The pain that no one else can know

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer has been with NST for 20 years, and pos­sesses a keen in­ter­est in his­tory

FOUR years ago, a mag­nif­i­cent soul crept into my dwelling and taught me that moth­ers are lions, and lions are moth­ers. She had suf­fered much, and lit­tle could I do but weep as I heard her tale.

To­day, May 12, as the night of Je­naris grows old and the stars are hid from the land by ghostly clouds, and as the spir­its of the earth and of the air whis­per to one another in an un­know­able tongue, she re­turns once more.

She slips into the small and well-lit hall the way she once did. I am be­guiled and can­not lift my gaze from the lovely form. From her limbs shine the lus­trous colour of strength, from her large eyes the stir­ring spirit of bold­ness. There are many scars about her, but they scarcely dim her beauty.

I de­sire that she again tell me of the day she aban­doned her child and gave up all hope. For I am per­suaded, and this I say with great re­gret, that I did not re­late to you her story well enough four years ago.

My eyes meet hers to seek an un­der­stand­ing of the events that have passed, and thus is re­newed the sor­rows and tears of old.


It is a warm day in the plains. She has gone off in search of food for the lit­tle ones. Three had she, but only two re­main alive. For one was mer­ci­lessly taken into the depths of death as the fam­ily fled from per­se­cu­tion.

The search for nour­ish­ment is hard, but the cries of the off­spring are greater. So it is that she takes to steal­ing from a band of rough and surly char­ac­ters.

But the price of thiev­ery, even in the cause of love, is high. For the “vic­tims” are also venge­ful spir­its. That night, they march on her abode, and pour their wrath on the help­less ones.

Ma di Tau is not at home, so she does not wit­ness the sav­age deed. When she fi­nally re­turns, a shadow of dread over­comes her. She calls out to her chil­dren, but only the echoes of si­lence hail back. Long does she peer here and there, and long does she silently weep, be­fore she finds a fe­male child.

The lit­tle one is cry­ing in pain for her back and spirit are bro­ken. Ma di Tau gen­tly car­ries her away to the refuge of a river, her sad eyes be­tray­ing the heav­i­ness of a mother’s heart.

She sets the child down and looks to the heav­ens. Above her, storm clouds gather. Is it but heaven pre­par­ing to weep with her? Why must a mother suf­fer so? Why does this world so cruel be?

Oh, my pain and de­spair grow, Why God, this bur­den from thee?

Ma di Tau, stirred by an an­cient ma­ter­nal in­stinct, does not want to leave, but there is sor­row­fully lit­tle else she may do. She will will­ingly bear the child on her back for 1,000 miles, yet she knows they will find no heal­ing. Only deep­en­ing bleak­ness.

She walks away, each step a pierc­ing stab in the heart. She looks back; in the tall grass she sees the plead­ing eyes as the child calls to her.

There is no hope. Head bowed, heart bro­ken, she drags her­self away. And the winds be­gin to carry her lament across the plains, and into the hall in Je­naris.

Part of Ma di Tau died with her child. But another part of her yet lives.

Did she do wrong in aban­don­ing the lit­tle one? Is she com­pa­ra­ble to Lady Mac­beth? Do you dare judge her, and other moth­ers too?

If you would know more about this tale, about the lion-heart of a mother, watch the The Last Lions by Dereck and Bev­erly Jou­bert.


The spirit of a lion lies within her.

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