Monday, 5 December 2011



Once a full land teeming with heroic sons and daughters,
Feet sprightly, hearts full of love, humility at its best
We saw them being born to the land
And as we severed their umbilical cords
We buried them in this land
To unite them with our ancestors
That pain we buried, the soil bore that pain

We never cared much about the raging floods,
The occasional ilat, the scorching sun,
The mad chepkrrir that blew round and round
Spinning at the centre of our being, irritating
Collecting dust and blinding our eyes with grit
Yes, even that we cared less

Once or twice, in the baraza
In search of truth, anger could take over
And in that moment of blind fury
Elbow could brush against elbow
For we never hit another at the stomach
For if they died, we would pay lapai

But we always looked up to the sun
Whoever lacked millet, we gave
Whoever lacked milk, we gave
The barren couples, we despised not
Our children slept in their homes
For love defined us, Tororot gave children

Our brave sons were fed with k’soyo
Made to drink fresh blood and milk
Walk bare-chested in the rain
As if that cold was some initiation
To the warm company of our departed warriors
Thus, there was no thorn-tree, no forest,
No darkness, no danger
Our brave sons could not bear
And if some succumbed to death
We left them in the bush
Whispered silent prayers
And moved on—not all live through this life

Our daughters would grow at the laps of their grandmothers
Taught the secrets of making their men happy
They would grow with virtues
To be taught that the first shaft of dawn
Shouldn’t find her tucked on-top of a mud-bed
That she would jump from the bed, bolt to the river
Be back to milk the cows and be done with breakfast
Before the sun rays touch upon the brows of her woken husband
She would oil herself, sew her beads, thatch her hut
Scold a girl not seated properly, gather firewood—
All these in one span of a day and another and another

When we quarreled, we used our mouths
Not hands
And as we spoke, we traded no insult
We abused no one, we despised no one
Even a whisper of insult to a madman
Was met with heavy reproach
For madmen were angels Tororot sent to us
To test the granary of our tolerance

Thus we lived, the sons and daughters of the hills,
If a day passed with anger in our hearts
We were worried
For bitterness was a poison
That even milk from our cows wouldn’t neutralise
We had learnt to speak in the ways of our people
To bring us together, to speak of our dark skins
To unite us in the tongue our ancestors taught us

We knew that the Sun was a jealous woman
As she rises from kong’asis, she demands attention
So we always bolted from sleep, chased after our cattle
Walked miles and miles before she rose
We knew how to rise to our fields
To plant sorghum and millet
Have time for the baraza, have time to harvest honey,
Have time to make babies, have time to speak to our children
Thus, when a day passed, and as cows came home
We could rest knowing we did our part
Laziness was not part of us

We kept our promises, too,
When we married and never had cows
We said, “Kinsmen, please wait till the next rains
When these calves will feed on green grass and fatten
But first give us our wife”
And with our words, we married
For we were honourable men
Our words were like the words of a mondö

We learnt to speak our frustrations
If a Chief failed to include our names in the Relief List
We told him so, but we never abused him
For Tororot provides leaders
We gave him the opportunity to tell us
For in the ways of our people
You don’t tie an adulterer to a köndölo tree
Without first inquiring from them
For we also believed in justice
We could not condemn a man unheard

These have been our ways as sons and daughters of the hills
These have defined us

But what have we seen?
Ashes of cindered dreams
We failed looking up to the sun
Thus our sights have been on trees
Snapping at the slightest winds!
We ceased being word merchants
Speaking on the wealth of our idioms and proverbs
Instead, our mouths have been filled
With words more obnoxious than the fart of a honey badger!

Our words have become the distant cricket sounds
Announcing of death;
Like the empty snuff bottle
They hang on the chests of old men
Without use, not even the incessant tapping helps;
In the past, we made promises and kept them
But now we tell them and swear by our ancestors
Yet fail to keep them—tell me, the whispers were carried by the winds
The caves of the hills echoed them, will you lie to nature?

We ceased being honourable men
Our days are filled with irrelevancies
Men chasing money, ideals flushed down the drain,
Mannequins of still ideas, collective hopes of a generation
Hurled to the winds of penury, convictions without conscience,
Positions without responsibility, visions without convictions

Yet, you could expect, in the least,
That there could be some semblance of reason
To order this confusion into clarity
But none!

The sun still shines
It still rains
And every day,
You hear the hills sigh
The uneasy tension of the trees
But it is business as usual
Yes, it is business as usual.


madhumakhi said...

Modernity unfortunately finds a way of creeping even into very ancient cultures and corrupting its ways. Many tribes in India have been affected the way yours has been, and they've been affected in a negative manner. It's sad to witness a beautiful, virtuous way of living gets changed.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

This is magnificent! One of your best. The Old Ways were best - we need to return to them and I believe, one day we will, after this exercise in greed and corruption collapses and people are forced to learn once again how to live with and on the land. One of your very best poems, kiddo. I love every word.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Loved it even more the second time! You write Truth with a mighty pen, kiddo.

echoesofthehills said...

There were so many things that were good in the Old Ways as you put it. But in our quest for modernity, we have lost them. But even sadly, we have lost the core values. We are groping in the streets of modernity. The dazzle of the streets holds sway but where are the values? Where are the virtues? What went wrong?

echoesofthehills said...

So sad that this trend is replicated even in India, Madhumakhi. Getting back to the village restores this unity within me but such times are so limited and scarce. I think something went wrong with our society.

echoesofthehills said...

O, thanks Koko!!!!

As always. It is the chip of your "Koko wisdom".

Mary said...

Along with advancements sometimes come things that are less than positive for a culture. I think we have seen this time and time again in one place after another. Hopefully the positives in some way outweigh the negatives.

So good to see you so often 'around' again, Salem!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Your words, as always, move and inspire me.....that the remembrance of those ways live on in your words gives me hope that a return to and reverence for the Old Ways, can and will return again, all over the world. May it be so.

Harry Nicholson said...

This is an epic full of truths. It is also a lament. But it is a poem worthy of honour. Well done.

Post a Comment

Echoes of the Hills is all about you. I would love to hear your echo...

You Might Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Disqus for Echoes of the Hills