Unsheltered

It’s quarter past two in the morning and he is still sleepless, completely wakeful. This sleeplessness is not because of insomnia; but some incurable thoughts like disease are behind this. Mbizo Chirasha, the great Zimbabwean poet, author and social activist, won’t blame his mind for being restless in bed. He wishes his tiny bed and the width of the sky could be in close vicinity. He knows, fate resolves to determine his whereabouts. He couldn’t sleep as though slumber land has become a forbidden place for him, ever since he left his own mother land.

His heart aches for his home and his mind constantly haunted by all the negativity of an insecure life. But he has no choice. He never have had a choice, when all he has ever wanted is the best things for his countrymen. To save his precious life he is now living a life of an unknown existence in a foreign territory. And his strength is losing its shine like an abandoned sword after a vanquished battle.

Throughout the night he has been ransacking his memories in quest of little contentment and there, somehow, he is able to find so many events and wonderful achievements of his worth living life. Closing his eyes he can see it all; yes, he feels it all- how he worked with many organizations as a creative interventionist, as a performing poet in NGOs, in United Nations and National Galas how he served peacefully!

He smiles by himself recalling all those beautiful days in his country when he initiated and worked on series of projects motivating, educating and developing the Zimbabwean youth. He knows people love him because he touched many hearts filled with youthful vigour through his thought provoking writings on various themes of life, reformation and vitality. He loves those glorious days when he cooperated with grassroots initiatives, foreign organizations, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, the UN, the US embassy’s cultural section and the Goethe Centre all the time to bring good things to his own country Zimbabwe.

He can never forget how people used to inspire his great deeds by saying — “Mbizo, You are a blessing to this world. Never give up. This world needs you.” So he went on and he still goes on working for the glaze of truth. He wants to spread the gentle sheen of light reforming darkness. His writing seeks political justice in his own country. He knows that his work reveals the truth and corruption of the society which includes the current political situation in Zimbabwe. But he never wants to hold himself back.

At the same time Mbizo’s mind feels heavy now with the fatal burden of patriotism. But deep down inside he loves to bear this load of love for his own soil. The dark force of his country has been trying to drag the love out of his patriotic heart, the heart that beats only to make this world a better place.

As he is tossing and turning in bed, all those titles of his well known poems: Dear Mother, Haiti, Haiti, Haiti, Dream Of Rain, Diary of the Povo, Forty years after dawn, Kalinga- linga, Children of Xenophobia, Black Oranges, Blue Lemons are being echoed in his mind.

Suddenly a horrid memory comes to plague him again- It was midnight, he recalls, when a car pulled into the yard of the house he used to live in. The car doors were banged hard in order to draw attention. During that time he was the only guy in that house and the oldest one. In about few minutes the car drove away. After an hour the car came back and continued to bang doors like before.

He still remembers, he didn’t go out to see. He heard people talking, mentioning his name. Instantly the car pulled away again. Later that night he fell asleep. He remembers, he woke up by 1.30am in a scary electrical shock. His spine still shivers in an eerie coldness remembering how he was perspiring and struggling to breath after that tremendous shock. Even his pillow felt like being electrocuted. His head was completely numb. He peeped out of the window and saw people with torches, talking on their cell phones. He spent the night in terror waiting for the morning light to arrive to rescue him. Now he knows, it was a tool called Guntezza which was used for electric shock, perhaps for disabling or for kidnapping him or may be to attempt to send him to the other side. He had to leave that place in search of his life’s security.

Soon after the Literature Festival of 2017, threats and attacks started to chase him everywhere. He still doesn’t regret that he has been very quiet after the first attack because by nature he is always a peaceful person. But as days pass by, situations have become unbearably insufferable. He even has no clue who are those people chasing him to take his life away. He can only sense they are the oppressors from his country who hate to let a brave voice speak the truth. So, they want his life from him as if the call of the dark needs to be answered by a real patriot’s soul. Yes, they want him to be dead anyhow.

He thinks about that mid-January of 2017when he relocated to another place where he received phone calls from strangers, wanting to see him without disclosing their identities. He still wonders why he didn’t care about those mysterious phone calls initially.

He still can go back to January 22, 2017 in his mind when three men, who appeared to be very investigative, approached him in various locations in Harare. He found them stalking him so many places he went. Now he thanks the lord that he evaded them so that they wouldn’t get him.

Mbizo cannot get January 24, 2017 out of his head as he clearly recalls how a man wearing security guard gear was lying in wait by the tree near the room where he stayed with a friend in one of the leafy suburbs of Harare. And yes indeed, to attack him again that hidden man was there. Mbizo had to leave that place as well since he kept on hiding himself from places they chased him.

He is in constant mental affliction now realizing the fact that his life has lost its deserved place in his own country. One question keeps on returning to his conscience is that why he had to carry on changing his location in his own city…in his own country ?

On January 26, while in another location, he understood that he was being tracked because the people he was staying with found an unknown man at midnight leaning on the window of the room he was sleeping in. And like the other strangers, he too, fled and disappeared into the blackness of night when people saw him.

And on February 3, 2017 Mbizo was stalked again while having a drink at a restaurant. The stalkers this time was pretending to be policemen when they were not.

Mbizo still remembers every single incident. He doesn’t know what or how to name them- Stalkers? Incognitos? Or predators? Each of their unidentified existence disconcerted him, scared him beyond his unquestionable brevity. He remembers while going to the station how he was so flamboyantly followed by a white car that came right on his side. By God’s grace he, in some way, managed to get in home that night.

But in the next day, February 4, 2017 — he decided to leave…only because he had to. Throughout the night he walked around, looking for his own security in the country he was very securely born in, the country where he spent his wonderful childhood, the country he worked for throughout his meaningful life.

Closing his eyes again Mbizo visualizes all the things he used to do in his homeland — gardening, housekeeping, child minding, farming, teaching, writing, creating verses, performing poetry…so many things that he dreams to do again in his own land. But the cruelty of reality makes dreams unreachable.

Those life threatening menaces seem to never leave him alone. Mbizo is now spending his sleepless nights under various roofs of foreign countries: from Zimbabwe to Zambia …from South Africa to Swaziland to Lesotho…from Lesotho to…somewhere else… under the same African Sun he has been taking shelter. Perhaps a nomadic Bedouin used to live a stable life more secured in the burnt desert. He feels that to rescue his own life he has to stay in a safe place; doesn’t matter if it is on Planet Mars or into a beautiful tree house somewhere in this world.

Staring at the ceiling Mbizo realizes that he needs to sleep as the clock ticks on and Mbizo’s exhausted eyes squinting to read — 3:45am.

Drifting away, suddenly he remembers two lines he read somewhere

“The land is always there…it is you who has to return”

A Story Written by Munia Khan

(Inspired by the life of the great Zimbabwean poet Mibizo Chirasha)

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