The Animated Chronicles of a Wandering Historian – Vol 1

Thee Agora turned 3 on the 30th of May this year. Now, what is three years to a blog started out of nothing but profound passion and ceaseless curiosity? …possibly a lifetime.

The idea of putting my thoughts and research into something that other people could read and understand long lingered in my mind. But I struggled to conceptualize it, how to structure it, what to call it, what to write, how to write it?… Aaaa to the uncertain of minds doubt comes freely in unending quantities.

All along, the whole point has been to write history not from the perspective of kings and queens. Or to ramble on and on about facts and figures repeated a thousand times over. The main aim has been to tell the history of ordinary men and women, who by their collective efforts shaped today as we know it. The real movers and shakers of things, the ones diligently adding fire to the furnace in spite of the heat.

It is the curse of every history lover, to be fascinated by things you can never experience only imagine.

Much of 2013 was spent trying to get on my feet (and the internet being the virtual space that it is, finding your ground can literally be a daunting task) but eventually I did. And my thoughts settled down and built a home for themselves in a world of constantly shifting perspectives.

Then graciously came 2014, striking in its poise, mesmerizing in its gait. 2014 blew me away; the feedback was great, the comments encouraging and the spirits positively high. And even that came and went. And 2015 stormed into the room in that characteristic nature of years ending with odd numbers.

In the past three years, I have had the opportunity to personally meet and communicate with people who have greatly helped turn Thee Agora into what it is today. I have also attempted to save a railway ( I  still am ). I remember in 2013 when I first started my save the railway project, while at Voi railway station I had the privilege of meeting the world’s most cynical, most inconsiderate  police man. Try explaining to a Kenyan police officer that you are only there because you are interested in documenting history…even dead ends have their own dead ends.

I fell in love with a century old railway. I fell in love with its misfortunes and its gains. I fell in love with the stories of the people who built. With the towns that grew around it and the lives it affected. How could so many lives, so far apart be so intertwined?

To live the life of a history lover is akin to living a life of eternal servitude. Only that your service is in honour of the past and your duty is to represent it to the present. 3 years ago, I had not the faintest of ideas that Thee Agora would grow this big. A success measured in the positive comments and emails from hundreds of people around the world who can identify and relate to the stories they read here.

The experience so far has been simply amazing. Never in my life have I been able to give so freely and receive in equal measure.  In my bid to preserve history and culture, I now realize that the unknown surpasses the known. There are so many forgotten stories peacefully lying out there waiting to be heard and read. Is it my job to revive them? Well, only time can tell.

It has of course come with its fair share of challenges and setbacks. Often times in my representation of historical events, I have drowned out my own voice in the name of impartiality.  For instance, after compiling the Birth of a City, some readers debated as to whether any street names and statues/ monuments that were a representation of our colonial past should be Africanized. Some were for it while others were against it. To this I did not offer my opinion even though I had one.

Living in constant narration of events you did not witness or see can itself be a challenge. How then do you offer a personal account of something that is not your own? How do you represent stories that are not your own? Do you do them justice or only offer the reader a glimpse into something that is of a much larger scale than that which you are trying to represent.

It has also been a personal journey of sorts. Often I have often wondered as to the purpose of all this. Why we are driven to do certain things with our lives? Isit conviction? Is it fate?  Whatever it is, I don’t question it. If anything, I’m rather thankful for it all.

Mine would be to say thank you to all the readers who have constantly been the inspiration behind this endeavour. To the people who encouraged me to write even when I had my doubts. Plans? Well in this case there are no strategic plans or projection charts. Just an unfailing hope to continue doing what I have been doing to the best of my ability.

I have been researching at the Kenya National Archives for the past 4 years and here, I met Mr.Ambani who offers guidance and assistance to researchers. Four years he has said hi and asked whether I had everything I needed for my research. The other day I introduced myself. I asked him how long he had worked there he smiled and in the most humble and charming of ways said, “I’ve worked here since 1964. I am the archives.”

I hope to tell stories like Mr.Ambani’s and more; stories of human sacrifice, hard work and relations, stories that may seem like drops in a vast endless ocean but as Adam Ewing would say, “Yet what is an ocean but a multitude of drops. ”