11 Oct Imagine Nigeria
When I was a little boy about the age of eight, my mother used to tell us about “yesterday Nigeria” the era of prosperity when one naira equalled one dollar, when minimum wage could buy one a luxury car, a time when Nigerians needed no visa to travel to Europe or America. She spoke wistfully about a time when Nigeria still had her airways and railways. She used to tell us about the railway experience of how she frequently boarded the train from her parents’ home in Offa to School in Ilorin where she was a boarding house student at the Queen Elizabeth Secondary School. She would always board the first class coach and enjoy VIP services from well dressed and well-mannered waitresses who welcomed her with smiles on their faces and addressed her as ‘ma’am’.
She always preferred window seat from where she enjoyed the beauty of nature while sipping on her refreshments. Her narrations about how she soaked up the divine views of the thick lush forests and her awe of the wildlife she spotted occasionally was a magical tale for us. She mentioned how slow the train was and how that gave her the chance to enjoy the beauty of the many different species of birds perched on the trees. We lived in “the prosperous” Nigeria through her stories and our imagination while the reality was vastly different. Growing up in the 80’s I realized that “yesterday Nigeria” clearly existed only in the past along with its railways. Everything was just a memory for my mom’s generation and a tale for us.
My first ever experience riding a train was abroad and it was vastly different from what my mom had experienced and described to us. It was not a slow ride at all and it lacked any view of nature. It was devoid of the mesmerizing quality of my mom’s train journey.
In Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell writes that “there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some”
I am in my mid-thirties now, I have returned home from overseas and have had to travel from Abuja the city of the International Airport to the city where my mother lives to visit her and family. I had intended to hire a cab that would directly drive me home as I did not want to struggle with my more than ample luggage. But, my mother mentioned the new railroad from Abuja (the capital city where the International Airport is) to Kaduna (the city where she lives) and asked that I travel on it. I was not at all keen to sit in a slow train as I had gotten used to the modern lifestyle which was all about being fast and efficient. I openly told her that I prefer the convenience of a fast train to a slow-moving train but she insisted that I try it anyways and I am immensely glad she did.
This experience for me was like stopping to smell the roses. In the process of getting ahead and being on top of one’s personal and professional life, we forget to live life and enjoy the many blessings it has to offer. When the train started moving I was experiencing the magical train journey that my mom used to talk about. Nature, its beauty and many wonders, the slow pace of the train that lets you savour the journey all in all I was transported back to my childhood where my mom described the same experience with a twinkle in her eyes.
This article is not just about my train journey it is also about taking chances. It is about getting out of your comfort zone and realizing that the real magic happens when you are actually out of your comfort zone. This article is about me learning to slow down and savour the different flavours of life. How many times have we all stepped out of the madness of our minds and lives to just enjoy our surroundings?
I would like to end this article with a quote from the famous Melody Beattie that would leave you pondering over your life. “Each moment in time we have it all, even when we think we don’t.”