The Bell Is Ringing – Martin Aliker

The Bell Is Ringing – Martin Aliker

I was a freshman at university when Makerere celebrated 90 years of her existence. One of the activities done to mark off the celebrations were a series of lectures on different topics. However, the main public lecture which filled the main hall to overflowing capacity was the one where Dr Martin Aliker was presenting his.

We all sat straight up, the senior citizens, the teaching staff and fellow students. He took off the time to read out his lecture. It was a loaded pact of information. He schooled all of us in attendance. His lecture would pass for a book of its own like Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture of sort. After the lecture, the MC announced that a copy of the paper would be shared with the journalists covering the event. I was not a journalist but somehow I could not leave without a copy of my own.

I do not know how many time I re-read the lecture during my stay at university and I used the information therein written to superintend over other students on matters university history. I still have my copy.

I was overjoyed as I turned the last pages of his memoir to find that Dr Martin Aliker republished this same lecture. It is that relevant as it was then.

Given that there are not many senior citizens in this country that have written down their stories, The Bell is Ringing stands out as a master piece of its own, not that the narrator is so humorous but because he teaches more than many of us know about our country. A number of authors have written on the political history of the country but very few, if any, have written about the business history. The commonest business history of the country that you will ever hear of is the expulsion of the Asians by Idi Amin in 1972.  Dr Aliker has been at the pinnacle of the corporate business in Uganda and he tells it all.

The few times I have had the honour of being in Dr Martin Aliker’s audience, one thing has always come up; the pronunciation of his name. With the English background, most of us miss on the Acholi dialect where the name is pronounced as [Alikay].  This book brings you to laughter a thousand times. You find yourself pausing, thinking through and laughing out loud.

You cannot fail but hear the voice of the old man read out this story to you, if you have had the chance of meeting him, there is one thing that cannot be missed, his jokes. Dr Aliker is full of humour in his personal life that he shades it on everything he touches. This book is inclusive. You cannot run away from how he lightly breaks down complex subjects.

His is a very long story of a life full of events experienced first-hand. This is a rare collection given that most memoirs cover lifespans of seventy years and below. This particular one is unique since it runs close to 90 years of a lifetime, how good God has been to Martin and Camille! The story of this memoir is not necessary the author’s alone, it comes as a story of a country that has an elder.

For the first time, I have come across someone from whom the president sought advice. Not to say that the president does not seek advice but it is a rare gesture more so in a country where he has identified himself as the grandfather and the rest of the nation as his grandchildren.

This senior citizen is the real jaaja if we are to go by the real meaning of the word. In his writing, he narrates, teaches, counsels, jokes and prophesies just as grandparents do to their children. He uses simpler but correct language well knowing the kind of English that his readers are accustomed to.

This book should be a must have for each family. For everyone in business, corporate life, or anyone with an aspiring future, this is one book you ought to read. We may not have the honour of meeting Dr Aliker one on one but that should not be the problem, his voice speaks louder to us through his words written in this masterpiece.

I wish this book to be a source of motivation to the living senior citizens of this country to write their stories down. We need more of such wisdom to be shared.

Turn the Page Africa has taken it upon itself to have this book reach you at your doorstep moments after you have made your order from ttpafrica.com.

This review was written by David Kangye.

DRUNK – Jackson Biko

Drunk – Jackson Biko

Of recent jumping out of bed has been a boring sport. I wake up lazily pulling together disbanded body parts from wherever they were spread in the course of sleep. This Sunday morning was not any different, maybe, it was even worse.

Usually I have a book I am reading before sleep steals me away. That same book starts me off my new day. I awake and turn to it to finish that paragraph, page or chapter that I could have slept off before finishing.

This morning I had no book by my side.

I reached out to my back pack and picked Jackson Biko’s DRUNK.

From the first page I could tell it was going to be a good read and of course a good Sunday. Blame it on the choice of bookmark I randomly picked by so many stories or the beauty of the word order of the text but not me. I was only a reader running after words neatly plastered in crunchy sentences that I could not stop munching. Isn’t that what books are written for?

One thing that strikes me about this book is the way the chapters are clearly crafted; brief and concise to the marrow of the story. If there is one thing the author (or editor thereof) did with the manuscript was to be economical with words. No word is left lousing about in the chapter, every word has a direction to take building up a detailed nimbly presented story in only 167 pages.

Reading the words from one sentence to another, page to page, I found myself identifying with the story.

In Mama Larry, I saw my mother, in Larry I saw myself, as I did of Jeff for my brother. When Larry looks at his brother Jeff with such a judgmental look and talks him into being a better person upon his return from India, it only reminds me of the time my brother was home after university.  Why couldn’t he get a job? I always wondered. I saw many opportunities he was not taking up and I thought he was not being fair especially in a world where firstborn children assume the role of deputy parent.

I had to pause and give my mother a call. This book was having a toll on me.

A friend of mine often alludes “to the time that thunder will strike” and I thought this time round time itself must be struck by thunder. The turnaround of events in Larry’s life does not take a lifetime before he is down to seek the umpire’s help.

Larry’s life is no new story to the life very many of us the recent corporate/ working class/ millennial are living.

Our stories have a similar pattern of events. We have so many friends with very few—if any—to talk to. We are all over the place without any being our own.

We live at a time where we struggle to be friends—for those who still try—with our parents. Many have grown up under roofs of broken families with a living—yet absent—parent in their children’s lives. Parents like Larry’s father, who is dead but alive because he gives you some money which you need but are too broken to say no to it. After all, bills won’t pay themselves. Somewhere in a conversation one will share their distaste of their parent, of how they abused or abandoned their own children. If this is not your story, it is one for a friend or even a cousin or someone as close.

And yet the Malkia’s of this world are also as many. When you attend church, pastors are always praying for the same things, breakthrough in finances, healing of the sick and something about relationships. All these spheres are wounded. Yet when the Malkias come into people’s lives, healing happens in people’s hearts. This particular kind of joy is not shared in words, it is only lived.

It is somewhere in a photo near you as a whatsapp display picture or status update. It is a desktop wallpaper on someone’s laptop or smartphone.

It is in this drunk status of our lives that some of us resent phone calls and prefer texts. And texts have come to be just more than that kabiriti sms, the kind that makes a loud beep inviting you for a wedding meeting. We have outgrown that. We are at a level of checking that that whasappp text has been read and marked with the blue ticks. How things change, in school, they were red. And it does not stop there, there is always a reply being waited for. It’s not our fault, it’s just the time we live in.

We are drunk on our smart phones that have since become our body parts but still we manage to hang in there. We are yet to learn that seeking help is not a weakness but a sign of strength. Maybe these our “fathers” should not wait for us to get to this place and them coming their medical advice of how they can be of help. Maybe simple things like creating time for lunch on a birthday would save a thousand nights at a night club with random faces. Maybe!

Maybe if our dear parents and bosses at work took trouble to understand the goings on in our lives before they passed a verdict over our lives, maybe talking also helps.

One sure thing there are a thousand angels in the name of Malkia out there, we need to find them and we talk to them about the lengths of our elephant’s nose.

This book should be read by everyone who has ever addressed someone or been the addressee as a millennial. You cannot escape a paragraph that talks about you.

This review was written by David Kangye. The book is available for sale and delivery at ttpafrica.com