Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Goan story and more from Yesterday in Paradise and more... on

This book is about people originating from the state of Goa, India and the Republic of Kenya, East Africa. This book is also about growing up in colonial British East Africa, the Mau Mau rebellion and the illusion of freedom after independence. A brutal war was fought between Kikuyu tribesmen - dubbed the Mau Mau - fighting for the return of their confiscated lands, and the British armed forces, backed by the mighty Lancaster bombers from World War II and supported by the colonial police force. It is also about insights I garnered from the Mau Mau while growing up before Kenya’s independence. It is sadly ironic that a tropical paradise like Kenya has joyful beauty at one end of its spectrum and pure evil at the other, evolving into a place where murderers roam free.
Goan Migration
The British proclaimed specific racial traits, regarding such peoples as the Sikhs and Pathans as ‘martial races’ and regarding others such as the Tamils as ‘docile races’. Goans could not be regarded as a business-like group like the Hindu and Ismaili Gujarati merchants they encountered in India and Zanzibar. To them, Goans represented an anomaly or failure of the social/racial policy designed by the Portuguese.
Nairobi, the Early Days
The kids, unperturbed, simply explained that a ghost had gone madly wild. We peered in and inched closer. We huddled against each other, and then tottered backwards in a panic at the sound of the next crash. Our forced laughter was a feeble ruse to hide our fear. High anxiety filled the air. ‘What if the ghost decided to come after us?’ I thought. We resolved to not be afraid of a ghost.
Our mothers calling us interrupted this false bravado against the phantoms of occult and devilry. We prayed that the splashes of holy water, accompanied by the Lord’s Prayer and our fervent chorus of Hail Marys in various decibels, served as shields against the devil at work. As they prayed incessantly, the old women looked like hens with their heads chopped off. It was a funny sight for the kids.
The Mau Mau
He explained that no Kikuyu could find peace until their lands were returned to them. They were convinced that the white man would leave Kenya one day and then the Kikuyu would return to their traditional lands. Another Kikuyu told me that this would happen because their god Ngai, who lived on the snow-capped Mount Kenya, had willed it. They did not admit to being Mau Mau, but it was easy to see the fire in their eyes, and their passion. Typically, at around 5:30 pm they would ask me to go home. One of the elders, Macharia, told me it was not safe be in the valley after dark.
Eastleigh, Unforgettable
Eastleigh was a melting pot of non-whites: Muslims (including Ismailis, Pakistanis, and Punjabi Muslims from India), Somalis, Kutchies, Gujaratis, Sikhs, Seychellois, Mauritians, and a host of other communities. Each community stuck firmly to themselves. The Sikhs were great carpenters and builders and drank neat scotch three or four fingers deep. They were also good motor mechanics. Muslims worked in a variety of jobs mainly with their hands, especially as motor mechanics and electricians. Somali men were renowned as house and business guards. Goans, also referred to as ‘Brown Portuguese,’ felt superior to other brown and black skins. They were a large community whose life was dominated by the Catholic Church. The only white people in Eastleigh were the nuns and priests and the Royal Air Force personnel stationed at Eastleigh Airport.
Instant journo
‘So you spoke to me yesterday and I agreed to see you today? I must be suffering from amnesia because I cannot recall talking to you yesterday or ever,’ he said quite firmly but the smile was still there.
‘I lied,’ I confessed.
‘What, you little bleeding blighter …’ he said, pretending to be very angry.
‘Well, I am getting my interview, aren’t I?’ I said rather cheekily
The Nation
The first week Mike was there, I handed in an expense chit for 20 shillings. ‘Come over here,’ he said as he headed for my typewriter, ‘let me show you how a white man writes his expenses.’ My humble 20 shillings chit was turned into 200.
‘Here you are,’ he said. ‘You are in the chair.’
‘What chair?’
‘You are buying the drinks at the Sans Chique’. The back door of the Nation, across a lane, led to the back door of the SC. He called me his shotgun rider. If there was a troublesome story, he sent me.
Bye, bye school
He pointed to the sofa that had been in his office for what seemed like centuries and had been the curse of every boy who had ever been asked to bend over. ‘And drop your pants,’ he commanded.
I told him: ‘I will not. My father never dropped my pants and I am certainly not going to do it for you.’
In Court
I put up a finger and slowly got up and said, ‘If it pleases Your Honour …’
Mrs. Riceborough boomed, ‘What is it, are you related to the accused?’
‘No your Honour, I am the probation officer,’ I replied rather sheepishly.
‘My God! They do breed them young these days, don’t they? Report back in two weeks.’

And there’s plenty more from where that came from but you will have to buy the book from or read it on Kindle!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jasmer Singh: Nation page

Sunday, September 25, 2016


From left: Vincey D'Souza (snooker andbilliards) Seraphino Antao (arguably the greatest Goan athlete ever), Rosendo Abreu (Kenya Goan Sports Association?), Marcel Brunner (boxing fanatic, snooker wannabe, of Brunner's/Queens Hotel fame where they served some of best rare roast beef sandwiches, beautiful potato chips and unadulterated Heinze tomato sauce), Sebestian Gomes, one of the outstanding accounting servants to sport; treasurer of the Kenya Football Association for many decades, Kenya Goan Sports Association, Goan Institute, Archie Evans, rare photo of the man credited with organising athletics in Kenya, Saude George, hockey/soccer international, Kenya Goan Sports Association, Goan Institute, journalist

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cyprian Fernandes: Kwaheri Bwana Cricket

Kwaheri Bwana Cricket

VETERAN former Nation journalist CYPRIAN FERNANDES pays tribute to another veteran journalist, sports administrator and businessman.

KENYA and everyone else who knew in the world said kwaheri to Bwana Cricket on Friday. You may know him as Jasmer Singh Grewal who died on Wednesday after a short illness. He was 85.
The first time I met was sometime in 1960 at an Asians versus Europeans match at the Nairobi Sports Club ground which I think was near the old Kenyatta Hospital. The club was also famous for hosting international tennis matches.
I had just joined the Nation and covering the match as a trial was my first assignment. As I went around introducing myself to a small group of people which included journalists, scorers, officials, I stretched my hand in greeting Jasmer (many months later he told me his friends called him Melee). He did not say anything but appeared to be hiding a growl. He was there to cover the match for the opposition, the East African Standard. It was not long before the growl had changed to a friendly smile and he was answering the million questions I had about cricket and the match in particular. In a way, Melee was my first journalistic cricket teacher.
But I was never to forget that growl because I would here quite often as he stood his ground against a foe in a debate or a discussion. It was usually about sports and mostly about sport politics. Melee always stood his ground and very rarely gave an inch. After all, he was an early Sikh fundamentalist and the Sikhs are recorded in history as a warrior race. During his life he fought many, many battles for the good of cricketers and the game itself, hockey and hockey players and especially about Sikhs and Sikhism and Sikhs in Sport. Melee had two temples: the Sikh Gurdwara and the Sikh Union Club in Forest Road. His friends would tease him that he was at the clubhouse eight days a week and never missed an occasion, a match or club meeting.
He played top grade for most of his “young life” along with some hockey. He was, in fact, a serial sportsman, but there was always time for the family, for work and the hundreds of friends, and of course journalism. Talking about work, he was a civil servant and left that in 1968 to set up South Africa-based Drum Publications in Nairobi. By the time he had left in 1992, he had taken the 12,000 to 120,000, the best-selling magazine of its kind in Africa.
I think it was in 1963 that MJK Smith, the England cricket captain, brought an MCC side to Nairobi. As we set watching, he turned to me and said: “We can do this, you know?”
“Do what?” I asked.
“Become a Test cricket country,” he said rather firmly, with a little of that growl.
“What with four Sikhs, two Goans, two Patels and one Muslim?” I asked cheekily. After all, it was 1963 and the murmurs of an Asian exodus had already begun.
“There will always be Asians in Kenya. And can you imagine how much stronger the team is going to be if it has properly trained Kenyans?”
I agreed with him that if Africans took up the sport that would bring a new dimension to the game in Kenya. After all the West Indies had already shown what wonderful cricket black players could play.
“When will you start?”
“Soon,” he said. “But don’t tell anyone I said so.”
Not many people saw that vision but Jasmer did.
I doubt if there was a happier person in the world when Kenya began playing in some of cricket’s greatest arenas, lauded as exciting potential Test players and once beat the mighty West Indies in India in 1996 with Melee as the team manager.
However, it was 2003 in South Africa, when Kenya stunned the cricket world when it became the first and the only ever associate nation to reach the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup beating test nations Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka the 1996 World Cup Champions in the process.
There were hundreds of awards but two stick out: life membership of the esteemed MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) and International Cricket Council’s Lifetime Recognition Award for services to cricket as a player and as an outstanding and visionary administrator.
However, I think he reserved his greatest pride when so many Kenyan cricket players became household names in Kenya and were easily recognised by cricket fans all over the world.
Players like Thomas Odoyo who took 141 wickets and scored 2,366 runs.
Steve Tikolo who scored 3369 runs and took  93 wickets
Kennedy Otieno who scored more than 2000 runs.
Collins (2044 runs and 35 wickets) and David Obuya 1,355 runs.

He told the Daily Nation in 2011: “ I feel very disheartened the way our cricket has gone down in the past seven years, from the period when we finished third in the 2003 World Cup jointly hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
“Compared to 1996 when we beat West Indies during the World Cup co-hosted by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and 2003, I consider our game has fallen from grace to grass.”

On September 25, 2016, Kenyans said goodbye to Bwana Cricket.
In the end, he surely died of a broken heart after cricket in Kenya began to deteriorate and dismantle the wonderful future it once promised. I, for one, don’t think it is all over and done for cricket. One day, Kenya will again be stand shoulder to shoulder with the best teams in the world. It may take a bit of time but it will surely happen, just as surely as night follows day.
Former Nation Sports Editor Norman Da Costa writes: My first encounter with Jasmer Singh came in 1963 when, in my final year at the Dr. Ribeiro’s Goan School, my name was forwarded to the Kenya Cricket Association to train with MCC coach Willie Watson for a possible spot for the Kenya schools team. I didn’t make it. But I won’t forget Jasmer because that day at the Sikh Union in 1963 was the start of a long and sometimes rocky friendship that lasted until 1976 when I migrated to Toronto.
Secretly, I admired what he had accomplished. He was the field hockey writer for the East African Standard at a time when only a select few of our people were given that opportunity to write for that newspaper. He then got himself on the Voice of Kenya as a fill in for a sports talk show on Sunday mornings when the regular host Eric Cohen was on vacation. I appeared on Jasmer’s show on numerous occasions and what struck me about him was he never had any notes in front of him. Amazing. He was that brilliant. Then came his job as a managing director of Drum magazine for whom I did write several times. A sharp dresser and brilliant orator I wasn’t surprised when he achieved his biggest dream in 1975. He was made manager of East Africa for cricket’s World Cup in England that year. Few will forget the politics that nearly derailed East Africa’s participation. But Jasmer, a superb cricketer, turned sports reporter and one of the very best politicians when the need arose, cleared all the hurdles and was deservedly crowned with honour for all of his hard word.
Melee, as his close friends called him and he insisted that I did as well, rest in peace. We may have had our differences in field hockey involving Goans and Sikhs I respected you and will dearly miss a man who climbed the highest mountain. Rest in peace Melee. I will miss you. We always had a few jugs of beer and I will raise one in for my friend.

Yesterday in Paradise: Reviews (2)

 From a colleague:

Yesterday in Paradise slipped through my letter box this morning and a very handsome affair it is and I thank you for it. Also for the nice things you say about me and for bringing to life memories and events I had just about forgotten and things I never knew.

Sorry it lacked a dedication but your sentiments are quite evident. I don't always agree with everything but what sort of world would it be if we all agreed -- certainly not a Kenyan one.

I was horrified by the Fr Hannan stuff but I suppose you felt it needed to be told. The Church got away with too much by hiding things to avoid scandal, thereby bringing even greater scandal on itself.

You've had a good life Cyprian and thank God for it. You have written about it in that energetic, straight-up style I associate with you and which anyone who knows you will recognise.


Yesterday in Paradise
First impression
Benegal Pereira: My immediate thoughts after quickly scanning through the first few chapters: Your candid (and yes, splendid !) style, your thoroughness and vivid description of Goan life in Nairobi during the colonial period, make ‘Yesterday in Paradise’ a powerful resource for current and future teachings of the EA Indian [Goan] diaspora. In essence, YIP will be more than a teaching tool, its a first hand historical record, packed with nostalgia. Congratulations !.

Available on or contact me on
Now also available from Balboa Press Bookstore

Thursday, September 22, 2016

recognise anyone? from Yesterday in Paradise

Courtesy of Mervyn Lobo

This photograph is featured in my debut novel (available on Question is: Do you recognise some one from these Nairobi Railway Goan Institute pioneers. If you do, drop me a line at

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Here's the long awaited book

A very special day for me: Thanks to all of you, I have hit the 50,000 hits for my blog and am happy to announce that the first edition of long awaited book will be available on Amazon from tomorrow.

Yesterday in Paradise

Sep 15, 2016
by Cyprian Fernandes
Get it by Wednesday, Sep 21
Please share this news with your circle of friends
If you get a copy, would really appreciate a review
or feedback

Monday, September 19, 2016

Secret places in the Aberdares

If I remember correctly, The Ark, set in Secret Valley in the Aberdares National Park, was the brainchild of a wonderful Ismaili guy called Shamshudin. He was also a very keen trout fisherman. Thanks to him, I spent quite a bit of time in this wonderful forest: 

Here is a piece I pinched from Kenyaology: The Treetops, now belonging to Aberdare Safari Hotels, is arguably the most famous, historical and unique of the Kenyan hotels, permission given from The Norfolk in Nairobi. The Treetops was built in 1932 next to a waterhole in the area known today as the Salient. The Treetops site is a privileged location where the mountains give way to a high plateau that offers a magnificent view of the surrounding Highlands. In clear days, which seldom happens, the snowy peaks of Mount Kenya are at sight.
Originally, Treetops was nothing more than a two-room treehouse sitting on top of a fig tree. The intrepid travellers reached on foot escorted by hunters that protected them form wild animals during the walk. Guests were left on their own with just a picnic supper and some oil lamps. At dawn, the hunters reached back to escort them back, after an exciting and chilling night in the midst of the forest watching the wildlife roaming below their feet.
In 1952, Treetops was enlarged for a royal visit from Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip. A third room was added and a small cabin for the hunter on duty was attached. A wood stove was placed in the salon to help mitigate the Aberdare nights' freezing cold. During their overnight stay, the young princess and her husband witnessed a thrilling fight between two waterbucks, that ended with one of the bucks laying dead on the damp soil. But that night would become historical because of different reasons: far away from Aberdare, the princess's father, king George VI, expired in London. Though the princess was not aware of the bad news until her next stop at Sagana, the morning she descended from Treetops she had become the queen of England.
The hotel would be burnt down to ashes by the Mau-Mau two years later, but it was rebuilt in 1957 at the opposite side of the waterhole. The modern building, several times enlarged since then, is a pillared wooden house embracing the branches of a chestnut tree. A second waterhole was artificially opened at the back side of the building to favour wildlife gathering in the vicinity, though for some reason the animals prefer the original pond. The lodge's employees spread salt on the soil, that animals lick with delight. Though today's Treetops keeps little resemblance, if any, with the primigenic treehouse, nevertheless it preserves a touch of charm and romanticism, making it a mandatory visit for every traveller in Kenya.
Access to Treetops is made in groups from the Outspan, in Nyeri. The last bus departs at 5 PM. Due to the special conditions at Treetops, children under 7 are not allowed at the lodge. The 50 cabins are very small, reason why bulky luggage is left overnight at the Outspan and only one handbag per person is permitted. Nights at Treetops are chilly and there is no heating, so make sure to drop some warm clothes into your handbag. Some cabins have a private bathroom, whilst others share showers and toilets. There are spare blankets available at the front desk.
During the afternoon, guests can relax watching wildlife from one of the observation decks, from the open air rooftop or from the ground level bunker. The old 5 o'clock tea, formerly served with complimentary pancakes, is no longer offered. Of course there is tea and coffe, but at a price. Supper is served in the evening at the dining room.
After the sunset, you can sit and watch wildlife for as long as you wish, since the lodge's lights keep the area floodlit at night. Elephants, buffalos, waterbucks, bushbucks, mongooses and warthogs are usual visitors to the Treetops' waterhole. Occasionally some rhino would step out of the darkness, but currently the possibility to spot one of the many Aberdare's carnivores is fairly remote. Small mammals, like bushbabies and genets, which used to daringly drop by the rooftop attracted by the food left for them by the lodge's employees, were formerly a nice amusement for those who defied the cold night at the open air, but lately there is no trace of them. If you prefer sleeping, there is a buzzer in each cabin that the hunter on duty will use to warn guests should any elephant, rhino or cat come up. Finally, at 7:30 the next morning, with the mountains damped by a thick mist, guests are brought back to town. Breakfast, which is included in the price, is served at the Outspan.
First opened in 1970, The Ark basically follows the same regime as Treetops, including the prohibition for children under 7. The base hotel in this case is the Aberdare Country Club, in the town of Mweiga, 12 km north of Nyeri by the B5 road. The Ark is located more deeply in the park that Treetops, next to a waterhole in the area where the Salient meets the main body of the park. The building is made to resemble the appearance that, in the architect's opinion, Noah's Ark must have had.
After a 40-minute trip from the Aberdare Country Club, visitors access The Ark walking along a wooden boardwalk that flies over the forest's canopy. The hotel is more modern and roomy than Treetops, and it is said to be the most favourable site in the park to see the bongo. The truth is that the actual possilities are quite low.
The ship-building is composed of three decks with various observation lounges plus a ground level bunker. There is an outside terrace, smaller and less hospitable than the one at Treetops. Along with the comparison, the 60 cabins at the Ark are larger and all are equipped with private shower and toilet.
Wildlife is similar to Treetops. Elephant and buffalo almost guaranteed, some occasional rhino, mongooses, waterbucks, bushbucks and warthogs. Among the less usual, giant forest hogs and bongos.
In general, all explained above for Treetops also applies to The Ark. For a choice between the two, state your preferences. If you seek a more romantic experience, that could bring back to you at least a slight scent of the old Africa, Treetops is your place. If you prefer comfort, then you should choose The Ark.
Tusk Camp is a self-catering lodge located at the eastern slopes of Aberdares, at an altitude of 2,300 m, in a clearing surrounded by the forest. The place has four wooden double bandas, accommodating eight people. It must be booked as a whole.
Rooms are equipped with beds and mattresses, and lighted by kerosene lamps. The living room has an open fire and wood is provided, and from the verandah you can enjoy views of the Aberdare forest and Mount Kenya. The washroom has a shower with hot and cold water, as well as a flush toilet. There is an additional pit latrine that offers magnificent vistas to Mount Kenya. The place also holds a firewood cooker. Animals, specially buffalo and elephant, usually graze at the clearing in front of the bandas.
Tusk Camp is currently closed for renovation since March 2012 until further notice.
Located on the high moorlands above Magura river, the Fishing Lodge is a self-catering guest house belonging to Kenya Wildlife Service. The house is fully furnished, but guests must carry their own food. There is a caretaker who provides the cleaning and the necessary help for guests.
There are two bandas, each consisting of a fully equipped kitchen, dining room with fireplace and three bedrooms, accommodating seven people in total. Two bedrooms have a king size bed and a single bed, plus an ensuite bathroom. The small bedroom has one single bed.
The Fishing Lodge is currently closed for renovation since March 2012 until further notice.
Sapper Hut is the smallest of all self-catering accommodations in Aberdare National Park, and also the most isolated and solitary, since it is located at a remote spot at an elevation of more than 10,000 ft (3,000 m), hence nights are very chilly. However the views are magnificent, since there is a waterfall nearby.
The key to Sapper Hut must be collected from the Fishing Lodge, 6 miles (10 km) to the east. The place consists of a single timber cabin with a bedroom sleeping two people in two single beds, a separate living room with a table, two chairs and a firewood cooking stove, a kitchen and a veranda. There is an outside basic bathroom. No caretaker is available, and no towels or bed linen are provided. There is firewood and lamps, but you must bring your own kerosene or paraffin.
Other accommodations:
Within the park there are no full service accommodation options other than the one-night wildlife watching lodges Treetops and The Ark, as mentioned above. All other sleeping choices inside the park are self-catering. If you wish to extend your stay but would rather not do your own cooking, around the park there are some excellent hotels and camps.
The Outspan, the base hotel for Treetops, in the nearby town of Nyeri, is a colonial classic hotel set by a deeply forested valley and offering rooms or cottages. A similar option is the base hotel for The Ark, the Aberdare Country Club, which is located near Mweiga, by the road heading north from Nyeri.
Taking the same turning to Aberdare Country Club, but a little farther on this same road, is Sangare Tented Camp (in the image), placed by a fresh water lake in a private game ranch. A day game drive through the ranch is included in the price and there are other available activities, including night game walks, fly fishing, horseback riding, boat rides and bird walks. Access to Sangare is only by 4WD, since the track is quite rough.

The Indian "duka" in Kibwezi

By Kersi Rustomji

Kibwezi Indian Emporium
By Kersi Rustomji

A nother Kenya, East Africa, memory painting to frame if you like.

It is of a duka at Kibwezi, run by Krishna a Hindu Panjabi. If on my hitch hike, I arrived late, after 7:00 pm or so, I slept on the veranda of the closed shop, where in the day time he displayed some of his goods. 'Tu jungle mei hi marega, Kersi.'
'You will die in the jungle, Kersi.' He would say to me.

Note all the goods arendisplayed , which are clothes, shuka, wrap arounds, a red fez hat, OTC bus service and KCC butter signs. Next to KCC sign is a bag of k unde, dried beans. Two boxes of green vegetables he grew in the back of his house, for the European police Inspector, and the Indian staff of the Dwa Sisal Plantations, owned by the Sheikh family, a few miles to the right of the black cotton soil road, which can be seen.

On the left is a hand operated Shell petrol pump, many will recall it at such dukas . A box of unga (flour) and fagio (brooms) are next to the pump.

On the right of the steps is a bag of potatoes and box of Simba Chai packets.

Mukamba tribes are found in this area also. A Mukamba man and his wife wait for Krishna to open the door from inside. Note the big lock on the door, to close the shop, when he is away. On the right at the back is the new cement block extension to the living area.

Kibwezi and surrounds has a lot of baobab trees, Mbuyu in Swahili, so I gave it the name Mbuyu Store, and placed it between two baobab trees. Note the typical yellow grass of the region, and an ant hill on the right of the man.

The road is of black cotton soil of the region. C ars and trucks get bogged in this soil during the rainy season; some of you may remember this on your Nairobi to Mombasa motor trip.

Enjoy it and the memories it brings. 


  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...