The blessed hands
Ijeoma held my hands to the Orphanage where we lived. From the distance, I could sight the big signpost which was hung at the top of the gate entrance. It was so high and could easily be seen from a mile away.
“THE BLESSED HANDS HOME FOR THE ORPHANS” was boldly written on it.
This orphanage housed over 700 children. These were children without parents. Children who were abandoned by their mothers to die in the cold. Children whose parents were still alive and roaming the streets happily.
Ijeoma was one of those children. In her case, she was found in the rain. She was abandoned in a carton and dumped close to a trash can.
From what we were told by mummy G.O, Ijeoma had stayed for six hours under that rain. Those who had seen the woman who covered her face with an ijab so as not to be Identified, testified that she carried the carton in her hands and was heading for the trash can. They never paid attention to her because it was a normal thing for pedestrians and residents to dispose of their trash at that designated spot. They had thought she had come to dispose of her trash as usual.
It was only when the rain had stopped that the cry of a baby was heard from the dustbin by a passerby. A huge crowd began to run towards the already soaked carton after the man raised an alarm.
They were shocked to find Ijeoma wrapped in a white Nylon and dumped in a carton. She was almost suffocating from the lack of oxygen. The carton was completely sealed with all sides of the carton wrapped with a seal tape.
It was obvious that the woman who had dumped Ijeoma at the spot had intentions to kill her. Probably she didn’t have the courage to do such by herself. Probably she had wanted to strangle her just to make sure that she died.
Maybe she intended to poison the poor baby but did not want the blood of an innocent child on her hands, so she decided to parcel up the baby in a carton and simply let the rainstorm and the cold wind of Jos kill the child. She had wanted nature to do what she could not do.
Ijeoma was taken to the orphanage and handed over to Mummy G.O who was very welcoming and promised to take care of the child.
Mummy G.O was responsible for giving names to the children. Those whose tribes were not known were given tribal names and allowed to attend their tribal class where they were thought how to speak their tribal language.
No one knew which tribe Ijeoma really was. She was dumped by a woman who was said to have been putting on an Ijab. Probably she was a Muslim- a Hausa born. But her fair and beautiful skin suggested that she should be Igbo. Maybe her father was Igbo and was married to a Muslim woman. No one could tell.
Mummy G.O was the one who gave Ijeoma the name she answers today. Ijeoma attended the Igbo class where she learnt the Igbo language. The same fate befell every child who was brought into the Blessed Hands Orphanage home.
Mummy G.O would look at the child’s face and suggest a name and tribe for the child. If you already had a name, you answered your name and attended your tribal class.
My case was a different one. I was the only baby brought into the Blessed hands’ Orphanage home whose name or tribe was not given by Mummy G.O.
I was not dumped in a dustbin like other children. I was not wrapped in a leather to die like Ijeoma. Neither was I dropped in the rain or under the sun to suffer.
I was neatly bath, cleaned up, dressed, and put in a baby’s carrier. Mummy G.O testified that she found me in front of the motherless home in the early hours of the morning. I was sleeping peacefully like the baby I was. I was carefully wheeled into the compound by the securities at the gate who did not see the person who had dropped me.
Beside me was a letter. A letter from my mother. A letter that contained my name, my tribe, my village, and my date of birth. It also contained the name of my father, his picture and hers too. It was a letter I never saw with my own eyes.
Mummy G.O told me that my mother had requested that the letter be given to me only when I was fully able to read and understand her plight.
I still remember when mummy G.O explained our history to us. It was a norm in the orphanage home. Once a child became of age and was able to understand the difference between good and bad, during our annual meeting with mummy G.O, she gathered us together and told such child his or her history and how they came to be in the orphanage.
She did this immediately after we were grown up and could understand that life was not a bed of roses. I was only six years old when she told me about my history and how I came to be amongst the “Blessed hands.”
That day, I watched her walk back to the counter. She brought out a file and carefully placed back the letter into the file.
“Praises when you are eighteen years of age, I shall hand you your letter. And even if I am not available, your letter will be saved in this file and it shall be handed over to you so you could read your mother’s last words to you, and also see your parent’s real face. Until then, you are still my son, and property of “Blessed hands” and you will do as I ask of you to” she concluded.
We were told that our seniors in the orphanage worked tirelessly to raise money which was used to feed the younger ones like us who could not hustle for ourselves.
Now that we had grown older and now knew wrong from right, we were going to join in the hustle. We were going to struggle hard to raise money to feed ourselves and the children who were younger than us.
Ijeoma was just a year older than me. She had stayed in blessed hands home for the orphans all her life. And had come to understand Mummy G.O. She was a quiet and reserved person. I never noticed her until that moment I collapsed on the highway. That was the first time I was speaking with her. That was the first time I had contact with her.
“Praises take. Take this.” Ijeoma said, handing me the two hundred and forty naira in her hands. She was practically trying to force the money into my hands.
I clenched my fist and stopped to look at her with a confused face.
“Why should I take your earnings for today?” I asked inquisitively.
“Stop asking questions jor. Collect this. You are not strong. I knew you brought nothing back home yesterday. I saw mummy G.O shout at you. She starved you yesterday. That was why you didn’t have the strength to even carry yourself today. Please take this so you won’t starve today.”
“No Ijeoma. No. I cannot. I will be fine.” I intoned, shaking off my hands and pulling off from her. Do not worry. The chin chin you bought me will be enough to pull me through.”
“Praises, remember that today is your second day without any earning. That makes today your last day out. If you have not brought anything back home, you will stay back at the orphanage for four more days. You will have to work tirelessly with little or no food. That would not be good for your present situation.” She said with a soft voice.
“But how about you? How about your feeding? You will also starve tonight too. Please do not suffer because of me. Please.”
“Praises I would be fine. I brought home something yesterday. Remember we ate chin chin and drank Fanta today. It will take me till tomorrow. By Tomorrow, both of us will go out together to hustle. And this time, we pray that we make good earnings so we can buy Fanta and chin chin again, and also bring something back home for dinner.”
I heaved a sign. Ijeoma dipped the naira notes in my pockets. I couldn’t refuse it any longer. She was right. I had starved the previous night because I had brought back no earnings to Mummy G.O.
Mummy G.O spanked my head while we lined in during collection and roll call. When it got to my turn, I had nothing to offer. Mummy G.O landed a heavy knock on my head and sent me away.
“Get out of here you bastard. Useless abandoned child.” She fired at me furiously. “Now I see why your mother dumped you here. So you can at least get small sense and be fruitful to yourself. Nonsense.” She added.
I believed that was when Ijeoma sighted me. That was how she knew I had brought back no earnings.
That night I slept hungry. No wonder I had no strength the next day. No wonder I collapsed on the roadside. No wonder my belly grumbled in pain.
“Let us go we are already late. Mummy G.O will be angry with us.” Ijeoma said, dragging my hands along.
As we approached the gate, we sighted mummy G.O standing at the gate. She sighted us coming and kept starring at the both of us.
“Ijeoma run. Go and meet her. She will shout at you. I can walk on my own.” I said, waving her off.
Ijeoma hesitated at first. But the fierce look and sudden shout of mummy G.O urging us to run drove fear into her body and she let go of my hands and ran.
I struggled to increase my steps, but I was too weak and tired. While I approached mummy G.O, a loud thunderous slap reverberated in my ears. I raised my head to find Ijeoma crashing to the floor like a cut-down tree.
“Praises come here. I said run over here.” Mummy G.O thundered.
To be continued…
My name is Praises Chidera Obiora and I am the best at what I do.