by Onyeka Nwelue
Note: As India celebrates its Independence, Onyeka Nwelue celebrates his independence too.
You may not understand it when I ask young people to rebel against their parents. Our parents will understand when we rebel against them, because they know why we are rebelling.
I used to be a very calm person; I used to be an introvert. I had few friends. Infact, I didn’t have friends, like a normal child, growing up in the countryside. Only the birds could bear witness to my loneliness in the mornings, because they perched on every tree singing and making me feel the world had rejected me.
I started reading and travelling round the world through books. I made friends. Those friends were characters from books. I bonded with them. Life started becoming meaningful. Some of my characters were arrogant people, sweet minds and amazing souls. They were frustrated people and people who longed for freedom. Freedom was all that they needed and they couldn’t get it just by sitting calmly and watching the world trample on them.
So, what did most of them do? They rebelled.
Growing up a weakling, in the midst of four boys and a girl, I was looked down upon. I wasn’t girlie, I wasn’t effeminate. I just couldn’t cook, wash, sweep or farm, like others, so my father hated me for that. It was all confusing for me. And that was the beginning of my sorrows.
Why? They found me very different, or maybe, abnormal and what did they do to me? I was hurriedly sent to the seminary to become a Priest. I was the sacrificial lamb. I was being persuaded to become a Priest, to spend the rest of my life in the parsonage, preaching the Word of God to those who wanted to hear. No one cared about my opinion. It was just all about them and I thought they had my interest at heart. I had no childhood, because I had spent the whole of my life building a strong relationship with God. I spent my entire life in the church. I taught my mother how to read the Igbo Bible. I used to be the first during Morning Devotions in the church to get that passage from the Bible and read it in Igbo to the amazement of everyone. I was the local champion. My father was proud of me. My mother loved me so much and showed me off to people. The Bishop took serious notice of me.
So, what happened in the seminary? I saw hell! I saw people like me; people who had been forced to become what they were not supposed to be. I just didn’t want to continue like that. I was bullied by these supposedly Priests-to-be. Once, my Head Boy, a very intimidating figure, whose nickname was Action made me sleep in a pool of water he made under his bed, because I didn’t ring the bell at the right time, as I was the Bell Ringer then. That scared me!
The next day I petitioned him to the Vice Principal, who called me to the Staff Room and scolded me. I just didn’t understand why he would scold me. So, I made the next move by sending him a threat mail, where I made him realize that his life was in danger and he came to the Assembly Ground and read it and brought me out to the entire school. That wasn’t the end of it. I stopped attending classes for so many reasons. I found the teachers very annoying. They were all not good enough for me. These thoughts came to my head when I realized I was in the midst of hypocrites who didn’t even know God at all. If you knew God well enough, you should not bully people, which was what I thought. Why? Because God created, right? And he only has the power to bully.
So, because my father was influential in the society, I decided to bring him in to come and bully the Vice Principal and I did that amazingly well. He actually came to the seminary and made serious trouble with the school authority, which made the teachers start respecting me and they stayed away from me. I became a free man, because I brought in my father to bully them. My freedom I got on a platter of gold!
At 17, I finished from the seminary and I was supposed to head to Trinity College. But for Christ’s sake, why would I? I told my parents I wanted to leave and go and face my writing. My father found that weird. I can remember some of the kicking in my stomach, because he wanted to show his anger. I understood him perfectly well, but I thought he was very foolish and inconsiderate. He was a man who got angry easily.
The next year, I just didn’t care about anyone. I networked and found my way to Lagos and left my family to face their own world. I left to become a writer. I left to leave Nigeria. And before then, I had already being introduced to a lot of books on religion and spirituality, from the Secret Doctrines of Jesus by Harvey Spencer Lewis to a lot of things that helped me build my way into who I am today. I left them. First, I wasn’t happy, leaving. But later, I realized that the only way to show that I was not a weakling was to stay away and have some freedom.
India called. I answered. Today, India defines my walk to freedom. It was the country where I went to and returned with my own opinion, my own mind, my personal charm and my own personal understanding of life.
Onyeka Nwelue is editor of FilmAfrique.com and he’s Writer-in-Residence at Centre for Research in Art of Film & TV (CRAFT), Delhi.