This was first written by Tai Solarin on January 1, 1964 to herald the New Year. Excerpts
I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year. I
therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year, may there be
plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are not so sure what you
should say back, why not just say, ‘Same to you’? I ask for no more.
Our successes are conditioned by the amount of risk we are ready to
take. Earlier on today I visited a local farmer about three miles from
where I live. He could not have been more than fifty-five, but he said
he was already too old to farm vigorously. He still suffered, he said,
from the physical energy he displayed as a farmer in his younger days.
Around his hut were two pepper bushes. There were kokoyams growing round
him. There were snail shells which had given him meat. There must have
been more around the banana trees I saw. He hardly ever went to town to
buy things. He was self-sufficient. The car or the bus, the television
or the telephone, the newspaper, Vietnam or Red China were nothing to
He had no ambitions whatsoever, he told me. I am not sure
if you are already envious of him, but were we all to revert to such a
life, we would be practically driven back to cave dwelling. On the other
hand, try to put yourself into the position of the Russian or the
America astronaut. Any moment now the count, 3, 2, 1, is going to go,
and you are going to be shot into the atmosphere and soon you will be
whirling round our earth at the speed of six miles per second. If you
get so fired into the atmosphere and you forget what to do to ensure
return to earth, one of the things that might happen to you is that you
could become forever satellite, going round the earth until you die of
starvation and even then your body would continue the gyration!
When, therefore, you are being dressed up and padded to be shot into the
sky, you know only too well that you are going on the roughest road man
had ever trodden. The Americans and Russians who have gone were armed
with the great belief that they would come back. But I cannot believe
that they did not have some slight foreboding on the contingency of
their non-return. It is their courage for going in spite of these
apprehensions that makes the world hail them so loudly today.
big fish is never caught in shallow waters. You have to go into the
open sea for it. The biggest businessmen make decisions with lighting
speed and carry them out with equal celerity. They do not dare delay or
dally. Time would pass them by if they did. The biggest successes are
preceded by the greatest of heart-burnings. You should read the stories
of the bomber pilots of World War II. The Russian pilot, the German
pilot, the American or the British pilot suffered exactly the same
physical and mental tension the night before a raid on enemy territory.
There were no alternative routes for those who most genuinely believed
in victory for their side.
You cannot make omelettes without
breaking eggs, throughout the world, there is no paean without pain.
Jawaharlal Nehru has put it so well. I am paraphrasing him. He wants to
meet his troubles in a frontal attack. He wants to see himself tossed
into the aperture between the two horns of the bull. Being there, he
determines he is going to win and, therefore, such a fight requires all
When my sisters and I were young and we slept on
our small mats round our mother, she always woke up at 6a.m. for morning
prayers. She always said prayers on our behalf but always ended with
something like this: ‘May we not enter into any dangers or get into any
difficulties this day.’ It took me almost thirty years to dislodge the
canker-worm in our mother’s sentiments. I found, by hard experience,
that all that is noble and laudable was to be achieved only through
difficulties and trials and tears and dangers. There are no other roads.
If I was born into a royal family and should one day become a
constitutional king, I am inclined to think I should go crazy. How could
I, from day to day, go on smiling and nodding approval at somebody
else’s successes for an entire lifetime? When Edward the Eighth (now
Duke of Windsor) was a young, sprightly Prince of Wales, he went to
Canada and shook so many hands that his right arm nearly got pulled out
of its socket. It went into a sling and he shook hands thenceforth with
his left hand. It would appear he was trying his utmost to make a
serious job out of downright sinecurism.
Life, if it is going to
be abundant, must have plenty of hills and vales. It must have plenty of
sunshine and rough weather. It must be rich in obfuscation and
perspicacity. It must be packed with days of danger and of apprehension.
When I walk into the dry but certainly cool morning air of every
January 1st, I wish myself plenty of tears and of laughter, plenty of
happiness and unhappiness, plenty of failures and successes. Plenty of
abuse and praise. It is impossible to win ultimately without a rich
measure of intermixture in such a menu. Life would be worthless without
the lot. We do not achieve much in this country because we are all so
scared of taking risks. We all want the smooth and well-paved roads.
While the reason the Americans and others succeeded so well is that they took such great risks.
If, therefore, you are out in this New Year 1964, to win any target you have set for yourself, please accept my prayers and your elixir.
May your road be rough.