Zoo Keeper

Zoo Keeper
Written by Momodou Ndow
We didn’t have any pets at ‪64 Dubson street‬, when I lived in Banjul. In fact, not very many compounds there had pets because of the city setting I guess. Banjul dafa hatt and the compounds were generally “family compounds”, with everyone and their Mama living there – aunts, uncles, yumpanges, you name it. However, a good number of Kerr Aku yee had dogs purr sacha kat yee, so you better not jump over their fences trying to steal something! You will receive a good bite from Rocky, he’s brown and big.
What we had at ‪64 Dubson street were  stray cats, lots of them at times too! They would just show up out of nowhere, and if they found the women sleeping on the wheel while cleaning fish (wass jenn), they would snatch the fish and walk away – di yayngal genn nak dem sen yon! Every time you heard one of the women scream out “woye suma ndey, mussi domi haram bi yobu na suma jenn bi”, you knew exactly what happened! Depending on that family’s situation, they may not torga ange and will have to rely on neighbors that day, for when they call out “kai len nyu ange!”  ‬
That reality virtually changed when I moved to Bakau. The compounds were bigger, the place was much breezier, and we had pets/animals –  a few too. We had Jamba Jobe, Goloh, Kanara, Ganarr, Jaysit, Mbonatt, and some stray cats fofu tam. It was like a Zoo there! Somehow, I guess by default, I ended up being the Zoo Keeper. I used to clean the ponds that were constructed for the Kanaras and the Jaysit/Mbonatt, and refresh the water every so often. I don’t remember what the maintenance schedule was sah, it’s been so long. All I remember is that Papa (my uncle/torma..may his soul continue to rest in peace) would say “Modou Ndow clean ndohi Jaysit bi jotna deh.” I was also called upon when the Jamba Jobe and Goloh escaped and started terrorizing the neighborhood.
The Jamba Jobe would usually leave and hit the streets when the bunti kerr was open and start running after people, or people would start running for the hills when they see it approaching, di yuhu nak – woyaiyoye, woye suma ndey! For the most part, it generally stayed on our street and doesn’t go far. Occasionally, though, the Jamba Jobe would leave our street and venture into yoni marrseh. Now that’s a fun sight to see, especially if it happens to be sometime in the morning when women are on their way to marrseh or coming back from marrseh. They would all start jetting at the sight of the Jamba Jobe forcing it to react and chase them. With their panyeh marrseh in hand, they would be screaming and looking to run into the nearest compound and some would spill the contents of their panyeh marrseh in the process – my hahatie rek nak! Once I was able to compose myself, I would then guide the Jamba Jobe back  home. Also, since the Jamba Jobe was such an exotic bird, some Bakau bomsters used to bring their Toubab tourist friends to our compound and show them the Jamba Jobe purr nyu natal kor.
Goloh (aka Bubu), became my buddy and I used to prepared his chop for him, it was usually ndeysitti ange or ma hossal kor keme. We had banana trees in the compound, but that was for us, not for Bubu. Doff rek! Bubu and I bonded well, and every time he escaped and started di display in the neighborhood, they would send someone to go find me, where ever I was. I could be at Jaiteh Kunda (JK) hanging or at the park wala Bakau School playing World Cup, and all of a sudden would hear “Mod Ndow, Bubu raychana deh!”. That’s when I would drop everything and run home to save the day.
The scene was always chaotic upon arrival with people running, screaming and pointing me to where Bubu was or last seen. “Bubu mungsi kerr Njago yee”, “Bubu mungsi kaw guyi sorance bi” wala “Bubu mungee nangam kunda.” Once I was able to ascertain exactly where Bubu was, that’s when the negotiations will commence. One thing was certain, regardless of how naughty Bubu was acting, he would immediately chill when I show up. I would then start coaxing him to come to me, and depending on how agitated he was, it can take a while sometimes. But as soon as he gets close to me, I would grab his tail and spin him around until he became fully dizzy, then gently carry him over to his post and chain him up again. Then Bubu would just sit there as if nothing ever happened, feyka tass na dayka beh tork!
After several years with Bubu, he fell ill from a wound he suffered on the left side of his waist. I became his doctor and would treat his wound by cleaning it every few days and applied some medication. He was a good patient too. But because the wound was in a critical place at his waist and were it was constantly being irritated by the chain on his waist, the wound was never able to heal. Bubu eventually succumbed and took his last breath in my arms. If I remember correctly, this must have been around when I was in form one or form two, and it was emotional. Bubu was my Bubu!
The Jamba Jobe I believe lived for about 40 years or so, and died not too long ago. Kanara ak ganarr yee nyome chop neng len bu yaga! As for the Jaysit ak Mbonatt, I don’t know what happened to them, but I am counting on sunge wa kerr to tell me.
When Gambia was nice! Now what pets/animals did you have at home growing up?
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