Ikin-yal’s Backyard Revelation – Short Story
Story and picture by Bomai Witne
Why should these people brave the hot sun, to sit and listen to one person? Who is this guy? My thoughts ran wild as I watched from the distance. It was in Goroka town, Papua New Guinea on the weekend.
The speaker had a white stained shirt with long sleeves. The shirt was probably stained with the same betelnut that filled his mouth as he spoke. He puffed one cigarette after another and moved his mobile phone quickly between his mouth and ears. He rambled loudly to someone on the phone. We could only hear his voice.
Each time, he pretended to listen and responded loudly. He wanted everyone around him to hear his conversation. The man was surrounded by a small crowd. Those around him, almost a hundred, controlled their movements and conversations as to not disturb him.
The look on their faces suggested the people in the crowd had neither eaten a proper meal nor slept in the last few days. The sun’s heat was strong enough to hang thick in the air, and melt dirt on these people. The man in the white shirt kept talking for almost two hours. I observed from where I waited. The crowd knew how to wait too. They seemed trained. They chewed betel nut and smoked their rolled tobacco. The sun’s heat, the sweat and the hunger were not important. The members of this audience would have been good candidates for military or Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. They were showing signs of great loyalty to the man on the phone.
The man demanded the attention of the people after two hours. He told them that he had been talking to his boss in Lae, and added that his assignment to Goroka recently to take a junior public service position was a clever and calculated action by his boss. He said his boss had given him the position so he could stay close to his people and campaign for the 2017 national election. The crowd became alive and cheered. They yelled and laughed. They looked at each other and looked at the hopeful candidate, nodding in agreement. They savored this small ‘insight’ with anticipation. Obviously, they nodded to each other to say all their dedication is paying off.
The man in the white shirt started again on the mobile phone. He stopped between his talk to chew betelnut and puff cigarettes. He pretended to get angry at callers on his phone. He told the crowd, the callers were deliberately disturbing him from talking to his people.
He assured the crowd that he would work at his new post in Goroka for six months and resign to contest the election. The people cheered again. He asked for the team leader of the group to come forth and handed him a K100 cash.
“Go and get some scones and cordial for your people”, the candidate ordered.
“Don’t forget betel nut and brus”, someone in the crowd shouted as the team leader was on his way out.
The candidate called another person from the crowd and handed him a bundle of cash and mentioned that it was for transport and beers for the men who braved the hot sun. The people rose in unison and hugged the candidate. The womenfolk also went up to hug the candidate for the men’s beer money.
As they waited for ‘lunch’ to arrive, the candidate went into a building close to the meeting yard and came out with another man. This second character was dirtier and fatter than himself. The second man appeared drunk but he was forced him to talk to the crowd. The fat guy introduced himself and gave another K100 to the people and referred to his friend in the white shirt as the ‘right man’ for the job. The people cheered and spoke to each other in their own language.
After a few minutes, a bushy moustache middle aged man with a cowboy hat emerged. He wore a dirty pair of jeans that was rolled to his knees. He introduced himself as the ‘young leader’ of his people and spoke.
“My people are always loyal to whoever they support in election. This is the first time Ikin-yal, a prominent public serviceman invited us to talk to his people, and we are thankful and will always be loyal to them.”
It was only then did I realized that the man in the white shirt was called Ikin-yal, and he was inviting groups of people from his electorate to the backyard of his office to reveal his intention to contest for his electorate in the 2017 Papua New Guinea national election.