The Mystic of Mackinnon Road

Mackinnon Road train station lies along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway near Mariakani town. The most outstanding landmark here is the Mackinnon Road Mosque that was built as a result of the tomb of Seyyid Baghali, who was a foreman at the time of building the railway fabled for his tremendous strength and according to many, charmed lifestyle.

Travellers, regardless of religion or colour have been making stop overs at the shrine long before independence and are pulling up at the sight to this day.

Legend has it that Baghali was a saint whose family tree traced back to the Holy Prophet, a fact that he tried to conceal from the public to no avail. For when he got tired of carrying stones, his ‘laden karai’ (vessel) would float above his head to the consternation of many.

By 1940s, when the grave was still covered in bushes, travellers would stop there and ask for boons and generally attribute their safety during their journey to the holy man buried at the tomb. The news spread, a legend started and a reputation of the place grew.

People later claimed that Baghali would communicate with man-eaters (lions) who were terrorising the Indian workers and order them to relocate saving the lives of his colleagues.

Read more at: The Mosque that Serves all

 

The Mystic of Mackinnon Road

veiled by bougainvillea within sacred alabastrine walls
travellers pause, seek fragrant blessings for onward journeys

the iron snake tracks through unforgiving terrains
yet you walk as though treading on rose petals
stone laden karai floats over you in reverence, a halo?
the python consents to your prayers
even the man-eaters daren’t cross perimeters

forgive my impertinence
my persistence, my obstinance
O Mystic of Mackinnon Road, I discovered

a secret divine within the Lunatic Line’s shrine…
those who dare transcend the limits of possibility
remain indifferent to accusations of insanity

***

This was a very difficult poem to write. Would have never considered writing it, except that it was an assignment which was due for our workshop of creating poetry with local content. In researching, I came across interesting new stories and people.

I remember stopping at Mackinnon rd mosque whenever we travelled to Mombasa by road, even the public buses and train would hoot or whistle and slow down to pay their respects and be assured of a safe journey.

Syed Baghali was known to understand and speak the language of animals. On one occasion, when the working party was around the area of Mackinnon,  a huge python appeared. It was ready to strike at anyone who dared to approach it. Some of the labourers and one of the Englishmen got ready with their lathis (sticks) and gun to shoot it.

Pir Baghali begged them not to harm the python. He faced the snake and pleaded with it to leave. The snake stood for a while, poised to attack, but shortly after, it gradually backed down and slithered away.

It is said he also kept the lions away and the labourers in his camp remained safe.

~Excerpt from the book Oral Literature of the Asians in East Africa by Mubina Hassanali Kirmani and Sanaullah Kirmani

Read also about The strange history of the man-eating lions of Tsavo

You will enjoy this wonderful Photo Essay on the Lunatic Express

When I remember Kenya, I will think of trains. Not because I saw so many of them and not because I travelled in one. But the Kenya the world knows today would not exist except for a rail line that, during its design and construction, was considered such a bad idea it was dubbed the Lunatic Line.

Maybe it was crazy and maybe it was not.

~ A Train Called the Lunatic Express

I just wanted to say a little more about the final couplet in my poem

those who dare transcend the limits of possibility
remain indifferent to accusations of insanity

To break through the self-imposed limits of possibility, to create new possibilities we must step away from our inhibitions and embrace a touch of madness, for

only the insane are truly liberated

And to sign off, here is a delightful song by the very talented and versatile Rahi Bains. I had the pleasure to come across Rahi ji and his music during my research. You will get to see the quaint Mackinnon road mosque in this video, enjoy the song.

18 thoughts on “The Mystic of Mackinnon Road

  1. I have also made several stop-overs at the mosque,experienced the warmth and tranquility of the place,I’ve also heard about some of the stories and much more of the walii,Mashallah.Good read.keep it up.

  2. I love it when you say a little about your poems. I know you want the reader to interpret it the way they feel to, but some of us love knowing how you interpret it or how you came to choose those lines. Another beautiful post 💛

I would love to have your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s