Mami Hannah Kahndenmun Ndi
1920-2021 Mami Hannah Kahndenmun Ndi (Mami) was born circa 1920 in Bali Nyonga in Southern Cameroons, to Mr. Christian Sama Tita Fokum and Madam Lydia Liba'a Fokum née Mbahkuruwan. She grew up in the Fokum family compound in Ntaiton (Ntah-iton) Bali. When she attained school age, first she attended the Bali Vernacular School to learn to read/write the Bali language, and then she went on to attend the Native Authority School in Bali for the traditional western education. Mami's personality goes back to those early formative years. As a youngster in school in Bali, she was very strong/powerful a fighter and stood as the defender and protector from bullies and thugs, of all her younger/weaker family members. Her father had been a former German civil servant who acquired properties in various parts of the territory. After growing up in the family compound in the Ntaiton neighborhood of Bali, she spent her teenage/young adult years in Douala, Kumba, Dschang and Yaoundé. Then she returned to Bamenda in her early adulthood being one of the rare women you found riding a bicycle, something that intimidated most men.
Then she met the one man who wasn't intimidated, her now late husband and our father (God bless his soul), Mr. Stephen Fohndung Ndi in 1946. This was a learned and sophisticated School/Head Master, who was close friends with a couple of Fokum gentlemen in the teaching profession, and it was love at first sight, with their courtship very brief and they got married soon thereafter. She married into an instant family of twelve teenage/young adult men, because her new husband had been raising a large number of young relatives and friends' children. She was forced to be a mother and a disciplinarian almost immediately. Our father had married very late in his life because he had adopted/taken under his wings and raised through school, many children before the twelve that Mami | came to meet in marriage. It didn't take her long or much to acclimate to the situation and most of the young people took to liking her too. She made a choir of 10 of the young men and they sang up a storm every night after homework and before father returned home. She had also brought along her baby sister, Agnes as a “bridal daughter” and then shortly thereafter, took an adoptive daughter, our beloved sister, now of late, Mrs. Helen Yah Ndi nee Bakari. So she had the two girls of the similar age keep each other company. Of course, Mami didn't waste time going into motherhood herself as she wound up blessed with ten biological children of which the Almighty has recalled 3. Note that as the non-biological children graduated school and moved on with life, my parents took in new younger children to add into the fold, so that, Mami was never home without a dozen or more children, and her choir continued with new children replacing the old/grown ones.
Throughout her child bearing years, she shared the responsibility of raising her children with her late widowed mother, and our beloved grandmother, God bless her soul. Grandma took each child as they turned 2, to the Fokum family compound in Bamenda where they grew up with her. Grandma kept the children till they attained school age of six, and then returned them to the parents for schooling. Grandma thus always had child raising responsibilities to keep her busy and this enriched her life to survive as a widow for over half a century. Our father was just a Headmaster, and although this position back in the day was deemed high in stature, it wouldn't pay enough to sustain the very large family size that depended on them for support. Mami’s multi-faceted business sense quickly came to show as an embodiment of various business abilities, such as (1) Mami Rubber the Baker's hot selling products; (2) Mami Rubber farmed food crops for in-house consumption and excess for sale and feed the hungry charity; (3) Mami Rubber the rice farmer - She was a pioneer getting involved in a large scale government rice farming initiative; (4) Mami got involved in tobacco farming, making snuff with surplus harvest sold to French cigarette manufacturer; and (5) Mami Rubber saw another business opportunity and started a seasonal Bed and Breakfast Hosting business. And all these skills and business acumen, she passed on to all her children (biological and nonbiological), so that they actually grew into a future in which they knew many different ways to gather wealth and not only depend on a monthly paycheck. All her children were immersed in all aspects of her business dealings and expected to participate fully while at the same time maintaining an excellent school record. The question most asked, however, is why is she nicknamed Mami Rubber?
Mrs. Hannah Kah Ndi was an iron-fisted mother of love: Mami Hannah Ndi ruled her household with an iron fist. Outside of home she was the popularly acclaimed disciplinarian. She first carried a cane/whip (called "mulongo") which wasn't very concealable, and used this as her implement for disciplining any poorly behaved children than she came upon in her travels around and away from the neighborhood. She ultimately reverted to a thick rubber strip about eighteen inches long, which she would fold and carry it concealed in her wrapper or pocket book. When she came around all children put up the best behavior or were sure to face her rubber. So it was that in every locality that she visited across the land, kids and grownups alike will always shout out alerts of “Mami Rubber! Mami Rubber is in town!” That was a warning for everyone to put on their best behavior, lest the rubber of discipline come out of its hiding place.
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