Monday, March 28, 2011

African Time Be Dammed

Many years back (when I was a boy), a group of friends sat around the dinner table discussing future careers as we prepared for our final exam paper in high school. We then figured that instead of waiting for years going through college then looking for work, we could start making some money immediately by registering a company and starting some business. We named the company M-10, because we were 10 kids from Maseno School. All this over dinner, and before dinner was over, we agreed on a date, place and time to meet once done with school and back in the city. This was interesting because those many years back, we had no mobile phones and none had heard the term email. Some of us had fixed land line phones in our homes but we would generally be incommunicado for the next few weeks until the rendezvous date. Surprisingly, all 10 of us made it to the rendezvous (we eventually registered the company and made some money till college tore us apart).

But why do I write about this incident? Because today I find it incredulous that years ago we honored such meetings so faithfully without the use of the sophisticated gadgets that we now have but today we cannot keep simple appointments. A meeting scheduled for noon will start two hours late after a series of text messages indicating people are held up somewhere, something urgent came up etc. notwithstanding that some arrived on time for the said meeting. I am not even talking about school boy rendezvous here, I am talking about professionals attending official functions, husbands meeting their wives for lunch etc. The infuriating part is that we have so internalized this that we casually refer to it as African Time, without batting an eyelid.

Recently during an event that my organization had organized, I called one of the high profile speakers to find out where he was because we were ready to kick off(actually were about 15 minutes late). He casually replied that he was about 1 hour away and did not think he would make it in time for the event. And this is from someone who has made a career pointing out the inefficiency of our governments.

If I remember correctly, there is a quote by Shakespeare that goes something like "I wasted time, and now time doth waste me..." Enough of the rant.

Keep time

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Girl You Never Got To Say The Right Words To

Something that I came across that I thought worth sharing:

“If you do something that turns out wrong, you can almost always put it right, get over it, learn from it or at least deny it. But once you have missed out something, it’s gone. There will be the girl you never got to say the right words to, the band you never got to see live, the winning streak you never got to cheer, the brilliant retiring professor whose class you never took, the relative you never got close to. It is a long list no matter what. Try to keep it as short as possible.”
- Gordon Drizchilo, quoted in University of Pennsylvania Daily Pennsylvannian

Reflecting on this, I tried to imagine that one day when I am old, retired and seated under some tree in my rural home, will I look back on my life and regret stuff that I should have done but did not because I was either afraid to do or had developed some convenient excuse? Or will I tell my grandkids that when this and this happened, I was right there in the mix? I have come to realize that sometimes I can be a bit conservative and build excuses for not doing certain things that I ought to do. Sometimes I can come up with an idea that I think is really good and then over the next few days, before sharing it with anyone, poke holes into it myself and prove that it ain’t anything brilliant so I shelve it before I actually share it with anyone. I tell myself that the world is full of many bad ideas and it does not help for me to add another bad idea. Yet I also know that at times, for example I have written a proposal that I myself is not convinced with only to see others get excited and invest in it – with me left wondering what the fuss is this all about. In life we can be our own harshest critic.
And was there a girl I never got to say the right words to? Well, let me just say that I have spent some time trying to write some fiction. As I have said above, I believe there is a lot of bad fiction about, some of which I have actually paid to read, and I keep thinking that it serves nobody any good for me to add to the clutter. But maybe with the inspiration I have seen from the quote above, I can give it a try and share it with others? And as Gordon has put it, if it is bad, I can at least deny it!

Is there something that you looked back on and said I wish I had done this?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Points to Ponder: Filling the Unforgiving Minute...

Just to make one thing clear, I am not a fan of Rudyard Kipling from a political point of view so my admiration for this poem should not necessarily be taken to mean I admire the man's policy on colonialism. But I admire his poem "IF". I first came across this poem when I was in college and going through some hard times. Within a short time, together with my housemates we quickly memorised the poem and each person picked the line which resonated with them at that time. Today I read a blog post about boredom (Meanderings and Reflections), and later I thought about the line If you can fill the unforgiving minute; With sixty seconds' worth of distance run - When I read this line back then, I made a vow that if I lived true to it, then I will always be doing something meaningful with my time - a vow that has been forgotten and broken thousands of time. So today this line becomes my point to ponder for the week. I have also posted the full poem below for those who have not come across it, or had forgotten about it. I would also like to hear back from you on which line resonates with you!

If - Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children.