Set against the scenic backdrop of Blantyre, Malawi, Chimwemwe's Story: Beauty for Ashes is about Chimwemwe who lives in a world of hardship where tragedy and betrayal are common place. The tragic death of her family sparks a sequence of events that change her life forever. In this coming of age story, Chimwemwe learns much along the way. Though life throws much at her, only her perseverance, faith and dogged determination not to give up help her to keep strong.
With a look of barely concealed condemnation he confirmed her worst suspicions,
‘Yes young lady, you are pregnant – 5 months along’.
A barrage of emotions hit her: shame, anger, relief that the waiting, anxiety and uncertainty were over. Then shock.
She thought back to the previous week, of how she had checked her calendar to realise that she had missed her period for 3 months and not realised it, to how she had been anxious and uncertain, having to convince herself to come in, to how she had vacillated between the certainty that she was coming to the clinic and the certainty that she wasn’t. One thing she was happy about though was that she had not gone to her personal GP but had come to a clinic built by one of the numerous NGO’s in the country. She hastily thanked the doctor and left, having promised to return soon to get her prenatal vitamins and have her first scan.
As Chimwemwe Kamanga walked down the street towards the bus stop, she was in a daze. As she waited for the bus to arrive she distracted herself by taking out a novel that she had in her bag. She knew that if she dwelt on the issues at hand she would break down and wouldn’t be able to get home. Though she read, she took nothing in. With a desperate gasp, almost sob, of relief she saw the white mini bus blazing down the road towards them, dust billowing behind. The destination sign in the window showed that it was going to Ndirande Township, further confirmed by the bus conductor who hung out of the window shouting ‘aku Ndirande! Aku Ndirande!’ The bus skidded to a halt at the makeshift bus stop, raising dirt as the conductor jumped out and hastily began to usher people in, virtually pushing in more people than the bus was designed for. She sat between an ample portioned woman – truly voluptuous would perhaps be a more politically correct term – and an old, wiry man holding a restless chicken. At every bus stop, even though some got off, the press of the squeeze increased as more people were packed into the bus like sardines, but she had too many things running riot in her mind to care.
Finally, the bus reached the outskirts of the semi-squatter settlement that was Ndirande. As she looked out of the small patch of window that she could see, there were dirty, semi-naked children running along the road, roadside garages with vehicles at varying stages of breakdown, men clustered around a hand made iron stove in which either chips or meat ‘chiwaya’ fried... She got off the bus, and almost as one in a trance, she made her way to the shack that she rented. She curtsied slightly, in respect and greeting as she passed to age wrinkled, toothless elders playing a lively game of ‘bao’ that was liberally sprinkled with claims of cheating and superiority at the game as the sun beat down on them. As she got to her shack, entered and closed the door behind her, she allowed her handbag to slide off her shoulder and drop to the floor. She surveyed the room in which she stood. It was a single room, very moderate in size, with a thin mattress on the floor. Against the wall, stood two plastic checked bags with some clothes hanging out of one, a row of tired looking shoes, a clutter of mismatched dishes and cutlery, an iron basin, a jug of water, and a battered iron that stood next to a socket that was hanging out of the wall by the wires...As she despondently toed her shoes off and sat down, she wondered to herself, ‘how did my life come to this?’ Almost inevitably, her mind went back to that time 3 year ago...