Oha soup used to be my favorite until I was twelve. I was a timid boy lurking around the front yard of our hut waiting for Nne to finish preparing the soup. I saw her bend beside the pot supported by three stones as she blew air into the fire and the flames answered in fury as though burning in rage. The soup soon began to bubble. Yellow fluid of the palm oil escaped from the lid of the pot.
Nne settled onto the low stool, she normally called nwanyinoduru okwu, yelling at me to bring her Ogiri in the ngiga (the iron wrought basket hanging in the father’s barn.) I ran back to see Nne with the mortar firmly placed between her laps as she pounded the pepper.
Nne m, here it is. I said handing the Ogiri to her.
The bush meat that Nna had killed on his hunting trip was lying on a blue bowl by the fireplace.
Nne took the Ogiri from me, she pulled away the strings that held it and extracted one layer of dry leaf after another until she got to the Ogiri itself. She opened it; the rotten odour assailed the atmosphere. My mouth watered. Nne scooped large lumps of the Ogiri with her forefinger into the mortar. She then stretched the Ogiri leaf towards me. I took it in joy as I scurried to a corner to lick it in joy.
Kpom kpomkpom the mortar sang. Nne poured in the skinned cocoyam as she continued to pound. The aroma of the soup travelled to my nose. My mouth watered in anticipation.
We hardly cooked this soup. Nne said it’s Ofe Ogaranya…the soup for the rich. So, it’s not a soup one could cook at will except one saves enough for it.
“Chigbo… Nne called… Bia pachara m oha.
I ran to her and took the bowl of Oha leaves and began to pluck the leaves from the stems.
Kpom Kpom… The mortar drummed on. Nne sneezed. Another. The pestle flew from her hand and crashed onto my shoulder as if it were a goalpost. I rocked backward. The bowl of Oha leaves slipped from my grip. The green leaves scattered around the compound.
Pain surged through my shoulder but I didn’t mind. My eyes were fixed on Nne. She was jerking on the floor. Her wrapper loosed from her waist. Her fair thighs got exposed.
Nne m… I cried.
She didn’t answer. She didn’t hear me. She was rolling dangerously close to the fire. I ran to her, dragging her leg away with all my strength but I couldn’t pull her bulky frame. Her jerk increased in tempo. She muttered blindly, like a litany of insanity. Her eyes were rotating, her tongue was clasped between the cage of her teeth. Blood was dripping from her mouth.
Nne m… I yelled again, holding her leg firmly as I tried to cover her body with her wrapper.
She kicked; her right leg connected with my jaw. I staggered backward, pain rocked inside me. Blood smeared the corner of my injured lips.
Nne was jerking side to side, exactly the way the priestess of Ogena shrine did when the goddess was upon her. My hands trembled as I tried to hold her but her flapping arms were already scooping the burning coals.
Help… Nne Amara. Ede Ogechi… Biko nu, please! I cried as I called to our neighbors.
But I knew that everyone was out, for no-one stays home on the busy Eke market day. Nne curled herself into a round fold and released herself in the speed of a spring. Her hands knocked off the lid of the pot. I dragged her again, pulling her legs away from the flames, but I could still not pull her away.
My mind searched through the options available. I could carry the pot far away from her, else she injures herself. The idea seemed brilliant enough. I ran to the fireplace, the flames were raging as if it were a contest. I reached for the pot, the hot metal burnt my hands. I withdrew with a scream and raced into the hut. In a second, I was out with our piece of rag to bring down the pot.
As I ran to the fireplace, the sight before me froze my legs. Nne was nestled between the burning flames and red coals. Her long black hair was aflame. The soup pot was lying empty beside her. The hot liquid of the soup was dripping from her stomach to her legs, peeling her skin as it trailed to the ground.
Written by Chioma Ngaikedi.
Excerpt of her book : SAHARA’S CLAWS.
Photo source : Pinterest.