THE RAILWAY CROSSING
by ELSIE. O. DENNIS
She hurriedly rolled away her mat and rushed to the big water pot. The cup hit the bottom of near emptiness. She sighed in frustration. She had instructed her younger daughter to fill the pot from the village stream yesterday and she had been so tired after dinner that she had gone to bed without checking if her instructions had been carried out. Obviously they had not and this would mean at least five trips to the stream before sunrise. She sighed again as she unlatched the door and stooped low to step out into the biting cold of the early morning. She washed the residue of sleep from her face and pushed her fingers across her teeth and rinsed her mouth vigorously and spat far into the distance. She poured more water into her mouth and gargled before again spitting it out.
“Good morning Mama na!”, her young neighbour called out in greeting as she turned back to her hut. “good morning, my dear! I didn’t notice you in the dark, did you sleep well?”
“Yes I did Mama na, I hope you did too?” please will you be going to the stream this morning?”
“I’m just about to do so, let me get my water pot and join you”
“Thank you Mama na”
She smiled to herself as she bent down to pick the smaller pot used for fetching water from the stream. She knew the young lady was too scared to make the kilometre trek to the stream in the dark. But who could blame her? The footpath was quite narrow and bushy on both sides with the occasional menacing shape of a tree along the winding path. She was a young bride from another village and she was not yet used to the ways of her new home. Mama na chose to ignore her still sleeping daughters and finish up her early morning chores by herself.
Two hours later she was ready to go. She looked up anxiously at the sun which was slowly making its way up from behind the trees close to her house. She gingerly balanced the basket of dankwa on her head, took the outstretched bucket of groundnuts from her older daughter with her right hand and collected the low stool and raffia tray from her younger daughter with the other hand. She hardly ever got the chance to sit down but she took the stool anyway. She made her way quickly but surely to her destination, her marketplace, her sure source of livelihood, the place that made it possible for her daughters to attend the school three villages away where they would learn how to be better than her; she hurried there, because soon the vehicles will come and they would slowly grind to a near halt and the hungry passengers would start buying. If she got there early enough she could finish her wares before noon and still have enough time on the farm before coming home to prepare the family’s evening meal.
Soon her destination came into view and she could see her fellow traders gathering. Some idle men were beginning to loiter as they always did; they had no real business there nor anywhere else for that matter but they liked to hang around wherever there was promise of action. And there was plenty of action here, all the latest news, the stories from far away, the beautiful people in the cars and buses passing by. The strange looking women and prosperous looking men all passed through here. This was where it all happened every day. It was the centre of all commercial activity and the harbinger of all news, good or bad. It was the railway crossing
Dedicated to all hardworking village women across Africa on International Women’s day 2013