IN THE olden days it was not possible to marry a woman from another part of the highlands region let alone to find a wife from the coast.
Our ancestors always thought people living beyond the mountain ranges were cannibals or masalais (spirits) and never ventured far. They did not have any clue that there was a big ocean and people were living along its coasts.
But all this is changing rapidly in the modern era. It is now possible for young people to marry people from distant places who they met at school, at work or in the church.
My son Ismael met Annie at the International Training Institute (ITI). Annie has a mixed parentage of Gulf, Western and Central provinces. Annie’s grandmother was from Daru and she married a man from Rigo. They raised nine children and Annie’s mother was their seventh child.
Unfortunately Annie’s mother’s parents got divorced and she returned to Daru and remarried. But she took three of her children with her – one of whom was Annie’s mother. She grew up in Daru, met Jimmy Aku and married him. He is from Orokolo in the Gulf Province. He works as the revenue manager with the Fly River Provincial Government.
They have four children and my daughter-in law, Annie, is the second born. Unfortunately, Annie’s mother died from a long illness and Jimmy Aku remarried and had three more children bringing the total number of children in the family to seven – five brothers and two sisters.
Annie grew up in Daru, went to school there and left for Port Moresby to attend the International Training Institute. That’s where she met Ismael, my son.
Both of them were far away from parents and relatives and on their own for the first time. They were lonely and needed each other for support and companionship. Soon Annie was pregnant and found it difficult to continue her studies. So she went back to Daru.
When her parents found out that she was made pregnant by an Engan man, they were furious. They forced her to live with a fisherman. But the man left her when he found that Annie was pregnant. Annie was forced to return to her parent’s house.
But her parents still had grudges against her for finding a Highlands man especially an Engan because Jimmy’s nephew, Archie, had been murdered at Sabama in Port Moresby during an ethnic clash in 1979between people from Enga and Kerema.
Jimmy thought he would never associate with Engans, let alone his own daughter getting pregnant from a man from that province.
When the baby was four months old, Annie’s parents did not want to look after them. They decided to send her to find the child’s father in Port Moresby. But before they left they gave the child a name, saying “We name this baby boy Archie in remembrance of our own Archie who was killed in Port Moresby by some Engans in 1979. You take him to his father but if he rejects you then come back here and he will take Archie’s place in the village.”
Annie rang Ismael from Daru to tell him of her predicament. She told him she was nursing a baby boy and that Ismael was the father. Ismael did not believe her. So Annie was compelled to go to Port Moresby in a mission to find the child’s father.
As soon as Annie arrived at Sabama in Port Moresby, she asked some of the girls from Sabama to go with her to the International Training Institute to see Ismael. Annie is a shy girl and needed the company of her friends.
She left the baby with the girls at the gate and went inside the school premises to search for Ismael. When Annie told him about the baby, he still did not believe her. But at the school gate Ismael was left speechless when the girls showed him the baby.
He took the baby boy and hugged him. Ismael was sorry for them when he realised how far they had travelled from Daru to come to the city. He immediately took them to our relatives house at Waigani Police Barracks. Shirley Yakinam rang to inform me that Ismael had just brought in a young mother with a baby boy. It was news to us because Ismael never told us about his involvement with a girl.
Shirley is my cousin sister and she is married to David Yagen, a police officer from Lengi village in Wabag, Enga Province.
I asked Shirley to tell Ismael to take the baby to the hospital for a DNA test because the child might not be Ismael’s. But Shirley said that would be a waste of time because the small boy looked exactly like Ismael and other family members. Ismael’s uncle and aunt also confirmed that the small baby had the undeniable features of the Kundal family.
They convinced me to accept the baby as Ismael’s so I told my son to bring the girl and the baby to Wabag so I could arrange bride price payment. Ismael had to marry this girl who already had his baby. The infant was a boy and I was happy to welcome them to my house.
To my surprise Ismael came home first. He wanted to get prior approval to marry a second wife from the highlands. He wanted to do that before Annie came to Wabag with the baby boy. We rebuked him.
We told him of our Christian faith, that we were leading a Christian church community and that it was against church rules and teachings to have multiple wives.
So we did not support his idea and wanted him to marry the child’s mother in church like we had done. But he refused. The argument went on for a month because we could not come to a compromise.
Then Shirley’s husband, Daniel Yangen the police officer, brought the now five month old baby boy to Wabag without Annie. Daniel left the baby in my house with its clothes in a plastic bag and gone to his village at Lenki. He had done this to show me the baby which looked like Ismael and the rest of the Kundal family.
When I came home from work, I was deeply sorry to see the small infant alone. I could tell the baby was Ismael’s and decided Annie should come to Wabag immediately and look after him
When I was contemplating my next course of action, the telephone rang and I picked it up. On the other end, a soft voice said, “How is my baby?” I could sense she was crying. My heart broke. This affected me greatly because taking a five months old baby away from its young mother was inhuman. I am a veteran health worker and I knew that treating the mother and the infant in this manner was criminal. My heart cried out for the baby and its mother.
I was particularly upset with my son because, before he went to attend school at ITI, we asked him if he had a girlfriend so we could give approval. But he had told us in Tok Pisin, “Maski toktok long meri, mi laik traut ya” (Don’t talk about girls, I might vomit.)
I thought this was a good trait because we did not want him to think about girls but concentrate on his studies. So how come a baby was in our house when the mother was in Port Moresby. No matter if the baby’s mother was tall or short, healthy or had deformities, pretty or ugly, she was his choice and the mother had to come to Wabag.
So without further ado, I sent Annie some money through Salim Money Kuik at Boroko Post Office to purchase her plane ticket to fly to Wabag.
We had never seen her before and Ismael was not cooperating to meet her on arrival, so we went our separate ways to Wapenamanda Airport. The Air Niugini aircraft landed and all the passengers filed out. There was no sign of Ismael and Rose and I stood at the gate with the baby in our arms so the mother could recognise it.
One by one the passengers came through the gate with their luggage. None of the young women who came through recognised the baby. Soon there was nobody left inside the terminal building. We wondered what had happened to Annie.
Then someone came up to us and said there was a woman in a vehicle with Ismael parked nearby. It was Annie. She had seen Ismael as she disembarked from the plane and had gone straight up to him without seeing Archie in our arms at the gate.
We went to the car and greeted Annie warmly, drove home and threw a big party to welcome her to the Kundal family.
But as the days went by, Annie did not talk much. She was reserved and afraid of our loud voices and rough behaviour. She saw everything we did as aggressive. Most of the time, she took Archie in her hands and went into the room and cried.
We tried to explain to her that this was our way of life and whatever we discussed had nothing to do with her but she kept on crying. She wanted to go back to Port Moresby with Archie.
But, as time went by, Annie coped. In the future I want to tell you how I paid bride price to Annie’s people the Engan way.