Living our faith

TRADITION is more often than not broken, and violated. But then, there always are consequences, sometimes dire, when the tradition is broken. It, not all times, invites wrath – the breaking of tradition.

And nothing could stop the consequences from unveiling themselves on Thursday, 25th March 2010, when tradition was broken, pardon, abused and ‘raped’, yes defiled!

One of the few open secrets that exist at Chancellor College, and even outside there, is that room B is a room with an arrogant corner that always hinders people from seeing what is happening on the other side. It is the same room also that is used by the Writers’ workshop each and every Thursday night when school is in session for their weekly meetings.

And, as usual, on the aforementioned Thursday, the room was to be filled to capacity, to even overflow, by Writers, readers, aspirers and even sympathisers. Why?

Because it is a tradition, a well known indubitable fact, that the room is used by Writers of the College every Thursday when learning is in progress at the Campus. Not only that but also it was for the very first time in almost three years for the man who was to visit, no! make himself available, to the workshop; not just be present but deliver a talk.

However, when the clock ticked to something close to six thirty, the gathering time, room B was far from being used by the Workshop. Very far from being overflowed by the Writers, and sympathisers. Why?

There was a class in the traditional room. A class on a Thursday, not just a Thursday but a Thursday night, not just a Thursday night but a night that was totally different from the previous ones. Why different?

Bright Molande, the poet, political analyst himself, erudite scholar too, a PhD student with the University of Essex also, an essayist in some stances, was to offer a talk. A talk on writing. No! it was not to be a talk but a clinic and Molande, nay Bright the son of Molande, was to be the doctor. His prescription, or rather medicine, he called it ‘Living our Faith’.

6:30 PM

ROOM B was full. Full of light. The doors were closed. In front, stood a lecturer – not a doctor – delivering the much sought after knowledge to the people, students in his class. It was more than impossible to tell the people to march out of the room, tradition says no to that and to offend that tradition is as risky as risk itself. We always search for an alternative, of course, with pain in our hearts, on our chests, in our fingers, hands and writing pads not forgetting the brains.

Quickly, the search for the new room began before one of the patrons appeared, Dr. Mark Anderson, the Canadian. This was to be his first ever meeting to attend of the Writers’ Workshop but not the first for Writers congregating.

I briefly introduced myself to him: ‘Dave, Writers’ Workshop Chair.’ He took my hand in his. ‘Mark, one of your patrons,’ another brief introduction.

Then, the little information on what was happening was offered to him. We were both in a fix. And, at the mention of the word ‘Writers’ , a certain lady appeared and asked what was happening, she said she was searching for the room which was hosting Molande’s clinic. She had been there since six. Something close to danger was looming here!

6:35 PM
A SEARCH, a gallant one, for an alternative room ensued. Usually, we shift to room F or C in the law section but on this day, this Thursday, both were in use. Well, that was a blessing in disguise for if we had fooled ourselves to settle for that room then…horror would have been the word leaving our lips upon the arrival of Molande!

The search was extended to rooms we had never dreamt of using. Rooms very far, as are the words on our lips from our hearts, from room B and then, room U was found. It was written, on the board, booked but there was nobody there. Time was fully against me, against the Writers’ Workshop, against everything. The phone had been ringing for so long. It was only once I had picked it and had been greeted by a very rough voice asking my whereabouts.

6:40 PM
AFTER being informed of the new room, people started trekking to there. Another way of communicating had to be done to tell all the late comers that the venue had been shifted – not changed. Room U in the education faculty was the new venue. Tradition had been desecrated, our tradition.

WHOEVER chose room B in the early 1970s must have been a prophet. Why? Why also did he choose room B of all the rooms? Why, oh, why?

This clairvoyant of some sort who opted for room B after ceasing using the Senior Common Room saw a day, a Thursday, coming in March, on the 25th day of the year 2010 – almost forty years later. He knew that no room was big enough to accommodate the people who were to congregate on that Thursday he saw but only room B – as poorly located as it is.

Room U was small, that is to say small is the word used to mean too small, very small. It could not accommodate the population, the frightening one, that congregated that day to be healed by ‘Dr.’ Molande. Even after using all the techniques of creating space, there still was no space in room U. So scary that was!

FORTUNATELY, the class that was to be in Room T, a bigger one compared to U but small when compared to B, was cancelled. And, it was suggested that people move into the other room, T. This was after the suggestion that we just use the Library Resource Centre as an emergency had been shot down, defeated!

But even room T was not enough. Strange, shocking this was to everyone who has ever been in the Workshop meetings before.

And while the chairs were being arranged and disarranged in Room T, a bespectacled Molande appeared. The man whom the frightening majority had gathered for. At least, Molande was still too smart, not dirty, to never ever have thought of standing as either an MP or President simply because there was a majority that had gathered for him. Such smart thinking is rare, very rare, like the swelling and strange number of the Writers’ Workshop that day.

THERE was silence, not dead silence, when seats were booked disorderly in room T. nobody knew who was responsible for breaking the silence. And, apart from the silence there also was heat, hot heat despite the bare fact that all the windows were wide and open.

However, Molande never allowed the silence to terrorise for too long. He broke the silence, not with an introduction. He broke it with his medicine, the prescription. He started by naming it, revealing its name to the hungry, angry, sick and starved souls.

He said the title of his talk was ‘living our faith’, our faith as writers.

Then, he proceeded into the real stuff. The main emphasis of his clinic was on short stories, novels, novellas or to be very brief, prose. How do we construct prose? that was the first disease he started attending to before moving to the other ailments that go together with the mentioned disease: where do we get inspiration for the prose, how do we get and develop the characters, the plot, the setting, the conflict etcetera?

And somewhere in the light of room T, Molande interrupted himself with jokes from his own lips, nay brain. They all helped in stitching together the wounds of prose, especially short story, writing in the patients that sat before ‘Dr.’ Molande.

And Molande's elucidation was not the usual one, it was abnormal in the positive way. He elucidated as though he was writing, not just writing but in his usual style and way of writing – the one in which he writes things so easy to read but difficult to understand though important and very beneficial.

Never think he never gave to us any of his attributes, he gave them all. Somewhere he diverted, he wore that robe many knew he would fail to not wear on such a day, that of the political analyst. He said something that prompted many to mention a name of a certain politician, I have just forgotten who – forgive my brain.

Molande said the problem with Malawian writers, of short stories, is that they do not write stories as they ought to be. They just tell stories as anybody else. Malawian writers in our papers – said he – write stories as we told in the past when we were young, back in the primary school days. They have an established way of their narrations. The order is that this happened, then this followed, this came after and then this and lastly that – a short story is over.

Well, according to Molande, short stories need and must be different from the usual telling of stories. They must be those that should make someone change positions when sitting whilst reading them; if someone had his back against the chair when beginning to read a story, he must be sitting upright by the time he is finishing the story.

A short story, using Molande as our reference, must make the reader impatient. It must make the reader wonder what happens next and what then after that. A reader must be forced to skim some few paragraphs to see what action is happening in the coming paragraphs, what happens between the protagonist and antagonist. A short story must not be obvious.

He observed, I mean Molande, and it seems rightly so, that unfortunately most of the stories that appear in the papers lack that, our faith. Many writers, this was an observation by he, are not living our faith – the faith of writers; they do not write short stories but just stories.

THEN after some minutes of talking and saying things, not just talking, Molande took his seat. He parted with the patients, they looked healed. He now deserved a rest. A rest from talking and speaking. He had to part with talking and parting he did. His parting made Shakespeare truer when he writes in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that parting is such sweet sorrow. It was a sorrow so sweet to part with the talk of Molande. A talk that told stories and narrated tales.

CHARLES Mkoka asked how many times the clinics will be provided. Molande was uncertain, his answer revealed that. He did cast a shadow of doubt on the people available, the patrons, the patients with wounds, just some – very few –, still bleeding.

But, the clinics will be there – that is a fact – an answer to Charles’ question. The 25th of March clinic was just the genesis. It is upon the heart of the Writers’ Workshop to hold these clinics for as much as it can.

We dream, a very possible dream it is, of having Steve Chimombo one day. We wish, a more than strong wish this, to host Mzati Nkolokosa one day. We desire, a burning desire is this, of having Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga one time. Alfred Msadala is on our plans to come again this year.

Zondiwe Mbano – middle name Bruce, Shemu Joyah, Temwani Mgunda and the list is endless, we expect to have them all this year, to come and heal the bruised souls here, the wounded soldiers who have vowed to keep on fighting with their pens and papers.

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