Enzi za Kuandikiana Barua!


JF-Expert Member
Dec 1, 2006
Hii makala nimeikuta mahala nikaona wazee wenzangu wataifurahia hasa ukikumbuka enzi za boarding school!

Mourning `death` of handwritten letters
By Wilson Kaigarula
9th October 2011

In metropolitan Dar es Salaam, the Old and New Post Office (Posta ya Zamani and Posta Mpya) have lent their names, and small stretches of the sidewalks along which the buildings within which they render services are located, to commuter bus services, as passenger drop-off and pick-up points.

Other entities have done the same, such as Msikitini (Mosque) Kanisani (Church) , Chama (Party in relation to CCM) and Sheli, a corruption of ‘Shell’, as a reference to all petrol stations.

But Posta ya Zamani and Posta Mpya are arguably the most famous, due, obviously, to being located in the heart of the Central Business District. Over the past few days, ahead of today’s World Post Day, I have been musing: how many of the city’s residents who are so familiar with ‘posta’ as a ‘daladala’ station concept patronize postal services?

Plus, of course, those who cruise past the buildings in other forms of transport, as well as individuals for whom either of the two ‘postas’ is a convenient meeting point as well as easy-to-locate for strangers on account of their high visibility?

True, business goes on in the post offices, as well as those who check on their mail in the boxes in the outer sections. My safe, guess, though, is that, the enthusiasm of postal services, and joy derived from some of them, has dwindled as we have become progressively captive to modern technology.

Many people in the young generation bracket haven’t encountered postal services on a wide scale, and hardly miss them as constituents of a vanishing species, in the same way as they wouldn’t bemoan the replacement of typewriters by computers.

Some, probably many, in the league of old timers are beneficiaries of new technology, but can’t resist nostalgic feelings of the joys and even sorrows of the full-scale postal services of yesteryears.

Experiences dating back to the 1960s up to around the 1990s, spring to mind. There was no post office in my home village. A certain middle-aged shopkeeper was the agent, a role that bestowed considerable measure of importance on him, and he felt as such.

When he traveled to Bukoba town (some 50 kilometres away) to buy provisions, he collected letters from a box reserved for the village, which he put in an old carton box whose contents anxious people surveyed, in case they were lucky recipients. Occasionally, he assigned the crew of the village-town bus to pick up the letters.
The box was off-limits for us the kids, who no-one would bother to write letters to. However, we played the role of delivery boys and girls adults handing out to us, letters addressed to our parents, grandparents and other relatives; and delivering the ones for postage to the shop.

We were also agents of reading out letters loudly to illiterate relatives, as well as neighbours who didn’t have schooling offspring, or whose literate children were away. The problem with the arrangement was that confidentiality was not easy to keep - a problem lessened substantially later via the Mwalimu Nyerere-spearheaded literacy campaign.

There was an unpleasant twist to the shopkeeper-postal agent set-up; some people patronized his shop circumstantially, fearing that he could retaliate by causing their letters to disappear if they bought items from his rivals.

Graduation into letter-writers and letter-recipients in boarding upper primary (middle) school was exciting and was spiced up by drama. Once a week, at the school baraza (assembly), the head prefect read out the names of recipients, who proudly walked upfront to collect them.

Since receiving letters was a big deal, a few mischievous chaps faked the deal by posting ‘letters’ to themselves – they were blank inside, and they altered their handwriting to write their names at the outside, but the secret leaked !
We learnt that, the super-disciplinarian head teachers of some girls’ schools read pupils’ letters and withheld those whose contents they disapproved of, and the would-be recipients were duly cautioned!

The hearts of many boys were literally broken when they received letters containing rejection messages from girls whose intimate relationship they had sought.

During holidays once, some relatives to whom I had written letters in either Kiswahili or the vernacular, lambasted me for a strange reason.

Partly sincerely, but partly out of show-off, I had sneaked the respectful abbreviation ‘Mr’ (Mister) before the names of the addresses on the face of envelopes or aerogramme forms. Somebody had cheated them that the English word denoted a big insult!

Aerogramme forms were popularly known as ‘by air’, in reference to that partly misleading message at one corner of the blue, stylishly designed pieces of paper that one folded, run the tongue along tiny films of dried glue, closed, and affixed postage stamps onto! Erroneous, because not all letters were flown from point to point, buses and ships being the bigger carriers. Some old ‘by air’ letters in my possession are among my most treasured mementos.

Occasionally, particularly in boarding secondary schools, some students received registered mail (slightly thick, whitish envelopes whose front and back were crossed) which contained currency notes! Luckier ones received parcels with gifts like pairs of socks. Those were days when postal staff were by and large honest!

We kept track of postage stamps, debating on whether old ones were fancier than new ones; and used stamps gave rise to the stamp collection hobby, which I guess has at best slackened, and at worst, vanished.

Within, but especially after school and as part of the working class, the telegram as its sender or recipient was frightening, as it was the bearer of sad news, such as death or accident. Another paper-based service was the money order – the ancient version of M-Pesa.

Back to letters, the sentimental touch of letters by parents to children; wives to husbands, and vice-versa; as well as exchanges between friends, one of the highlights being to associate with the handwriting of beloved persons, was quite strong.

Contrast that to what’s happening today: brief phone text, almost mechanical messages, such as CU2morrow;as well as e-mail, facebook notes, which, minus the handwriting aspect, somewhat lacks the human touch.

Interestingly, private individuals, companies and institutions have registered post office box numbers as a formality, but they are seldom used. One does, say, phone, or ‘e-mails’ the technical manager of a refrigeration company to enquire about charges for repairing a faulty fridge, instead of writing him a letter.

For most part, postal services are sought in compliance with particular conditions and not out of choice, such as companies requiring job seekers and aspirants for entry into institutions of higher learning, to submit their applications in their own handwriting and posting the letters. Plus, some documents must be posted rather than e-mailed.
And hey, while the much-orchestrated ‘mtandao’ has made communication easier, some people, especially in villages, are complaining that frequent (in some cases half-a-dozen-times-a-day) phone conversations tend to be boring; it diminishes the excitement of the distant past, which letters triggered , after long periods of not hearing from one another.

An ideal situation may probably be achieved by striking a judicious balance between the old and the new, but what a tricky challenge!


The Elephant

JF-Expert Member
Dec 18, 2014
Lugha ya malkia ndio iliyotufanya tukaingia kwenye mikataba ya kinyonyaji ya Rada kule kwa malkia! Mawaziri wanaboost na kilevi kidogo wakijua wataboost na kiingereza ikawa holaa

Kwa hii lugha wachangiaji wasingeweza kuwa wengi

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