The kid with the large ears

A tale of affairs justifies prohibitive cost of DNA tests

In Summary

• Inspector Tembo walks Makini through the reason he and 'daughter' are calm


The parenting dynamic between Sgt Sophia, my custom-law wife, and Inspector Tembo, her father, is quite interesting. Given her birthdate, she’s been able to calculate roughly that at the time she could’ve been conceived, Inspector Tembo was dating her mother, making him the most possible candidate to be her father.

But Mrs Kali, Sophia’s mother, has a knack for throwing a wrench into the works since, at times, she would be dating multiple men simultaneously. However, Inspector Tembo is okay with having Sophia as his daughter, and ditto for Sophia. And since they are both afraid of facing the possible bad news of being wrong, they have opted not to go for a DNA test to settle the matter once and for all.

When I task Inspector Tembo (who happens to be both my boss and father-in-law) on the issue, he says, “Son, let me tell you a story.”

Yes, my boss loves allegories more than straight answers. In this particular one, he tells me of a man who lived well before the white man thought it wise to travel thousands of miles to steal our land.

“The man had been married to his wife for 10 years,” says the Inspector, “a union that had produced six children, each of whom the man was very proud of.”

As the Inspector tells it, the man’s wife got pregnant with the seventh child and could hardly be more ecstatic. The entire village and beyond would sing his praises as one of the most fertile men in the land, which would also garner him respect at the local baraza.

All the hype and hope came tumbling down when the man’s wife gave birth and the midwife proudly presented the newborn to his father for the first time. Instead of the expected pride and machismo, the man’s seemed to sink into deep melancholy.

“Anything the matter?” asked the midwife, concerned.

The man shook his head. “Of course, not. Why would anything be wrong? I’m as proud as a hyena with an extra set of teeth. Let everyone know another soldier has been born into our clan.”

Despite all this, the man’s despondency did not seem to leave his face. Finally, the man could keep it to himself no longer. On the next village baraza with his fellow men and elders, he stood up and announced he had an issue for which he required counsel.

“As you all know,” he said, “my wife just delivered a fifth son for yours truly. Thank you for clapping, but I’m afraid it’s not all good news,” he said.

“You see, all my children bear a clear resemblance to me, my male relatives or those of their mother. The newborn is different. He has big ears and squinty eyes. And that head? No one in my family was born with such a monstrosity on their neck. I’m certain that is definitely not my child. What should I do?”

The first thing his fellow men did was laugh as if they had just heard the funniest joke.

“Why do you laugh?” asked the man. “This is a serious situation.”

“How sure are you all the other children are yours?” one of the other men said. “None of us knows that about our children. Hell, their mothers might not even know.

“We take care of children because God brought them to us, not because they could be our blood. Be glad you only suspect the large ears. Some of the men my children resemble are seated right here in this baraza.”

And that’s why I believe DNA tests should remain as expensive and prohibitive as they are today.

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