Tony is a 30-year old man. Udara is a beautiful young lady from Calabar in Cross River State, Nigeria. Their journey of love has been bitter-sweet, filled with the usual highs of joy and lows of pain. So three years down the line, their love is stronger, deeper and renewed each day.
Tony bends on his left knee and says to Udara: Will YOU marry me?
A smile erupts on her face, as tears flow out of her brown eyes. He holds her right hand while she watches in utter amazement as he fixes the diamond ring onto her finger. She motions to him to rise, wipes her tears and says:
I am very sorry Tony. I really do love you, but something this is wrong. I’m afraid I cannot say yes your proposal.
She pulls the ring out of her right hand finger and hands it back to Tony, who is now totally confused and distraught. What is wrong, he stutters as tears build up. Please tell me what is wrong?
She then pulls herself closer to him and whispers in his ear: My Love, you fixed the ring on the wrong hand, you have just one last chance to save the day!
He immediately falls on both knees, picks her left hand and pleads, will you marry me ? She laughs out loud, dances a little bit and finally screams out: YES!!!!
He then collapses on the green grass laughing uncontrollably.
The August Visit
Good afternoon, is anybody home?
Who could that be, she thought to herself. That voice sounds so much like my daughter. She pulls herself up, walks up to the door, opens it and screamed for joy. MY DAUGHTER!!!!!
Udara falls on her knees to greet her mother. I bought some things for you, Mama. Her mother begins to dance and sing the praises of her child, blessing her in their local Efik dialect.
Mama, I’d be getting married very soon. Her mother jumps excitedly and again begins to sing and dance, Are you serious? You mean you’re getting married, so I will soon have my own grand children! Udara watches in amazement and laughs. So when is the ceremony taking place? her mother asks.
We haven’t chosen a date yet. We wanted to inform our families first, so that we can have all the necessary things in place before picking a befitting date.
Very good my child, her mother replies, because according to our tradition, there are ceremonies and preparations that need to be done especially going into the fattening room.
The Fattening Room
Really, what is that? She questions.
Her mother smiles and responds:
The fattening room is an ancient tradition where adolescent brides called mbobo, are fattened up in preparation for marriage. They undergo domestic training which means cooking, housekeeping, childcare, how to please her husband-to-be and make his family happy, financial management, learn some traditional songs, oral traditions and learn traditional Efik art and crafts. In modern times, this process isn’t compulsory but our belief system is that fattened wives signify prosperity, fertility and beauty.
The process of can be for long periods ranging from three, six months or even an entire year. During that time, the bride is secluded and fed large quantities of rich fatty food daily and allowed lots of sleep so she can gain weight, Traditional delicacies are prepared daily for her such as Ekpan Koko, Ekpang, Fufu, Edika Ikong, Afang generously filled with snail, bush meat and fish, as well as meals consisting of yam, rice, beans, cassava, plantain, porridge, wheat and assorted pepper soups amongst other things. They are also encouraged to drink three pints of water three times a day, after which they sleep, wake up and eat even more before going back to sleep. After all the rites have been preformed, the bride, who may have been just about 60 kg will gain twice as much.
Wow! That’s interesting, Udara says, tell me more mama.
Well my dear, as I mentioned earlier, this is an ancient tradition but if you wish to proceed you will be secluded and can only be visited by the elders. You will have modern luxuries and pampered to the fullest with massages and full spa and body treatment. At the end of it all, you will emerge as a certified woman, dressed in traditional attire with beads and woven hair in a ceremony befitting an Efik bride!
Happily Ever After
Mama was right the fattening room really did a wonderful job on you my dear. How I wish there was a fattening room for men also.
They both laugh out loud. It has been a very tiring but exciting day for Tony and Udara as they both lay together on the couch.
You looked so beautiful today my gorgeously fattened Efik wife!