Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Definition of a Miracle by Farida N. Bedwei

Farida N. Bedwei, author
Farida Bedwei's debut novel, Definition of a Miracle, has received rave reviews from home and abroad. It is a bold novel that puts into perspective the idea of 'not giving up'. It also challenges the kind of story that has become representative of Africa. I am sure that had this been written in the mould of the 'acceptable' African Story, hope would have been lost.

The author, Farida Bedwei, was born in Lagos, Nigeria, but spent most of her childhood in Dominica, Grenada and the U.K. before she (at 9 years) moved with her family moved to Ghana. At age 10 she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This condition made it almost impossible for Farida to enroll in mainstream school at such an age and was thus tutored by her mother, entering mainstream school 2 years later when she was 12. She, however, overcame the challenges posed by this condition in a country which is not disability-friendly and excelled academically and has risen to become one of the top software engineers in Ghana. 
The novel, which runs parallel with her life though it is not an autobiographical, tells of an 8-year old girl's struggle with cerebral palsy in a community where people suffering with the disease are misunderstood and viewed as incapable of contributing meaningfully to the society. The disease itself is deemed to have a superstitious linkage.

Excerpt from Definition of a Miracle by Farida N. Bedwei

At breakfast Mummy announced that she was taking Emefa to Labadi Polyclinic given that she was still under the weather. Whilst preparing breakfast Emefa had been overcome with the need to throw up and run out to the bathroom, leaving the pot Quaker Oats on the stove unattended. Daddy was home, it being a Saturday and he offered to take us to the beach. We cheered loudly at this for we hadn’t been to the beach since we moved down, though we’d driven past it a number of times on the way to Tema.
Daddy said, “Why don’t we all go together, that way we can drop you and Emefa off at the polyclinic on our way and pick you up later?”

Mummy paused in the act of buttering her bread, pondering over the logistics. “Naah, you can drop us off but we’ll just take a taxi back since I don’t know what time we’ll finish.”

“But isn’t it just an ordinary check-up? It shouldn’t take more than an hour.” He took a sip of his coffee.

“There may be a long queue when we get there,” she replied. “Its alright, we’ll just take a taxi back, you and the children go on and have a nice time at the beach.”


Standing up, she picked up hers and my plates. “It’d be nice to have a bit of quiet in the house so I can catch up on my studying, so please don’t rush back on my account.”

Carrying the plates to the kitchen, she called over her shoulder, “Bash, when you finish eating, help Jalal clear the table and wash up the plates since Emefa is lying down in her room. I’m going to have my bath and get ready.”

“Hey Ayorkor, I forgot to ask, how was the convention last night?” Daddy asked, getting up from the table, carrying his plate to the kitchen.

Mummy appeared in the kitchen doorway with a guarded expression. “It was very nice, very inspiring and powerful. By the way it was a crusade not a convention.”

Coming back from the kitchen, Daddy said, “I stand corrected. I’m going to warm up the engine. I’ll be outside.”

A look of relief came over Mummy’s face. “Ok.”

Turning to us she asked, “Do you know where your swimming costumes are?”

“Mine are in my panties drawer,” I replied. “Mummy, may I wear the pink bikini?”

“Does it still fit? If it does, you can wear it. I’ll help you change when I finish taking my bath. Basheera, Jalal you didn’t answer me. Do you know where your costumes are?” she asked.

“I think mine is still in the suitcase with some of my clothes—those which will not fit into my wardrobe. By the way, when is the carpenter bringing my chest of drawers so I can unpack all my stuff and put the suitcase away? It’s getting tiresome, having to pull the suitcase out from under the bed to take out my underwear whenever I am dressing after having a bath,” Bash complained.

“The last time he was here, he said he had finished making your chest of drawers but wanted to finish the bookshelves for your room as well as the ones for the study so as to bring them all at once,” she replied.

“But that was like two weeks ago; shouldn’t he have finished everything by now?” Bash asked, tying the bread plastic.

“I’ll ask your father about it, maybe you can pass by his workshop on the way back from the beach since it is opposite the beach, around the Trade Fair Site,” Mummy said.

She departed for the bathroom then and leaving us (well them) to finish clearing the table. I crawled back to my room to dig out my pink bikini, lay it on the bed and waited for Mummy to come and help me change into it. Bash came in a short while after, pulling off her Minnie Mouse nightshirt as she entered. Looking at her kneeling and pulling the suitcase out from under the bed to remove the swimsuit, I could appreciate her complaints—it sure as heck was inconvenient. Mummy came in a few minutes later, changed me into the bikini and pulled my oversized Donald Duck T-shirt over it. It reached down to my mid-thigh, thus I didn’t have to wear shorts underneath.

Mummy said there was no point putting on the braces for me since they’d be taken off at the beach, so I left the crutches behind as well.

We all piled into the car and drove to the polyclinic to drop Mummy and Emefa off first before continuing to the beach. Emefa was looking really tired and sickly; I hoped it wasn’t anything serious. Mummy reminded Daddy about the carpentry works currently outstanding and asked him to pass by the carpenter’s workshop on our way back home to find out the status of our stuff.

We had a pleasant morning at the beach, spending about three hours frolicking in the water and building sandcastles. The beach was a bit crowded, littered with people of different stations and races. There were a few white people, who looked more red than white from sitting in the hot sun. There were also persons of Lebanese descent whose olive complexion wasn’t as vulnerable to sunburn as the Caucasians. Then there were my fellow countrymen and women, most of them the natives of the Labadi Township. Quite an interesting mix, I found. Jalal made friends with the Labadi boys, joining them in a football game a few metres away from where we were seated. There were two red flags mounted on the shore about 20 meters apart, marking the ‘safe zone’. The safe zone was the safest area and swimmers were advised to swim between the two flags. The waves were quite rough, paying homage to the ferocity the Atlantic Ocean is reputed for. Sometimes you could see tiny tidal waves forming along the shores which a small child could be sucked into.

Daddy took me into the water a few times, supporting my upper body whilst I kicked and paddled my legs as a form of exercise. Back in London, going to the pool once a week had been part of my physiotherapy routine.

Around noon, Bash started complaining she was hungry. Daddy bought some kebabs which we ate on the way to the carpenter’s workshop.

The carpenter wasn’t there but his apprentice showed us our shelves and chest of drawers which he said was still wet from the glossing sheen which had been sprayed on it to make it look polished. He assured us that by Monday it’d have dried and they’d be delivered in the afternoon.

Satisfied, we headed home, tired and still a bit hungry, looking forward to eating lunch and settling down to finish my Famous Five novel. Timmy was currently missing and I couldn’t wait to find out where he had ended up.

As we entered the house I could hear Mummy and Emefa talking in the kitchen, well Mummy was doing the talking, Emefa was just crying.

Standing in the doorway we could see Mummy looking crossly down at Emefa who was kneeling in front of her, clutching her slit, begging her not to send her away.

After handing me over to my brother with a, “Jalal here, hold Zaara”, Daddy entered the kitchen and asked what was going on.

“Why don’t you ask her, ask her what the doctor said was wrong with her.” Mummy went to lean against the kitchen counter, folding her hands across her chest looking down at where Emefa was still kneeling in the middle of the kitchen.

Noticing us hovering in the doorway, she shouted at us to go to our rooms. Not in this lifetime, we hid behind the kitchen wall to listen in.

Read the full excerpt at StoryTime.


Note: In Ghana copies could be obtained from the Silverbird located at the Accra Mall, Julikart Cosmetics Osu (between MTN and Frankies), and INKA Accessories, Nyaniba (Opposite El-Gringo)


Farida has agreed to be interviewed on ImageNations.

8 comments:

  1. I believe there are now copies available at Silverbird, in the Accra Mall, which is good.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes Nina. I have updated the post with outlets in Ghana. Someone asked me on twitter and I have to quickly as Farida where they are available. So there is the list. At least three places have it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have once listened to Farida on KSM and she was impressive. I am happy to her write a book. I hope to get a copy as I see it at silverbird.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This sounds interesting, I see it is available on Kindle too. I've added it to my wish list and will be looking forward to the interview.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Geosi, Yes I have met her at a few programs: Writing Workshops and Barcamp and she is herself an inspiration. I personally would have to get a copy, read and review.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Amy... I hope you enjoy it when you come around to buying it. The interview would come soon. Anything you would want to know from her?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was in church with Farida the weekend before Barcamp and she had been in the national weekly the day before. Great inspiration she is and with the foretaste you give here, I really feel like reading that book too. Great work, Nana.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @afrilingual... the funny thing is I was in a program (Writing Workshop) with her the day she was featured in the Weekend Mirror. I had earlier met her but that was at a Google Earth learning prog. A friend gave me the paper and said 'She would be here' pointing to her picture on the front page. I read everything in the papers. It was an inspiration read about her.

    ReplyDelete

Help Improve the Blog with a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Featured post

Njoroge, Kihika, & Kamiti: Epochs of African Literature, A Reader's Perspective

Source Though Achebe's Things Fall Apart   (1958) is often cited and used as the beginning of the modern African novel written in E...