She covered me with a clean pink shawl, one of the many coverings required of her by tradition. I ranked higher than my saviour by societal standards, she was just a fura seller while I had two degrees to my name and class to go with them. I was also clothed in far higher taste than she was, the high heeled shoes I hid in my bag for preservation had designer labels, the thin chain about my neck was pure gold, I wore designer perfume too, but all that could not protect me from the rain and the cold.
It was a wet Sunday, the downpour started after I boarded the bus to my house, I knew I could not come down at my stop because I would be drenched in the rain so I elected to come down at the bus stop before mine which had a pedestrian bridge which would at least serve as makeshift shelter for me and many others seeking shelter from the downpour. The short run from the bus to the bridge was enough to drench me, I was dripping wet by the time I got under the bridge. The bridge only provided partial shelter, the rain powered by heavy wind still slapped our faces and blurred our vision while we stood. The cold was biting, the wetness of my clothes and body reinforced the cold. I was miserable.
She stood next to me in that very uncomfortable place chatting with her fellow fura* sellers also seeking shelter from the rain. She was from the north of Nigeria, fully covered with colourful veils, I was Igbo from the east of Nigeria, wearing a sleeveless dress which provided absolutely no shield from either the cold or the rain. I hugged myself for warmth as my teeth began to chatter and I saw mothers bow themselves to cover their children, men standing in groups huddling together for warmth, then the women next to me conversing among themselves in their local language totally covered with veils and secure from the cold if not from the wetness.
She covered me then. She didn’t offer the pink veil, she spoke little English and I had no knowledge of her own local language so she acted out the words she couldn’t say. She unwrapped herself and covered me with one of her colourful veils. Although she couldn’t understand my effusive thanks and I did not understand what she said in response to my fervent gratitude, I understood the warmth she shared with me, the care the affection for a fellow human being and the wonderful heart that led her to share her clothes with a complete stranger. Her veil warmed my heart as well as my body and in those few minutes of sharing and exchanging we spoke a common language, the language of shared humanity.
Fura de nono is a very popular drink in northern Nigeria. It is also widely popular in parts of the west, particularly Lagos (where the writer lives), sold by Fulani women. “nono” is an Hausa word for cow’s milk – Editor