Niki Nicholas Nkuna

(1957/01/09 / BURGERSFORT (Leeufallei farm or Ga- Makwakwasi))

Living by chance


Living by chance not knowing where the next meal will come
By the grace of God something always came up
Grand pa’s ingenious hand would bring forth fish from the dam nearby
We would relish the unexpected delicious treat
Grand ma’s ingenious hand would bring forth various kinds of edible greens
We would relish the unexpected delicious treat
Albeit from the forbidden farm next to the perennial river
Indeed we lived by chance by the unexpected find day by day

Grand pa’s hunt would occasionally bring forth a deer
Or some other kind of edible game
Often when least expected
Grand pa’s and ma’s perennial search for food had no promise of a catch
We lived by chance because the search, hunt and catch was illicit
We owned nothing even the playing ground of the farm dwellings
We lived by chance to see the dawn of day and dusk

Living by chance proved a heavy load of burden for us kids
What came up by chance was suited to a class if not the whole family
I always wondered how come age or custom counted so much,
When living by chance was so precarious to all
Only when the illicit catch was big enough
Could the entire family share in the treat
Often it would be the occasional carcass
That got thrown the farm workers’ way
That we would have plenty to eat with no age
Or custom restriction except for some portions
Believed to be taboo when eaten by kids
The farmer wouldn’t eat a stock that died when he didn’t expect it to die
Or an animal that died of natural causes
Farm workers would eat dead stock tigerishly to see the day, two times three
To be safe if nothing comes by chance tomorrow

Harvest time use to be respite from living by chance
We would often get all kinds of grains from the farm
Grand ma’s cooking ingenuity would be outrageously adventurers
Grains would be ground, barbecued, socked in water to soften them for easy cook
Grand ma’s beans soup always enjoyable to drink
Let alone wheat meal balls made of barbecued ground wheat
The porridge, dumplings, cut pumpkin plainly cooked and greens cooked with ground nuts
With flour she could only bake bread and scones in the soil makeshift oven
Strange enough those taste of grand ma’s treats seem to have gone with her
Let alone the smell, a mirage in the mind

Grand pa’s unforgettable treat was the game biltong
Often hidden in the forest nearby away from the nosy rangers and farm owner
We, the kids would be strongly warned not to spill the beans
Lest we would get grandpa in trouble
Or we would get no biltong by chance to live by chance
All the treats were delicious
Perhaps that’s because they were donations and steals

White people generally would hunt by decree,
They had natural licences before they have material licences
Those days everything belonged to white people
Black people got everything by chance and lived by chance
Raring cattle and goats by chance proved impossible for Grand pa
He tried but the steal of grace land proved unsustainable
We lived by chance and ate by chance healthily
Most of the food we ate was in single file except with salt or sugar
Living by chance meant living by the greenside most of the time
That also meant surviving ailments
Grand pa and ma being general medical practitioners had no hospital but the mountain forest
They would concoct all sorts of herbs and feed us for cue and prevention
We heard about hospital but rarely went there
Rituals meant a lot to grand pa and ma,
We, the young observed them to the letter with our confused minds
Certain portions of meat and eggs were forbidden treats
Life would have been nicer if only we were not restricted by custom and racial prejudice
We had nothing to share with our neighbours except by kind and chance
N Nkuna,29 March 2013

Submitted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Edited: Friday, September 13, 2013

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