of the family.
It all begins to fit together.
When the madam needs something, even if it’s completely useless e.g. cutex, the bill – like a laser guided missile – hits him.
When the toddlers should still be breastfed, the madam cites this or that problem, which allegedly runs in her family but no one had remembered to tell him about, and announces the kid is being weaned after a month or so; implying buying milk, which comes at a cost.
At a later stage, day care and school fees creep in and so on and so forth.
Everything, unless the lady holds a well paying job and doesn’t have relatives to support, falls on the shoulder of the then handsome and full-haired bridegroom, who by this time is no longer handsome – due to sleepless nights – and has began to suffer hair loss from frequently running his hands in the hair.
Blues’ Orators, at this time he begins wondering what kind of idiot he was not to bolt when Anamgwagwa, the elderly lady who intoned the double edged “Wamkulu n’ndani?” was doing her gyrations and ululations.
What happens next, in the best case, is that the man matures and accepting that indeed all that glitters is not gold, gets to work to provide for his family.
He works hard, prudently managing whatever he earns so that his wife can compete with other ladies by wearing the latest weave in town, his family can eat a balanced diet, and more critically that his kids can get better education that he got.
Flipping the coin to the other side, we have these good-for-nothing types who resort to spending as much time as they can away from their nagging (read: demanding) wife and the ever-hungry kids’ cries and illness due to inadequate food, poor sanitation, among other things.
Imagine if you will, that the wife and kids followed this ‘kamchacha’ to the tavern or wherever it is he spends time gambling on bawo, or shooting pool, and upon being given a list of needs for the house, shouts at them:
“I know you ingrates are eager to point fingers at the head of the family for every problem that arises. I am the ultimate authority and I don’t mind.
“But we must remember the principles of good governance. The governance of this family is done by you my dear wife. I married you in Church to govern the children on my behalf. And I don’t expect every problem to come to me. I expect you to do what is required of you,” he says.
And he continues:
“And to you my children especially you girls, I expect you to think outside the box to sustain this family. More so in times of crisis!”
Would you be surprised if the boys turned into delinquents; the girls to prostitution and sugar daddies, and the wife started ‘servicing’ the neighbourhood?
Who would throw the first or any stone at them for ‘thinking outside the box’?
Blues’ Orators, the fly-by-night husband who was grinning ear to ear when Anamgwagwa was singing “Wamkulu n’ndani m’banja” but is now talking nonsense reminds me of our dear president, ‘Mapwiya’ Peter Mutharika.
If you followed Mutharika’s speech during the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) Congregation in Lilongwe, you will agree that his blame-shifting for the closures of not one, not two but three universities, for which he is the Chancellor was a cheap shot and first degree dereliction of duty.
Because one university closing prematurely is understandable, two unfortunate, but three closing simultaneously; for lacking – of all things – water, is irredeemable foolishness.
I therefore dare President Mutharika to grow up, own up his gross under performance in leading not only the universities, but the entire country, and stop behaving like the immature character I have described above.
If his promise to ‘do business unusual’ meant just loafing around, playing bawo, or shooting pool while Malawi decays, or fiddling like Nero when Rome was burning; we have had enough.
He should pack up and return whence he came.