For various reasons, men routinely inspected their homesteads in the depth of night: a cow that was loosely tethered could start roaming about and out of the homestead. Also, he might just be lucky to catch a glimpse of the secret goings-on in the homestead; like some escapades of his teenage sons, and, who knows, even those of his wives. Moreover, he could have unknowingly married a “night runner,” or a practitioner of some strange cult religion. In the depth of the dark nights, such wives would wake up to their true psychic selves. Operating under cover of darkness provided the man with an opportunity to get these kinds of unique information.
What about the secret lovers, the ong’ora, who frisked the landscape late at night? One risk in a polygamous home is that some forgotten women can entertain some ‘boyfriends’ when the husbands’ eyes and ears were trained elsewhere. But spying on one’s wife for the purpose of discovering her secret lovers was an activity our society frowned on. Spying on each other often sowed the seeds of mistrust between husbands and wives. It is human to be weak and stray in love.
The ong’ora had his space in any woman’s heart, and my people recognized this. For this reason, men were advised to make loud and recognizable noises as they approached their homes at night; that way, any strangers in the homestead would have adequate time to make hurried escapes through some cracks in their fencing around homes.
A man was not supposed to invest a lot of energy in trying to find out his wife’s secret lovers, whose existence, or lack of, was assumed. This was for the good and stability of the clan.
The product of this web of underground love relationships was that there were a few homes in which the children were bat-eared, squint-eyed or skewed-legged, and looked more like the children of another clan member, or those of distant cousins.
The reasons for such ‘coincidences’ were acknowledged in whispers, but never publicly discussed for the posterity and stability of the clan. People lived and fought for the clan’s survival, were born in and raised by the clan in the best of its traditions. Naturally, therefore, few eyebrows were raised if a few men cast their stray millet far and wide.
Moreover, the clan, in its wisdom, even covered for impotent male members. Such men married and ‘raised’ children with their wives. The clan and family made sure that eunuchs were married. It was acknowledged that his brothers and close cousins would rule his home in the night.
For reasons such as these, a jealous man was thoroughly advised by the wizened elders on some basic truths of married life: ‘Capturing a wife in love is one traumatic experience; it is one thing a man may not be strong enough to face; therefore, snooping around one’s wife is sin!’
The polygamous culture is by no means promiscuous. Far from it: My people rated a promiscuous man or woman (ja chode) very low on the moral scale. But once polygamy was part of a culture, it had to be accepted that, some of the time, the men were not in charge as lords over their wives in their homesteads.
‘A woman is such a big thing for one to claim the sole ownership of,’ and so our wise rightly observed. So a man had to live within the bounds of these words of wisdom. These words could have been as literal as they were figurative.
For example, no man could claim to be the sole owner of the thoughts and feelings of his wife. A woman in a village full of other men did have another man for whom she had a soft spot; with whom she would laugh her heart out on their way from the market; of whose help she readily called for over such mundane affairs as fixing a hoe or killing some goat; and with whom verbal intercourse was as natural and innocent as with her husband; and yet she still remained truly faithful to her husband.
A man, who snooped around such a wife, would have died, at heart, ten times over an affair that never existed. Jim understood all that. But, sometimes, affairs do occur in every couple’s life.
Jim mulled over these truths, as he wondered about his encounter with the wild cat, and tried to mine some psychic connection to it. What kind of luck did this event portend? Or was it one of those chance events, with the cat and him being in the same space at the wrong time? He did not think so, and neither did he want to believe it.
For the first time in Jim’s marriage to the four very beautiful women, he had become uncharacteristically suspicious of his first wife. ‘Squirrels do not just attack humans for no reason, one has to provoke them;’ so he tried to rationalize, but couldn’t.
Source: SUNSET ON POLYGAMY by Joseph R. Alila,