What is it, re?” he wanted to know. Oh, I was still clutching the shiny red box. Kaka snatched it from my hand and began to examine it. He was the first to realise it was a Sabun. His face lit up with excitement as he smelt it several times. He would not give it back. “I am not going to eat it,” he snapped when I put my hand out for it. But his intentions did not seem honourable to me.
So I reacted. It was mine, after all. I tried to take it away from him, or to make him drop it. But there was no way I could get the better of the tall brute. Soon he had even removed the wrapper and uncovered the precious, rose-coloured bar. As a last resort I flung myself on the river bank and bawled. “I’ll tell Ija…”
It worked as always. Kaka glared at me for a while. “Go die,” he said, as he threw the Sabun at me. I caught it. “What about the wrapper?” He threw that too. I covered the bar with great care. Smelling it all the way, I walked home, very pleased with myself.
That was the beginning of the first real hostility between Kaka and me. Of course I did not realise it then. So enchanted was I by the delicate fragrance of the Sabun, that I paid no attention to him. The enmity would, over time, become permanent.
Anyway, that evening, Kaka followed me, kicking the stones at his feet. On reaching home, he announced, his lips twisting, “Hariya thinks he is too good for us. Just because he has got a Sabun.”
Ija was gathering cowdung. She stood up. “Sabun! Where did you get it? What is it like? Show me.”
“It’s mine,” I shot back.
She cleared her hands carefully and came up to me. “Let me also see it. What kind of Sabun is it?”
By then I was suspicious of everyone. After much fuss, I reluctantly loosened my grip on the Sabun. Ija took it to the lamp and looked at it intently. She smelled it twice or thrice. “I’m going to bathe with it,” she declared.
I swooped on the Sabun like a hawk. Stuffing it into my pocket, I ran and stood at a safe distance. Ija was shocked. “May your Sabun burn,” she cursed. Then, glaring at me, she walked away.
And so my mother became my second enemy.
It took me a long while to understand the power of the Sabun. Perhaps I was not old enough to. However, I soon began to feel that I was surrounded by enemies.
I knew Kaka had been rummaging through my things. He had looked into every box and container in the house, and even under the hay stacked in the cowshed. But only I knew where the Sabun was hidden. Finally, he gave up and tried to get into my good books instead. But I had become wise to his tricks.