Mimi Mwiya: Doing Things By Candlelight
It recently dawned me that when I think of doing things by candlelight, two settings come to mind: romantic candlelit dinners, and a village somewhere where candles are the only source of light. But coming from villages that of late are annoyingly being equipped with generators and gas stoves, and even before then we had long adopted the use of kerosene lamps, candles were but a maybe.
The elders of my family are so intent on living comfortably in their old age, they don’t realize that while we totally hated it a bit earlier on, we now look forward to going to the villages, especially to get away from the luxuries of our city lives. We look forward to not being reachable for a while, we look forward to cooking over open fires and to dark nights watching the stars, it’s exciting.
Anyhow, I had two candlelit dinners last week, by myself. That is neither as romantic nor as sad as it sounds, although I couldn’t help thinking it romantic.
I found myself kind of developing this rather odd habit of feeling my life sort of comes to a standstill when there is no light, a rather dangerous habit, considering the light situation in Lagos especially. This standstill feeling was the worst under three instances, when my phone’s battery died and I was no longer able to goof around on the internet and WhatsApp, when the laptop’s battery was dead and I couldn’t watch stuff while charging my phone.
Also, this laptop isn’t mine, mine gave up on me since. This laptop is one my far too gracious host-cum-housemate lets me use far too liberally. I will not go into my ‘Nigerians are such nice people’ routine, I won’t. The third instance I’d feel my life was at an absolute standstill, was when it got too dark for me to read by daylight.
I’ve thought about getting a flashlight, and maybe a lamp. The lamp requires some saving because I kinda want a fancy one, but the flashlight hasn’t been bought only because somehow when I leave the house, ‘buy a flashlight’ isn’t quite at the top of my to-do list. So when the gadgets were down and there was no light, the mission would be to keep busy until NEPA brought light again. This routine included reading until it got too dark for me to, or until I got tired, journaling a little, again, until it got too dark for me to, or until I got stuck, which would happen far too easily, sleeping, either until the light came, or on some days well until the next day.
And I’d cook, because a girl must eat, but mostly to help time move along. I’ve gone from someone who believed cooking for one is no fun, to one who will now cook for one because it helps time pass. I’ve even mastered cooking in the dark. NEPA will humble you.
The housemate is hardly ever home early enough for us to have dinner together, on one of the rare nights he was, he brought out a candle… and we made dinner by candlelight. Ah ah! I don’t know why it had never ever crossed my mind before that candles were an option. Candles!
So the next time I needed to go through my make time move along routine, which wasn’t much more than a day or two later, I made dinner by candlelight. Because everything is a story for me, I thought of how I’d later be telling my friends that I made dinner by candlelight and they’d probably find it laughable that I was in what I consider Nigeria’s true capital, and I had no light. Except, I didn’t find it laughable at all, I thought, ‘Hmm, this is nice.’ They also probably would have thought it laughable that my “dinner” was noodles and eggs, but they don’t know just how serious a meal noodles are in Nigeria o, I feel like I might go back to Nam and open a noodles restaurant. My only competition would be the Chinese, but I don’t think even they know how to make a serious meal of instant noodles, they only know to work with their very serious noodles.
Anyhow, I carried my meal to the living room, sat down to eat, candle still lit (before I would have just eaten in the dark) and I thought to myself, ‘Ah ah, look at this romantic scene. Look at me having a romantic dinner by myself.’
I was amused at myself for not having thought of this candlelight life sooner, and also amused that I found it romantic. And I was so excited that the next day I went out for supplies and the second candlelit dinner was Jollof rice and chicken… cooked and eaten by candlelight, it was quite the treat, I even brought out a fork and knife for it. My friend Minnie likes to say, “Romanticize the freaken shit out of this life!” And it’s been stuck in my head as I’ve been going about my candlelight living. I would like to believe I’m a recovering romantic, so I’m a bit on the fence on that statement, but that’s a story for another day.
After my two dinners, it struck me that I didn’t actually have to limit myself to just cooking and eating by candlelight, I could read and write by candlelight too! I swear my life hasn’t been the same! I want to say these days I almost find myself looking forward to the power cuts, but let’s not go crazy. I just no longer feel like life has come to a standstill because there’s no light. And because the gadgets can be quite the distraction, the times I’m forced to be off them, is a good way for me to do nothing but read and write, and sometimes forced into it is the only way to get me to write.
Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a candle.
Featured Image: Davia Rivka