Tower of Babel
Dear Diary, “12 Days of Christmas”: Day 7/12
December 19, 2023.
This day, I unfold a chaotic symphony orchestrated by destiny and my father’s peculiar brand of parenting skills written on May 31, 2021. I call it my personal rendition of the Tower of Babel, a dark comedy in the twisted theatre of cultural clash.
This is my version of *Tower of Babel* —a twisted dance with chaos and the currency of survival.
“Daddy, I don’t like this place!”
My plea echoed through the air, lost in the foreign sounds that surrounded me. The alien hostel whispered in strange tongues I couldn’t fathom, it was a linguistic labyrinth of confusion.
“Nah, I am coming back on Saturday. Don’t cancel my ticket; if not, I will charge it to your ATM card. Who even told you that I am even willing to try to cope?”
His response wrapped in threats of financial vengeance had no qualms about using my rebellious tendencies against me. Olúwatóyọ̀sí (I don’t particularly appreciate it when I am irritated, and my Dad pulls the Olúwatóyọ̀sí card on me. It is either my “mumu’s button” or my “Damn it, girl, will you come back to your senses” control button.) I rolled my eyes because I had no sense to come back to, and I wasn’t going to be a mumu that morning. I kept lamenting, Ahan, Daddy; they even speak their language with impunity. Every time I say, ‘English, please,’ some of them won’t even answer.”
The air hung heavy with my frustration, a storm brewing in my soul. My father, genuinely concerned for me, but being the maestro of savage humour, responded with a decree befitting a dark comedy script. He said, ‘If anyone dares to confuse you by speaking in their local language when they ought to communicate in English,’ proclaiming with a wicked glint in his voice, ‘ensure you speak Yoruba and take everyone back to the Tower of Babel until all of you come to the understanding that communication in a common language is key’.
Ahan, Daddy, shey nkan tan so ni yen ni? (Daddy, is that what we are talking about?)” He bid me goodbye with a virtual kiss. I pulled my phone away from my ears, staring at it in sheer horror. Did this dude just kiss me over the phone?
Ha!! Toyooooo, you are stuck in this town. Calling my mum was not even an option; she was right beside her husband while we spoke. The words ‘take everyone back to the Tower of Babel’ kept resonating in my ear like a haunting melody. Armed with my father’s dark wit passed down through generations, I couldn’t believe he just said I should embark on a linguistic rebellion.
I stormed into the bathroom and realized I had to fetch water. The taps in the hostels were nocturnal, ceasing to run as soon as the generator went off at midnight. I had no choice but to at least have my bath before resuming classes; it all felt like a cruel game.
Stomping out of the hostel with an empty bucket, I spotted a tap and joined the queue. I found solace in being the fifth and last person on the line, figuring it could have been worse. Not bad, I thought to myself.
In my head, I started to make a checklist of my woes. The gen goes off at midnight, the bloody tap in the bathroom does not run, and my daddy is out here chanting Tower of Babel like a dark mantra, What other absurdity could unfold at this point?
I sighed, resigned to my fate, and I concluded in my spirit, soul, and body that Toyo, behold, you are leaving on Saturday. Just manage, as I shrugged off the weight of my present predicament that had just registered in my head.
As I stood there, bucket in hand, waiting for the elusive water, I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. Life’s savage humour had me cornered, and the Tower of Babel seemed more like a twisted carnival ride than a dire threat.
This was my first morning at the law school, and it was bad; there was no hope for me to be happy. I begrudgingly joined the queue for water, while my colleagues sauntered to class in their resplendent black and white uniforms, engaged in conversations about God-knows-what. I was angry at my misfortune.
Still grappling with the surreal fact that my father, yes, my own daddy, had kissed me over the phone and then dropped the Tower of Babel bomb, I couldn’t help but wonder, did the man set me up? Was this some elaborate scheme to test my resilience?
As the first person in line leisurely filled his bucket, my annoyance simmered beneath the surface. Then, like a fiendish plot twist in the script of my misadventure, three Hausa girls waltzed in and joined the queue ahead of the boy standing in front of me. So, where I should have been fifth in line, I wasn’t only the last person; I automatically became the eight-person.
I thought, maybe my mind was playing tricks on me, and since they were all tall, maybe, just maybe, they did not see me. This law school, with its black and white-clad inhabitants, seemed determined to conspire against my morning sanity. I held onto my precious Blackberry phone as I was pinging away. Not caring. Really.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Two more girls cut the line through the same boy who seamlessly facilitated the integration of the three girls. By this time, the number two on the line had filled his bucket and left; number three was fetching. The tap was not particularly running as a tap should, you’d think it was a personal vendetta against me. I looked at my time and didn’t want to care, but it dawned on me that the class to be held was also for me. I already paid for it.
My Lagos brain kicked in, and I thought, “Okay, so I came here to stand like a tree, abi?” The queue morphed into a relic of my dwindling patience.
Raging like a storm, I marched to the front with the tenacity of an onward Christian soldier, and as one of the girls who audaciously jumped the queue placed her bucket under the tap, I removed it and put mine instead.
And that’s when the real wahala started.
You all can imagine the audacity of a tiny girl like myself against six overly chatty, obnoxiously friendly BFFs. The girl whose bucket I took off, wrapped her scarf around her head, flung my bucket and put hers under the tap. But did I scamper after my bucket like a helpless victim? Hell no. My brain came up with a more sinister plan.
Instead of scampering after my bucket like a water-starved peasant; I executed a tap takeover by turning off the tap and standing right in front of it. The tap and I were almost of the same height. Let the standoff commence. They started shouting and clapping their hands in my face.
While I picked up my bucket to put it back under the tap, the girl who flung my bucket, put hers again. This time, I locked the tap, flung her bucket and folded my arms, defending the tap with my back like a water deity. Gbogbowa lajo ma kpe nibi. (We all would waste our time here!)
A little scuffle to push me off the tap happened, but somehow my feet were rooted. It would have taken more physical force to get me off that position and that was against the rules with serious penalties. Words were flying up and down like a swarm of disturbed bats, but I stood my ground. I was prepared for whatever chaos that would unfold based on If I don’t get to fetch water in peace, then no one would.
It turned into a chaotic village meeting that morning. But, if you know me, you will know that as vertically challenged as I may be, I am not one to back out from a fight. I felt cheated and at that point, even though I looked like I was formidable, I was just one step away from crying like a baby. Any further shake-down from these people and the tears would flow like the River Nile. Still, I stood my sacred ground like a statute.
Our commotion attracted some of the patrol authority personnel. One of them in charge of student affairs approached us to inquire what happened.
Holding my shoulders high and chin up, I met their gaze with a fierce stare, silently cursing them in my mind. Ah, finally, I felt relaxed that sanity had come to reign, or so I thought. Little did I know, the six students had a different narrative in mind, and they took their turns to report me in Hausa.
I stood there, utterly dazed, like eegbami! Mo gbe! (who will deliver me! I’m finished) It became abundantly clear—I could not win this battle. The judgment could never be in my favour, and the tears that had welled up in my pupils threatened to betray me. I swiftly wiped them away, unwilling to show any sign of weakness. Where would my help come from?
Desperation gripped me as I glanced at my phone, and just in the nick of time, a message dropped, and the screensaver lit up—a picture of my dad and me during a memorable trip to fill one of my tooth cavities. Hope flickered. I smiled. The words came rushing at me, ‘The Tower of Babel.’ Suddenly, everything clicked.
At that moment, in the twisted comedy of my life, my dad’s unconventional lessons were the key to survival. A wicked grin crept onto my face. The dark humour of the situation was not lost on me, and with a renewed sense of defiance, I prepared to face the impending storm, armed with the savage teachings of my dear father.
It was now my turn to explain to this intermeddler judge my side of the story. They all turned to hear my side of the story, and I took all of us back to Tower of Babel”. I sniffed back my tears, swallowed my saliva, and I started my narration…”Igba ti mo de bi laro yi, gbogbo awon Omo larondo yi, ko to gbe scarf jati jati sori….”(When I got here this morning, this girl with a scarf on her head….”)
The intermeddler judge stopped me right there and said he didn’t understand a thing; I should speak in English.
Raising my head like the “fairy” God gave the power over the Biblical “Tower of Babel” scene, I held my blackberry like a magic wand and repeated my words like abracadabra. ”Igba ti mo de bi laro yi, gbogbo awon Omo larondo yi, ko to gbe scarf jati jati sori bi….” (When I got here this morning, this girl with a Jaga Jaga scarf on her head like….”)he stopped me.
For a third time, I defiantly repeated my words. Laughing internally and sending a mental shout-out to my Daddy for the “Tower of Babel” oh, Daddy, I love you. Confusion descended upon the scene. Meanwhile, I had casually put on the tap, before they could comprehend the twist, my bucket was filled with water. I left them to converse with my back—askor! (Nonsense!)
An observant official, fluent in Yoruba, watched from a distance. He looked at me and commented, “Young lady, you are filled with wisdom.” I winked, relishing my triumph. And that’s how I savoured my first morning in Law school.
I sent a message to my dad with the caption ‘Tower of Babel worked,’ and he replied, ‘Of course, you are the true daughter of your father.’ In that moment, as I stood triumphant in the face of cultural chaos, I realized that life’s lessons are often taught in the most absurd and darkly humorous ways. I embraced the madness, my rebellion a savage dance in the shadows of the Tower of Babel.
For other episodes in this 12 Days of Christmas series see:
Day 1/12: Spit-proof Grace at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/day-1-spit-proof-grace-my-desculpe-obrigada-moment/
2/12: My Mum – the unbeatable champion of all time at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/my-mum/
3/12: Were you a truth-teller as a child at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/truth-teller/
Day 4/12: Can you pray? at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/day-4-can-you-pray/
Day 5/12: My ode to fear at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/ode-to-fear/
Day 6/12: Mary’s breakup line to St. Joseph at: https://oluwatoyosiabikoye.com/day-6-marys-break-up-line-to-st-joseph/