Born into the world

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    Sep 08, 2012
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Of all the places under the sun, the One and only creator chose the island of Marakei as the island for my birth.  Like all atoll islands, Marakei is made of coral and is surrounded by a continuous reef which is triangular in shape.  The southern reef forms the base of the triangle while the eastern and western reefs make up the sides of the island, both reefs gradually converging to form the convex- shaped northern tip of the island.  The vegetation is lush; it always is, with young and old coconut trees growing along the entire length of the island interspersed here and there with wild growing bushes of saltbush, pandanus and other types of wild growing bushes. All along the island, this continuity of flora abruptly ends where a village has been built and it is usual to find other species of trees growing besides houses and buildings.  The most prominent of these are the frangipani, poinciana and breadfruit trees.  The colour of ocean is a deep blue from every angle even when one is swimming in it.  The lagoon is mostly greenish in colour, changing to the colour of the ocean in the deeper parts.  This island was my birthplace and was to be my home for the next three years and I found it to be a gentle, serene, loving and beautiful place to be.  It was a haven which had welcomed me when I was born into the world.

I did not know how I was formed in my mother’s womb (I know now), and I was not aware that I was a living fetus growing inside her for nine months.  I equally did not know of the pain she went through when giving birth, and I absolutely knew nothing of the world to where I was going.  I didn’t know from where I came and to where I was going.  It may come as a surprise to some but I didn’t know whose hands first welcomed me into the ‘other’ side and that I felt no sensation whatsoever from the first ‘whack’ on my backside which caused me to take in my first gulp of air, a gulp that I immediately released in the form of a high pitched shriek.  Alas! I was alive, and for better or for worse, I had become one of the newest additions to the human race.

As I grew, I could not pinpoint the exact moment when my infantile awareness evolved into a concrete experience of my surroundings.  By this I mean that from a few months after my birth, I became aware of people around me performing motions and uttering sounds but my mind found it difficult to absorb them and translate them into meaningful phenomena.  By the time I reached the age of two, the sounds began to be recognizable.  I could make a distinction between sounds, knew who or what made them, and I took delight in my accomplishment.  I knew whose voice it was that laughed, admonished, grumbled or sighed during the course of the day.   Unfortunately, I still could not decipher the actions but somehow, knew that that too would eventually happen and it did.  I slowly learnt that a finger pressed upright against the lips was a motion for silence; an up and down motion through the hair and upon the skin signified scratching an itchy spot; a raided hand swiftly thrust downwards while looking at someone told of inviting that someone to come; a gently push meant a friendly and familiar gesture; a hard push meant anger or annoyance on the part of the pusher and the list goes on.  It wasn’t long before I began copying one of the more sedate types of motions, that of scratching the itchy spots on my body.

I seldom cried and most of the time I was content with my ability and freedom to play, laugh, being bathed, fed and cuddled during the nights.  I began to notice that I was always showered with affection by those around me, especially the women and girls who took great pains to prevent my getting into difficult situations, scolding my playmates when they got out of line and generally taking great care to ensure that I didn’t hurt myself by others or myself.  I welcomed this kind of attention and was to later use it when I grew older to lord it over my ‘protectors’ as if they were there solely for the purpose of serving me.  The interesting thing was that they didn’t mind giving me their attention and later I learned that a thing called kindness and love motivated their actions.  Moreover, their actions were further moulded by what was normal and acceptable in our culture – that a young male child was precious and was therefore entitled to the greatest possible measure of care.  I was male, and I received a full measure.

(To be continued….)

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