OpEd, Politics

The beginning of the end of suffering

In 1998, there was a famine in the then Southern Sudan. The territory was foodless. People used to travel somewhere to fetch food. Other people were living on wild plants. It was a terrible famine ever recorded in the history of famines.

It had claimed a thousand, if not a million, lives of people. But because it is a norm in heaven that people cannot die all at once, the United Nations set in with food assistance. Once in a while, the United Nations could drop down food items in the airstrips. People in our village used to travel on foot to Yirol town where food items were distributed to people.

It was marked by a sad story to narrate. While people were waiting for another trip of food items by the United Nations at Yirol airstrip, it took so long to arrive. A woman almost died of hunger. So, she decided to go to the market, thinking that her luck would provide her with a portion of food to break her 3-day hunger. She was holding a tobacco pipe (aduwäi) in her mouth.

Walking aimlessly, she arrived at an Arab merchant’s restaurant where meat was being fried. She saw it and drew closer, wanting to pick a spark of fire to light her tobacco pipe. Unknowingly, she, instead, picked a piece of fried meat and put it on her tobacco pipe. She thought she had picked a spark of fire. People saw it and felt pity for her.

When an Arab merchant became aware of it, he ran after the woman, caught her and removed the piece of meat and came back with it. A few heartless people laughed at her provocatively. The woman felt ashamed. She sat down and cried bitterly, saying she did not completely mean picking a piece of meat, but a spark of fire. No one believed her.

She went back to the airstrip and in the morning, she was found dead under her mosquito net. To me, she died of stress, not hunger. It was too early for her to die of hunger.

My parents were also at the airstrip waiting for food assistance. It was reported that a number of people died at the airstrip waiting for food assistance. Lastly, the United Nations arrived with sacks of wheat and they were distributed to people. Again, many people died. They had no energy to grind wheat. So, they used to boil and chew them like that.

With the body operating under a reductive adaptation system, many people developed an abdominal cramp and succumbed to its consequences. It was, once more, a tragic moment marked by a massive gravedigging. People who survived it, including my parents, went back to the villages to rescue starving children.

My siblings and I were starving beyond starvation. When our parents came back, we broke our starvation beyond breaking it. Two weeks later, famine again rose to power all over the villages and it was rumoured that the United Nations was not coming back again with food assistance. So, it was a very expensive rumour!

It was in July. So, crops were still unripened. Even the groundnut tubers were beginning to form nuts. But there were vegetables of various kinds. Everyone’s hope was in the groundnuts because some children, including me, refused to eat vegetables. Every day, my mother used to check on the groundnuts whether or not it has ripened.

The whole village was in the custody of famine. People were then selling reserved resources. My father suggested we should sell one goat to push us to a better day. We exchanged it for only nine cups of wheat from a certain trader. We could pulverise a cup of wheat and economise it for two days.

Fortunately, the groundnuts got ripened when we were grinding the 6th cup of wheat. Look at how funny the nature is! It took only 10 days, after we sold our goat, for the groundnuts to ripen. We almost withdrew our goat. That was the last kick of famine. If other people are now asked to narrate the dying days of that famine, they can tell stories with tears.

The last kick of a horse is often three times more painful than the precedent kicks.  When something is dying, it depletes its energy by kicking at a straw. So, if the kick lands on you, you won’t forget it. I have a belief that the ongoing crisis is coming to an end soon. It just wants to leave behind sad stories to narrate later in life. So, if you bear with its last kicks, you will only be a listener to such sad stories later on.

Thanks for reading “Sowing the Seed Of Truth”.

Comments are closed.