Sunday, March 15, 2015

For Edward Chitsulo

...From the heart of Richard Chirombo

His counsel was interesting because it often was accompanied by a good cut of jokes.
A joke here. A lesson there. His journey in life thrived on these stepping-blocks.

No wonder, then, that his name never disappeared from the list of influential journalism teachers and mentors in the country, except, of course, when people were talking of bad teachers and misguided mentors.

Additionally, while we all have weaknesses that, sometimes, burden others like a memento of dead flowers, it is wise to remember that the manuscript of Atate Chitsulo did not type itself through imposition: Only through good works, professionalism, dedication, and an undying love for anything good did Atate Chitsulo manuscript of quality get deposited into our hearts and minds. And there it shall remain, especially now that he will no longer grace us with his physical presence, forever.

Those of us who were trained by him will forever feel like guests who arrived for his dinner party in time: So lucky in the sense that we got the dish of his wisdom while it was being served hot. It is up to us to keep the dish hot for those so unfortunate that they have arrived when the cooker of hot dishes is fleshly-gone.

No doubt, Atate Chitsulo was an interactive, interesting, even laudable character who, when compared to the other professionals of his ilk- the majority of whom are too selfish to share their knowledge with others-  or columnists- most of whom yap common sense without adding value to discourse- he was the closest thing to a perfect being.


In the course of teaching a gullible individual like me (I am talking about the Advanced News Writing Course for which he was my lecturer), he was the only one capable of- when teaching about brevity; keeping it short, that is- telling us who he was, and what he wanted from us, and how he wanted us to do what he wanted us to do, and how we could get it right, and what it would mean to him as a mentor once we got things right, and what it would mean when we got, or did not get, what he wanted IN A MINUTE! Yes, he could say all this in a MINUTE.

Oh, what lessons in brevity!

Lessons in brevity were lessons in life, too.

Then, he could look up at us (you know he was short; like Albert Sharra or Ephraim Nyondo) from his desk and clear his throat. "Listen..." We lean forward, hungry to hear. Now it will be said, now we will hear the thing we long for.

“We do it this way…” he would start. He was not a negative person; he was unlike those amateurs who start with, “We don’t do it that way…” No. Atate Chitsulo always started from somewhere to nowhere; from something to nothing. Just like that.

That’s what great teachers do. They start from something. They start from somewhere. There is always somewhere. For example (this is what a certain teacher-friend of mine told me the other day), a Standard One Mathematics teacher starts from 1, 2, 3, 4…(maybe up to 9) before introducing 0 (zero) because zero is a negative number. And because Zero is needed when introducing TEN (10). 

Otherwise, Zero is a negative number. When you want to teach people something for the first time, you start from something- and Atate Chitsulo always started from something.

So, without him, how do we start from NOTHING? How do we start from Zero?
No. We can’t understand this.

He was too good a man. He, somehow, seemed to have the power to make dance the dullest minds!
Using this power- is it expertise?- he could make dull minds such as me shine and become part of the gravity of knowledge. He could revolutionalise a simple idea by sharpening the details, adding colour and momentum, and telling those who were willing to listen how to do things the proper way. He could ponder over an issue before colouring it with his knowledge. He could colour everything in its own different way.

Need I say something about his writing style? No. It spoke for itself. It speaks for itself.

Death might have ‘thought’ that it would pull a fast one on us by exiling Atate Chitsulo to eternal rest, never on earth to be seen again. It was wrong. His philosophy. His way of doing things. His (author’s) voice. They all have remained. With us.

As we plan to escort him to his last home in Chiradzulu (is it Chiradzulo?), let us not allow his motivational spirit to go with him, or get lost in time. Instead, let the lessons served from his hot dish stand pure and unsoiled by unethical journalism.

In celebrating his life, and remembering the good things he did, we shall have no grounds for shrinking under the shadow of death. We shall not let the shadow of this painful death colour our countenances.


That will be akin to starting from nowhere.

Atate Chitsulo always started from somewhere.

The last time I met Atate Chitsulo in person, he said three words. “Go to school”.
That’s the teacher in him, not so?
And these were the last words.
And I go to school.
Living those words!

He may be a cadaver today (in body, that is); his words live on, though. And I can’t differentiate words from the spirit. Because both live after us. As we go to school, for example.

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