Communication in the month of ‘maying’ and the big Mother’s Day

world communication month

I do not know if the choice of the month of May as world communication month has a connection with its being associated with mothers and the bond of “maying.”

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Three related beautiful things are floating in my mind today. They are May, mothers and “maying”. May is, of course, this month in which we are. It is a lovely month of growing, greenery and flowering, following the “masika” (long) rains in most of East Africa, and the full return of the spring (after winter) in the Northern Hemisphere.

Mothers are, well, mothers, those women whose breast, among all else, is the sweetest. “Titi la mama litamu hata likiwa la mbwa (Mamma’s breast is sweet even if it is a dog’s)”, as Shaaban Robert taught us to say. We celebrate their special day tomorrow.

As for “maying”, which in this context means “loving” or, more broadly, “bonding”, I remembered it from a popular madrigal composed by the English poet, Thomas Morley, in 1595 A.D. The opening lines of Morley’s madrigal go something like this: “Now is the month of maying/when merry lads are playing/ each with his bonnie lass/a-dancing on the grass.” In true madrigal tradition, each rhyming couple of the verses is followed by a playful refrain, “fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la”. You may want to listen to it online.

Madrigals, you see, are a kind of light-hearted verse intended for setting to music and to be sung mostly a capella (without instrumental accompaniment) by several voice parts.

Technicalities aside, however, you can see that Morley’s madrigal is a celebration of May, the beautiful time of year when young men and women (merry lads, bonnie lasses) come out and celebrate their relationships.

The sexual innuendos in the verse are unmistakable, but I chose to interpret the “maying” thread in the verse as a code for the whole process of deep and intimate communication.

The most profound and intimate variety of communication, I believe, is that between a mother and her child. We mostly associate the concept of communication today with the whole array of technologies and gadgets that characterise our generation and propagation of information across the globe.

But the mother-child communication we are celebrating tomorrow is richer and more complex than all these wonders. It starts even before we are born. Have you heard of what they call prenatal communication?

Researchers tell us that from about 16 weeks of a pregnancy, a baby in the womb can recognise its mother’s voice. At 20 weeks in the womb, we are told, babies can recognise other familiar voices around the mother.

The tremendous challenge to mothers and all parents here is: what kind of voices will your unborn child be hearing from you and those around you? If they are voices of anger, threats, quarrels and strife, those are probably the dispositions with which the child will come into this world.

A child blessed with prenatal communication of voices of love, gentle assurance and joyful expectation will, we hope, be born programmed with those positive qualities.

I do not know if the choice of the month of May as world communication month has a connection with its being associated with mothers and joyful, youthful relationships, the bond of “maying”.

But it so happens that many organisations are celebrating the wonderful gift of communication around this time of year. Next Wednesday, May 17, for example, is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day.

Anyway, here is to wish a happy Mother’s Day to our mothers, grandmothers and potential mothers, and to all of us who love and respect them. Tomorrow, Sunday, May 14, is the day, and my more knowledgeable colleagues have suggested to you, elsewhere in this publication, some of the best ways of making these special women feel truly loved and appreciated.

Mother’s Day is a “moveable feast”, in the sense that, by convention, it does not fall on a fixed date every year but on the second Sunday in May, which may be anywhere between 8th and 14th of the month.

Its falling on May 14 this year, however, is of a particular personal significance for me. My own mother, Maria Salome Nankya Kyolaba, departed this world on May 14, 2000, which was also a Sunday. To say that she and I had a divinely close relationship is an understatement. I think that all that I see, know and love in and about women started with that humble village woman.

Then there is the coincidence that directly bonds you and me, and especially my female readers. Those of you who were there and reading the Nation then may remember that we shared the first of these conversations of ours on May 14, 2014.That is all of nine years now, and we are still counting.

I am sure it is your love and faithful reading that have kept me eagerly looking forward to each of these weekly encounters of ours. I particularly noticed this during the dire days of the Covid-19 terror and traumatic immobilisation. Sharing with you, through this column, my fears and sorrows, my hopes and trials and, above all, my (rational and irrational) optimism was for me a great way of coping with the horrendous pandemic.

You can, thus, rightly and rightfully claim to have helped me survive the scourge. I hope your reading of me contributed to your own coping. The bottom line is that your loving reading and your steady and perceptive responses and feedback did not only sustain me through the ordeal. They also opened my eyes to the profound value of the relationship between a communicator and his or her audience, between writers and their readers. It is a love affair.

Indeed, I confess that I increasingly come to the writing of this column with an excitement comparable to that with which a lover goes out to keep a date with her or his beloved. We need not be coy. You, my readers, are my lovers, and as long as you read me, I will feel loved and grateful, and I will keep writing, sharing with you. Now is the month of “maying”, and let us keep bonding.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

- Prof Bukenya is a leading East African scholar of English and [email protected]


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