February 11, 1990, 4:15 PM. A tall, sturdy, seventy-one-year-old man in a well-tailored suit walks out onto a street of over 50,000 people and raises his right fist. He stands tall. Unbowed, unbroken, unbeaten. Nelson Mandela was finally walking free towards the dream that was always his destiny.
Three prisons. Ten thousand days. Twenty-seven years. Eighteen of those years in an eight-foot by seven-foot cell lit only by a single 40-watt bulb that would stay on day and night.
There is much to be said for routine — when we assume it ourselves, it is a form of stability, tranquility, symmetry. When imposed upon us, it becomes a form of oppression, domination, harassment.
Mandela would rise at 5.30 AM each day, wash and shave in cold water, empty a small iron bucket of his faeces, eat tasteless porridge, and go to work breaking rocks and digging in a limestone quarry. He exercised each day and studied law and history when he was allowed to, distracting himself from news (delivered by guards through newspaper clippings left outside his cell) of the death of his son or the constant harassment of his family. He constantly found ways to protest and make his point — they could imprison his body, but never his mind and soul.
Working in the quarry permanently damaged Mandela’s eyes, blistered his hands and rendered him ill several times (for which he would be locked up in a cold, wet cell as further punishment). But it could never break his spirit or blur his vision of a free, fair and equal South Africa which he would one day lead.
Nelson Mandela walked towards his dream slowly, surely. Year after year, week after week, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. Through every excruciatingly painful second. For twenty-seven years.
Will you have the perseverance to walk till you achieve your goal?
Also read “Persevere till you paint the stars”: Persevere till you paint the stars | by Dwarak Narasimhan | Dec, 2020 | Medium