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Posthumous Appreciation | My Grandmother and the Law of Improvising

Idah Martha Zuze stands as the Chief Architect of all the foundations and lessons that have kept me going throughout my life. She taught me ...

Idah Martha Zuze stands as the Chief Architect of all the foundations and lessons that have kept me going throughout my life. She taught me these lessons in various situations, be it expressly or impliedly. I owe her the world for such a priceless gift.

Simone Biles

One such great lessons is the LAW OF IMPROVISING. Both my paternal grandparents never went to a formal school throughout their lives. They were a couple that lived a life of servanthood migrating from one farm to the other in search of “MARICHO” in order to fend for us. Their combined income was extremely low, and not enough to sustain us forthwith. In some instances they never even got any income owing to the cruelty and toxicity of some of their “masters” along the journey of life. I take humble acknowledgement that I witnessed of these things unfolding first-hand.

So in 1990 I started my Grade 1 at Waze Primary School in Msengezi, Chegutu Rural, in Zimbabwe. Periodically, we would run out of the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly at home to apply on our skin after bathing for school. So my grandmother would then say in Native Shona language, “Aaah mafuta ekuzora apera saka nhasi munozora mafuta enzungu” in reference to the cooking oil which was predominantly Olivine. When things take another turn we would instead be given think oil drained from peanut butter to use for our skin. If things got even worse we would see her giving us the fat from drying beef (chifuta chenyama) to apply on our skin before going out to school. Yes, we applied ‘mafuta enyama’ on our skin numerous time. Some days we would not have any of the above options, and instead my grandmother would opt to squeeze lemon juice and have us apply the same on our skin. Though it was itchy, but that was the option available for use. With all these options, we would at least go to school with some form of “jelly” having been applied on our skin. I am grateful for such priceless gestures.

Then in 1990 such actions were just routine and never made much deeper sense to me. Only now, more than three decades later, I have come to understand the importance of this LAW OF IMPROVISING.


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls; life has never been a smooth ride for anyone. Since time immemorial, it has been full of hills and valleys along the way. Adam the first man faced them; Abraham faced the same; Jesus Christ faced hills and valleys; Mother Teresa passed through the same; Oprah Winfrey had huge challenges and abuses in life; Michelle Obama had a tough upbringing; and Simone Biles was more of an outcast who became a US Multiple Gold Olympian, and the list goes on and on.

Rarely does life give you want you really. In most cases you get half-baked options falling short of what you really want. But your continued existence and success is highly linked to your ability to improvise in those seemingly unsurmountable and undesirable situations. You need to adjust your antenna and get the signal playing in your vicinity at that time. When the time comes for you to change the circumstances will permit you to do so. But for now, IMPROVISE!!

When you are not willing to improvise be sure to live a life of frustrations and regrets. Worse still you may end up succumbing to life pressures and commit suicide. When life throws lemons at you, make lemonade and enjoy!!

Improvising is not failure, it is preparation for you to experience a quantum leap. Be ready to improvise when circumstances of life dictate so.

Simone Biles

Tapiwa Zuze®

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