REFLECTIONS : Riding the shinkansen

Hearing of the deaths that are taking place literally every minute on this planet makes you think that this world is fast hurtling to its end. If the people themselves are not hacking one another to death, some natural calamity comes in to make sure it deals them a daily doze of devastating blows.

Hearing of the deaths that are taking place literally every minute on this planet makes you think that this world is fast hurtling to its end. If the people themselves are not hacking one another to death, some natural calamity comes in to make sure it deals them a daily doze of devastating blows.

Which calamity has no good reason to offer its assistance, because man’s tools are eagerly joining in the melee with a vengeance that is sure to bid bye to today’s human existence as we know it.

A shocking example is a train accident some time ago at Amagasaki, in Japan, that killed almost a hundred people and injured more than three hundred.

The accident is shocking because the country has the most secure and efficient rail system in the world.

When you remember how Japan has such a righteous and dedicated workforce, you feel like crying in shame, not only because of the disgracefully unnecessary loss of life, but also because you take time to reflect over yourself as a Rwandan.

You have heard, for instance, that train travel in Japan is so efficient that, a few years ago, when a train failed to make it on time at a station and travellers were forced to wait for more than five minutes, the station manager committed suicide!

Here in Rwanda, if we had a train and it came five hours late, the station manager would expect to be congratulated on the fact that it came at all.

Luckily, we have no reason to worry about train accidents because we are still worrying over how to acquire trains.

Which is not impossible because, if our vision 2020 is anything to go by, and if we can obtain the zeal to work so as to realize its objectives and avoid the Mobutu empty rhetoric of ‘Objectif quatre-vingt’, we could soon see ‘the iron snake’ on our soil.

Only problem is, when we do get these trains, we might be forced to go for the old lumbering ‘iron snakes’ like our neighbours, because we have to share rails if we are to reach the sea.

Imagine then, those stone-age smoke-spewing and hooting monsters groaning their way up our thousand hills from Rusumo, Kagitumba, Gatuna or Cyanika on our borders and to our constantly improving capital, Kigali.

If you were not born the other day, and if you are frank with yourself, your first sighting of the train was in exile in Uganda, Kenya or D.R. Congo.

If in Uganda, it means you lived in Toro and your train journeys are a haunting memory you would rather not revisit, especially if it was in the 1970s, during Idi Amin’s reign.
You remember how that train was so agonizingly slow that a soldier could jump aboard anytime and shoot you just because your face did not please him, or just because he wanted to see blood that morning.

Or how the rail-side cooks used to knock your head about with their hot, blackened aluminum pans, sufurias, as they jostled for attention in the passenger car, in an effort to vend their roast arrowroots or cassava.

At the end of the journey, if you survived, you would be looking like Lucifer and feeling like minced meat!

Let us pray then, that when we do go into rail travel, we will not go for those antiquities that today can only be seen panting up the mountains of the African continent or breaking bridges and plunging into the river gorges of the Indian sub-continent, or else gracing European and American museums.

When we go into rail travel, let us go for the shinkansen. The shinkansen, the bullet train of Japan, can reach a maximum speed of 380 kilometres an hour, which means you can connect the longest points in Rwanda, say between Kagitumba in Umutara and Bugarama in Cyangugu, in just an hour and a few minutes.

Imagine yours truly commuting daily from the slopes of Mount Muhabura to come and wear his fingers out at the computer keyboards for a living in Kigali, and at five thirty in the evening riding the shinkansen to be home at the chilly slopes just before six in the evening, as if competing with the chickens for early retirement.

In fact, I can imagine our fat cats abandoning their four-wheel drives and opting for the swift and smooth shinkansen rides to and from work and earning accolades from the ever-hawkish donors, who would in turn dip a mean hand into their equally miserly purses.

For the shinkansen system to work, however, we need clockwork efficiency that is only possible among people who are so committed to their work and responsibilities that one slight slip is enough to see them commit suicide.
If such a Munyarwanda there is, I see but one.

ingina2@yahoo.co.uk

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