Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Hiding Place for My Dough

By

Obododimma Oha

Money, bucks, quids, dough ... Call it anything. This lexical field is very productive in English and other languages, the reason being that it features frequently in our lives, its connotations therefore proliferating. In the same way, its many hiding places are so varied and do communicate the values, fears, and interests of those who own or keep it. The safe, the wallet, the pocket, the bag, the woman's bra, the underwear....

The word "safe" -- a noun for where the dough is kept, either in a bank or house -- already suggests the underlying factor of fear about what could happen to the dough. Its housing speaks about its security. Where it is kept speaks about the fear of its owner.

Growing up in a world ruled by the power of dough appears to require having some education on how to accumulate and protect one's dough. And so our parents introduced us to the culture of nche ego, the money keeper, which in our own case was either a small box with only a small hole through which the pennies passed, or a small clay pot with a similar hole. The real test was the fact that one needed the pennies but had no access to them except when one eventually decided to break the pot or force open the box. But it was always at a time one was convinced that one had saved enough, or when one was forced by circumstances to retrieve and use the pennies. In our own case as children, that moment of need was mostly a festival period, when the "little adults" would proudly demonstrate to their parents that they could save to provide their own needs.

In those days, the akpa nwancholonwu, that plastic pouch highly prized by the girls in town -- looking much like the vagina -- housed the precious pennies for the village belle. The name nwancholonwu -- captured it all -- the purse received the rewards on behalf of another "purse" -- and the person who carried it "wanted" something -- that something was a metaphoric death -- "onwu." Sex was a figurative death. 

In those days, too, a man's pair of pants was never properly sewn if it lacked the akpa alaehe -- that small shallow pocket that rested right on the right side of his groin and in which the precious pennies and farthings took refuge from the risky banters. A man's pennies needed to be closer to his penis. A man guarded his pennies with his penis, with his life. Even when banks have promised to take over the risks of looking after a man's dough, he still feels uncomfortable that his pennies are far from the daily watch of his penis. 

A woman's attachment to her dough is even exceptional. Just as she is narrated in the culture as not just a bringer of dough but indeed the dough, she seems to have all her life in her dough and in what she uses in hiding her dough. She has her reasons.

The woman's dough is never safe in an environment policed by patriarchy. A married woman and her possessions belong to a man, it is assumed. She is his possession and so has no right to keep her money away from his reach. Anyway, she is not pleased releasing her dough to him, especially if she has to share his favors with another woman. If he has many wives, she knows she has to keep and guard her dough to her needs which he would not provide readily. But he still has his eyes on her dough, just as his heart guards her other secret places.

 He borrows from her, promising to repay, but never does. "Are you on a business trip to MY house?" he would ask her sometimes. So, she gets wiser and guards her dough determinedly. She ties the dough at the end of her wrapper cloth, which is tied around her waist, and watches over it the way Eke the sacred python watches over her eggs. Anyone who wants it must first untie her wrapper -- and that means untying trouble!

Well, the knot at the end of her wrapper is now well-known as the knot of treasures. So she has to think of other safer places, other riskier places! The bra, which keeps her other untouchable treasures, is a good candidate. She squeezes or folds the dough and packs it away inside her bra. There the nipples of her breasts watch over the treasured currency notes. Any thief that dares go to the zone must explain what he is looking for. The touch is criminal enough. The search for the dough housed in the bra is simply scandalous. 

Ok, if her man, by virtue of the license granted him by culture, extends his voyage of exploration to that sea route to India and finds the dough, other men unlicensed simply cannot dare. And by the way, she is wise enough to relocate the dough before the explorer arrives!

I have heard, too, that some women, knowing the adventurous and daring nature of the predators, even "bury" their dough deep in their underwear -- indeed in the thicket of their sacred gardens. No explorer dares get to that sacred garden, unless such an explorer is looking for trouble. 

The dough has seen things and places. The dough has really travelled. It certainly deserves the special attention many people give it. It deserves the awe. 

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