There is this cousin of mine who is very enthusiastic about politics and political discussions. The other day he talked me into agreeing to meet somebody whom he credited with being some sort of a political expert.
So there I was following my cousin through the serpentine lanes of downtown till we arrived at this ancient looking but well-maintained quaint little house. As we entered a poorly-lit room of this house I could make out an elderly man sitting on a rug.
As my eyes adjusted to the dim light I recognized the fellow. "Why it is good old Lassa maam!" I said.
A brief introduction of Lassa maam would be in order at this point. Lassa maam is (or used to be!) a traditional matchmaker – manzimeour in local parlance.
The guy is responsible for quite a few matrimonial linkups in our extended family and till recently he would be a permanent fixture at most of the weddings in the family.
"Long time no see, maama? What are you doing here?" I asked him.
"I live here. This is my house," he said.
I turned towards my cousin and said, "What happened to your expert? Is he coming here?"
My cousin nodded towards Lassa maam and said, "He's the expert."
"Lassa maam!" I couldn't keep the surprise out of my voice but then seeing the hurt look on Lassa maam's face I tried to make amends, "Why of course you are an expert and who better than you but then your field of expertise is quite different. I mean you are so busy linking up people and all that."
"Ah those days are gone! This Satan's invention – the mobile phone – it has been putting matchmakers out of business. Besides it is too hectic a job for my weary old bones now," he said.
"Lassa maam has retired," my cousin explained, "and he is devoting all his time to politics now. In fact almost all local political parties and even at least one national party have been inviting him to join them."
"Lassa maam a politician!" I said with a giggle.
Lassa maam turned towards me and if looks could kill I would have fallen dead there and then. "Why?! If retired bureaucrats, journalists and businessmen can take up with political parties what is wrong with a matchmaker joining politics."
"I didn't mean anything like that!" I said in a placating tone, "Of course you are an expert in your field but politics…"
"It is the same really. My previous profession is a big advantage in fact. I am used to handling people and brokering alliances and this all is what is required in politics!"
Well his words did make sense. I decided to try out his political compass. "OK maama tell me what do you think? Will this current alliance last?"
"Of course! Why not!" he said.
"But you see there has been a sour note or two in the very beginning…" I expressed my doubts.
"Oh that! That's nothing serious really. I have seen far bitter acrimony erupting in marriages that I brokered during my career. You know what most of the controversies erupt during the traditional seven days following a marriage. And for good reason too! The newlyweds are in glaring lime-light and relatives and neighbors are completely focused on them.
Diabolical meanings are sought and attributed to even how the new bride blows her nose! There is a great deal of wagging of heads and predictions of doom. If you listen to all the gossip that goes on between the guests and neighbors you might be led to presume that the marriage has ended even before it started! Yet nothing like that happens! It is the same in politics…
There it is the family rivals (he used the vernacular pituer) who create a fuss and here it is the political pituer…"
"But it is not only about rivals. Even party members seem to be miffed at who gets what and all that," I said.
"Oh that will settle too. Like happens during the traditional seven days after marriage, this auntie frets that she was not given the honor of sharing the bride's platter, or the uncle's family says that their son-in-law wasn't included with the baraatis, the mother-in-law complains that the trinket she got from the bride's family is too small… But it all settles down ultimately," he said with a deprecatory wave of his hand.
"Say maama what do think about CMPs and agendas?" I posed him another question.
"CMPs and agendas?" he repeated as if in a reverie and then he said, "Remember the Naabadh Nout?" What he was referring to is a solid pot-shaped concoction of crystallized sugar that used to play an important ceremonial role during various stages of a marriage alliance.
"The Naabadh Nout would go back and forth between the bride's and the bridegroom's homes with much fanfare. Once the matrimonial alliance would be sealed and after the wedding festivities were done the Naabadh Nout would be loaned out or sold or it would settle down in some obscure cupboard." He finished his reminiscences and with a mischievous smile added, "In politics you have an Agenda or a CMP in place of a Naabadh Nout."
It was a pretty enlightening session I have to admit. I got up to leave and extended my hand to Lassa maama for a handshake. He held on to my hand and gesturing with his other hand said, "What about my ghadi kharch (literally 'bus fare' but actually just a favorite euphemism of the traditional matchmakers for a tip)?"
I laughed. Some things never change. Thank God for that!
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at firstname.lastname@example.org)