Whistling While Hungry

Whistling While Hungry

I feel really hungry these days.

I wake up hungry and dive headfirst into the kitchen.

I typically have food in the fridge.

This morning, I woke up hungry again, after working for many hours during the night.

Perhaps it’s the aloe vera water that I’ve been drinking recently that causes the feeling of hunger?

I remember one day when I was about 14 and in the hostel at Olivet High School, I was feeling hungry, and stole out of the boarding house to visit my grandparents.

I knew I could always count on them to feed me.

I got home, and the minute my grandmother, Iya Oyo, saw me, she said, “Moyo, you are hungry, yes?”

I was so hungry, I couldn’t find words, so I nodded my head.

“So I thought,” Iya Oyo responded. “Can you whistle it out? Whistle “Ebi ń pa mí.” (Emi n pa mi means I am hungry).

I formed my lips into the O-shape to whistle “Ebi ń pa mí..”

My mouth was dry; my lips also dry. I tried to push some air through the dry mouth to whistle Ebi ń pa mí.

Nothing came out. No sound.

Baba Oyo, my grandfather, came out from his room, and saw the two of us, and he laughed at me.

“Moyo, when anybody asks you to whistle Ebi ń pa mí, the answer is to say “Nobody is expected to whistle Ebi ń pa mí. It is impossible to whistle Ebi ń pa mí, when you are hungry.”

Iya Oyo had already left us and was in her kitchen

I caught the delicious scent of soup being warmed, wafting in from the kitchen.

Soon, food was ready.

After she fed me, and as I was drinking water to wash down the amala and gbegiri, laced with dry fish, Iya Oyo said once again, “Moyo, can you whistle Ebi ń pa mí now?”

I smiled and my lips, no longer dry, easily formed the O-shape, and the whistle came out loud and clear.

Baba Oyo laughed. He said “Only a fellow who is well-fed can whistle Ebi ń pa mí.”

This morning as I rummaged through the fridge to find some food, I was not able to whistle Ebi ń pa mí.

But I could smile, recalling Baba Oyo’s voice, saying “Only a fellow who is well-fed can whistle Ebi ń pa mí.”

In Yoruba, there is the proverb, Ebi ń pa mí kò ṣe é fi ìfé wí: “You can’t whistle Ebi ń pa mí with hunger in your belle.”

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