Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A muddy picture from Djenne introducing the latest crisis...

This is what I wrote about 4 days ago:
Things always change, as we have said, although it is perhaps not possible to prove from a philosophical point of view.
The next impending change is that Keita has finally shaken off the complications due to the infected hand, the aenemia and the bad blood circulation. He is well enough to start his next course of chemotherapy and Thalidomide in a couple of days time. Soon he will be well enough to move to Segou, after a long delay in Bamako, to stay with his old mother and his sons for a month or so. This is of course tremendous news, and it brings him one step closer to his return to Djenne and to me. It also bring us closer to the scenario I have feared: I am almost 100% certain that his other wife will refuse to leave his side, although Keita now maintains that Mai is going to stay in Segou. I know that she will insist on following him to Djenne, in spite of the fact that the boys have to be in Segou for their schools and regardless of -or because of – the fact that I am here and can look after him.
These sorts of dark thoughts now plague me. I have said to Keita in the past that if Mai comes to Djenne it is over between us. She never once came here for three years when Keita was well, because he told her not to. Then I was Keita’s mistress. Now I am Keita’s second wife. Keita has a terminal illness. Things have changed.
I sit on my roof and gaze at the large hazy orange disc descending on the Great Mosque of Djenne. I know with a certainty suddenly that Mai will come. I know also that I cannot refuse the woman her right to remain with her husband and the father of her three children, since he does not have long to live. I am going to have to accept it and take some meagre comfort in the fact that there are practical Muslim solutions to these sorts of problems, which are fairly well out-lined. Keita will stay with us for an equal amount of time: two days with Mai and two days with me at Djenne Djenno…

I wrote that four days ago, because I had premonitions that this would happen. What one can accept in theory and what happens in practice are two different things.

Today what I feared happened.

Keita said on the phone to me that one of his elder cousins wanted to talk to me. ‘What about?’ I said, although I somehow already knew.
‘It is about Mai coming to Djenne, isn’t it? ‘ I asked. ‘Yes’, said Keita. We have had a talk in the family this morning, and it was decided that she will come with me to live in Djenne. I said I wanted her to stay in Segou, but these sort of things are decided by the Family Council. ‘
I put the phone down.
I decided there and then to flee. I am going to Bamako tomorrow morning and then onto England. I am going to stay somewhere else- anywhere – until the end of the month, when I need to come back and pay my staff.
I will decide in England-or wherever- whether there is a future here at Hotel Djenne Djenno, and whether I can live here with Keita and his other wife. The way I feel now the answer is a resounding NO.


Blogger David said...

That too will pass, in how long I don't know. But you have to keep that remarkable place going, by hook or by crook. In a funny way, seen from the outside, it's bigger than you or Keita, though you would equally persuasively argue that nothing is bigger than love.

But, of course, the problem is that Mai IS Keita's first wife, and the mother of his children. Just think that, hard as it is for you, it is hardest of all for him, and I guess that no matter how long you've lived there, you still can't fathom the unbreakable law and demand of Malian family ties. Don't doubt, however, that he loves you.

Oh dear, not the best place to voice this thoughts. Do feel free to continue this by e-mail if you want.


10:15 PM  

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