Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 11.1

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.


Knight after Knight. Chapter eleven, part one.

“Don’t forget your promise, Hannice,” Kanene said, poking her head around my office door.

“Which promise would that be?” I asked.

“You said you and Max would visit Zinga with me.”

“And we will. Just as soon as time permits.”

“What’s wrong with tomorrow?” Max shouted through the wall.

“How does tomorrow sound?” I asked.

The following morning, Kanene, Max and I drove the fifty kilometres along the Bagamoyo Road to the village. We decided to use our little electric car mostly to give it some exercise – the poor thing rarely leaves a traffic jam and I thought a bit of open road would do it good. I had thought that our silent arrival in an all-electric car would provide a bit of an occasion for the villagers – until, that is, I noticed the two public charging points near the village centre. I must have subconsciously expressed some surprise, which caused Max and Kanene to chuckle.

“Something funny?” I asked.

“You really are something of a dinosaur, aren’t you?” Max asked.

“In what way?”

“You thought the villagers would be amazed at the appearance of an electric car, didn’t you?”

“Only slightly.”

“Check the date, Hannice. We’re not in the nineties any more.”

“I can see that,” I said, “The number of houses with cars outside them surprised me. But I don’t see any satellite dishes. Hasn’t satellite TV hit here yet?”

“Oh, it has,” Kanene said, “Look past the last buildings at the end of the village.” Just beyond the village, in a clearing, was the largest satellite dish I had ever seen – looking like a smaller version of a radio-telescope, it dwarfed the 1.8-metre one on the roof of Nocturne.

“Flippin’ ‘eck. How big is that one?”

“Three-and-a-half metres. It’s strong enough to feed every house in the village, so there’s no need for them to have separate dishes – or contracts, for that matter.”

“How does that work?” I asked.

“Simple. A cable runs from the LNB cluster via a multi-switch to every house in the village.”

“Not physically, financially.”

“Oh. The community contract is in my name, so I pay for it.”

“So that’s part of the community charge, then?”

“No. It’s part of my gift to my people.”

“That’s incredibly generous of you…”

“It’s just sharing my good fortune with those who haven’t had the breaks I have. Stop over there – behind the red people-carrier. That’s Habibu’s office. He’s expecting us.”

I pulled over where Kanene had indicated and we all piled out of the little car. Habibu was ready for us alright – by the time we were fully out of the car he had come out of his office carrying a tray with three tall glasses on it.

Karibu, marafiki wangu – welcome, my friends,” he said handing us each a glass of freshly-made lemonade “Let’s go inside. It’s cooler.”

We followed him into his air-conditioned office. Built in the same style as the houses in the village, one end housed a small kitchen and relaxing area, the other a more conventional business set-up.

“It was kind of you to come, Mama mkubwa,” Habibu said, hugging Kanene.

“Habibu, do you remember Hannice Knight and Max Matham?”

He approached me and I offered him my hand. He grasped my right wrist with his left hand and shook my hand for rather a long time. It would probably have more than long enough to make me feel uncomfortable had Kanene not briefed in advance. “I know of you, Bwana Knight, Mama Kanene often speaks of you with respect and fondness, but I have little recollection of you from my childhood. Please excuse me.”

“There’s nothing to excuse,” I said, “It is I should seek your forgiveness for not having come sooner.”

“You are here now, Sir, that’s all that matters. Mama will be delighted, and the village is honoured by your presence.” Turning to Max, the grasped her in a similar manner and gushed, “Mama Matham has visited us several times. We know her and love her as one of our own. Karibu tena, Mama. You are always welcome, again and again.”

“Will we be able to meet your sister, Habibu?” Max asked him.

“You will. As soon as we told her you would be coming, she rearranged her lectures for a few days. She’s with Mama now. Come.”

By the time we got out of the office, a small crowd had gathered around our car. At first, I thought they were displaying the curiosity about it that I’d been expecting, but it was soon apparent that the vehicle wasn’t the object of their interest. They were calling out something I couldn’t make out, but Kanene smiled and walked towards them.

“What are they saying?” I asked Habibu.

“Some are calling Mwalimu, which means teacher. It’s the honorific they gave to Julius Nyerere back in the day, as you say. Others are calling Mganga. The nearest I can get to that is doctor or healer. You do know that Kanene inherited her father’s position in the village, along with its rights and obligations, on his death?”

“Yes, but that’s just honorary, isn’t it? I mean, Kanene isn’t really—”

“Don’t let the villagers hear you say that,” he interrupted, “As far as they are concerned, Kanene Fonseca is as close to a living spirit as they are ever likely to see, especially after she saved the village from the problems so many others suffered during the recession. Let’s go meet Mama and Zahara.”

Walking towards Sekelaga’s house, we were surrounded by villagers, many of them proferring small trinkets in their right hand, the left hand resting just above the right wrist. With eyes downcast, some were muttering something that, again, I couldn’t make out. Seeing my confusion, Kanene leaned over to me and said, “They are saying shikamoo. It’s a most respectful greeting for an older person and means something like ‘I hold your feet’.”

“What’s the response?”

Marahaba.”

As soon as I started responding properly, I saw a change in the attitude of the villagers, particularly the younger adults. Somehow, it shifted from the respect you’d show to a visiting dignitary by virtue of their rank to that which you’d give to a senior family member – a respect tinged with love, rather than fear. Small children walked up to us, eyes downcast and head bowed. At Kanene’s prompting, I touched each child lightly on the bowed head and muttered Marahaba. As soon as I did, the child ran off grinning with delight. I think I learned more about the country and its people in that short walk than I had in the more than twenty years I had lived here.

 

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