She Tattooed a Reading Culture in Me

She Tattooed a Reading Culture in Me

September 12, 2020 0 By Ian Elroy Ogonji

I was 12. She was our neighbour. She had no furniture in her house but she had an enormous TV and a 6 by 6 mattress on the carpeted floor. And NO, she wasn’t Luo – she was a Ugandan or something, I can’t recall. She was a teacher at one of these posh schools we have in the country. Those schools that students get flown in the morning with private choppers then get picked up in the evening by chauffeurs in high-end autos. Yes, those schools.

Her name was Josephine.

She’d passby our house and drop afew story books for me. At times, she’d come without any book but with lots of stories from her workplace; that posh school. Mom would ask her endless questions. Josephine was always ready to answer and give details – a good storyteller, she was. I was young to contribute my views, I just sat there, silent as I watched these two women swim in a colloquy. I’d also laugh at what sounded funny.

The books. I’d get absorbed in these books to a point I forgot to do my homework. I’d wake up early the next day so that I could copy the homework from those who had done it. Life was like that.

I’d finish one story book, update Josephine, and she’d bring me another one. A few weeks into this trend, she gifted me a dictionary. A yellow and red Macmillan dictionary. It had the smell of the library shelves. I’d sniff it when I’m bored.

My pre-school library had no such story books. I paced ahead of my peers. My English grades escalated. My Swahili got better too. I became a better composition and insha writer, the highest scoring in my class. You can imagine the bliss that the scores brought to my mother, and how her bond with Josephine became stronger. The more this happened, the more vehemently I cemented the culture.

Josephine, a neighbour, cultivated in me a reading culture that has grown in me since then. She stocked my brains.

I wish I could meet her and tell her how grateful I am. She’s probably married now, with kids maybe. She probably forgot me. But the tattoo she left in my brains and my life lenses will forever be reminisced upon. Such is life; our good acts impact change in people’s lives – let that sink in. The littlest good you do, will always be of help to someone. Our modern day philosopher, Lil Wayne once said, “Be good, or be good at it.”

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