Railway magneto: A myth from my childhood

If a lie is repeated enough, it just might become the truth.

Beatification of the gods
More often than not, we mystify those things we can’t explain. Its all too common especially in this part of the world. When the rain is falling, thunder strikes. In this part of the world, many people are convinced that the god of thunder is at work. His name is Sango, the god of thunder and lightning. The Yoruba folklore speaks of an exuberant god-king (Sango) and his three goddess wives (Oya, Oba and Osun). Sango we understand spat fire from his mouth. We also learnt that it was his anger that finally led to his end or shall we say transition into the rank of the immortals. So that we are clear, this is not a beatification of the gods. I am going somewhere with this. By the way, Roman mythology is very similar to that of the Yoruba in many ways than one. The Romans reveled in myths. They had gods for everything. The god of war, of love, beauty e.t.c. This post is about a myth from my childhood. I bet you won’t believe it.

Thou shall gum.
I honestly don’t know the origin of this myth but I grew up with it being drummed into me. Amongst my age grade, it was so sacred that none of us thought it wise to apply reason. How dare you? Even as I write this post, I am tempted to doubt my own adult convictions. Once upon a sordid afternoon, one of us lost one of her two hands to the hallowed lane; the railway line. In my little town of Oshogbo where I grew up, the railway line passed through the center of the town. The late evening sound and sometimes early blistering sound of the locomotive trains was a regular fixture of my childhood. My Mom even had a song for the music the train coaches created as they moved rhythmically.

The song went like this:

To whom to? To whom to?
Faka fiki  faka fiki
Fo-oh! fo-oh!
To whom does it belong to?
Faka fiki faka fiki
Fooh! fooh!

Indeed, my younger sister and I looked forward to these times. For my Mom, it sparked nostalgic memories of her time at the NYSC Camp. That was where she learnt the song. The soldiers made them sing the song as they played thug of war. For us, (my sister and other kids) it was a reminder of horror. We loved to play on the train tracks. We loved to play imaginary “The Burning Train” (remember the popular Indian epic thriller?) inside the decommissioned coaches. The dare devils amongst us would even play the lying dead on the tracks until they heard the loud horn of the train. They did this damning the consequences. We had been told several times, the rail line was capable of gluing one to itself. The message was “if you were so unlucky to be on the rail line at a certain distance, there was infact the certainty that such a person would be glued to the track and destroyed”. Inspite of the apparent fear, many of us lived in defiance.

Looking back well over a decade after, I am curious to understand why such was the case. Was it a ploy by the elderly ones to protect us? Afterall, it was a foolish thing to play on the rail line. Or, was/is the rail line truly magnetic such that it was/is indeed capable of gluing one to itself? My now enlightened mind will argue to the contrary. For all practical purposes, it should be impossible that the rail line would glue a bare bodied homosapien to itself or is there a theory I am not aware of?

The morale of this piece is not to discountenance the concept of myths neither is it to uphold them. One thing for sure, I hope this story makes my reader smile and wonder at the same time while thinking a little closely howbeit playfully about the omnipresence of myths. As for the young lady that lost one of her hands, we heard a train had severed her innocent limb. Was she glued? I honestly don’t have a clue.

Femi Oni

Femi’s overarching purpose is to inspire brands (individuals, organisations and nations) to unlock potentials to achieve sustainable growth and impact. His mission is to mentor 1000 brands in Africa and beyond by 2025.

Specialties and Interests: Business Model Design & Innovation, Visioning, Strategy Design & Execution, Project Management, Change Management, Strategic Branding, Operations Excellence, Process Modelling, Product Management, Productivity Management, Entrepreneurial Leadership (Startups), , Social Evangelism, Education, Sustainability, Cybernetics, Risk & Compliance.