Aklilu the Hun!
My favorite part of the graduation ceremony is watching people pose for video cameras and going through the graduation year book. Where captions of inspirational quotes, gratitudes, beliefs and meditations underneath each graduate’s photo give a sneak peak into his/her personality. It’s the only place where one can be unoriginal yet say so much about him/herself in just a few words. Family bonds come to light, level of maturity is put to taste and experience, as well as inexperience, is exposed. “There is nothing impossible to God” is a repeated, and amusing, example for the later.
So it was last Saturday. My classmates’ graduation year book was filled with photos, poems & proverbs. Of my instructors & friends. And flipped through it I did, treasuring their smiles, remembering their fears, and what a fun being a student was. When I suddenly came across one quote that arrested the attention and stayed it. It read(darkness won’t stand in the way of he [who is] determined to see).
It wasn’t the briefness of the quote that I found amazing. 6 lines were the shortest I saw so far, with would be graduates thanking family, friends, and giving reverence to the various deities at whose alter they worship for helping them make it to the blessed day. Neither was the fact that I was a stranger to the quote. It didn’t last long but I, like every other youngster who loved books, was in the habit of collecting quotes, stamps and wedding invitations at my early teens. So I have come across the quote & liked it.
No!! It was the young man quoting it that stirred the soul. Aklilu Mohammed was a dear classmate of mine who I started talking to after I found him struggling with books almost half his size outside a bazzarr hall at AAU. And one I came to respect through the years. Sitted at the cafeteria behind the great OCR building that afternoon, he’s related to me his life story, and how he came across books.
“I started out as an ‘ocholoni azwari'” he has said nonchalantly. “I haven’t finished elementary school when I went around selling nuts. After a while, I decided to sell newspapers. That’s when I started reading. They were boring governmental organs, the newspapers. But I didn’t have anything else to do. So I spread them infront of me, and read them from cover to cover. It didn’t take long before I fall in love with the “art section” of these organs. Those sections stirred hopes in me, hopes & purpose. When I learned some of the contributers had books published, I started reading them too. When I could afford to buy them, I bought them. When I couldn’t, I rented. Owning a book shop became a wet dream. A dream I kept to myself, for I knew it would make me a laughing stock with my friends. Until one day I noticed I had too many books lying around I’ve already read and don’t know what to do with. So I started renting/selling them. Buying, reading and selling; it went on for years.
My only hope of redumption was grade 12. “Saalff..” I kept saying to myself. But I didn’t have what it takes. So i failed. “Why won’t you try to apply in the evening?” somebody said to me “do you think they’d take me?!” I replied, pessimistic. But they did! “LeAmarigna newu ende?!” the cashier asked, surprised, before I had mastered enough courage to explain my intention. Then she told me where to get the necessary forms & how much to pay.
That was the happiest day of my life! I went out and bought all the books realted to Ethiopian literature I could find. I ironed my clothes and sat by the clock, unable to breath, the day class was to begin. What a disappointment it was, finding out neither the students nor the teachers cared as much as I did about literature! It was heart-breaking! Not to mention all the problem I gotta put up with to come to school. I work in a factory I can only work one of two shifts in: midnight to mid-day. Miday to mid-night. So i head to work every evening after class. I work there until lunch time next day. With all the travel in between, I only get about three hour’s sleep before coming to school. When I do, I’m always hungry, tired and insomanic. If I got a spare time, I try to catch up with my studies. Which isn’t easy, since those i have to compete for grades with don’t have to go through half of what i do. Do you know what’s stopping me from giving up?!” he asked, caressing one of the big volumes in his hand, each costing not less than 60 birr, “my love for books! They are the ones I keep coming for, again and again!”
Now, if I were to be in that year book, and asked to quote my favorite quote, I’d polish Samuel Palmer’s and dedicate it to my friend Aklilu. I’ll say to him “Wise men make proverbs, but the brave live them! You, my friend, are a Survivor”.
Attila the Hun was a fierce warrior and king of the horse-riding Huns during the fifth century who harassed the Roman Empire.-http://ancienthistory.about.com
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