The Girl Whisperer
as published by
The Sunday Guardian of March 30
I was sending e-mail back and forth to Jahman Anikulapo, the editor of the Guardian on Sunday, in pursuit of information about various matters, when I asked him about a certain fellow who had contacted me on some pressing issue. Jahman gave a striking description of the person in one sentence. He said, "He says he wants to marry Chimamanda".
Now, for many people, including the person described, that aspiration is highly delusional. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of Nigeria's most celebrated writers, known world-wide after only a couple of major books, but once she catches your attention, you stay caught. The reasons are simple, she appears very, very intelligent, she is hugely successful and she also has striking good looks. What more could any man want, you might ask? One of the men I respect most in the world of literature, (he who lives in the Arts Villa) and whom I know would hack any suspect work of art to ribbons and then scatter the remains to the winds, walks gently around Chimamanda. She can do no wrong where he is concerned. In all fairness, she is yet to put a foot wrong (or her typing fingers, in this case) since she started writing. "Everybody loves chimamanda" should be the name of a new series on television.
Now what is the Chimamanda factor, and why does it make grown men become blushing kids whenever she breezes into a room? She's a very attractive woman but there are many attractive women in this country, and for the frequent fliers, outside our shores as well. She's also hugely successful, but walk into any Nigerian bank or major oil company now and ask any attractive female how much she earns yearly and you'll come to an instant understanding that success has become a Nigerian. The mix for the young chimamanda has to be the simplicity around her. All genius borders on complexity but for this young woman, the face she chooses to present to the world is a very gentle, smiling one. It's unlined by the meanness that follows the loan-sharks masquerading as bankers in Nigeria or the predatory etchings on the brow of the average successful person.
The Whisperer has met with Chimamanda several times; once, about 3 years ago, at an Association of Nigerian Authors gathering, where even the Whisperer made no significant impact on her despite his best posturings because three-fourths of the place was doing the same; again, last year in the studios of the television show host, Funmi Iyanda, where a more meaningful conversation about dramatic literature took place; and shortly after, at the drama-fest titled 'A Season Of Soyinka' which the Whisperer produced. One thing struck me time after time about her - she really is a very sweet girl and the attention generated by her works has not turned her into a virago.
So why does the whole world want Chimamanda, the young woman who, along with a few others from this country, has defied logic and made a major success of herself in a world of literature controlled by a western world that usually only fetes J.K.Rowling and her ilk?
It must be that everyman instinctively feels the need to protect her, to keep her sweetness untainted by the vagaries of life. It must mean that even with all her success, Chimamanda appears to be a little girl lost and the sense of chivalry in the average man will make him lay down his life in the defence of her virtue.
For the lack of a better phrase, there is a factor called the 'Chimamanda factor' which draws men. The Whisperer has in times past referred to women who possess this as "Thoroughbreds" or "The Girl Next Door" types. It's a sure-fire way of generating attention whether you want it or not, if you are of either of these two categories. Here's to many more women like these who add gentility to life and keep the essence of their womanhood.
Sometime, somewhere, and with great indignation, someone will read this and say, "You don't even know chimamanda. She's absolutely the opposite of what you wrote". I do not care what she is to others, but for the Whisperer who watches all and appreciates true beauty, and for all the men who are in hot pursuit of her in their minds and in real life, (no matter how deluded they are about their chances), I urge, dream on. Our dreams can be a source of joy in a bleak world. And to Chimamanda, and all women like her, I say, remain true to yourselves. It's a better world because you're in it