Columnists Editor's Choice Features

When short does not necessarily mean small

JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
WHEN he was in school, Ntalasha Chisha always got rejected by girls because he was short, and he was too embarrassed to stand before people because of his height.
“When we were little boys, we used to lay claim on girls [ukudonkela], but they would all say ‘me not that one’,” says Ntalasha, adding, “Those moments were very painful.”
Ntalasha blames his predicament on the media, for defining beauty by how tall one is.
“You can’t see a romantic movie having a star character who is short, so the perception that is given is that everything that is good is stored in this six-pack, tall, huge man. Imagine a movie like Titanic having a star character who is as short as me,” says the 29-year-old, who stands slightly above a metre; maybe 1.2 or 1.3m.
He adds: “And because of that perception, you find that even when ladies want to date, they want somebody who is masculine, somebody who looks like Will Smith.”
But despite his numerous disappointments with girls, Ntalasha never gave up on his quest for romantic love.
He is now engaged to a woman, who could well walk the catwalk.
The two met at a youth prayer meeting about two years ago. Talk of praying with one eye open.
Height-defying dream
As a little boy growing up in Mansa, Luapula Province, Ntalasha was not aware of his condition, and thought he would grow tall like his friends.
“I didn’t know of my state until a certain age when I started seeing my friends grow taller while I remained at the same height,” he says.
Sometimes, he had thoughts of regret like, “Maybe things would have been better if I was created different.”
But whatever Ntalasha lacked in stature, he made up in his determination. Although he has to admit, that it has not been easy to come out of his cocoon and walk tall.
“I couldn’t see myself standing on a platform,” says Ntalasha, who is now a pastor, and usually talk to groups of people about God.
Ntalasha also runs an organisation called Born Short, Living Tall, which tries to help people with various disabilities to live normal productive lives.
He talks of mental boundaries that keep the disabled from achieving great things in life.
Ntalasha has become a voice for the disabled, often talking about their rights through numerous press statements he sends to the media.
He also wants to use his own life to inspire others in a similar situation.
Ntalasha’s own source of inspiration was Australian preacher and motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born limbless, but lives an extraordinary life.
Using the analogy of a car manufacturer, Ntalasha says God makes everything for a different purpose, just as the same car manufacturer will produce a Mercedes Benz truck and also make a luxury Mercedes Benz car.
While it is hard not to notice how short Ntalasha is, he says he doesn’t like paying attention to it himself.
“The moment you begin focusing too much on details, those details can bring you down. There are certain things when you give too much attention to they begin to erode your confidence,” he says.
“I focus on my strengths, rather than my weaknesses,” he adds.
Ntalasha would also like other people around him to mind their own business.
“I don’t take kindly when somebody talks about how I look, my height because when those words register in my mind, they will begin to puncture my confidence,” he says.
And he doesn’t want any sympathy, neither does he want to have anything on a silver plate.
“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I want to be rewarded because of what I’m able to contribute,” he says.
Ntalasha believes what builds individuals are the deposits that God has put in them, and not their physical stature.
“I have high ambitions and I like to go after the things that tall people go after. I like going after giants,” he says.
Ntalasha wants to become President one day, just to prove a point that being short doesn’t mean one cannot take a shot at anything in life.
“I’m targeting that top seat,” he says.
He is inspired in his presidential dream, partly by former president Frederick Chiluba, who stood 1.52m.
“You need to think big,” he says.
Ntalasha wants to change the world’s perception of short people.
He is currently working on a book titled “Born Short, Living Tall”. His first book was titled “Open Heaven”.
But a few years ago, this man of God almost ruined his own life. When he moved to Lusaka from Mansa, he made some bad friends and for five years, he lived a life of debauchery – drinking heavily and patronising night clubs.
“I drank all sorts of beer during that period,” he says.
He refers to those years as “very bad years”.
During those years, he was overwhelmed with thoughts of rejection.
“I thought I wouldn’t amount to anything,” he says.
In 2012, he decided he would not drink again and pursued his childhood dream.
Childhood dream
Ntalasha’s childhood dream was to become a lawyer, but at 12, he decided he was going to become a preacher.
He wrote his first sermon when he was only 12, becoming a self-styled junior pastor in his church.
But Ntalasha also dreamt of playing professional football.
“I would have made a good footballer,” he says.
In fact, two of Ntalasha’s teammates from his junior soccer academy, Chishimba Changala and Cletus Chota, now play league football.
While living in Chelstone near Nkoloma Stadium a few years ago, Ntalasha would usually say to himself “If only I was tall, I would be training with Red Arrows.”
Unable to attain his soccer dream, Ntalasha now takes out his passion for the beautiful game on a virtual football game.
Ntalasha is as smart as pastors come these days, wearing a tailor-made three-piece grey suit.
“I like to dress very powerful,” he says.
But finding the right size for cloths is always a challenge.
Ntalasha is the last born in a family of five. He and his fiancée plan to get married by the end of the year.

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