165. SHORT STORY MONDAY: Indigo by Molara Wood

Idera and Jaiye have come back to Nigeria, from London, to settle. But the cultural differences between these two places are oceans apart. In their London environment, they could defy parents insistence for them to have children. There is no 'gang-up' pressure on them to bear children and no one is going to gossip about 'a married couple who have decided not to have children, just yet' or going to reprimand you or be cheeky towards you just because you have no children; because not bearing children or deciding not to does not make you unique or weird. But in Nigeria, or in Africa, these things do matter. And Idera and Jaiye have to face the consternation of several family members, friends, and completely unknown individuals who regard this decision not to have children after five years of marriage as weird and un-African, a sign of having become too westernised.

It is here that the major reason for their decision will be tested: did they make it based on logic, or are they being selfish, as Jaiye's father said? Is it because they wanted to fit in or to play-up with the current trends? The facade will begin to wear off but the most important question is: will their marriage survive?

Back in Nigeria and Idera is attending the naming ceremony of a relative. At the ceremony, filled with several women all giving the young mother advice and commenting on whom the baby resembles, anything she says is brushed off because as a barren woman she is not expected to know anything about childbirth and children. Completely overwhelmed by events, it suddenly dawns on her that perhaps she is barren. Prior to this one of those concerned relatives, a mother's sister who had actually taken care of her when her mother died, took her to a shrine to have her examined and the educated and sophisticated Idera had scoffed it off but had, out of decency and respect for one who had played the role of a mother, followed her.

Driving back into her four-bedroom house, she instantly realised how quiet and lonely the place is and she who had hated houses filled with children because of their penchant for disorder now found her ordered room with its minimalist touch too unsatisfactory. She felt lonely and house was too silent more so because Jaiye was on a business trip to Accra.

This story, like A Life in Full, treats the importance of children to the African family and how childlessness has become the source of several marital problems even though a lot of cultural transformations are taking place. It shows that bearing a child, in the African context, is not just a decision between a man and his wife but comprise the extended family of both sides. Whereas the woman's family are apprehensive that the marriage might end based on that, the man's family are hinting it. Again, it shows that one does not suddenly become westernised because one has stayed in a western country, it takes more. Can one just shake off the influence of the environment from which he/she comes from?
About the author: Molara Wood won the inaugural John La Rose Memorial Short Story Competition. Her work has been published internationally in journals and anthologies, including One World (New Internationalist, 2009) an din such publications as Sable Litmag, Humanitas, Chimurenga, Fafarina and Per Contra. She was a former columnist of the Nigerian Guardian and also contributes to the BBC. She lives in Lagos, where she works as the Arts and Culture editor of a national newspaper. (Source: anthology). Read more about her here.


  1. A fine review, which does justice to the author's treatment of the themes.


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