Monday, 3 October 2011

The Parable of The Bitter Leaf and Walnut

In Nigeria, there is a lot of emphasis on analogy. This is often used to drive home a point without having to speak too much. This quickly cut to the chase of whatever the issue being discussed at this point. Sometimes, it provides solution to knotty issue; sometime it may provide succour to a depressed situation. Unfortunately, in the modern Nigeria, this style of speech is gradually fading away. The similarity of the Bitter leaf and the Walnut is just to the point of its sweetness. While, the bitter leaf is only sweet after it has been eating, the walnut is sweet even while it is being eaten. However, when water is drunk after eating the bitter leaf, it brings forth its sweetness but the walnut becomes extremely bitter if water is drunk immediately after eating it.  There is a saying attached to the peculiarity of the bitter leaf which is; aadun lo gbeyin ewuro-there is sweetness after eating bitter leaf (direct translation). This is often said to someone who is going through a tough time just to encourage and give hope. But I have never heard any saying about the bitterness of the walnut after it has being eating.

I have always wondered why walnut tastes bitter when one drinks water after eating it. I enjoy eating the walnut and consciously remember not to drink water immediately after eating it. As for bitter leaf, I avoided it like plague simply because of the bitterness. I could not understand why anybody would subject themselves to eating the bitter leaf even though it is a delicacy in the eastern part of Nigeria. I did not want a part of it. The name was enough to put the fear of God in me. I watched my mother eating it raw and I felt there must be something wrong somewhere with her. Then, my friend told me of the health benefit of eating the bitter leaf. The first day I ate it, I felt like throwing up, then I drank water and it tasted so sweet.   

My analogy of Bitter Leaf and the Walnut came up from the write-up I read on Facebook. A friend compared University of Marriage to that of the Bitter Leaf soup. Though the writer used the medium for celebrating his wife but I wondered if truly Bitter leaf can be likened to marriage. I think it depends on each person’s view about marriage. How many truly likened marriages to Bitter leaf before contracting it? A brother compared marriage to a night market where you go shopping without knowing what you are buying because it is dark.  I tend to see marriage like the walnut you eat and consciously remember not to drink water so that it does not get bitter.

For most people, the courtship stage of marriage is often the sweetest. As couples, we treat each other with upmost respect and we are at our best behaviour. At that point, we have special songs, special spots and even private jokes. We talk for a long time without being conscious of time. We are each others best friends. We dress to suit our partner. We are like the peacock and just want to show off our beautiful feathers. We are not ashamed of our partner neither are we ashamed to express our love. We do those little things that bring a secret smile to our face at our solitary moments. When we are together, we appreciate the companionship, friendship and the period of occasional silence without feeling inadequate. Then we marry and things change. As much as I appreciate the responsibilities that come with marriage but all of a sudden we forget. We forget that to retain the sweetness of the walnut, we should not drink water but we do. We drink water and everything changes. We are no longer partners in building the marriage though appreciating our individual roles. We become resentful of each other. What brought us together now separates us. At the initial stage, we try to do it right but we soon give up because it is probably easier to give up. Wait a minute! We don’t have to impress any longer after all we have conquered. Yet, we should show off our spoil of war shouldn’t we?  We go about with a permanent scowl on our faces. We no longer have any reason to smile to that secret jokes. We live together probably share a bed but emotionally and spiritually, we are apart. We have taken to praying fervently for a way out. Yet there is no easy way out and that’s where the analogy of the bitter leaf may come in.

In experiencing the bitter leaf in our marriage, we may have to drink water to bring back the sweetness. We may have to go back to what we used to do in those days when our hearts somersault at the voice of our loved ones. When our heart skip a beat when we hear the approaching footsteps of the one we love. Oh! when we break out in sweats and jitters not in fear but in anticipation of what may take place later in the night. When we do not take things for granted but show off our beloved as the peacock shows off its feathers.  At that point we would experience the joy of eating the bitter leaf


  1. Your analogy is interesting and thought provoking, Divaose.

  2. This is a beautiful writeup. Your analogy of bitter leaf adage in marriage was intelligently done. Interesting!!!!

  3. Waoh , l didn't know you could right so well. This is simply beautiful. You are very right

  4. This is my first time of visiting your blog and this is such an intelligent piece of writing.
    As my feedback however, I'd advise that u have ur pieces well proofread as occasional typos/errors can distract ur readers.
    Once again, great job!

  5. Well written and this analogy is so apt.

  6. Well thought out. But you may want to take a few moments to edit properly. Never-the-less, I enjoyed reading your stuff - nice!

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