“Everything about her spoke of alternatives and possibilities that if considered too deeply would wreak havoc with the neat plan I had laid out for my life.”
― Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions
I always knew that working in a live radio news environment can be stressful. I have been working in a radio news environment for the past 10 or so years of my life. But I have never had yesterday’s experience before. That experience taught me, no demonstrated to me in real time changes in my body’s bio-chemistry that love can be very dangerous. The pressure was on. We were to be live on air for an hour and all our stories from top to bottom were falling through; news makers and journalists were not picking up their phones, lines were dead, the computer was freezing, the internet refused to cooperate, nothing was working out.
I remember reminding myself to remain calm, not to kick up a fuss, dial numbers as normal, pressing hard or banging the keys won’t make the line go through or the other person to pick up. Same with the internet and the malfunctioning printer. I didn’t even look at our presenter who was add-libbing his way through stale old scripts. I have been on the other-side and understood that whatever was happening behind the glass would affect how he sounded on air. And it did. As I was walking around the office, shoe-less now trying to ask people for alternative numbers for Q&A with people, none of their computers were working. I was trying to reach someone in the northern cape. No lines were going through. I remained calm.
The’res really no point in getting upset about it. I just need to do what I can and move on I was thinking. By the time the show was over I could barely breathe, my skin was taught. It felt like someone had poured hot lead in my throat. My ears were ringing as if police sirens were ringing inside the studio. My feet had swollen and its skin had turned blue. That’s when I realized for real. This Job can Kill me dead, just like that for a show no one would remember a second after the credits were read.
To relax I revisited an email a good friend of mine sent me the other day about study opportunities at the University of California, Berkeley. I remember walking down the leafy green campus with him a few years ago while he was finishing his PhD in Anthropology. We were on our way to a lecture by one of his favourite professor; on violence and dogs, when I envisioned myself being part of campus life; spending time reading, writing, learning and discovering other ways of being.
The Campus also has a great African Studies program he admonished me in the email. I would love to immerse myself in African History, and maybe one day also produce a book that will last longer than the split second news clips or interviews . In my browsing I started to think about the book that did it for me. The one that made me think that maybe I could also write. It was to be none other than: Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions.
I find myself today as we speak in the painful fault lines of the books major themes. Gender.Race. Colonialism. Shall we add Class and Capitalism for good measure? Yes.
I would like to pick up the book again, under less nerve-wrecking conditions, and discover pointers I may have missed in my childhood. I am already curious about what I will find. I have more than proved my love for radio, for news. I can take a break now and listen and come back one day on more friendlier terms. My own. In the meantime I will hold on to the idea, the dream of producing my own totem, that will one day be discovered by my niece(s) and future nephews when books in hard copy format will be so last century. It’s a dream that may take years to achieve, but it is worth living for.
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