Births and Deaths

There was  shock

Then the first tears

And after that, there was no time to grieve

There were people all around, many people, everyone was talking at the same time, we were pulled here and there, called here and there…we had to answer questions, we had to explain what happened-over and over and over again, till it became real to us, till each time we repeated it, we knew that yes, it had really happened. But the questions did not end, and we never stopped explaining.

That same morning, at ten o’clock, someone took my hand, in all my confusion and pain and said “we have to register him at Births and Deaths”

The last word seemed to ring in my ear as we drove there “deaths…deaths…deaths…”

Somehow, the words did not seem to match, they did not deserve to be in the same sentence “births and deaths”

The Office of The Deputy Chief Registrar of Births and Deaths, had a similitude to an undercover gambling shack. The entrance was dark and dank, and if you went there to register the death of a loved when, depression and gloom welcomed you with a rank smell of an open sewer from somewhere. I could not believe that was the entrance to the office-I hesitated

“kam nor”, my aunt said. She looked at me strangely, as if she didn’t understand why I didn’t understand that yes, this was indeed the office of the Deputy Chief Registrar of Births and Deaths under the ministry of Health and Sanitation.

The signboard that welcomed us was severely rusty and appeared to have initially been painted white. The black and white block letters were largely printed but heavily incorrigible due to stains of copper red and urine like yellow that was now both the background and the unfortunate foreground.

I gulped, and soldiered on behind my aunt.

The stairway reminded me of something I had seen on a trip to Cape Coast castle in Ghana…a plunging darkness and grimy gloom.  A man who apparently worked at the ministry of health, was lazily perched on a chair on one of the floors, smoking, and as we passed him, he coughed phlegmatically.

When we reached the top floor, we had to see the Deputy Registrar, and thankfully, my aunt knew him, so our meeting with him was very brief and our requests were made a priority (welcome to salone)

The room where we had to register my father’s death was piled with papers upon papers. They seemed to have been there for years and years, with no indication that they were to be filed soon. Some of the papers and documents and turned yellow and some had turned brown. All were frayed, all were dog eared.

Inside one of the offices at B & D

I stood there stiffly, waiting for it all to be over. As I stood there I thought about how much this place seemed to hammer in me the hopelessness of loss and death, but then nothing about the joy and expectation of birth and new beginnings. Everything was archaic, everything was dormant, even the little movements of people were heavy and unwilling.

As we walked out of the office, I sighed heavily. The sunshine outside was welcoming and it seemed as though some layers of grey had lifted.

My aunt turned to me and said
“Ready o! This is just the beginning”.


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