The Lone Elephant

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The Lone Elephant
By Veronica Nkwocha

A certain family of Elephants were on a long journey across vast plains, deserts in search of water. The journey would take them weeks upon weeks.

The Matriarch was strong, she was wise and above all, she had the fire of ten thousand men. She led them, walking alone. Apart and slightly ahead, a lone powerful beacon; through the hills she triumphed, through the valleys, she inspired. And the elephants all followed her. They were tired, they were growing weaker by the day but they had the fire of mama’s leading to urge them on. To the hope of water for everyone, to life.

As the sun set one terrible day, a lion found them. It sniffed for the weakest and trailed the broken. Those who had undergone the journey over the years had the experience to carry on; they were at the fore of the journey, right behind the Matriarch, each one eager for the oasis that was nearly within sight. They could smell it in the air, and most importantly, they saw their old faded footprints from a distant past to show them the way.

At the far end limping along though, were the calves. They tried with all their waning strength to keep up with the herd but their small legs betrayed them.

The lion was getting closer and closer. It gnawed at the heels of the last of them all, a lone yearling, the smallest calf, drawing blood. She limped along frightened and yelping in pain.

Then something strange happened. The stronger, older and wiser elephants surrounded their lone kin to protect her from the lion.

They bellowed and trumpeted, they stomped running around wildly, their large frames covered in a canopy of dust wafting from their terrible anger at the prowling lion.

They formed a bulwark against the rampaging hunter and provided a secure refuge for…
their lone beacon, the Matriarch,
closing their ears to the bitter cry of the lone yearling even as the lion took her away,
the smallest of them all.

*It is easy to be strong for the strong, the true test of humanity is whether we can be as strong for the weak.

Love’s Hearth (Poetry)

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Love’s Hearth
By Veronica Nkwocha

Love is…
the laughter we share in the morning
as we walk out the front door
and go our separate ways…
The happiness lingers and trails us
as we go about our day.

Love is…
an unending ribbon that wrap us,
tickling our hearts
and lighting our eyes.
Echoes of our laughter draw us,
back through that door
ushering us into our hearth.

The Oil Boom Kids

So I found something I wrote ages ago (late 80s) and I was gobsmacked at my…handwriting! It was clear, precise and pleasing to the eye if I may say so. If you were born in Nigeria in the tumultuous years of the Civil War and in the early 70s, I would say, the piece should resonate. There is a lot of generalisation (please pardon me, confused teen/fresh uni student/jambite) and a great deal of it is written from my own childhood (hangs head and hides).

Where there are tales about content children, it would not apply to everyone and I apologise for writing in a hurry and never getting back to re-writing and editing it. I reproduce it here, flaws and all just so you get a feel of one perspective in the Nigerian tale. It is a fragment (albeit a real one) of the picture of the journey of Nigeria.
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The Oil Boom Kids
Written by Veronica Anuga

Out of the ashes, a child is born. From out of anarchy, of chaos, a generation is created. Spewed forth in the heights of war and at the crash of the reign of turmoil, fear and helplessness, they symbolise a pause from the ache, a hope for the battered generation.

In that golden era of the post war days when the oil boom served as a balm to healing wounds, the light of the future gleamed, bright. The tottering giant towered, its granary was full and in the bowels of its earth, the oil lay, thick and murky; the black gold. Nigeria was on the rungs of ladder of success, at the brink of self-actualisation. The climb, it knew, would be fast paced but sure; its way greased with the very oil that was its bargaining power.

The early 70s was a period most Nigerians remember today with nostalgia. A period where small towns grew to large cities. The movement from rural settings to the urban, mono-directional. The need for manpower for the ever growing industrialisation was unparalleled with the number of skilled workers. A lot of emphasis was placed on education. Primary, post primary and tertiary institutions grew in number to accommodate this need. Well-equipped hospitals were available and accessible. The standard of living was high, food, clothing and basic amenities were cheap. The growth of infrastructure was dynamic and the network of roads, a kaleidoscope of high technology.

The oil boom kids were born into homes where material needs were not lacking. There were enough toys to play with, plenty of food to warm their tiny bellies and in school, the quality of education was standard. Teaching aids were readily available. Most school children had good uniforms and most importantly, they wore shoes.

Time moved on and the generation grew, unaware of the intricacies that were a part of its life. The intricacies; the mind of corrupt leaders who uncaring of the after effects, fell victim of the ‘chop’ syndrome.

The late 1979 and the early 80s marked the era of Democracy, where Nigeria still towered, a giant but with the beginnings of crumbling feet. The politicians, as though filled with an innate undying hunger, mismanaged grossly the floundering economy, enacted short sighted economic policies and were masterminds at creating and awarding invisible contracts.

The children now on the verge of becoming full-fledged adults were spectators in a complicated game of chess, powerless to move the pawns that would determine their future. At the close of the day, the Prize is to be laid at their feet, their responsibility? How to carry on.

The glut in oil prices in the international scene coupled with the purposelessness of an inadequate administration saw Nigeria into an era of confusion. It was all a beginning, the worst was yet to come.

Through all this, the oil boom kid is growing. While in the tertiary institution which is his right which he realises he’s lucky to get considering that the generation yet to come might not, he hears stories. Of how the amenities he cannot but imagine, were available. Three square meals provided by the school, a standard library bulging with information from all over the world, where the dynamism of fresh discoveries require for one to keep up to date, clean modern facilities, enough chairs in the lecture halls and a job right after. His dream of being a part of what was while he was growing trickle slowly through his fingers. He is not alone.

The picture at the very end of the tunnel sighted in the oil boom days might have been otherwise blurred. How else can one justify the existence of two very different pictures? The playgrounds where these very kids played are now in ruins. The tiny little children hurrying off to school in the mornings have no school buses. They run along on bare feet and tattered uniforms some of them on a breakfast of watery pap. They will not be punished for being unkempt when they get to school, no, they are a product of the society, a mirror of the society. In their classrooms, the baby voices singing ‘baa baa black sheep…’ might not be sitting on chairs, might not be reading from books because they have none.

Meanwhile the oil boom kids have grown. They are the oil doom youths. Victims of a low quality education where the undergraduate need not ask what ‘001’ means; victims of a corrupt group. Nothing is more painful than the loss of a dream. They watch as those they trusted the most turn to mere children as they clutch at straws in their bid to stem the tide, powerless as a gloomy future flows unheeded carrying in its wake, the oil doom.

The giant, a mother, is breeding in her children, an anger, a fear. The towering mountain of ear-aching debts weigh heavily on their shoulders. For how long can they stoop? They are but children in an old man’s body with none of the proverbial wisdom that comes with age. The oil doom youth is restless. He is like a jungle animal on the verge of extinction, his every instinct scream, survival.

Pondering ‘Life of Pi’

Pondering ‘Life of Pi’

By Veronica Nkwocha

I watched Life of Pi.
It struck me how life has a funny way of throwing us out of our comfort zone.
It is inevitable.
Life is but a swing and we must brace ourselves for the ups and downs.
Sometimes she comes when we are least prepared but like Pi, we find on the inside, an inner strength that astounds us and our naysayers.
Tomorrow must come.
And tomorrow, full of life and love can be birthed from adversity and a seeming hopelessness.
Those who hold our hands through it all may come from the unlikeliest of places,
the ferocious tiger tamed to a degree how can it be?
Miracles pop out and usher us along as we traverse life’s path and bring cheer along dreary dark journeys;
towards an end which may not be what we first dreamed
but stunning in its beauty and happiness all the same.
The sheer miracle of having survived those dark days make up for the all the melancholy music that hummed
tauntingly
beckoning
as though towards an eternal hopelessness.
No, your end will surely be better,
the human spirit triumphs once again.

*P.s. I wrote this many months ago when I watched ‘Life of Pi’

Repressive Rule (Poetry)

Auguste Rodin. «Thinker», Philadelphia museum

Repressive Rule 

By Veronica Nkwocha

The aura of power
Is alive and powerful
Watch ordinary men
Fall on their knees.

The aura of power
Is in the mind
It ebbs and wanes
When we shine the light of truth.

Its scepter is false
Though we know it not
We enable it rule
When we’re silent and kneel.

 

Image from here Auguste Rodin. «Thinker», Philadelphia museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolverine’

My Thoughts on ‘The Wolverine’

By Veronica Nkwocha

If ever a man wanted to fade out of the mainstream and hibernate like his beloved bear, drifting in a limbo of self-imposed seclusion, away from a life of boisterous battles, it was Logan, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Away from all that was considered normal; a life trapped in a super-human profundity. He yearned instead for a life of peace and quiet. The only thing he had to battle were the painful memories, one from which he couldn’t find an escape, still he created his world and it was his, at least for a few years.

‘The Wolverine’ (directed by James Mangold) began strong. Nagasaki Japan, 1945. The mushroom cloud and its antecedents typically viewed from pictures taken from a safe distance was brought closer with the final race of an all-important duo doing all they can to beat it’s bellowing and fiery breath. Two men, interwoven in a tale of hope and humanity and unlikely friendship, and a giving of life.

One of the men is dying in today’s Japan. His protégé, Yukio (Rila Fukushima) has searched like a needle in a haystack, for the man who had saved her mentor for a final farewell. It helps that Logan is in a state of rage against those who have left his only companion for dead, a grisly at his most beautiful prime tenaciously holding on to life until Logan humanely helped him along.

Tokyo is laid out like a jewel pulsating with life and lights. Logan stands out like a sore thumb, unwashed, unshaven and in clothes that had seen better days. After he is scrubbed like a potato by an uptight chef, he is presented to Yashida now old and worn. Yashida who owed him his life. A sad farewell and he would be on the next flight home. But why did it feel like Logan was in the lair of the Tiger?

Successful and stupendously rich, Yashida is now a brand with a cult-like following. Logan and Yashida’s meeting is in a way, like the first, Yashida seeks to prolong his life by taking from Logan. And there begins a struggle that takes the story from Tokyo to Nagasaki, now breathtakingly beautiful, the fauna and landscape speak of Nature’s forgiveness of the decades old bruising inflicted by Man.

To save Yashida’s heir Mariko (Tao Okamotohe), Logan is lured to a final battle where his very essence is violently ripped out by Yashida in his bid for eternity. For a vulnerable time, Wolverine is fully human and must wrest what belongs to him out of the claws of the Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). She was slippery, magnetic and determined. And a chameleon. The shedding of the garments of the oncologist was swift and the snake that took her place was fluid and full of venom.

‘The Wolverine’ laid bare one of X-Men’s best. From Mutant to Human, how would it end? While the cinematography brought our superhero to life, the movie alternated the violent outbursts with themes of love, betrayal and benign normalcy in parts in tentative harmony. The story unveiled itself a little bit at a time and kept a grip on the audience. Yashida had awakened the sleeping giant and we weren’t going to sleep anytime soon.

My Thoughts on ‘Pacific Rim’

My Thoughts on ‘Pacific Rim’

By Veronica Nkwocha

Pacific Rim is an apocalyptic tale from acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. It is set in a future where strange beasts called Kaijus morphed out of a fissure on the seabed at the points where the tectonic plates shift bent on the annihilation of Man. They are met in epic battles by robots called Jaegers who fight them off time after time using twin drivers as pilots, their minds locked together via a mental bridge. The Jaegers are led by General Stacker Pentecost played by Idris Elba. He wore a stern and calculating demeanour and a tenacious belief in the effectiveness of the army of Jaegers and the machinery that supported them. Would they succeed?

Pacific Rim lived up to its hype. The Jaegers were colossal yet graceful, they did what they were designed to do; battle like warriors. The Kaijus were the object of the fight but the real enemy lay behind the scenes. The portal was a signal to another world which Man should have been striving to target from the start but as in life, a lot of energy was expended on the visible threat rather than what lay underneath, growing, transforming and near overwhelming earth. Every bolt, every screw, even the chips in the paint, the rusting hulk of the machinery even as the Jaegers were nearly being retired was shown with crisp cinematography.

I particularly liked the progression of the story, it was fluid up till the final climax where the final battle was fought deep within the waters of the ocean. I did wonder what happened to most of the sea life though, they seemed to have made a massive retreat in anticipation of the chaotic mangling in their front yard.

The choice of Jaegers as the proper fighting tool against the Kaijus was fun to watch and made the movie but why would the weapon of choice be a wrestling bout rather than a far off attack using long range missiles? Pacific Rim allowed us witness the heaving and trashing of ‘gladiators’ as they duelled, some to their death, a fascination of Man since time immemorial. We have come a long way from the days when all we had were two men in a ring fighting for a cheering audience. Today, we have robots the size of the’ Statue of Liberty’ and Kaijus the size of ‘tower blocks’, the arena we all sit around are cinemas, popcorn in hand satisfying a craving for duel as long as we are not in the thick of it.