The Chronicle Gambia

Alieu Badara and the “Bandi” Inspiration


It all started when he got into action movies. After he received that bag full of DVDs from his uncle on one of his visits from abroad. The bag had Fist of Honor, Cobra, Rambo: First Blood part I, part II and part IlI, Kill Bill, Spartacus, Kungfu Hustle, Conan The Barbarian, Path Finder and several others which, now that I think of it, was a bad idea to let him watch. The bag also had Blinky Bill, which Badara watched at least twice a week but insisted he didn’t like, because the movie was about a Koala! Can’t mess up his street cred by liking a movie about talking wood animals, what?!

It was during this time that Badara took to flying out of the trees to land on poor unsuspecting people (and animals), karate chopping his siblings in response to everything they said and slithering around the house in secret mission mode, his back against the walls, hesitating before he made turns and rolling cross hallways.

It was during this time that he jumped in front of a slow moving taxi in the neighborhood, yelling “holt intuda to weyaa” (halt intruder, to where?). The taxi driver got out of the car, flexed his fingers and twisted the life out of Badara’s ears, got back into the car and drove off.

It was during this time also, that he got whooped, because he genuinely believed he could take on Mansour, a boy 2 years older and too sinewy for his age, with a scar across his chin. Right there at the “borpi konj”, where the 4 roads intersect, he was made to swallow mud (mootal).

He had it all thought out, he spent all of two days thinking about it. Mansour was the kid most feared by Badara’s gang and the other boys their age. It isn’t that he was mean, he just looked mean, like he would beat you to a pulp, ball you up and bounce you about in a New York minute. Frankly, Mansour was never seen beating up anybody. Most of the time you’d find him sitting alone twiddling something between his fingers.

Badara, in his quest for glory and confident from all the moves he had gathered from the movies and had practiced on weaker beings, decided to take his chance with Mansour. Imagine the glory, how his reputation would spread like wildfire, how he would be feared and respected, how the girls would look at him with new eyes. Besides, for all he knew, Mansour couldn’t fight, no one had ever seen him fight, he just looked the part.

On that fateful day, Badara made his plan known to the boys. They egged him on. You can do it, they said. This is an easy one, they said. It will be a quick one, they said. Badara bobbed up and down, did a little shuffle he saw in Fist of Honor, spat on the sand next to his feet and walked over to where Mansour sat minding his business. “Move over, I want to sit”

“There’s nowhere to move to”

“You think I’m playing, if I stamp you here”

“You’re not mad”

Apparently Badara was mad, because Badara kicked at Mansours feet. Then Badara lost track of his own feet. “It was all a blur”, he could be heard explaining later that day, “I wasn’t ready yet and I think the fact that I didn’t eat lunch contributed to why he had an edge over me.”

“What edge? You got dragged in the mud”, came the howls of laughter and the stifled snorts from the more sympathetic companions.

5 hours later, Badara was still spitting brown, he had a faint palm mark on his face and the left edge of his lower lip was swollen. He had lost his slippers too and had borrowed an oversized pair. Mansour had simply gone back to sitting where Badara met him, like nothing ever happened.

The humiliating event didn’t dampen his spirits for long. But what happened next was fatal to his new fancy.

Badara’s school had an Open Day event, where the parents came to school and interacted with the students and teachers. One of the programs of the day involved the kids being asked what they wanted to be in the future. The students in Badara’s class were lined up and each one was asked. The answers came; “Me I want to be a doctor” “a pilot”, “an accountant”, “a police”, “a president”. They were met with applause from beaming parents. Then it was Badara’s turn. His father looked on proudly from amidst the group of parents, expectant. Their eyes met and Badara smiled warmly.

“Alieu Badara Mbowe, what do you want to be when you grow up and why?”

“Me when I grow up, I want to be a bandiii (criminal), the sefla (the lead criminal), so that I can get plenty money so that my mother will not complain about my father’s stinginess anymore”

That was when hell broke loose, that was the stroke that broke the camel’s back, that was when Papa Mbowe had it up to here! He began sweating profusely. He launched at Badara and grabbed him by the collar. That was the fastest walk home from school in Badara’s life. Dread dampened his uniform and sent tremors through his stomach. Things didn’t go well at all when they got home.

And of course, that was how Badara lost his bag of DVD’s and gave up on his aspirations of becoming a bandi. He stopped karate chopping his siblings, didn’t slither along the walls anymore, and began jumping out of trees for a different reason.

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