Awassa, Langano leshirishir heji yayehushi...ah,
yeSidamo Qonjo indineshi............. .
If you thought that Melkamu Tebeje's Awassa Langano was the hottest tune that ever graced the air-waves back in the early pre-revolution seventies, there was and still is very little or no hope for you. You didn't know it then, but your taste of zefen represented the first tell-tale sign that you were and will remain a Fara until the day you draw your last breath. You can try to fake it all you like, but deep in the nebulous recesses of your mind, there will always be the nagging truth that you are a Fara; . . . perhaps a superficially polished one now, but a Fara nonetheless, thanks to the Melkamu-Syndrome.
You never thought that Melkamu's harmless little love-song with its cute lyrics would leave an indelible mark on you, forever defining your position in the contemporary culture as an accomplished Fara...but it has. Nothing wrong with the song itself, mind you. It's just, while you were serenading Ato Hailu Meshesha's younger sister DemeQu through the opening in the wooden fence: "Awassa Langano leshirishir heje...," your own generation was gliding across the dance-floor to the tune of "Iyodinnoti Sonoquiiiii".
For all those cool young people knew, Iyodinnoti could have been the Italian version of a call-to-arms by a rebel group in Uzbekistan, but it was sufficiently sentimental and provided just the right tempo for sailing across the darkened halls of many a private-school, a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They were kids your own age, and yes, you too attended one of only a handful of private schools around,... unless one insisted on including Beide-Mariam on a technicality.
But they were s-m-o-o-t-h, s-e-x-y and s-u-a-v-e (Iyodinnoti-people) ; . . . young men and women, who had proven themselves uncanny in their ability to circumvent the constraints of the "huala Qer" native culture;...a tight-knit coterie of youngsters, who had arrived in the glamorous worlds of Los Angeles and New York by a short-cut, acquiring the social and material traits of youngsters there, without ever having crossed the Atlantic.
By some stroke of genius, they remained impervious to the influences of the local culture, while you busied yourself serving your parents' idir, setting up folding chairs in the rickety d'nkuan following Ato Mandefro's untimely death (of hush-hush syphilis) at the tender age of 89. (Your father, in his infinite wisdom, had volunteered your youthful energy to the seffer idir in lieu of monetary contribution. He was not going to wait another 20 years to reap the benefits of his investment in his children.;. . . pay as you go was his modus operandi.)
They were the sort of teenagers who wouldn't know syphilis if it severed their . . . earlobes;. . . you, on the other hand, at least knew someone who had died from it...poor Ato Mandefro, really..."Mts, mts. " Besides, you had your own worries too, which stemmed from a momentary lapse in judgement and youthful indiscretion (yeah, right!) on your and your buddies' part the week before Ato Mandefro met his demise! One of you had gotten everyone excited with painfully detailed narratives of sexual exploits with the house-maid and, by the time his graphic accounts had reached their climax, you had been ready to reach yours. Before long, each and every single one of you had voted to forego the Kiriaziz cake and the buna bewetet in favor of venturing into the labyrinthine world of SerateNa Seffer (red-light district) with a few Birr, but loads of testosterone in your pants. Heads buried deep in turned-up collars, y'all had scouted many a house-of-ill-repute, before you had settled on the ladies at Aberash Borkana's establishment where, predictably enough, Melkamu had been blaring from makeshift speakers precariously balanced over the main door: "Awassa, Langano..." (Ms. Borkana takes her name from the wide river that cuts through Alasha Meda in Kutaber, Wollo).
That was how and why Ato Mandefro's death had brought you face-to-face with your own mortality like never before (you had been where he was rumored to have been...meeting his death in the form of that dreaded disease) and, while they had lowered him into the ground, you had stood at a distance swearing fealty to Qidus Michael lezelalem-alem, if he spared your life. You had known that He and only He, Qidus Michael-Yeni-Geta, could deliver you from meQmes-ing Ato Mandefro's TSiwa for the ephemeral amissbirr fun you thought you had had with that irgum-yeteregemech Aberash;...and for what? She had barely broken a sweat (hadn't even bothered to remove the stekini in her mouth) while you had huffed and puffed for all of the two-and-a-half minutes it had taken to...er...rid yourself of some premature haTiyat! You had, then, attempted to delay your departure by meQebaTering yebaT- yeQoTun, because arriving at the pre-determined rendezvous point first (ahead of any of your buddies) would have earned you a stigma you would never have lived down.
Ato Mandefro, may his idolatrous soul burn in hell, went and ruined it for you. (Regardless of how the situation played itself out, you were destined to lose!). . . If you actually did have this here thing disease that took the heathen from your midst...well, you were in God's hands and no Homo-sapiens could help your erectus self...least of all your parents! They would kill you like you had never been killed before and then, really kill you before death itself killed you! (Yep! It says so right there in the wolaj-manual. Scenario: Son Dying Of Balegi disease!. .Remedy: KILL!)
On the other hand, if you didn't have it, it meant the end of SerateNa Seffer (your lanes of Limerick) and all the Frank-McCourt-excitement it offered in such great abundant and tantalizing variety, all because of your unwise and too hasty s'let to Qidus Michael! ... Later, of course, upon discovering that your fears were unfounded, you attempted to submit to Qidus Michael an addendum to your initial plea, rescinding your promise of celibacy on grounds that it was extracted from you under extreme duress. The Faramour in you said: "Aberash or nothing!" and Melkamu concurred:
algwagwaaaam,. . . algwagwaaaam,
menor balem lay, fikri lingerish,
ini anchin salai. . . .!
You see, the Iyodinnoti-kid had no such worries. He got into his pleasures with the debutante of immutable principles...QimiTil-yebit-lij, whose incorruptible virtue her proud daddy would extol all over creation, even as she was marchedis-sizzling in unrestrained passion out in the parking lot at Hotel d'Afrique!...And, if by sheeeer coincidence, being knocked about in the bowels of the marchedis were to result in being knocked up, well....ain't no inkwan Mariam marechish and genffo z'bazinki happenin' out this way, because Mommy would come to the rescue. Her daughter's immaculate...umm...confession would initially send Mommy into hysterics, but as gebina sheffaN-guardian of the family name, she would gather herself quickly and set in motion her formidable network of resources to discreetly roeversuswade the gudai into oblivion, long before Daddy got wind of it. (Daddy, of course, was a powerful man, who could suspend habeas corpus nationwide at the drop of a hat to reclaim his daughter's honor; imagine the old man in full battle regalia going: " Zeraf,. . zeraf,.! zeraf yegebs irassu, neffs assenabach keneferessu!. . . manew, eri manabatu new!...itititititititit!)
Long before your Fara-sized soul got barely warmed up to the idea that there was life without Aberash Borkana, this cool class of coquettish courtesans and their lover-boys, inextricably linked by perpetual courtship and carnal preoccupation in a tight and impregnable cocoon, knew about the intricacies of romance, the trendy restaurants and bars, the must-see movies, the hottest in yengliz muziQa and, of course, Givenchy's latest in fashion-wear. As if by a priori, every Iyodinnoti-member somehow knew the chic from the not-so-chic and conducted himself/herself accordingly, with what de Tocqueville might have termed a frightening oneness.
What appeared as a haphazardly concocted, loosely organized social club to the uninitiated Fara, was really a well-structured sub-culture, where one's position on the pecking order was a matter of one's gray matter having successfully undergone the evolutionary transition from crown to crotch. The pin-head, whose head fit neatly on the head of a p ...(sine s'rat!). . . pin was, (you guessed it), the head.
Everyone here knew everyone and everything everyone did, because everyone did everything with, and to, everyone else all the time...like, for instance, trooping to each other's homes on weekends and singing duets of the dinkiest ingilizNa-songs, with actually identifiable ingilizNa words interspersed throughout...kinda like the scene in Trading Places, where a chorus of clean-cut Ivy League boys in white v-neck pullovers and matching shorts croon all over scantily clad, oh-so-wholesome virgins over at the club.
When they were not serenading each other, the Iyodinnoti-kids flocked from party-bet to party-bet...and there was no mistaking them for any other group when they arrived. In what appeared to be a perfectly choreographed sequence, the girls spilled out of the cars, giggled, sorted themselves out and proceeded up the stairs and into the dimly-lit living-room, with the men bringing up the rear. Once inside, they levitated over the Oriental rug in synchronized dynamism to Marvin Gaye's Let's get it o-o-o-n! ....You marveled at the agility and grace with which they "dipped and everything" and admired the belle for knowing just when to snuggle up in a tight embrace and melodramatically bat her eye-lashes at her taller mate...more than a decade before Nancy did it to Ronnie, may he res . . oops, my fault!
They made it look so easy, you thought your trespassing-ass could pull it off too. But first, you needed you a belle! The belle seemed like a nice enough girl. She tossed her rich and fluffy hair, smiled at you graciously and said it beng'lizNa. Well,. . .wonder of wonders! They could have knocked you over with a feather, because "it" w-a-s-a "yes"...for all the good it did you! You found that you couldn't move, much less levitate with the belle over the Oriental (little did she know that she had turned your whole world upside-down with her consent). As you stood there petrified, you felt a gradual surge of The Melkamu Syndrome course through your veins...the symptoms hit you like a ton of bricks and in rapid succession...tightness in your chest, lightheadedness, blurred vision and perspiration...lots of perspiration! You never thought it could happen to a mere mortal like you, but for the first time only since Jesus' Crucifixion, semay m'dru CHeleme!. . . (yiQ'r beleN GetayE, simihin bekentuuu...indyaw aderahin yenE Geta...mts...atiQuTeribiN!)
Yes, you had been d-y-i-n-g to dance with a belle, but Immamlak'n, you hadn't meant it literally! What a way to go! You could just see the screaming headlines in Poliss'na Irmijaw: "Double-dealing, disloyal dimwit dares to dance with debutante!...Disintegrates!" Just then, the Melkamu in your soul whispered: "Anti kehadi...ant assmessai! It serves you right. Now, get your 'out-of-his-element Jud-ass' back to Aberash!"
A whole universe away in Fara-dom, weekends were largely uneventful, unless Ato Mandefro died of syphilis and your parents' idir daNa assigned you to mederder the chairs in the leaky tent. Otherwise, if all was well with Ato Mandefro, you had Sunday's zefen mirCHa to look forward to:
"...Hamssa aleQa Aberra Yimer keWolisso-ooo, Shashemene lemigeNut wud Ihitachew w/t Manale Yimer-rrr;.... .Asir aleQa Tesfahun Belay keKutaber-rrr, Addisaba lemigeNut lewud balebetachew-www w/o-oooo Aberash. . . (oh,oh!) ."
You were glued to the ageless Grundig-radio, bedecked as it was in kiroshi-dantil of vivid colors...and you worked diligently on perfecting your...(all together now)...M-e-l-k-a-a-a-a-m-u-u-u-u! (Thanks!...Wait a sec!...Hey, you! ....Yeah, Mr Fake-Fara back there, ...it's not "yyyouuuuu"...it's "uuuuu", Melkam "uuuu", as in u-u-tta! whaddayamean there was no u-u-tta where you grew up? ...OK, how'bout ..."moooooo" ...now that oughta be right up your alley! What?...No, I am not calling you a cow. If you were a Fara, you would know that a cow doesn't moo, it imbwaas, pal ...imbwaaaaa!...You don't understand? Just what part of " imbwaaaa" don't you understand?...It's not like I am speaking French!...What's that?...Oh, 'scuuuse me, you speak French?! Well then, let's see! Est-ce que vous n'understandez pas les "imbwaaaa?" Oh, never mind! By the way, have you seen Quills?)
The Iyodinnoti-kids also had a knack for picking all the right shows; shows that celebrated the philosophical underpinnings of the group:...sensitivity, vulnerability and that intimidatingly abstract concept of "coming to terms with one's inner self. " (In Fara-speak: molQaQa, . . .yesew-molQaQa, . . .derso-atimolaQeQi-'bakish, respectively.) Ryan O'Neill and Ali McGraw's Love Story definitely qualified in that it presented a unique opportunity to belle and beau alike to put on a show of their own, unveiling their inner selves to the primitive Fara of outer-self existence.
When the story took a tragic turn, the Iyodinnoti-belle...oh-so-feminine, s-o-o-o sensitive, and so brittle in the face of Hollywood's sensational make-believe...buried her pretty little head in her arms and menseQseQ-ed in muted weeping, her delicate shoulders shaking with uncontrolled sobs! Her gallant mate of Iyodinnoti-fame, he of indomitable spirit and unflinching chivalry, then bravely rose to the occasion and took his frightened beauty in his arms (zeraf!) and began menseQseQ-ing with her in tandem as proper decorum dictated.(H-o-w d-a-r-e t-h-e-y?... t-h-e-r-e, t-h-e-r-e! . . . yeni Qonjo, . . . t-h-e-r-e, t-h-e-r-e! .... . I'll have Daddy talk to Hollywood about this!)
You couldn't do that if your life depended on it. For one thing, the same Iyodinnoti-belle wouldn't even think of crying, if you were the one sitting next to her; on second thought, maybe she would, but definitely not for the same reason. A self-respecting Fara could never weep over a story taking place in affluent USA , no matter how sad. From a Fara's point-of-view, a perfectly good tragedy can easily fall victim (collateral damage) to an ostentatious display of wealth, even if it was unrelated to the story-line. (Mansions, sport cars, butlers, Ivy League, tweed jackets, mahogany-paneling! . . . .mannn, pleeeeaaase!)
Your idea of the perfect tragedy had to be set in rural India, where: Shamoo loses his arms attempting to dislodge a boulder...Shamoo loses his maresha-beri to Sukhilala-the-landlord...Shamoo can't provide for his family...Shamoo finally loses his raison-d'jtre...Out of frustration and shame, Shamoo takes off! Radha has to feed the young'ns, Birjoo and Ramoo, but lacks the means to do it with...Radha refuses to sell her honor to Sukhilala-the-landlord...Sukhilala-the landlord takes her land...Radha literally shoulders the yoke and pulls, and pulls, and pulls the maresha through the parched earth, against the backdrop of a badly rendered studio-landscape...Birjoo and Ramoo tag along for moral support...they sing:
we've got to toil in this work...
life is some poison;
we stumble in troubles
and get up again;
we walk on roads of fire and
may get burnt....... . . .
Now, there is a heart-warming tragedy!...Oxymoron?...yes!...Unsophisticated, sappy, schmaltzy? Yes, yes and yes!...There are no excuses to be made...it's called the Melkamu-Syndrome, a Farasite that won't go away...a life-time affliction! Try dubbing in Melkamu's "yenQoQ'lish nuro " over the Duniaaa-scene and see how perfectly it fits...as if it were written for it:
ayhiiiiiiiiii yenQoQ'lish nurooo,
tariiiiiiiiiku rejim neeeew, destaaaaawna rorooo!
There were no Farallels to be drawn here between you and the Iyodinnoti-kid. A notable difference was that, the more miserable your " Les Miserables," the more crude and inartistic your "Mother India" in its unabashed attempt at pulling at your heart-strings, the more you enjoyed it;. . . .and you enjoyed it without slobbering in public. (credit: Dick Nixon). Your Mother India was devoid of the opulence that interfered with your emotion in Ryan's Love Story!...It was pure unadulterated misery: monsoon, dirt-floors, starvation, dying child, illiteracy, deprivation, oppression, and gut-wrenching songs to go with it all!...Faradoxically enough, you went back for more and more of that overdone misery and sang along with Radha... and you joined in on the enthusiastic applause that erupted when she beat Sukhilala-the-landlord to a pulp. Yes, you could do that, but only in the company of your fellow-Fara in Fara-Faradise...one of the three flea-buckets at Piazza: Cinema Adowa, Cinema Ethiopia, Cinema Ampir...yezarin ayargew'na ...mts!...mts!
As for you-know-who, he shall continue to reside in the hearts and minds of Faras everywhere. Closet-Faras in these here parts who, deplorably enough, have fallen by the wayside having picked up strange new habits like flossing-and-everything, are encouraged to come home. To Faraphrase the old adage, "You can take the Fara out of Fara-dom, but ......!"
You know it's there...that old Melkamu-tape...perhaps now a bit worse for wear, but safely stashed away, appropriately enough, among those yellowing love-letters that only a Fara would receive and keep. And we ain't talkin' no constipated Iyodinnoti stuff like:
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth...!"
(No, no, no, brother Fara , not bread-zzz. bread-thhh,. . . .now put the tip of your tongue...)
Elizabeth What's-her-name may have made a name for herself with her m'las ashegari breadth and thee(s), but she certainly could never hold a candle to Aberash:
". . . kebah'r yeTeleQew, kekokeb yedemeQew tizitah zewet'r siyaberaliN;. . .issate-gemora, tewleblabi fiQrih nega Teba sisseliQeN;...nafQot'h lelitun inde negarit sigosh'meN; . . . inde Abay fwafwatE yemingodegodew inbayE w'Qianos hono wede ante biameTaN, . . .nebera, nebera-a-a-a!! . . . tadya m'n yarega-a-a-a-l, yehilm injera seQeQenE!! . . ayhayhayyyyyyy honwal zendro, s'anjab'b Qumenah baynE.... . .! "
(Ayy Aberash!. .Ayy Aberash!. . The Qumena is 5'-5";. . .how much "manjabeb" could it possibly do?)
So, go ahead! Dig up that tape; . . .dust it off and, and . . . .! You'll be surprised how cathartic it can be to let him take you to the melkam days in the Faraway place of your youth. You don't believe? Just listen:
yassalefnew g'zi, T'rum new, meTfom new-uuuu,
g'n leteret yah'l, s'ntun assalefnew!
inde T'ru tarik, inde T'ru zina-ahahah,
l'naweraw beQan, ya hulu aleffena-ahah!
yelijinet worat, yabebaw gizeachin-nnnn,
ya leza Chaweta, yewahinetachin-nnn,
golmassanet alfo *______* meTanna-ahahah,
linaweraw beQan, ya hulu aleffena-ahah!
(*_______* Mr. Melkamu's unnecessary reference to old age recently deleted.)