I Hope Someone Calls Them Beloved


oworonsoki by Logor

There is something about Lagos, about this human chaos, about entering danfos and crawling into kekes and jumping on okadas and pushing against bodies reeking of sweat while dancing between pungent puddles that makes me wish I could read minds.

Not all lives interest me. Some people are just derivatives of other people, stock personalities coming out of the human conveyor belt, uninteresting in the way I imagine I must be. But a few stand out: fascinating humans who compel me to observe, like the three girls who piled into the bus at Obalende and sat behind me on Saturday.

They wore clothing that strained against their youth. One sat and two lapped themselves. One pleaded with another in Yoruba, telling her she was sorry.

“Let us go to Alhaji’s place,” she said.

The friend replied, “You can go, I’m not going.”

She pleaded again, “I am sorry.”

They repeated this sequence as more people hauled their bodies into the bus. I took a bite of Gala and a swig of Lucozade Boost.

“I said I’m sorry,” she began again.

The third friend was silent throughout this exchange.

The reluctant friend finally gave in, “Okay, we can go.”

Who is Alhaji? Why is the need to visit him this strong a few minutes past 6pm? It bothers me that there is a whole swathe of human experience and emotions I do not have access to. It bothers me that this bothers me.

As we sped along Third Mainland Bridge, the girl who had been pleading so she could visit Alhaji received a call and spoke to a guy who, from what I could gather, was expecting her.

“I’m at home now,” she told him.

She spoke in heavily accented English with some hesitation, which shows the speaker has the basic vocabulary for fluent communication in English, but is actively translating from Yoruba in her mind.

At Oworonsoki, the trio started a Yoruba Christian song, the kind that choristers in long robes chant enthusiastically to the rhythm of gangan. There was so much cheer in the girls’ voices, and they giggled intermittently as we moved on to Oshodi. There, I alighted from the bus and took the overhead bridge. I looked down and saw the three girls walk towards Ilupeju.

I hope one day to have the courage to ask these people for their stories. I want their stories told with care and empathy, in a way that will make me see them, as they are, not just as the world labels them. I hope, somewhere at the end of their journey, there is someone waiting for them who calls them Imzadi* in a way that is not predatory.


*In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Will Riker, Deanna Troi’s love interest, calls her Imzadi, which translates roughly, in the Betazed language as Beloved. It is what she called him the first time they met.

Alhaji: a Muslim (man) who has been to Mecca on pilgrimage; often the title connotes that the bearer is wealthy.


©Ife Nihinlola 2015 @ IfeOluwa’s Rambles
Ife is an avid observer of life in metropolitan Lagos, which he translates into rich ruminations on his blog. Read the unabridged version here.

Photo credit: Owonronsoki by Logor Olumuyiwa


Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




45 thoughts on “I Hope Someone Calls Them Beloved

  1. Timi, I am always making up stories of people in my head, ones I see in their everyday clothes rushing through lines and ones at fancier locations, a stage theater or elegant restaurant. When I visit areas of culture like German Village or an Amish town named, Charm, I study the unique ways they celebrate life. Even the art center where people with a special disability has its magnetism and stories to share. Smiles, Robin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Robin I bet your life is richer because you are curious about life. This wonder, this fascination, this making up stories, helps take away the grind of daily life. Stories are everywhere. 🙂


  2. Hi Ife,

    “I’m at home now,” cracked me up. The many liberties of the GSM era. 😀

    I wonder too about stranger’s back stories.

    There are three sides to every story, the side the observer jigsaws together from the bits and pieces that fall off the table, the side the observed eats from the plate that Life has served them and the side that Life itself tells as it stirs it’s cooking pot.

    Well written as usual, I enjoyed reading.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, until ‘FaceTime’ is a standard feature on cell phones, the ‘story telling’ will continue.

      I’m pondering your comment and thinking about the 3 sides to every story. How would Life tell this story?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol… Yes, FaceTime makes it a little hard to be economical with the truth.

        I get the feeling that Life’s own side of any story is shrouded in mystery, one never knows. 😀

        Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story telling too! I’d love to hear their story….and I’d also like to know what is so pressing that they need to go see Alhaji so early…..
    Errrrrrrr, also, gala and lucozade at 6am? What is the writer’s story too? I wondered that! 😊👍🏾👍🏾

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Timing does change our perception of stories, doesn’t it? This story took place around 6pm ….

      But yes, what is the writer’s story? Gala and lucozade and intense people-watching from Obalende to Oshodi… What is his story? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol well a gala and lucozade meal at 6pm is forgivable, as is wanting to go see Alhaji at 6pm after a full day’s hustle and probably not much to show for it! I’d still love to hear their stories though…..
        Plus I have visions of ‘Alhaji’ and they are not altogether pleasant…..😆😆😆😆

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps empathy helps mute our auto-response to people and situations and broadens our understanding of our world …

      Observing the world aids our bid to become better writers. I would like to read about your experiences.


  4. I once read an article that said something along the lines of a true journalist being the kind of person that would travel to the end of a tube line to follow a particular conversation being held by certain passengers…to chase that story…to follow that curiousity…that makes me think of you and this article…my Nollywood movie mind cant help thinking that those 3 girls were not journeying to safety’s arms but I hope I’m wrong…very well written..( :

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes I think for certain kinds of writing, it helps to be curious about life and be interested in the whys behind what people do.

      Like you, it is difficult for me to envisage a happy ending with alhaji. But what I consider an unhappy ending, they may consider happy.

      I’m convinced that someone is calling them beloved, but are they listening?


      Liked by 1 person

  5. I also wonder about Alhaji! Thanks for an enjoyable story.
    I had to take a friend to the hospital. While waiting for her to be treated, a family sat near me, talking of various subjects, providing glimpses into their lives. I was too tired, unfortunately, to pay more attention or even to interact with them. But they certainly piqued my interest.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the kind comment, Jill. Seems there are many more of us bound by this need to know more. I guess it’s one of the many reasons we share stories as a way of bonding, quenching one another’s perhaps insatiable curiosity.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. This is beautiful Ife. Your descriptions were so vivid that I was immersed in the piece until it ended.
    Lagos is a fascinating city with millions of complex characters, I definitely want to see more writing about Lagos from you…maybe a whole book?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Adaeze. Lagos is indeed fascinating. I’ve written quite a bit about my experience in the city. Perhaps I’ll create a Lagos section for now, and have a good talk with my lazy self about doing something better with all I have written.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. “Not all lives interest me.” Indeed the grind of daily commute can make you not see, but some people stand out…

    Lol@ They wore clothing that strained against their youth 🙂 I would like to read minds and see the picture in readers’ minds… I like the description though.

    Understanding Nigerian society helps me jump to conclusions about these girls wearing tight clothes, who do not have a very good command of English, and who want to visit an alhaji. I think that you are asking us to look beyond the obvious and care enough to ask why; to investigate the circumstances of their lives, and to imagine what they may be. Perhaps in doing so, we will find out stuff about our own lives ….

    Your last sentence haunts me… Imzadi… in a way that is not predatory…
    To the young and innocent, or foolish, or even wise, may they hear and heed the call…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “I think that you are asking us to look beyond the obvious and care enough to ask why; to investigate the circumstances of their lives, and to imagine what they may be. Perhaps in doing so, we will find out stuff about our own lives ….”

      This captures what I was trying to do better than I could have attempted myself. There’s something about paying genuine attention to people’s lives and stories that gradually chips away our prejudices.

      Thanks Timi.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I think we all “fill in the blanks,” at least most of us do, but I think our imagination is often coloured with our prejudices, such that what we make up to complete the story often reflects more about us than the people we’re thinking about.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Happens all the time in my discussions with Peggy (my wife). Making assumptions and not clarifying is a guarantee of miscommunication. So if you do it with someone you know well, it can easily be multiplied many times over with someone you don’t know. –Curt

        Liked by 2 people

  8. I cling to the belief that underneath our differences, deep in our hearts where we love and bleed, we are all one. I recently spoke about our being God’s beloved, what a beautiful word that is, and how that feels if we are open to it. Like being wrapped lovingly in a soft warm comforter of pure tenderness. It delights me to hear your openness to our shared humanity, our “belovedness,” in others. Blessings………….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “I recently spoke about our being God’s beloved, what a beautiful word that is, and how that feels if we are open to it.”

      The last part of that sentence is so interesting to me: “…if we are open to it.” So much to think about there.

      Thank you, Eileen, for this comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. You remind me of someone I used to think of as a collector of people. It wasn’t with very much admiration or great enthusiasm that I did so. I love to see human beings with a wide open heart willing to love other people and accept that we’re all different but I am not very accommodating of the naivety that is regarded as sophistication.

    I am glad to find someone who is willing to consider that there may be more to a story that meets the eye, to find compassion where there could have been condemnation. But as you will not hasten to condemn, do not hasten to justify or put on a pedestal as well. People can easily be as weak as they can be cruel.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m glad you connected with the piece like you did. Thank you for reading. I smiled at “collector of people” such an odd phrase.

      Can you please elaborate on “naivety regarded as sophistication”? It sounds as something I should get, but I’m not sure I’m interpreting correctly. I’m reading it as you saying regarding people with openness can be interpreted as sophistication, and that that in itself could be naivety in disguise.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You wrote a good piece, Ife. It was easy to connect to. 🙂 And you read that phrase right.

        The last sentence in my comment would have clarified it if I had crafted it properly. It was meant to read, “People can easily be as cruel as they are weak”.

        These days, being compassionate and non-judgmental is what is considered enlightened, civilized and sophisticated. But it can be stretched to ridiculous lengths. Those three young women, for instance, could very easily and truly be victims who are caught in some very poor life choices from which they cannot see an escape. This is not a fantasy, it’s a real possibility. But they could also just as easily be three young women who have made a choice that pleases them and think that the entire world must conform to them.

        Now, I don’t know them so I am not passing any kind of judgments on them. This is also what is called keeping an open mind. It is allowing for the fact that any number of options could very easily be the case. Naivety that masquerades as sophistication today is that which indiscriminately tags everyone in disreputable life situations as victims to be pitied and accepted without any hint of judgment. But not every such person is a victim. If we don’t allow for the possibility that people can choose with wide open eyes very unhealthy lives for themselves and actively react with strong disapproval, our tacit approval will endanger society in the end.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I get that now. I really believe thinking the best of people, as naive as it might appear, is the best way to navigate this life without drowning in cynicism. It’s not seeing them as victims as much as hoping somewhere, someday, we’ll all encounter joy in one form or the other.

          I may not be able to articulate this well at the moment, but I do believe that it costs nothing to think every human, in spite of how they appear, deserves some goodness.

          Thank you for indulging my curiosity.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I see what you mean. In fact, my approach to life has been that people do not need to earn basic trust and respect. The mere fact that they’re human gives them a right to a primary deposit of both. It is up to them to erode either or build upon them.

            To defeat cynicism myself, what I have learned is to believe in the human ability to change. I don’t believe that anyone is incapable of change so I’m often open to another try.

            If it’ll help to explain I’ll say this. I’m very uncompromising about sexual propriety. I don’t like sexual recklessness. For that reason I always had a preference for virgins in my choice of a wife but I’ve nearly given my heart once to a woman with a checkered past. My reason for not doing so was the same as why I was willing to do so: I loved someone else whom I hoped would also change, in this case, in their attitude toward me.

            Believing that people always deserve some goodness often opens you up to avoidable harm predisposing you to the same cynicism you want to avoid. So the better thing is to accept humans for what they are: exceptionally capable agencies for both good and evil who can switch between both at will. When you accept that possibility of change and the duality of our nature, you will be both wise and loving toward all men.

            @Timi, please could you delete the other comment? There was a small malfunction when I posted it.

            Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your kind comments, Nedoux. 🙂 If my comments are insightful then they are worth all that goes into making them. I always hope to enrich those who read them especially with wisdom. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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