The ‘In Our Time’ syndrome


We all have stories. But not everyone tells theirs the same. Sometimes the ones that tell theirs better end up selling their perspectives as the best that ever happened.

Kanteya is fairly old guy who is just as wonderful a book of stories as he is an adroit shoe maker. I love his perspective too.

By six in the morning, he is already tucked into his chair by the veranda of one of the oldest groceries in the ghetto from where he tells his stories.

This day, I had started off early to catch an intercity bus to Blantyre and as I walked past the old man setting up shop, l lowered my speed to greet him.

At the squeak of soles against the hard concrete floor, the old man swiftly swung his head up, adjusting his cap for a proper look.

Ulipo mwana wanga? He rubbed his right hand against his apron, then wrapped my hand in his large palm for a handshake as forceful as a hungry man impatiently shaking a salt dispenser.

As usual, he ignored any of my clues that the handshake was slowly turning into a fight.

When he let go of my hand, he went about settling into his chair, clamping a boot between his knees and beginning to pierce into it without any show of struggle.

The sleeves of his checkered shirt were rolled up to the elbows, revealing a whole stream of veins running though his tiring sinews.

This old machine of a man was still working as strong as it did when I first came across him three decades ago.

‘They probably never make them as strong anymore,’ I told myself.

As usual, Kanteya was now into his stories, remembering how Blantyre treated him to sumptuous entertainment ‘in those days’.

He either seemed not to notice any of my clues I wanted to leave.

He pointed to a defaced radio set by his side. He told me he got it from his father and that he cherishes it a lot he wants it to be playing by his side when his final call comes.

He then wanted me to look for ‘spares,’ mainly the casing, around shops in Limbe.

‘They probably never stock them anymore,’ I spoke to my inner self again.

Just as I thought I was ready to leave, there was Kanteya, suggesting I should spend my weekend in Blantyre wisely and see a few entertainment places he used to hang out at over gigs—Admarc Welfare Hall, Hotel Chisakalime, Flamingo…the list was endless.

‘They never have them anymore,’ I kept educating my inner me.

As if he had read my inner conversations, he finally told me that he was certain most of the realiable shops in Limbe were no longer the same.

He ran through his memories of the ‘better’ old drama series he caught on that radio set.

Zinthu zalowa pansi; ndale, nyimbo, mpira, ngakhale kuvala kumene. Mwanawe, ngakhale zakumwa za m’botolo sizikukomanso ngati kale,’ he finished.

‘Why does everyone think their time was the best?’ I asked myself. n


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