It must be so nice for the people in storybooks. They always seem to have someone to whom they can say, "Sit down, let me tell you the story of my life." If anyone were to ask me, I would tell the story of how I started living without television. Yes. TV was my life. Once upon a time, if anyone suggested that I go a single day without watching TV, I would have flung a coconut at that person's head, called her a Cachinnating Cockatoo, and told her to jump into the Niger--or the Volta--whichever was closer.
TV was so important to me that when my mummy and daddy decided to send me away to Unity Girls School, Ibadan, it was the only thing I asked about.
"Mummy, are we allowed to watch TV at boarding school?"
My mummy shuddered. Incorrect English gave her the creepy-crawlies.
"Will we be allowed, you should say. You cannot use the present tense when referring to a future or conditional situation."
I didn't even bother rolling my eyes. No time to waste. I, Amarachi Blossom Chikezie, had to know the truth.
"Mummy, will we be allowed to watch TV in boarding school?"
She didn't know the answer to that, so she rang up the school authorities and asked.
"They assured me you'll be allowed to watch TV," she said, when she hung up the phone.
I wouldn't have to miss any episodes of Famous Five or The Rich Also Cry. Or the evening news. Boring, boring, boring information about the government and all the boring things they were getting up to, I know. But sometimes parts of the news were interesting. Like when the police were shooting condemned armed robbers in public as a warning to other armed robbers who were yet to be caught and to children who might be considering armed robbery as a future career. The most fascinating part was when a doctor came round at the end of the execution to make sure all the armed robbers were dead. My daddy said that if any of the robbers were still alive, the police would have to start shooting all over again.
As it turned out, the school authorities had tricked my mummy. We were allowed to watch TV, all right, but only from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on weekends. Just one to two hours of TV per day! Bear in mind that the first thirty minutes were for watching the national nine o'clock news, so if we decided to call a spade a spade, we were really allowed to watch a lot less than it appeared.
I should have been thankful for small blessings, because the worst was yet to come. Believe it or not, they would eventually decide to take away even the little TV time we had.
There are many rumors flying around about why the school administrators suddenly decided to ban TV watching. According to the most widespread tale, it happened because of a bat.
The story goes that all the students were watching TV in the school hall one dark and stormy night when a bat flew in through an open window. It perched on the floor right beside the black TV that was permanently padlocked inside a metal cage, as if anyone could smuggle the chunky gadget halfway across the hall without collapsing from cardiac arrest. The bat then turned into a tall, slim, beautiful, light-skinned woman with a pointed nose, like a mademoiselle from the Fulani tribe.
"Excuse me, please," the bat-woman said. "Have you seen my brothers? They usually perch on that guava tree behind the window to watch TV, but I can't find them."
"Arrgh!" the students replied. They charged out of the hall, tripping over one another's legs and dislocating their ankles. Afterwards, the authorities decided that there would be no more TV since it attracted witches--and maybe vampires and werewolves and ogbanje spirits.
Another story says that the Form 4 seniors were always arguing with the Form 5 seniors over what channel to watch. The Form 4s eventually got tired of having their choices brushed aside simply because they were a class lower, and they decided to show everyone just how unhappy they were. One night, they formed a mob that went around smashing up classroom desks and windows. They set fire to dormitory mattresses and broke into the school kitchen, where they stole hard-boiled eggs and loaves of bread meant for the following morning's breakfast. The authorities decided that, if watching TV was going to cause rioting and disorder in our school, it was better for us to do without.
I can tell you right now that both stories--and all the rest--are false. Tales. Fabrications. Bell-Bottomed Balderdash. A figment of overactive imaginations. Now, sit down and let me tell you exactly what happened. It all began on a Sunday night two years ago after watching the movie Gremlins.
© 2013 by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani