TORN Apart with BOYD PHIRI
LAST weekend I had an opportunity to be part of a meeting to help two young people tie the knot into a tether of marriage. It is not easy, especially when you have to frequently go outside the house to consult as a family while the other party remains inside waiting for an answer to their demands.
Forget about the number of bottles of beer the bride’s uncle empties during such occasions to summon enough courage needed to bargain for a better bride price.
Of course, good negotiating skills during such discussions play an important role in determining how a woman is worth.
But it seems no-one goes to such marriage negotiations with all the answers, going by the number of times people ask for time to consult one another outside the house during the discussions.
“Atilole tikambisaneko panja,” the spokesperson for the visitors would ask, meaning, “Kindly allow us to consult outside.”
The negotiating teams from both sides would include uncle, aunt, brother, grannies and, to some extent, hired marriage negotiators depending on where the bride or bridegroom comes from.
Normally, the challenge for negotiators from both sides is to strike a deal which is reasonable for both families and make the bridegroom feel lucky.
Of course, you don’t want the husband-to-be to feel unlucky and pull out from the whole arrangement.
A bridegroom feels lucky when his bride’s family offers him a fair deal so that his negotiators don’t ask him outside the house if he can afford to pay eight cows.
Similarly, a bride feels lucky when her husband-to-be can afford to pay the bride price and be able to answer a question from her family members like, “Is he able to take care of you?”
A bridegroom feels lucky when he can answer questions from his negotiators like “When do you think you will be ready to pay the first instalment?”
Family members of the bride feel lucky when the bridegroom’s negotiators can go back in the house and say “we accept your bride price”.
Perhaps the unexpected demands in this scheme of things often change the course of marriage discussions for both the bride and bridegroom’s families.
It would appear even when you plan to settle for a goat, the situation out there would force you to settle for a cow.
The demands for a bride price can range from a chicken to a cow, if not an elephant. Of course, demanding an elephant for a bride price would be outrageous, not because of the existing human-animal conflict.
Obviously, the short period during which the groom’s family consult one another outside brings a moment of suspense to the bride’s family.
While the groom’s family is consulting outside, some of the bride’s family members involved in the discussion would be wondering about the sort of man they are about to allow into their family.
“Bapongoshi babomba kwisa? Meaning, “Where does our in-law work?
Needless to say, information about a bridegroom’s occupation helps the bride’s family to have an idea of what to expect from him and his entire clan.
As you may be aware, in the hood, how much a woman is worth matters, especially if she is not a second-hand or third-hand.
The pure a wife-to-be is the higher the bride price, if one is lucky the bride price can be as low as this year’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) K65 maize price per bag.
You would hear the uncle of the bride saying “mwana wathu akalibe kubalapo”, meaning, “Our daughter has never had a child before”.
This confirmation of purity of a wife-to-be by a spokesperson of the family would indirectly mean that she is a virgin.
You have to covert five cows into cash and arrive at the true value of such a woman.
“Because here in town we do not keep cattle, you will have to convert five cows into cash,” the bride’s uncle would say.
It is at this point that the bridegroom’s negotiators would ask to go outside and decide whether they can afford the price tag slapped on the woman.
This is the situation I went through with my clansmen, but at the end of the meeting, we decided to make the marriage work and asked the couple not to carry guns into their marriage.