Up Atop My Roof So High Notch 9: Scented Like Sabolai – A Tale of Two Sisters

In the good old days when the owner of a black and white television in a compound house was automatically elected the House Overseer by his or her fellow tenants, when children ensured they had bathed before 7 pm because they could be asked to go bath just when Talking Point finally wrapped up and either ‘Obraaaaaa…’ or ‘We are going…’ started playing, those days of mobile portable TV sets which were brought out and off their cabinet-like stands which doubled as the display spaces for long-emptied Milo tins and Quaker Oats containers…in those days, actors and actresses didn’t need any emotions to make their tears flow during performances. Directors favoured the application of Robb ointment, spelt R-O-Doubled Boh-Boh-Boh! A judicious application just below the lower eyelid was sure to produce copious rivers of denkyemic proportions. Ah, I miss those days of Abyssinia, Kojo Kwakye, Esi Kom, Station Master and them thems.

But, do not despair, fellow countrymen and women. The world has moved on and we have also gone organic. These days, all one needs to produce tears is to slap the tear-inducing aromatic chemicals from onions.

Yes, good old sabolai!

And I should know about sabolai. For in those old days again, when it was hip to walk from Abavanna Junction to Mallam Atta and back, when send to buy foodstuff from the famed market of that name, which was located behind Oxford Cinema – where we had great times watching films like I Trust My Leg, The Drunken Master and Snake in the Monkey Shadow – so that we could use the lorry fare we had saved to go watch watch new films at Maxwell Hotel…in those days, mum mine used to sell plantain in Mallam Atta market. I visited often and go to know most of her colleagues, who sold everything, from salmon to sabolai. So I got to know the scent of sabolai.

My friend Oklu, whose mum – the Iron Lady who was before Thatcher was, the lady we all called Manye Yo – sold smoked fish at Makola Market, will tell you about our escapades as kids, where we did NCNC – no contribution, no chop. When our trader-mums were away, we partied. Okay, I won’t be tempted to tell you here about the Maame ni Paapa games; Oklu will do the telling. At our parties, we served food we had cooked ourselves, with ingredients which had been contributed by each of us. And, like in the story of Esau and Jacob, each brought what was readily available by the trade of their mums. Some provided fish, some brought palm oil, some brought tomatoes. I usually provided ripe plantain and, with time, I developed the knack of outwitting my mum who arranged the plantains in a pyramid, with a signature secret design at the base of the pyramid which, when disturbed on her return, showed her that her stock had been tampered with! Her secret keys would have impressed James Bond, the 007!

But, thinking back now, I don’t ever remember anyone bringing onions, good old sabolai. Because sabolai has a great attribute: the scent nu. In those days, many homes favoured the Angola shallots. According to Efo Gabriel Ahiabor, writing in the Daily Graffiti, when raw chopped shallots, interspersed into ground pepper tomatoes, is used to tackle kenkey, banku, etsew or abolo, atop some grilled tilapia, the eater will sing Halleluyah Chorus in Ewe! But onions will leave an incriminating scent behind, so when a child stole them, it was much easier for the mum to find out that her child had the scent nu.
The elders say that when there is a charge that someone has farted, that is not the time for the ant called kehini to go strolling around where they are looking for the Farter. For, you see, the kehini smells. Worse that the average fart. Which is the reason why onion sellers don’t like trouble. They hardly go where trouble brews or trouble slaps.

Up atop this roof of mine, I saw trouble. Oh yes I did. I saw it all. I saw the approach. Then I saw the flash. Then, I saw the slap in slow motion. Like on the screen at Oxford Cinema. A snake in a monkey’s shadow? The sound of the landing hand on the succulent cheek reached me up here. Then I heard “Oh!” But, as quickly as the slap had been administered, I heard the enquiry, “Aren’t you the sabolai seller who refused to give me my change the last time I was at Mallam Atta?”

As Amakye the town crier likes to say, appearance might be deceptive, but not smell. We might be clear about how an onion seller smells like, but how does an onion seller look like?

It was Sam the Awoken who woke up the Slapper from her somnambulistic state and told her that she had slapped an innocent person.

And Aijah Itaf wept. The Slapper wept.

It was a deluge of tears of humongous proportions! The Slapper put on ash and knelt and rolled on the brown ground. She offered to massage the cheek of the Slappee who refused to turn the other cheek. The Slapper called the Slapee her sister and said the incident was just a tale between two sisters which must be settled at home.

The Slapper wept.

I was so touched that my eyes watered. But, just as I took out my wife’s cover cloth to wipe my tears, reports reached me up atop my roof so high that the tears were induced by sabolai. Kai!

Yesi yesi, Sam the Awoken passed on a bag of minced sabolai and asked Aijah Itaf to apply it just like mascara. And that did the trick. It made sense too. For, indeed, Aijah Itaf sheds copious denkyemic tears.

Cry, Our Beloved Fatti.

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Why I Gripe – a poem

Too many thoughts
As I go through
The gates of my mind

Resisting the urge for comparison
But then again reflecting
On this poem
I have been musing over
For the past few weeks

Why I Gripe

When I gripe about my land
It is not because
We haven’t come
Any further
Than when we started off
But because
We could have gone
Much further

Why I Gripe
When I gripe
It is not because
I don’t see
That we are better
Than most of our neighbours
But because
Today when you talk
About neighbours
It is not geographical
Neighbours
Gut global
Neighbours
Without borders

Why I Gripe
When I gripe
It is not
For the fact
That we are better
Than the worst
But because
We are worse
Than the best

Why I Gripe
When I gripe
It is not because
I am not thankful
But because
I can see
That what we see
As the future potential
Is what should have been
Our present

Why I Gripe

©Nana A Damoah, 2013

Dear Africa

Dear Africa,

This is me, your old friend. Ah, you remember me, don’t you? Of course you do.

I am the foreigner. I am the one who visited you many many moons ago with my siblings and told you things that you found amazing and showed you new ways of looking at things you already knew way back when you were the cradle of civilization.

I am the one who told you that you had no history because history that is barely written is no history. I am the one who told you that oral tradition is inferior to written literature and who told you that you had no past before I came to you.

I am the one who discovered you. I am the one who marks the beginning of your history and your stories, because you started to exist after I found you. Ah, you know remember, right?

I am the one who told you that your culture and traditions are of no consequence because I brought to you stories of better tidings. I taught you to use words like ‘fetish’ to describe everything you did that I didn’t understand. I told you to discard your ways of dressing, how you kept your hair, how you use your beads, how you pierce your ears and noses and other parts of your body, how you drew intricate designs on your body and how you worshipped your God. We even discussed ways of the bedroom. Don’t be shy…you know we did.

I introduced you to a new way of life. And how receptive you were and still are!

But I am back. I am back to tell you that some of the things I told you to stop doing…you can start doing. Oh yes. Because we have moved on. You can go back to your ‘fetish’ way of worshipping because we have also found it. You call it witchcraft, we call it magic. Our churches are now even emptying, as we find the spaces they occupy better used as pubs. You should see the one where the bar is situated right on a former altar.

You can now draw on your bodies. You called it drawings, we call it tattoos. You can pierce, because we found the piercing way of life too.

And, oh, I told you that man to man is not good, right? We have changed that too. We have even moved on to sleeping with animals.

How long will these new changes last, you ask? Well, we are still evolving.

In the meantime, if you do have any troubles with rewriting some of the laws I taught you to draft and implement, I am ready to help you.

You know I am just a call away. You don’t need a mind of your own when you have mine.

I appreciate so much that you listen to me and implement my ways. This is how friendship should be.

Later then.

Your friend,
The Foreigner

PS: In your last letter, you asked what my stance is on polygamy. I am now experimenting with that, and also with polyamory. I shall advise on that soon.

Up Atop My Roof So High: Notch 8 ‒ The Meizianic Smell of It

It was the Ghangerian spices and soaps merchant, Yao Nsakoro, who first introduced me to the expression ‘the smell of it’. No wonder, the man has been smelling flavours, perfumes, palm oil and tallow half of his life. He said he learnt the term from the scribe Sonallah Ibrahim, who wrote the novel titled ‘That Smell and Notes from Prison’.

That smell. You see, up atop this roof of mine, I smell smells. Oh yes. And, even now, as I espy Judas the Carrot Seller pass by on his way to the meeting with those counters of silver shekels, I know the season of seasoning smells is at hand yet again.

Ah, the sound of the word ‘seasoning’ brings memories up atop this roof. Is there not a popular adage within the corridors of our village that well-seasoned words make for easy eating when, perchance, one is forced to take back his or her words? Words seasoned enough that they do not land the speaker in trouble, jail or an anyido-hole, whichever comes first?

The thing with seasoning is that the seasoning agent doesn’t have to be a large portion of the whole. Or, if you would permit this retired factory hand a little indulgence in pastimes past, I would say that the agent only needs to be a small percentage of the formulation. For all that one needs is a flavour.

And Akwasi Manu knew this well, his mother being a veteran chopbar operator. In the Science class in the LA Middle School ‘A’ near the Roman Catholic church building, Teacher Akwaah asked his class to list the differences between goat and sheep. Akwasi almost laughed out loud. What an easy question, he reasoned. He tilted his oblong head to one side, chewed the top of BIC pen awhile and started listing the differences, including this key insight:

“When you cook with goat, the light soup has wow pumeh-meh perfume; but when you make light soup with sheep, it doesn’t give wow perfume.”

Any connoisseur of pumeh-meh delights knows that all that one needs for the signature perfume in the light soup is for the head of the billy goat to have that distinctive smell at its zenith, just behind the horns. One doesn’t need to have a special equipment to pick up or evaluate that smell. A billy goat worth its salt, or a VIP ticket to join any light soup, exudes that perfume miles away and draws the buyer to itself. Such a good head is enough to power a big pot of light soup.

Akwasi is not the only one who knows the power of representative flavour, the significance of just the smell of it. So the story is told of a Blay Meizaiah who decided to soak his walking stick in a concoction of herbs, some of which were said to be of psychedelic nature. The story continued that Blay then travelled abroad with this stick which was smelling of the herb that is always the subject of songs of praise. At the airport in the foreign land, the immigration officers insisted that the Meizaiah was a carrier but he said he was as clean as an angel. They subjected him to delays and delays and searches and searches, yet found nothing. In the end, they had to apologise to him. Here is where the story ‒ my version ‒ gets interested. Akin to the guy who was arrested by a police man and after begging for hours, was asked by the police man “I accept your apology, but what are you apologising with?” Blay asked for compensation. And the compensation was worth the hustle and the smell of it.

As smells of the Carrot Seller, the spices that are being gathered for the pumeh-meh feasts which will attend this long weekend of the Messianic death and resurrection and the smells of the village’s multifarious effusions reach me up atop his roof so high, I can’t help thinking of the Meizianic adventure and how we love just the smell of things in this village.

We are content with just the flavour of things and not the full substance thereof. Just the tip of the apex of the iceberg.

So we launch an app that is supposed to help give us exact address codes. And then we are content that it only sits on our phones. The organisation whose name is on the app, instead of using it to ensure they can rejuvenate their near-moribund establishment, to take over deliveries to postcodes, installing post boxes in front of houses and using the new system to revolutionise their work, chooses to snore and enjoy the smell of it. I am yet to see a PO Box in any serious country in this present age.

We launch and pay good money for a program to name all our streets and link them up to banking system and identification database. We name a few streets, take a few pictures and go to sleep, patting our backs for being able to start the journey and taking a nap, under the influence of the smell of it. What is the name of your street of residence, and can a taxi driver just come to your house with a mention of only that name?

Where is the link between the GhanaPost GPS, names of our streets and the various institutions like the banks which ask for data? The last time I was in a bank, the official was still insisting that I sketch the way to my house and to indicate a landmark. I insisted that my street name is a landmark! In case you want to know, I had to still sketch!

We should be working on the basis of a development continuum. GhanaGPS and street naming should be linked. Codes are meaningless unless linked with house numbers and street names.

We spend good money on a national identification card program and build a huge edifice with only the smell of it. And then we take a puff of the smoke from the money we just burn, going round in circles and being content only with starting and not necessarily finishing.

A country stoned on only the smells of things.

Ah, I see Judas the Carrot Seller returning, labouring under the burden of a sack. It appears depreciation has affected the value of the shekels and increased the weight. That is the cue I need to get off this roof and go find myself a good billy goat for the weekend.

And, you guessed right, I will follow the smell.

Happy Easter!

SP is coming!

Opia: Charlie, are we allowing this School Prefect to be voted for without any atekyɛ thrown at him?

Obenteng: Let’s call the Cupboard Prefect. This German Kaiser must have some skeletons in the cupboard.

Soufreh (CP): Hmmm I have checked aaa, seems the man didn’t even keep his homework books here.

Opia: Asem aba. But, wait, can’t we just accuse him of being past his prime? An SP must be young. Othersiwe, how can he chase the bad boys like Moshi Dayan who skip classes and preps?

Obenteng: Bullseye! We shall accuse him of old age!

Opia: Oya! Hurry, before they close the doors to the Administration Block!

Overstretching the Grace

Look beyond our roads. Look around you. There are so many unsafe situations and conditions around us.

As a safety professional, I see so many of such accidents waiting to happen as I walk around.

Gutters missing their slabs around Accra Mall, cracked parts of streets around Adabraka, sometimes in the middle of the street, with a stick stuck in as the only warning, trotros with sharp edges of seats and welded joints protruding, commercial buses without emergency exits and no information on how to exit in emergencies, buildings with no escape routes in emergencies, meeting rooms in big office buildings with single exit points, taxis with LPG smells in them meaning the gas is leaking…

We live in an unsafe country. The entire country requires a safety gap assessment with actions to close the gaps which clearly exist.

In Ghana, we overstretch our allocation of the grace of God.

May the Lord keep us. Keep safe. Blessed weekend.

Up Atop My Roof So High: Notch 7 – What Aled the Goldsmith Cooked

Egya Ntori had been complaining about the lack of vitality in his chamber of chambers for years, long before he met Attakora Manu the returnee. Attakora had travelled to the Big City to check his hyɛbrɛ. The elders say when the arrow snaps, it returns to its roots. And even though the bird may fly wide and high, and perch on a tree, when it dies, its feathers fall to the ground. For, as long as I have been alive and perching up atop this roof of mine, I have never seen the earth reject its own. So when Manu couldn’t find succor in the city, he returned to his roots. To the village. With nothing in material terms. But not without tales of many colours.

He spent most of his late afternoons with Egya Ntori. Manu told his stories of the city, and Egya showed his appreciation by sharing his supper with him.

It was Manu who got Egya interested in a visit to the Lane. Manu told Egya that the Lane in the city housed maidens who could even resurrect the dead, and that vitality restoration was their speciality.
Egya Ntori decided one early morning to travel to the city to sample the delight.

All went according to the plan and he found himself an atia donko. She had an operating theatre where the kunfu took place. When it came to the negotiation of the occupancy fees, atia donko told Egya that it depended on the route.

“Route?” Egya queried.
“Yes, do you want by air, land or sea?”
“By air, of course!”

If something must kill a man, then man must go flying, Egya philosophied. He didn’t come all the way from the village to watch the sea!

The operation started and atia began to minister to Egya Ntori’s golf accoutrements. Egya was in cloud nine! But not all can run with horses and not tire.

It didn’t take long for Egya to cry out, “Parachute me down!” Egya was dizzy with delight! Ekiki no!

This week, I have been dizzy with all I have been seeing from up atop my roof so high. Things are cooking so fast and zigzagging the Zuckersphere like atoms in brownian motion.

I had been quite busy lately selling Graphic since Teacher Akwaah decided to abandon the trade. It has been hectic and my head gets immersed in the sheets, I mean of the books, and so I keep on missing the buzz of the town. This week too, because of the Ohum Festival taking place in the next village, the village gossips have been out of town. A good source of information for me, free too. So when I started inhaling the sweet aroma of the plenty nsempiisms cooking in the village, wafting towards with the gentle winds, I shouted out to my good friend and mentor Osikani Yvonne Euss.

“What’s cooking about cooking?” I bellowed from up atop my roof so high, even startling the goats passing in front the house, under the extension of my roof. Trust Osikani Euss. He is not the people’s boyfriend for nothing. He has filla papa. He gave me the full rundown.

But even before I could start listening to him, I heard a shrill voice coming through my Akasanoma radio. I got closer. It was Togbe Koku Aloski again. That son of a carpenter is wicked papa. He had his vice firmly attached to someone’s jugular vein, literally jugulating someone. I listened intently. The victim this time was Okyeame Twum, from the palace of Chief Tankaasi. Ei, the matter resembles your eye! Okyeame Twum was blowing is blowing what his Chief and the nwura warriors are supposed to clear! When asked some of the specific achievements are so far, he spoke about plans to enhance the plans that have been planned. Togbe Aloski didn’t relent, ei this man! He moved downstairs to minister to the man’s golf accoutrement. But unlike the case of Egya Ntori, Togbe Aloski didn’t ask about any dietary requirements of the Okyeame. He dug in with his incisors. Okyeame began to stutter and then did the ultimate: he had his Oga-at-the-top moment! It is truly a fearful thing to fall into the cobwebs of Togbe Koku Aloski. Avoid him if you can.

Within this same week, at long last, Kenyasi also became a great country. They now have a sitting President taken care of by the State, as well as a running President, taken care of by himself. I am so proud of them, and I told Rafiki Conso so when we met recently to have waakye communion and break some bottles.

Now, back to what’s been cooking. Ah, you too, take your time eh! Your ears dey sweet you too much! This year has seen multifarious debates about food and cooking, about colours of roots, tubers and plantains, whether mothers are supposed to cook for their grown-up children professors who visit Kwesimintim, the propriety of sharing pictures of home choow (can you please check quickly for that in the Courtesy for Boys and Girls book?), the role farting plays in the marital equation, the constitutionality of the husband in the sitting room whilst a tired wife cooks in the kitchen after arriving home from work before him (after a long day at work for both of them), whether it is in the Bible that a man who so enjoys such culinary pampering should donate his ATM card for the judicious use of his slaving or hardworking or loving wife (select the adjective you find suitable, say Hosanna), whether the central business district (with due respect to Hajia Hassi) is required for cooking meals that are worth coming home for (even for a spouse with a heart of gold), who cooks in the house – man or woman, whether the husband can expect food to be provided as he provides money for its provision, whether cooking is even overrated and we all need to install an Uber food app, for food on demand…

What did you say? You are asking what I think? Well, I have been trained to say nothing when I have nothing to say. But, my mind goes to this quote I encountered over a decade ago and never forgot. In many ways, this quote has influenced why I hardly write about marriage. And seldom debate about religion. Both are quite experiential. I forgot the source of the quote. I searched and searched and got the name of the originator just as I sipped sobolo up atop this roof so high. It was Lord Chesterfield who made that profound statement. He said: “In matters of religion and matrimony I never give any advice; because I will not have anybody’s torments in this world or the next laid to my charge.”

As for me, I am only an observer of the human Brownian motion, perching high atop this thatched roof of mine.

Up Atop My Roof So High: Notch 6 – Sweet and Sour Social Media

I must have signed on to Facebook late 2007. Before Facebook, we had dabbled in hi5 and a few others. The main connecting tool for chatting around this time, and a couple of years before Facebook became mainstream, was Yahoo Messenger, and MSN before then. Gmail introduced a chat window within the email portal itself which collapsed faster than a pile of books on a seat in a car travelling on the Sakumono-Klagon road.
 
Then, in 2008, I published my first book. Of course, I didn’t have money to do any traditional publicity – on TV, radio, and in print. No one knew about my writing, and fewer still knew about my name, aside having a faint recollection of its resemblance to the surname of the learned priest who served on the PNDC. So, right from the beginning, I was constrained by lack of funds and advised by pragmatism to set out on a journey. A journey I believed in. A future I envisaged. To focus on using Facebook, especially, to showcase my writing, and my books. It was more of an experiment, but I felt deep within my bones that social media was going to change the media and how we both consume and disseminate information. And how publicity is rolled out.
 
I always say one of the first persons to appreciate where I was going with it was my colleague and friend Akofa Ata who gave me great encouragement, most of it by his subtle actions and then on a couple of occasions, verbally.
 
In the beginning, especially after Excursions in My Mind was launched in December 2008, I would go into inboxes, introduce myself politely, and say something like “My name is Nana, and I just released a new book which I want to introduce to you.” I made similar outreaches even before the launch. That is how come, at my first ever book launch, I got touched and surprised by some high profile persons who attended. For instance, I didn’t know the current CEO of Databank, Kojo Addae-Mensah, personally. Indeed, I have met him, even up to today, less than five times. Precisely, about three times, if I am right. But, he read me on this platform, and came for the launch. Madam Anna Bossman, currently Ghana’s Ambassador to France, accepted my inbox message and attended that 2008 launch. Two years later, she was the Chairperson for my second book launch. I call her Auntie Anna now, but we were not even acquaintances before Facebook. Frankly, there might have been no other way I could have encountered her. She was even then such a high flyer and one of the famous names in Ghana.
 
Since 2008, and on this platform, I have been able to get acquainted with so many people that I wouldn’t have been even employed to tie their shoes or clean their offices. Through this platform, I have grown and been accepted as a writer and author. For about three years, I was a columnist in B&FT but I can confidently say that Facebook was where many people who recognise my name and my writings encountered me for the first time.
 
And this platform has open doors to me. I got to contribute to two anthologies, one in Ghana and the other in South Africa, just through contacts here on this platform. Our publishing as a company was created right out of here, and the contents of our first book as publishers were gleaned off here – FaceOff With the International ‘MP’. I am currently working on a job I got to work on a book for someone who has never met me, based in Geneva. He only knows me from here.
 
Right from the start, I was clear in my mind that social media is not that virtual. I always said that the dividing line between virtual and real is now very thin, and is made of dew. So, in my mind, there is nothing like online behaviour or persona and real life/offline behaviour. You are what you display and showcase both online and offline. You are better off ensuring alignment between the two.
 
Facebook and other social media offer great opportunities to engage with great minds and the benefits are enormous. Mind what you allow to escape from your mind onto this canvas.
 
One last example. From WhatsApp. I share ads about books from Booknook to my WhatsApp status frequently. So I do get orders and requests from people I might not know personally. I got one such last month. The address was given as the Court Complex. I submitted the package to the courier company I use – Veritas – to deliver. The rider called me to say later that he couldn’t reach the client. I told him that the address indicated the floor number and the actual court so he should go there and ask for the person; perhaps he works there.
 
The next day, I asked the rider how it went. He said he had to sit in the court and wait for about 30 minutes before he could see the client and hand over the package.
 
The client was the Judge in the seat.
 
I later googled his name and was awed. Big man!
 
Social media is a two-edged sword. Social media is both sweet and sour. Social media is how you make it.
 
There are a good number of young people who are using this platform to build amazing businesses. Some are using it to procure lifelong mentors and guardians. Via this platform, you can enter boardrooms and drink deep from the founts of CEO’s minds. Many are making great friends right here, who are affecting their lives positively. The world has become flat and separating curtains have been torn for those who wish and dare and are desirous to step through the split partitions to engage and dine with greatness.
 
You can make it work for you.
 
Shalom and have a great weekend.
 
NAD, 03022018

Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast

27 January 2018

Speech delivered at Adonten SHS, Aburi
Joyful Way Incorporated Speaker Series/Outreach to schools

How many sing in the bathhouse?
How many of us won’t sing outside the bathhouse?
How many of us dream when we sleep?
How many of us forget what the dream was about as soon as we wake up?

(Raise up your hands please)

We all get ideas in the shower. Don’t you? Well, I do. Even without singing in my gravelly, guttural voice! But what differentiates successful people from the others, what sets apart those who make a difference on their generation from dreamers, what makes distinguished persons achievers, is that these people get out the shower, dry themselves and do something about the ideas.

Thomas Robert Gaines said “It is good to dream but it is better to dream and work. Faith is mighty but action with faith is mightier. Desiring is helpful, but work and desire are invincible.”

This same notion was articulated by John Hancook Field when he stated that “all worthwhile men have good thoughts, good ideas and good intentions – but precious few of them ever translate those into action.”

It is the translation of ideas, the deployment of strategy into action and the movement of blueprints from the drawing boards into the performance sphere that matters.

“An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise.” William dean Howells

William J.H. Boetaker asserted that “the individual activity of one man with a backbone will do more than a thousand men with a mere wishbone”.

A number of posters had been displayed at vantage points in the Tema factory of Unilever Ghana where I used to work. One caught my attention once, and engaged my thoughts:

“Small deeds done are better than great ideas planned.”

James Rusell Lowell captured the same truism when he said that “all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action”.

A former boss of mine, then the Supply Chain Director of Unilever Ghana, Stephane Achio, once remarked that we are generally excellent at mapping up extensive and elaborate action plans. Very meticulous, comprehensive and thorough, with all the fanciful timings and meeting all the specifications of SMART – Specific, Measurable, Agreed/Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

The problem is that most of these plans become what Andrew Ogutu, a trainer with Accenture years ago, dubs SPOTS: strategic plans on top shelves – left to accumulate dust, yielding no results.

I believe in baby steps. Our second son, Nana Yaw Appiah, commenced walking in September 2008, just before his first birthday. I was absent during the walking trials of his elder brother Nana Kwame, due to my peregrinations in 2007 so it was a personal delight to observe Nana Yaw’s walking development. Nana Yaw turned expert and confident over time. He evolved from crawling on his stomach, through crawling on all fours to holding onto objects to rise –enhancement, progress, improvement each day.

Brick-by-brick, step-by-step, taking the journey to the top one stair at a time. No one strides by moving both feet at the same time. I returned home one evening from work to meet a thrilled house – Nana Yaw had taken four to five steps without holding onto any object! A month later now, he was even able to walk backwards, dancing in the process!

See, the baby is not afraid that someone will say he/she is taking baby steps and not walking in the right way. The baby is not bothered.

Don’t wait to become an expert before you attempt converting your thought into action, for as Art Buck said “though good may come of practice, this primal truth endures: the first time anything is done, it is done by amateurs”.

However, it is significant to clarify that I am not advocating for baby thoughts on issues, for according to Mary Beard, though study without action is futile, action without study is fatal. Study, thought, contemplation must go hand-in-hand with action. “Contemplation is necessary to generate an object, but action must propagate it,” so said Owen Feltham.

“Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.” Henri Bergson

When I sent text messages to my friends to notify them of the release of my first book ‘Excursions in my Mind’ and its impending launch, Sammy Owusu Asiedu, the brother of my close pal Eric Dapaa, called to congratulate me. He noted that he was even more impressed that I had gradually progressed from writing short stories for publication in the ‘Mirror’ to getting my book published. My first published story was in 1994, in the ‘Mirror’, titled ‘Showdown’, and my first book came out in 2008, fourteen years in-between.

This means that you should not despise small beginnings.

What do you have in your hands? That is the question God asked Moses, and that is the same I ask you: what are you doing today and yet despising? Take an inventory, and you will be amazed what future that holds, if only you will think what you can do with it.

I am known more as a writer and publisher now than even as a chemical engineer which is what I was trained in, or a manufacturing professional, which is how my career for the past 17 years has mostly been. But how did it start? It started about 40 years ago in a small school in Kotobabi.

Mr. Okpoti Manison of blessed memory had structured his school Providence Preparatory in Kotobabi, Accra, such that on the day before the vacation date, the ‘Our Day’, the entire school gathered for the entire day for plays, poems and dance. Each class had to perform a play, and parents and guardians were invited to watch. I loved the drama day. Knowing one’s parents were in the audience was always an added incentive to perform well. My earliest memories are of reciting a poem in my three-piece batakari, complete with a hat, the attire made from UAC cloth, where my dad worked as a driver distributing textiles all across the country. Small beginnings, appreciation of the arts, learning the rudiments of prose and poetry. Special tribute to Mr. Aidoo and Mr. Edem (we called him brother), two special teachers in Providence who affected my life for good. I remember being taught, in preparation for the Common Entrance, to answer the question: Write a story ending with ‘…and the boy learnt a lesson for life, that obedience is better than sacrifice.’ You ever wrote such a story? Small beginnings of creative writing.

At a point, especially around 2004, I felt and acknowledged that writing could be an important part of my life. The publishing dream can along later. But I started. Borrowing money to get my first book published and using all the annual work bonus to get my second book published. Big money. Did I get my money back? No, I didn’t. I tell myself that the £5600 (which will be GHS 36,000 or $8,000 today) was my diploma in publishing! Then, from 2008, I started actively telling people on social media about my writing and introducing my writing. I was also writing more and was quite clear in my mind that I had to write more books. I answered messages on Facebook. I engaged with people who read my works.

I had that big dream and I was working slowly and slowly. Today I have about 27,000 people reached by my single post on Facebook. I get people recognising my books, name and face.

After my first two books, I used the experience from my ‘diploma’ to self-publish my third book and to learn how to put the book on Amazon. As a hardcopy. I also researched on how to create ebooks on Amazon Kindle and iBooks. Last year, I tried audio books and spent a week or so learning about how to create CDs on Amazon. I learnt these from scratch, starting small.

Then I did my third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh books. Then I learnt some more and did even more. Learning and applying.

From last year, my friend Akpabli and I sent up a publishing company and started moving fast! I resigned from my job in Nigeria and came home to focus on building my dream. We produced five books last year, including one book by an 18 year old ex-Aburi Girls student who wrote her book whilst a student here in Aburi, on a campus close to yours, at the age of 16. One of our books is one of the fastest selling in Ghana now, even read by the President and the Vice President.

Let me tell you about that 18-year old author. She is called Ashley Nadom Turkson, now a Communications Studies student at UCC. She always had a dream of being a writer and an author. She said the first six or so chapters that she wrote of Aseye’s Journey, her novel, got missing. She had to sit and rewrite. In September 2016, we had a book reading at JamRock Restaurant in East Legon. Her father brought her from school to listen to three authors and be inspired. Inspired she was and a few months later she submitted her manuscript to us. We used a year to finish the editing and publishing and in January 2018, we launched her book! Ashley says she is going to write more books! Her book is Amazon and her cousins abroad are reading her.

What do you have in your hands?

Proverbs 16:3 – Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

But you must have a plan. Dreams should lead to a plan of action. Analyse, think, reflect. Some of us don’t like to think. We only worry. So think and brainstorm and organise and prioritise the steps. Write them down. Then start small. But start.

Some of us dabble in analysis to paralysis. We will think saaa and talk saaa and do nothing. It is called NATO: No Action, Talk Only. Desist from NATO behaviour.

“To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in, and scramble through as well as we can.” Sydney Smith

Prepare to start and learn. In engineering solutions, there is something called iteration. It’s a loop and the more you iterate, the closer you get towards a better solution to a problem. To your dreams.

We concur that Rome was not built in a day but in practice, we want to leap from lying in cots to walking in space. Orison S. Marden declared that “we live in an age of haste. Some people look at an egg and expect it to crow.”

Why do we despise the days of small beginnings? Why are we afraid to take infant steps? Why do we usually want to move from crawling to flying? I love a quote from Emmanuel Dei-Tumi’s book What I wish I knew before the age of twenty: ‘The elevator to success and wealth is always out of order and one has to use the stairs, one step at a time.’ A few friends have asked me how I got a publisher in the UK to publish my first book Excursions in my mind. My response? I sent a manuscript, responding to an advert in the Economist. Just that first step.

You have some grand ideas in your mental bank now – I can almost bet on that. So start now on the way to implementation. Take baby steps with the idea. “Think big, start small, move fast”, I discovered years ago.

In Scripture (Zechariah 4:10), the question is asked: “For who hath despised the day of small things?” Another version renders it thus: “Who despised the day when little things began to happen?” In some versions, it is the ‘day of small beginnings’. Many of us do, many of us despise such a day, many of us don’t give much thought to such a day.

Don’t despise the days of small beginnings, for they are many. I go through my old scripts and I get amazed about the stuff I wrote back then, not bad at all! Why did I not write more then, why did I not publish more often? What you are doing today with your talents, with your thoughts, with your ideas may look small, but every giant was once a sperm, an egg, microscopic. What we are and will be is and will be a totality of the experiences, lessons, failures, mistakes, flops we have; block upon block, piece by piece, small step after small step, for every man is built up “precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little; that they might go, and stumble, and be broken, and snared, and taken”, that is how we are built by the Word of God, that is how success is made of a man. Don’t underrate any step along the way, and be fortified by the thought of John Dryden that “mighty things from small beginnings grow”

When a review of your life is done by history, you will not be remembered by the immensity and plethora of ideas you had, but by those of that number you turned from idea into launch. Aristotle summed it up well when he said: “In the arena of human life, the honours and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.”

Permit me to conclude by giving you homework. What I call Action exercises. Please write them down. Three of them:

1. List three top ideas you have for your life: career, personal development, studies…

2. Spend more time thinking of how to implement.

3. Decide today to start working on their translation into reality.

Many thanks for your attention and God bless you.

Nana Awere Damoah
Author/Publisher/Bookseller

Appendix

Some More Quotes for reflection

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.” Bruce Barton

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Act quickly, think slowly.” Greek proverb

“Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts.” William Hazlitt

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so inaction saps the rigours of the mind.” Leonardo Da Vinci

“Let deeds match words.” Plautus

“However brilliant an action may be, it ought not to pass for great when it is not the result of a great design.” Francois De La Rochefoucauld

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” William Shakespeare, Hamlet

“What is done hastily cannot be done prudently.” Publilius Syrus

“Actions lie louder than words.” Carolyn Wells

“Thought and theory must precede all salutary action; yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.” William Wordsworth

“The beginning of all things are small.” Cicero

“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute. What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Begin it and the work will be completed.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Dare to be wise, begin! He who postpones the hour of living rightly is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.” Horace

“The beginnings of all things are weak and tender.” Michel de Montaigne

“The only joy in the world is to begin.” Cesare Pavese

“While we ponder when to begin, it becomes too late to do.” Quintilian

“The difference between getting somewhere and nowhere is the courage to make an early start. The fellow who sits still and does just what he is told will never be told to do big things.” Charles M. Schwab

“Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.” Anonymous

“Experience is the comb Nature gives us after we are bald.” Belgian proverb

“Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldous Huxley

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