I REMEMBER the scene just like it was yesterday. She was walking with her husband on their way to some horse-racing competition, when they came across different women.
The husband stared at these women and commented on their bodies. He would comment on their gait, legs, dressing, mere presence — she was not happy with his behaviour.
With each comment on the woman passing by, she kept trying to bring her husband’s attention back to herself or his attention to what they were doing — going to the horse race. The husband would not have any of it.
He wanted to please his lustful eye. After many women passed and this back and forth going on, they saw a man stop his vehicle and pick up some young women who again had been a target of her husband’s lustful eye.
The wife snapped too at this moment; she too decided to indulge her lustful eye. She animatedly decided to venerate this man and express her obvious desire and admiration of him. She too spoke of his clothing, vehicle, and how he drove it and she expressed how he was a man above the rest! That did not end well with her husband who had all along been admiring women openly throughout their journey.
Even that horse race was forgotten as the husband turned to chase the woman at her heels in a bid to “stop her” from her admiration of this man.
The wife was Rhoda “Mai Sorobhi” Mtembe and the husband, Phillip Gadzikwa Mushangwe, affectionately known as “Paraffin”.
Humour as a catharsis
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Life sometimes throws curve balls onto our path and it can be very difficult to fathom the whole picture and we so desire a release.
This is when we can access our sanity through the support of amazing humans like Mai Sorobhi. Relationships can get twisted and dark in some instances as we seek to hide our true authentic selves from the scrutinising eyes of fellow humans whom we deem saner than we think we are.
However, by watching the relationship of Mai Sorobhi and Paraffin, we can see that they, in the 1990s, managed to make light of very difficult conversations about socio-economic issues that were trending in that era.
Mai Sorobhi, even in that short episode of heterosexual relationships, managed to unpack humorously, what it means to be human.
The description of the women by Paraffin notwithstanding the sexism he exuded was such a clear insight into the men’s psyche of things thought but often not verbalised.
Her calm demeanour and restraint of her husband as she tried to knock sense into his head showed a very interesting dynamic of how women are often made to be responsible for their men’s ways of being at the very expense of their own well-being.
However, the humorous way in which the whole narrative was presented makes it lighter for one to look into the aforementioned issues without having to cringe.
That scene does make for such a robust conversation around many different issues such as relationships, HIV and Aids, child abuse, sex and sexuality including how those in relations view admiring other people of the opposite sex.
I know for sure that laughter is the best medicine. As we watched this rib-cracking drama series of Paraffin and Mai Sorobhi, we were able to forget any of our life woes.
It made for such amazing stories and conversation starters. Collectively, we were able to make sure that we held each other, laughed off issues, faced our challenges and attempted to live near-normal lives in spite of what life threw at us. Zimbabweans have been accused of making light of very serious and life-threatening issues. It is our way of coping with the plethora of issues we face in our daily lives.
Being a Zimbabwean is of and in itself a full-time job and so we make light of our woes in an attempt to cope so we live near-normal lives.
We laugh off things as we cope and that is fine. It would also be grand to laugh and then act by challenging the status quo. What would even be great is to take action on what we want to see change.
However, let us not lose ourselves here, let us celebrate our collective ability to use humour as a catharsis. It is such a gift as we face this current Zimbabwe that leaves many of its citizens yearning for better!
Fare thee well Mai Sorobhi
I do not know what happens when we die, although I do have my own spiritual convictions. One thing for sure is I hope that wherever Mai Sorobhi is, she is cracking jokes and bringing humour to that space.
She taught me and many others, I am sure, the power of resilience in the face of a difficult partner. She taught us boundaries; she did well to show how to live life with pure joy and become a badass feminist as you challenge the status quo just like she did that reverse action with her husband and openly showed her admiration for that man.
I guess her message is that what works for the goose is good for the gander! She was indeed a beacon of healthy masculinity and clearly also such an amazing feminist in her own right thus inspiring many of us to bring equality and equity to the society of Zimbabwe.
My dear reader, in her memory, let us continue to use humour to make a difference in not only our lives but the lives of those around us.
Yes, things in Zimbabwe may be hectic for many but we did learn from Mai Sorobhi that indeed laughter is the best medicine.
May we hold hands and bring joy to not only our own lives but also those of others. We do have that power. Mai Sorobhi will be dearly missed and if what we hear of life after death is true, we look forward to seeing her somehow.
May her dear departed soul rest in eternal peace. We yearn for her jokes and can’t wait to be reunited with her. Until then, we live, laugh and love in a bid to show the world that we were here, becoming better, making our mark, and leaving our footprint as we make the world a better place!
- Chirenje writes in her personal capacity as a citizen of Zimbabwe. Twitter: @graceruvimbo; Facebook: Grace Chirenje; Instagram: @graceruvimbo