The Sunday News
WE are used to texts with numbered chapters, but Mujajati’s chapters in The Sun Will Rise Again are the names of his characters. These character chapters appear twice on average in the whole text. The first chapter is named Fatima, and our discussion today will focus on her. Fatima gives us a hint of the end of story. She is undergoing self-examination revealing how all her problems came about. She has learnt some lessons and is sharing them with us readers. Fatima sounds like she has gone round and round and has come to realise the vanities of life. She is enclosed in darkness and cannot move. She says all the doors are closed and locked. The space, both within and without is closing in. No single atom of light can penetrate such terrible darkness and survive. Nothing can pass through such solid darkness and live.
The darkness of life around Fatima makes her imagine herself as blind. She is blind to the realities of life. She looks at life through the eyes of a blind person. She says the thin threads of her frail voice unwind through the darkness. “My eyes are alive, blinking, yet all I can visualise are frozen images of graves.” The image of graves shows us that all Fatima sees is lifeless. This artificial blindness she is in, she concludes is worse than the blindness of the eyes. Fatima is in dreamland. She dreams of a better life.
She says: “This is worse than the blindness of the eyes . . . I can feel the core of my voice trembling, like the last flickers of a dying flame. Is this all that life can offer? Futile dreams? I have to open my eyes. And yet, there is no difference between what I see now with my eyes open and what I see from inside with my eyes closed.” At this stage Fatima is in a trance and all what she sees is lifeless. All is hopeless. This hopelessness makes her contemplate suicide. However, the darkness she is in is pressing down on her, pinning her down to the bitter memories of her past.
Fatima’s past life has been unpleasant hence she does not want to be reminded of her past experiences. All hope is not lost as she says shreds of hope that is all she can hang on now. Even in dire situations traces of hope are found. A cold bottle of malaria pills lies by her pillow. By connotation we think she wants to commit suicide by maybe administering an overdose of drugs. But we are stopped on our tracks when she says: “My hand reaches out. Immediately, I can feel my frightened arm withdrawing.
“Will I be able to find the strength and courage to do it? This is rhetoric showing hesitancy on the part of Fatima to kill herself. She tells us that there are 24 tablets in the bottle and she has carefully counted them, touching each one of them with the care and fear with which one touches a loaded gun. The tablets have now become a lethal weapon. Fatima lacks the courage to take them and be done with her life. The longer the time she takes counting the tablets, the more she is afraid of committing suicide.
Questions begin to rattle through her mind. She has this fear of the unknown; the uncertainties about heaven. She is uncertain whether if she dies she would go to heaven. What is clear to her is that no one can be sure of such things. Will the Bible underneath her pillow provide her with the assurance of going to heaven? Through a barrage of rhetoric questions Fatima reveals that she is afraid of death and its aftermath. Is death painless, if so why then do people tremble at the very mention of the word?
This is the universal truth that people fear death and tremble at the mention of it. Fatima’s consolation is that she now knows what pain is all about. Pain is a woman. A woman has undergone all pain. Pain is a woman watching her son being burnt to death while people sing and dance to songs of freedom. Pain is when one’s six-year-old daughter disappears never to be seen again. All this gives us an insight to events that will take place in the story.
However, Fatima weighs the two options of death saying she thinks that the pills would be less painful than hanging oneself with barbed wire, as her husband Takundwa did. What Fatima is unaware of is that suicide in whatever form is the same. If death comes through taking an overdose of pills is abominable, similarly, hanging oneself is also abominable. Fatima is of the view that life is purposeless. She has no direct answer a question she poses, “What then is the purpose of life?” She admits that there will always be questions but then who says questions should always give birth to answers.
Life is purposeless to Fatima. There is nothing to live for. Her only surviving child, Sofia, is languishing in a remand cell, awaiting trial for the murder of her husband. She has heard that they cut off the heads of murderers and throw them to the dogs. The question is how can she live on carrying such a heavy burden inside her heart. How can she live on knowing that she is the mother of a child whose head and dreams were cut off and thrown to the dogs?
The source of all Fatima’s problems is her late husband, Joseph Takundwa. She is very bitter and says she will curse the day she met him. His incurable greed has been the source of all her problems. The chain of events that have triggered off this darkness she is in can be traced back to Takundwa’s insatiable lust for money. He spent his whole life in pursuit of wealth. Fatima is blunt about Takundwa saying, for all his efforts, he left behind nothing except this chain of graves that have been dug very close to her heart.
Remembering how her children died she says that should be the darkest corner of the room, the corner where she found him hanging from the rafters, fresh blood pouring out of his gaping mouth. The sharp thorns of the barbed wire had sunk deep into the swollen neck muscles. She will never forget the conflict of emotions that she had to endure at that moment. One part of her wanted to spit at him, dead as he was. However, the other more human side, the side where the tenderness of motherhood lies, felt sorry for this wasted life.
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