Splendid days follow one after
another like pearls in a necklace here in Brazil, where Andrea and her
well-heeled friends and family are regaling me with champagne lunches and rides
on their Arab horses through the rolling
hills of the ravishing country side
surrounding Sao Paulo and Campinas. I am
soaking it all up gratefully but there is another layer in me that cannot
forget that Keita has gone and will never return.
I am trying out different
combinations in my mind to try and make sense of the incomprehensible fact that
he no longer exists and to attempt to find something positive somewhere. I keep
telling myself for instance that it is
quite true that all my prayers were answered: I had asked that if he had to die
he would not have to suffer as an invalid for a long time which I believe can
be the case with Multiple Myeloma patients who may have to live with terrible
complications for years. Keita’s end was
quick when it came. I had also prayed that he would not suffer and I believe he
did not. He faded away and lost consciousness and there was not even any need
for morphine at the end. So I suppose I have every reason to be grateful...
Last night Andrea and I spoke of
Keita’s last time in Djenné. That was a perfect evening and also something to
be grateful for.
The night before he left, on the 28th of January, we had a
celebration dinner for the Cataract Team which had been operating in Djenné for
a week, achieving more that 120 operations for the population of Djenné and the
Keita was very
proud of this, as I was, of course.
also leaving the following day and we had a
really enjoyable night in the hotel garden under a spectacular and starry sky.
Around the table
were some of Keita’s most
intimate and oldest
Dra, the manager of the Campement hotel; there was Maza their
and of course Moussa Koné was there as part of
the team- Moussa had lived and worked in Djenné with Keita at the hospital when they were all young men
The evening was full of laughter and reminiscence of good times gone
by. One by one the stories kept coming and they were often about Moussa who had been something of a
ladies’ man. I remember particularly one
extraordinary story which provoked peals of laughter and a certain admiration
in me and Andrea for the bravery shown by a particular girlfriend of Moussa’s...
This young girl had been in love
with Moussa and he had been fond of her but had
never touched her since he thought she was too young for him and he also knew
that he could never marry her because the Djenné population (the Djennénké ) would never accept him
since he was a foreigner and from Bamako.
The girl had also been promised to someone else in marriage.
Nevertheless she had always insisted that she did not want to marry the young
man in question, although no one had taken any notice of her wishes. The wedding approached like an unstoppable steam train and all was prepared: her dress,
her jewellery, her dowry and the marriage feast was prepared with a slaughtered
bull. On the wedding day the bride, the groom and the large wedding party
arrived at the Djenné Mairie where the young bride and bridegroom were
conducted to the Maire who proceeded with the ceremony in the presence of dozens
of witnesses. “Do you take this man to
be your husband? “ asked the Maire. And
the bride said NO!
It is interesting to try and visualize the effect this reply would have had on the
assembled crowd. “Whyever not?” asked the astonished Maire. “Because I love Moussa
Kone!” said the heroic girl.
The result of this pronouncement
was that poor Moussa was immediately hauled out of his abode by the girl's family and brought before the assembled wedding guests where he had to explain
himself. He tried not to be too indelicate to the girl but he had to tell the
truth: he had never touched her and he did not want to marry her. And the end of
the story was that however paternalistic society may be in Djenné, a girl cannot be forced to marry someone
against her will so the wedding never
went ahead. The girl eventually married someone else, and so did Moussa by the
That was a fabulous evening and I
remember Keita laughing his hearty laugh that I loved so much: he was never to
return again to Djenné but we did not know that then of course...
Maza with his new bike.