It’s Friday the 3rd of December, 2004. The kids are all in good spirits, you would swear they are not the ones who always whine about doing chores. Singing “Sengikhumbul’ ekhaya labazali bam” the boys are the loudest of the bunch. They are washing the windows of their classroom with so much excitement and overwhelming enthusiasm. Today the schools are closing, so the kids at Impophoma Primary School exude nothing but good vibes because they won’t be washing any school windows or cleaning the classroom floors for the rest of the year. Except for 13 year old Nkosingphile. He’s a nervous wreck. Today might end up as the best day of his life or the worst, he is going to fetch his answer from 12 year old Tshiamo. Now, back in the day before relationships could be started by a wave on Facebook and ended by the surfacing of a screenshot of your boyfriend’s WhatsApp conversation with your best friend, it used to be a very long process for a boy to date a girl.
First you see her, then you develop feelings for her and then you start trying to get her attention, and then you publicly hate her while you secretly worship the ground she walks on. And if you are brave enough, you will either tell her friend to give her a message for you (which excites the friend abnormally and is enough to question the mental health of this friend) or you just grow a pair and go get your girl.
But wait, it’s not that easy. You have to come up with the right words. Trust me, the right words get you the girl, not your financial status, not fame, not a six pack, not “how many retweets to go on a date with you?” no! The right words, that’s it. Nkosingphile did have the right words, but was it enough for this beautiful genius who gets gold stars frequently? Tshiamo is so smart, she’s one of the few pupils in this humble beginnings public school who can spell the word “forty”, avoiding the mistake of putting the letter “u”. Trust me, back then spelling this word was a pandemic on its own. Tshiamo is very neat, but we will not ignore the fact that she is responsible for 70% of the damage done to the new desks that arrived in the classroom in January, they have a lot of potholes because wow, Tshiamo tells beautiful stories. Nkosingphile plays central defender in the school soccer team, so he’s not so neat. Tshiamo passes every subject, Nkosingphile on the other hand is a mododa score type of guy. They seem different from every angle but they have this unexplainable connection between each other.
After school is after school. And guess what, it’s after school now, it’s time for the answer. Tshiamo’s friends are standing behind her muttering excitedly. Nkosingphile’s friend are doing the same thing but they appear to be calm because some of them also have a thing or two to say to one or two of the girls behind Tshiamo. Surprisingly the answer is yes. Now the best thing to ever happen is happening. The boys have secured a classroom, which in this case can be referred to as the kissing booth for the new couple. Because immediately after a girl gives a boy the “yes” answer she has to prove it with a kiss. And then the kiss happens. If this were a movie, they would have been at a beachfront, Thandiswa Mazwai’s “Ingoma” on the background. There’s a sunset. Their kiss suggests that they will live happily ever after and then we see the rolling credits. But because this is a real world story, Ma’am Madimetja caught them and beat everyone with a pipe.
But that’s the beauty of it. The culture of ukushela is a special process. It separates boys from men, it celebrates the beauty of women through the most profound compliments. The television took away the art and poetry of ukushela. On TV they either bump into each other and the woman drops her papers (yeah it’s always the woman dropping the papers, never a man, why? Because men are strong and they can lift papers perfectly? Urgh, toxic masculinity) and then when the man helps the woman pick up her papers they end up looking into each other’s eyes and sometimes end up kissing. Really? That’s all it takes? Papers? Wow. Or because of this turn up culture we use money way before we use the power of conversation to get each other’s attention.
Imagine, for one day, all the single people decided to take it back to the old days. For one day, people write letters telling someone how much they love them. A boy running after his crush with a dead mouse trying to scare her and enjoy her attention at the same time because his naughty mind enjoys the sound of her screams. Wouldn’t that be a perfect world? Instead of waving on Facebook, dropping papers on TV, hating strangers on social media. If we as a society realize that these smaller nyana old values celebrate the concept of love, we’d be better off.
We would be so better off that we wouldn’t even need Jub Jub. People would be writing to Jub Jub to say “I just wanted to let you know that my relationship is fine, I love my partner and he/she loves me too, stay home my brother, remember to sanitise and avoid touching your face with unclean hands.” That’s the world we would all enjoy.
A world where people are loved for who they are, not their financial status or body, just because they are. What attracted Tshiamo to Nkosingphile was his confidence to go for her as she was the most feared girl and deemed too perfect. And yes, opposites do attract, who would’ve thought that Nkosingphile the pantsula could end up with the girl who’s biggest worry was that she’s been sending her photos to the Cool Catz TV show and they still haven’t appeared? Strange world.