In my mind I am a child again, sitting on Malam Junaid’s cracked concrete floor, reciting the words of the Quran. The kuka tree n Bayan Layi stands tall and alone and the boys of Bayan Layi send cigarette and wee-wee smoke up into the air. I see myself, blowing wee-wee smoke, feeling invincible and wanting to fly. I see the ashes form after we drag, turning leaves into smoke and powder, like life. My life. Every day feels like drag that brings me closer to burnt out, turned to ash. These days I don’t know which of my memories are real and which ones are dreams, made up in my mind to keep me from shutting down. I wonder if Allah is sometimes like me, who doesn’t always have a why; whether He just does things or allows things to happen because He can. Or if He always has a why, a plan, a reason for all this suffering.
Title: Born on a Tuesday
Author: Elnathan John
The book is narrated through the eyes of a young adulating man, Dantala Ahmad who lives among a gang of street boys who sleep under a kuka tree, in the Northern part of Nigeria. Politics seem to take the central stage for these young men as politicians use them to carry out pre and post election violence.
One day during their operation to cause unrest, Dantala and his colleagues face the wrath of policemen who are carrying on with their duties. His closest friend, Banda is shot right before his eyes and since he couldn’t go back to save him, Dantala is forced to run for his life.
He makes his way to a mosque in the neighboring town and his life takes a different turn. Sheikh Jamal, who leads the mosque accommodates him, and even gives him a respected position in the mosque of managing funds which is granted to them, and singing the call to prayers. It all looks bleak for Dantala despite the blows fate serves him with; the death of his mother, his twin sisters and the fact that his brothers joined the Shiite sect known to be defying Allah’s will.
The climax of miseries crop up when Malam Abdul- Nur betrays Sheikh Jamal to set up his rival movement that’s against education, and trains it’s followers to be violent something that leads to mass registration of atrocities and the beheading of Sheikh Jamal. These events force Dantala out of the mosque as he’s fearing for his safety only to end up in the hands of cruel police officers who torture him making him doubt Allah’s word. By mere luck he escapes death for the third time and returns to his former home only to learn of his loss to pursue his love for Aisha.
It’s not disclosed to us whether he reclaims himself, but we are meant to understand that this does happen in the last paragraph;
‘I am lightheaded. I heave a sigh. My heart tells me he is OK. Jibril is OK. I stretch out on the cool concrete floor. Time slows down again. I think of all the things I must do, cut my hair, wash with hot water, start writing out my story. Then take a bus and go wherever it is headed.’
Violence is the overriding theme of this novel but other themes like political ideologies, hypocrisy, religion extremism, health and sanitation, prostitution and homosexuality have also been addressed. Elnathan wove all these themes perfectly giving readers an opportunity to explore the hardships faced in our societies and the extreme at which politicians go to to cling on power.
What stood out for me is the fact that he chose to blend in the Arabic language with English in narrating the story. This got me curious and eager to dig deeply about the Islamic religion. I didn’t know that Islam just like Christianity had different religions. I didn’t know that the prayers they carry out have names to them. I couldn’t have discovered this were it not for Elnathan. Thank you!
‘Born on a Tuesday’ was a highly recommended book following his tour in Nairobi mid this month i.e. 15th to 18th Feb. I had come across reviews about the book late last year which got me curious enough to add the book in my TBR shelf but after learning of his visit, I had to get the book.
So why ‘Born on a Tuesday?’ Well the title was derived from the protagonist’s name, Dantala.
‘Then Malam Abdul- Nur speaks, holding up his right palm like a slate, turning between me and Sheikh. ‘But Dantala…. Dantala is not a name. To say someone was born on a Tuesday, is that a name?’
Going through some of the reviews, it was evident that readers concluded the book portrayed the present day Boko Haram. But during his book tour in Nairobi just last week, Elnathan clarified the misconceptions by saying ‘Born on a Tuesday ‘ is not about Boko Haram.
I was glad to have met the author in person, chat with him and most importantly, get my book signed! Yay I was over the moon! Elnathan John is one humble, friendly and an extremely humorous man not to mention how good of an orator he is.
During his discussion he hinted that we should expect more of his literal work debuting hopefully next year. I can’t wait to delve into what he has lined up.
I also got to meet Zukiswa Wanner in person! Another badass African writer. She was present during the discussion and I took advantage of the opportunity by purchasing her London-Cape Town -Johannesburg book and get it signed as well since I didn’t have ‘The Madams‘ copy with me, and I didn’t know she would be present. I’ll be blogging about that in a different post.
Here are the photos I captured during the book discussion.
If you’ve read the book, what were your thoughts on it? Please let me know.
This happens to be my birthday week 🎉🎊🎂. I’ll be clocking a new age on Saturday, 25th February! Yes another year a whole lot more wiser for sure. I’ll do a post for that on Saturday as well as a wrap up for February. Meanwhile, I’m accepting all kinds of 🎁🎁 and well wishes.
Have a fruitful week!!