Life of Boy Banjul – Growing up

Boy Banjul was born in Portuguese Town district of the city. A place he had fond memories of and often reminisced the good old days as a grown man.

His father Foday Nying Killing Marong was originally from Baddibu Alkali Kunda, but deeply rooted in Banjul. His mother Saf Sap Njie is waa Banjul. His maternal grandmother Merr Récupérer, a ndar ndar, is a Senegalese from the coastal fishing town of St Louis. The family lived in an old Victorian rickety semi-detached house made of ‘kerentin’. Their house will fail even the most basic health and safety test. There are three other families living in the compound. Four families were cramped in 400 square meters space which is not unusual in Banjul.

Foday Nying Killing is a highflying, but dubious civil servant who brought home the bacon for upkeep of the family. Saf Sap is stay-at-home mother, a serial gossiper, a transmitter in human form who made it a ritual every morning to spread gossip in the neighbourhood before heading to the market. Merr Récupérer liked Foday so much if not for anything, but the fact that he surrendered his monthly salary to her daughter, Saf Sap who will, in turn, gave her a cut as allowance. Foday has since stopped sending ration to his extended family in Baddibu and they were vexed, but couldn’t do much about it. Each time Foday is sighted in the village is to attend funeral rites and he will take off as soon as the coffin is lowered into the grave. Villagers were dreading seeing him as it means someone must have died.

At Albion Primary School, Boy Banjul was a playground bully whose peers feared a lot. Some pupils will give him half of their lunch money for protection from other bullies. Kids generally don’t like differences, and if you are, you are in trouble. If you have protruding ears or cashew nut shaped head or too fat/thin, even if it is not your own making; you will be at the receiving end of veiled ridicule, caricature and mockery. Sometimes it can get violent. And quite often than not he was at the centre of it all. He had a crush on someone, Jehwo Sowe. A tall light-skinned girl with an angelic look. Surprisingly, he never had the courage to approach her out of fear of rejection. He has an odd way of showing affection to her by starting up an argument and ended up flogging her badly. 15 years later, he would confess to her of his sins.

Wandifa, his cousin, always come around during the summer holidays. The issue with Wandi is that he can’t say a word in Ollof coupled with Boy Banjul’s dislike for rural people. So, they hardly converse. Saf Sap tried severally without success for Boy Banjul to be taking Wandifa with him when going to his friends or Tan (the wetlands). He felt embarrassed about going to places with him because Wandifa got a weird outlook, disoriented teeth, and mannerism alien to Banjul.

While at Gambia High School, on the first day of the first term, he will spend a great deal of his time scanning for misfits among the ‘green leaves’ (newcomers) to be bullied later. Not all ‘green leaves are to be touched. The ones from the Greater Banjul area are well familiar with their new surroundings and some came along with friends from their previous schools. His targets were rural folks who came straight to GHS from the provinces and Brikama folks. These misfits looked nervy and lost most of the time. Unlike those from the provinces who over time-integrated, Brikama nkol never really immixed as their inability to speak Ollof hampered their process to integrate.

In his class were two Sateba boys who masked their inability to speak Ollof with speaking English at all times, pretending to be ‘Jangish’ (geeky). He figured them out quite early and would force them to talk to him in Ollof. He laughed at their poor attempts and would be mimicking their funny accent to the class whenever there is no Teacher around.

A big challenge for students from Brikama was transportation. For the morning shift, all nearby schools finished earlier than GHS. By the time the school bell was ringing for the day, the bus would have left and perhaps around Westfield full to capacity. Going home became hellish. They begged for a lift to Westfield, from there same again to Tabokoto, to Yundum, and finally to Brikama. They spent, on average, four hours on their journey home. Boy Banjul wasn’t sympathetic to their plight, he preferred they stay in Brikama schools.

They came with a solution to skip the last lesson in order to get on the bus. When Boy Banjul was aware of this, he outed them to the Principal Willie Carr. He volunteered his time to be on the lookout for Briks Boys scaling the fence to get on the bus early. He will pass a list of offenders to the school authorities before going home every day.

To be continued.

Written by Saul Sarr

UK