By Jokmagai Dengadiit
“Kungee! Kungee! Kungee!” At last, the people from outside heard the cry of a baby.
The maidens inside were jubilating already. They had successfully helped in the midwifery of a bouncing baby boy. The Chief Midwife Miss Yaarakeerdit broke into tears and began to sing poetically and prophetically. It had never been an easy job for them. The boy showed signs of being born three days before. Therefore, the lady who gave birth to that child really tolerated an unimaginable labor pain for 72 horror hours. To add salt into pepper, that was her first time to give birth. Had it not been the unwavering encouragement of the maidens, she could have given up on the first day.
Abuk Deng Kuur was the mother of that bouncing baby boy. This particular lady was a no-nonsense kind of a person. A girl who was usually as gentle as a dove when she had not been angered. She can easily catch feelings like a cheetah when confronted with challenging opinions. She was a proud African lady who loved the name of her dad DENG like her own life. You can sometimes get confused whether she really love her dad or it was her dad’s fame that had made her get obsessed with her dad’s name. She could be seen fighting with other women at the hand-pumps water places because someone had sarcastically abused her dad.
Abdalla Deng Kuur (Abuk’s dad) was a commander in the army. He had stayed long with the Nubians and thus he became a Muslim hence his name, Sheikh Abdalla. He got a mixed personality of bitterness and sweetness. He used to defame men who went against his orders but he usually used to exalt those who had accepted and respected his ideas and orders. That was his one weakness. He was a ruthless and skilled fighter but a very wise man at the same time. Any time he goes on a mission of war, you would not hear so many casualties. He was brutal to those who steal other people’s properties including his own soldiers. He was friendly to the poor, elderly and children. You would see children molding people out of mud but Deng was always molded bigger and as the leader. He was deservingly famous. This might explain why her daughter was so obsessed with him and his name.
Abuk Deng Kuur got married to Mayom Kon Mawut Kon Deng. This was a cool gentleman who doesn’t like bothering people that much. He was an introvert, a melancholic type for that matter. Mayom was very creative and his artistic skills were always marvelous. He was too shy to approach ladies and moody at the same time, though he never openly show how angry he could be. He usually held his grudges to himself until he is back on his bed. He would then open his memory video and rewatch the recorded sessions of disappointments with strong emotions as if they just happened. He was poor in speech and he used to stammer at the same time. Stammering was more of fun to Abuk his wife at some points and she would sometimes not manage to hold it but rather laugh her lungs out. Before Mayom utters a word, he would stammer for seconds and at least hit his head on some object, then the words would jolt out continuously. In the middle of his speech, you would never know that Mayom can stammer. That was Abuk’s beloved husband.
There came that day when the bouncing baby boy was born. Miss Yaarakeerdit, the Senior Midwife gave the boy a temporary name, ‘Maghook.’ It means a boy child that had inflicted longer labor pain on his mum and took time to be born. It was already a week and so the clan elders from Mayom Kon’s family met to name the child as Jieeng traditions demanded. The session was marked by the killing of a white he-goat as a sign of purity, goodness and blessing. The elders sat down to suggest the name of the child.
“The boy will be called Mawut,” suggested Kon Mawut (Mayom’s dad).
The 90 years old Mawundit craned his neck on his almost horizontal traditional nylon-wooden chair. He might have not been convinced by the suggestion. Mawundit was very old but full of wisdom than anyone alive in his community. His wisdom in solving disputes among various communities was just extraordinary. Some two special cases connected to impregnated and allegedly defiled girls were reported to have been solved by that old man called Mawundit sometime in the past.
Mawundit’s granddaughter got married to a Lost Boy and due to work, the guy never returned for almost six years. The girl had waited until she gave up and got herself a boyfriend who later gave her a child. When Mawundit’s grandsons heard the humiliating news according to them, they took their clubs and spears to go and fight the guy who had just wounded them through dowry repayment trauma.
“Where are you boys going?” Mawundit asked in a hoarse almost fading voice.
“We are going to discipline that idiot who has just impregnated our sister,” replied one furious lion-tempered grandson.
“Listen my boys,” Mawundit began his slow but always wise speech.
“When I was young, I used to do as you are doing now. I later regretted that in the years. I immediately became a transformed person during my thirties. I am the one who helped your father,” Mawundit pointed to that lion-tempered grandson whom mother was Mawundit’s daughter.
“Your father was a young man by then. He one day came to court your mum at night according to our traditions. They overslept and in the morning at nine o’clock, I came to check on my daughter only to find her still sleeping with a man, your father. All your uncles were outside brushing their teeth and some were tethering the cattle outside our ‘luak.’ I cautioned my daughter-your mother never to cry or tremble. I took the spears of that young man-your father and told him to follow me. After I had taken him far away from the village where my culturally-minded brothers and sons could no more harm him, I gave him his spears. I told him to go and keep it a secret because I didn’t want my daughter to be scolded and humiliated. I also didn’t want him-your father to be jeered and remain unmarried. I also thought of myself making the same mistakes in the past and maybe my grandsons in the future. Because of that sympathy and understanding, your mother, my daughter later got married to the same man-your father, that same day. Now listen to me my boys,” the wise old man continued.
“Yeenga e lek en week lan naa de ke dioor ye math nyin e kede moc ku luel ye cii be lok wuoi?” Mawundit interjected.
That can be loosely translated as,”Who lied to you that a woman can be joked with in love and left unsatisfied only to be expected not to sin?”
“Drop your weapons and let me solve this.” Mawundit concluded , as those verbally paralyzed young men stood surprised and convinced.
That particular day of child-naming, Mawundit stood his ground again to do the unthinkable as he always does.
“That boy will be called Kon after my beloved son Kon-kuengtoch,” Mawundit told the elders unexpectedly.
“Convince us wise unlce,” suggested one of his nephews who was also an elder.
“Good boy!” Mawundit smiled until his funny toothless black gums were visible.
“I suggested the name Kon from my inner observation. If I will still be alive, I am going to tell you who should be named after me among my grandsons in future. Now you all must listen carefully. Kon-kuengtoch my son was born after three days of labor pain just like Kon-jotakhoon, my father. All of these Kons were left-handed and they later withdrew their various nicknames from their experiences which had never been always smooth but had involved a lot of disagreements. This boy we are talking about now, was born after three days hence, he possibly got the spirit of Kon his father and not mine. His nickname will come from some future disagreements.” Mawundit concluded and the meeting ended with lots of inner doubts from the other male relatives.
The man who was sent to deliver the name of the boy to her mother was later shocked at what he encountered. Abuk rejected the name Kon because she claimed that her three day’s labor pain were not to be repaid in those names. She wanted the boy to be named after her father Deng and she stood her ground as always. She cited the fact that it is a woman that suffers much in child-bearing for nine months and so she got all the rights to name her boy whichever way she wanted. Abuk defied social history and traditions of child naming because of her obsession of Abdalla Deng her father. Women, particularly those whom babies are being named are not consulted during child naming in Jieeng culture but Abuk proofed different.
When Abdalla Deng Kuur heard all that, he was offended by her daughter’s behavior. Abdalla Deng immediately went to his in-laws to apologize for his daughter’s misbehavior. He sat down with them and narrated how sorry he was and how childish a woman who gave birth for the first time could be. Deng very much wanted to use all the possible means of diplomacy to convince his in-laws about her daughter’s misbehavior unconvincingly in her absence. That is where we Jieeng normally go wrong when settling issues.
“Tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., we shall meet in your house and discuss this matter in the presence of our wife, your daughter,” the wise old Mawundit interrupted Abdalla Deng.
The day to settle the perfect naming of that little new born baby boy-Maghook finally arrived. Abuk, Mayom, Kon-Kuengtoch, Abdalla Deng and the old man-Mawundit were all present as one family to discuss the name of the child in peace, unity and understanding.
“Our wife, Man Meth (Kid’s mother), what say you of the name we gave to your boy?” Mawundit opened the discussion.
“My boy-my firstborn must be named after my father Deng. Because of him raising me, you are now all here as my proud in-laws.” Abuk dropped an almost convincing argument.
“Well, my daughter, it doesn’t work that way,” Abdalla Deng began to speak.
“You are my firstborn and your name is Abuk, after my mother-your paternal grandmother but not after your maternal grandmother. I will later be given a chance to be named only with the permission of our in-laws but not through your fighting for it. That is not how our culture works.” Abdalla Deng concluded.
“Greetings again my wise in-law Deng Abdalla,” Mawundit intervened after clearing his almost diminishing voice.
“There are some things you all don’t know not because you are less wiser but because you were not there during our time. My late father Kon-jotakhoon at 25 yrs old, got his nickname after his mother angered a baby elephant whom Kon my father later grabbed and pushed away and fought its mother. My father Kon-jotakhoon was later helped when the mother elephant was almost dead. Kon-kuengtoch my son got his nickname after his mother gave me a hard time when I wanted us to leave Pamuokoch Swamp. She used to tell the newborn boy to swear on that swamp for reasons known to her. At one time, the boy cried for three consecutive nights until I madly called him Kon-kuengtoch and he immediately kept quiet. That is how Kuengtoch became his nickname. Your argument is not a surprise to me Abuk, our wife. The name Deng can unite you with your husband because it is in both lineages hence it cannot be a bad suggestion. Here is the catch. Kon my father, Kon my son-your husband’s father and now your little boy whom we are discussing the names-all of them were born after three days of labor pain. Kon my dad and Kon my son were/are both left-handed and possibly, your son might be. What name do you still suggest your son to be called Madam?” Mawundit concluded with a persuasive question.
That is the beauty of fair and factual discussion whereby non of the concerned parties is left out. Non of the parties is seen as a headache to the discussion. All are loved and treated equally just as Mawundit always does to his people. There was a peaceful silence in the house and Abuk smiled and hugged the wise old Mawundit with tears uncontrollably flowing from her eyes. Her heart was finally pricked by the spear of truth and she thus melted because she was now convinced.
“The boy will be called Kon-monydeeng!” Abuk exclaimed.
Mawundit smiled broadly and the whole house was filled with laughter. That is how that little boy called Maghook came to be known as Kon-monydeeng.