To crown it all Okonkwo had taken two titles and had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars…..though still young he was already one of the greatest men of his time.
As the elders said if a child washed their hands he could eat with the kings…#thingsfallapart
I am rereading this book and it holds special truths for all occasions ….
When I read it as a set book in High School I read and re-read it and marveled at the pictures it painted of hard work but of a man struggling to run away from his past from his father’s mistakes
Yet this passage now holds special meanings for me….
In the last few weeks I have shared podiums and forums with Presidents, Ministers ambassadors and other important government dignitaries
I have sat on the right hand of Ministers ambassadors and ex president at high level dinner tables and meetings and discussed matters of great national and international importance
Sometimes I want to kick myself under the table or pinch myself to confirm that it is indeed I sitting there…
So as I sit around the table…a lot of times I have been the only woman…and at most times the youngest in the room.. I indeed have washed my hands and can eat with the kings
But most times my mind is in turmoil….I feel excited and fearful at the same time…what is the right protocol …….they did not teach that at law school!
Neither did my dad in our long talks on “when I grow up”
In my dad’s mind I was going to be the greatest justice of the law. I hope I did not disappoint you dad….. .so we discussed law…fair judgement etc. We never got to protocol but he emphasised good manners….good african unbringing..
But never protocol….so sometimes protocol and good african upbringing battle in my mind in these meetings
Right now as I sit on the right side of the dignitary am in turmoil. We are in a VIP holding room…
The male political banter flows round the table …..seasoned politicians and academics easily trade stories of great things they have done and witnessed
Each nod politely as they address me……I too contribute to the conversation. There is a lull in the conversation. ….I survey the room
Refreshments on the side table and am wondering..
Should I serve the drinks….should I remind them to pick a cup of tea…that’s what a proper African woman/girl would do….right?
But is it protocol?
So I sit on my hands and command the nice girl voice to be quiet
I smile round the table and contribute to the discussions….every so often I look at the refreshments
I wonder whether Okonkwo served the elders and i conclude that he most probably did not
He most likely summoned one of his three wives to serve
So I excuse myself and open the door
A young waiter cows at the door afraid to get in….he is wondering what protocol requires of him to serve the VIPS
I return with the young waiter
He serves refreshments and the gentleman around the table decline their heads ever so gently in my direction thanking me
I resist the urge to get up and curtsy and so I decline my head ever so gently in acknowledgement
There are good lessons I continue to learn from Okonkwo including “important dinner 101”