Monday, October 30, 2017

Cyprian Fernandes: Nairobi in my dreams of a long time ago

In case some of you did not see this on the Nairobi Asians site, gone a bit viral!!!
Soft, sweet, gentle things, kisses from a whispering Nairobi breeze on any evening, I remember about the other love of my life: Nairobi
My friends, many colours, many thoughts, many dreams, trust, loyalty, poverty and riches,  you don't count as money or wealth...
Watching the world go by in Nairobi National Park or fishing somewhere, anywhere!
Tea with a pretty girl at the Tea House of the August Moon opposite the Kenya cinema.
What is it that psychologically tricks our taste buds into thinking that fruit and veg grown anywhere else other than Kenya lacks taste, aroma, that just plucked freshness, and just does taste that Kenya sweetness. And why is this particularly true of those gorgeous matundas that I used to eat by the kikapuful at one sitting topped off with a couple of slices of pineapple. And what about the madafu? What is it about the Kenyan coast that makes them so different? And all those mitai sweets ... why do the laddoos and jelebies seem so different, the sweetness just right in the syrup, and laddoos moist but firm. Was it the water? Was it the air?
Green mangoes with salt and chilli powder, red paw paws and yellow papaya. Days when Coke was a drink and Fanta orange was the prize. When girls smashed ripened pomegrenate seeds on their lips or drank vimto make their lips red, centuries before they were emboldened to wear the "devil's colours" lipstick. The looked great au naturel!
Grams and jugus (groundnuts) cooked in hot sand ... delicious also charcoal grilled corn (maize) and yam chips (muhogo), packets of papetas and pocket-fuls of jamlums (jamuns) guavas (more salt and chilli), thick KKC milk cream with a little bit of sugar or joggery, sweet potato cooked in the hot charcoal ashes, avocado with a little sugar or smashed in milk (or with icecream, like faluda), thick masala tea, banana fritters and pancakes to die for ... so soft you never felt you actually ate them, sweetened balls of popcorn and white sugared grams, syrupy dried nut crunches, sugar and butter on hot chappattis, diwali sweets, idd sweets, Christmas sweets, wedding sweets, Nirmala's halwa (who can ever forget that) sweet sweet mandaasi, irio, maharagwe, skinny muchusi (curry) and the king of foods: ugali. Roasted bananas and delish banana fritters. Like kisses, soft, sweet pancakes with honey or fillings of grated coconut and joggery! The fruit and vegie carts outside our homes each morning followed by the lullaby of the “chupa na debe” (bottles and cans) men! The happy-go-lucky wabenzi tiffin carriers who took warm, daily cooked food for the bwanas in town.
Stern fathers who rarely spoke to their children and mums who fussed worse than mother hens and you only learnt to miss all that when they were gone but you loved them every minute of your life.
Music: Fadhili Williams and Malaika that opened a new world of music to the uninitiated. Bata Shoe Shine Boys and Inspector Gideon and the Police Band who showed us a new kind music with Kenya soul. Henry Braganza and the Supersonics, The Bandits, the Rhythm Kings, Cooty's bands, The Wheelers, Max Alphonso's unforgettable harmonica playing, Steve Alvares and his band and the talented Alvares family, classical, jazz, dance and pop.
Escape to India at the Shan or Odeon or the wonderful family musical parties or those boisterous but wonderful Sikh weddings.
And just for Aftab Jevanjee: basking in the midday sun, not too far from the hustle and bustle of the city, in then beautiful gardens where children ran wild like butterflies on Saturdays and Sundays where the family gathered for an Indian picnic made in heaven. My nostrils are still filled with the rich aromas!
Dinner at too many Singh's restaurants, or Punjabi snacks at tiny bars in the suburbs or roast chicken at the Sikh Union accompanied by four fingers of scotch paraded as two fingers, the forefinger and the little finger. The gentle advice from my many Sikh uncles!
Puberty and growing up at all the social clubs, especially the Goan clubs, the music, the dances, the girls, the friends, the sports, the laughter and carefree, happiest times of my life.
Working at the Nation: the greatest moments of my life!
Lunch and drinks any Saturday at the Tropicana and their brilliant salad tray!
Faluda at Keby's
The world's best samosas and aloo bajjias at the Ismalia Café opposite the Khoja Mosque.
Maru's Cafe in Reata Road.
Kheema-mayaii chapatis, delicious kebabs cooked fresh every where ,the likes of which I have never seen or tasted again.
Quiet contemplation in the grounds of the Jamia Islamia Mosque or Holy Family Cathedral.
Coffee at with lawyers at Nairobi Town Hall
Coffee and snack at Snocream
Midnight rendezvous at Embakasi Airport.
The drives to anywhere outside of Nairobi .... Karen, Nairobi National Park, Thika, Kiambu, Liumuru, Naivasha, Gilgil, Nakuru anywhere, a million dreams.
World's greatest breakfasts at the Wagon Wheel Hotel Eldoret, Kericho Tea Hotel, Nakuru Hotel.
The bathing of the mind at any game lodge: Watching that magical moment, the last neno second when day morphs into night. The first chorus of the night orchestra mixed with the grunting sighs of the animal kingdom going to lala.
Eastleigh, Pangani, Juja Road, River Road. Starehe. Kariokor. Dagoretti. Killeshwa, Mincing Lane, Nairobi markets, the churches, the temples, a million smiles.
Kariokor Market: The world's greatest nyama choma (barbecued meat) served with onions tomatoes, green coriander, pinch of salt, drop of vinegar and on the rare occasion a slice of lemon.
The bands, the music, the dancing, Swiss Grill, Topaz Grill Room, Equator Club, Sombrero, Starlight, Equator Inn, Jeans Bar, Caiados Bar, Indian Bazaar, Museum, Ngong racecourse,
Waited with panting nostrils each Easter to cover the East African Safari. I will treasure every single moment I spent in each and every game lodge, one of the greatest experiences of my life and everyone should do it at least once. If you need any help my mate Lewis De Souza will set it up for you!
I am sure you guys have your own special memories
Hey, hey they told us: don't fall in love. Everything will be arranged. And for many so it was. We brownskins had to stick to our respective communities and assimilation was out of the question. We had been conditioned into accepting that to the point it had become part of our DNA. A few broke the taboos and were instantly marooned in a world far from the rest of us. We did not see anything wrong with that. It was the time, it was the place, and it was the custom.
We were many religions, many faiths, many customs, many traditions and we each kept firm with that which we honoured our fathers and mothers for. We respected each other's boundaries and did our own individual thing. Yet, we got along, played sport together, even socialised in small proportions and we were no strangers to each others houses when we were children and growing up. We had little or nothing to do with the white socially. For one thing they lived the other side of town and we were really familiar with their airs and graces or thought mistakenly perhaps that we may not do the right thing. Anyway, they were not a part of our world and we did not even think about. It was the same with Africans. Although we did not know it at the time, this was the British conspiracy of separate development at work. It did not both us.
There were no suicide bombers tearing people to shreds, no inter communal riots, great marches of protests, boycotts, blackmail, street brawls and all that is ugly and all around us today. We have know what it is to be alive and free, free enough to feel the wind in our hair, hope in our hearts and love in our souls where really the human for the most part could be as calm, cool and gentle as the climate itself. You will gather by now that I have treasured the friends I made all my life. For an investigative journalist you  might think naïve with a head full of some light gas considering the pain and death was all around us for some of the time. I prayed for them then and I pray for them now. So I will ask your forgiveness and ask you to allow me my moments of yesterday's exhilaration. Life is beautiful. In the end you really only remember the good

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cyprian Fernandes: Sydney's Songbirds

Beverley de Rosario, Silroy Thomas, Dinham Suhood, Leela Pacheco, Mary-Ann Morrell, Gloria Vaz, Marilyn Thomas, Alfred Vaz, Nyrelle Duncan, Mona Dias, Pax Crowe, Doug Gerke, Bart Pacheco  (seated), Joe Menezes (absent).

The "Songbirds" was started out by a very accomplished lady pianist, who played the piano at a Nursing Home - she invited a few of us to sing - there were only 3 singers then! Now the current Songbirds' group comprises of 14 volunteer singers/musicians, mainly retired (5 men and 8 women) who are all from diverse backgrounds. They would like to give back to the community in some way through entertainment and to bring some happiness and self-satisfaction not only to themselves, but as well as to the older generation of the nursing homes.
For the past approximately 14 years the Group has been singing on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at two Aged Care Nursing Homes and despite the distances some have to travel, they consider this contribution a de-stressor too! It has a Nonagenarian musician, who played professionally many years ago and is an accomplished pianist - he is also quite adept with playing the saxophone and clarinet. We have two other exceptionally talented pianists, one of whom is also our Maestro and the other an Octogenarian. A couple of the singers come from musical backgrounds and able to sing both Alto and Soprano.
This group has been well received by the residents of the two nursing homes where we sing and they look forward to the days we come to entertain them. This has been the response not only from some of the residents but also the nursing home directors. The expression of joy in each of their faces is enough motivation to keep us going. Seeing the frail aged residents respond with a tune and a smile as we provide enjoyment and diversion from their everyday routine, encourages us to give a little more through music stimulation and social interaction, musical appreciation, recall, reminiscing and songs of their youth which is also special to us all.
During the Christmas Festive season, the group sings the usual Christmas songs and dress the part of wearing red and white with Christmassy hats and such like attire.
The repertoire of the Songbirds is mixed as many of the older aged care generation have hailed from the UK or Ireland – we sing songs which they can reminisce of the youth or an era they know well, like songs of Frank Sinatra, old wartime songs, musical theatre numbers and even modern songs from the Beatles! We of course include well known Australian folk songs.
We have now combined this with singing songs from the popular Cabarets and Show stoppers which is well received, as each aged person is given a copy of the songs for them to participate in. Their enthusiasm is infectious and we are at times tempted to get up and dance!!
Music is the door to our Souls!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Effie Antao, great footballer!

Effie Antao

In Memoriam

Born 21/01/1934 Mombasa
Died 5/10/2017 Sydney Australia

Another former Liverpool and Mombasa representative player, Manuel “Effie” Antao has passed away in Sydney in Australia. In the 1960s and 1070s heyday of Mombasa football, Effie Antao was one of the most respected centre-halves in the country. He played the bulk of his soccer for Liverpool but also represented Goan Institute Mombasa and the Mombasa District.
He was a very a strong man and one of the toughest players to play against. He stood his ground and never gave way to any player. He was also very nimble on his feet for a big man. Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic about this much loved football star was that he had one of the hardest kicks anywhere in East Africa. There were man goal post net that looked a sorry site with holes punctured in their by Effie’s powerful free kicks.
As tough as he was, he also had a twinkle in eye and was always game for a joke or two.
His other love in those early days was tinkering in car engines. He eventually turned this interest into a full time job and was one of the most sought after mechanics at the Coast. His fame as a mechanic followed him to Sydney Australia when he migrated there. There used to be a regular queue of friends waiting to have their cars fixed outside Effie’s home in Sydney’s West, Toongabbie.
His favourite car in Mombasa was an old Morris.

His famous cousin Seraphino Antao used to play football with Effie and others. On one occasion, Effie asked Seraphino if he would like to take part in an East African Railways & Harbours athletics meeting in 1956. Seraphino worked for the Landing and Shipping company which had some association with the Harbour activities. Effie took part in Shot Put.
Seraphino ran barefoot and did well. This was the start of his athletic career so a lot of credit to Effie.
Also, apart from football,  Effie was a hockey player, a captain of Mombasa Goan School ex-students team.

He also enjoyed a game of snooker at the Blacktown Workers Club or at his “local” the Toongabbie Sport and Bowling Club where his wake will be held after the burial on Friday, October 13.

Mass Friday 13 October 2017 at 11.00 am
St.Anthony's Church
27-33 Aurelia Street
Toongabbie NSW 2146

Followed by

Burial Friday 13 October 2017
Pine Grove Memorial Park
Kington Street
Garden of Calvary
7, Minchinbury NSW.

Effie was pre-deceased by his wife Linda. He is survived by his daughter Evelyn (Graham Irving) and grandchildren Charlotte and James, by his sister Philo (Rex D’Souza) brother Elvino (Elisa)  and several nephews and nieces.

Condolences to Evelyn Irving

Just pals … Pascoal Antao, Eddie Rodrigues, Seraphino Antao, Diogo Pinto, Effie Antao

The late Effie Antao had a great love of motor cars, so much so that he became a motor mechanic. In Sydney Australia his favourite car was the mighty Kingswood.
Just pals … Pascoal Antao, Eddie Rodrigues, Seraphino Antao, Diogo Pinto, Effie Antao

Salcete village team: On the ground: Gonzac Fernandes, Martin Gonsalves
Second row: Jack Fernandes, Effie Antao, Bernard D’Souza, Joe Gonsalves, Joe D’Costa

Standing: Rui Mergulaun, Seraphino Antao,  (?) (?) Pascoal Antao

Martin Gonsalves who lived in Sweden also died on the same day as his friend Effie

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An excerpt from my book A Goan dance going around

Cheek-to-cheek at a Goan dance in East Africa


A Goan Dance

Here is classic description of a Goan dance in any East African town back in the early days when most of us in our 70s & 80s were young adults.
It is an excerpt from Peter Nazareth’s “fictional” In a Brown Mantle. I use the quote marks because the book appears to be thinly disguised as Nazareth’s once temporary homeland Uganda:

A dance in a Goan institute used to be rather formal. The dance usually starts at 9 pm, which means that the band starts playing at around 9:30 pm and couples start drifting in at a quarter-to-ten ( Cyprian: Goans were genetically such awful time keepers that allowed themselves the luxury of naming their own time: Goan time which was usually 60 or 70 minutes after the appointed hour).

The people are semi-formally dressed in attractive dresses or suits. The couples sit on chairs placed around the dance floor or around small tables (In Nairobi, it was just chairs around the dance floor). If they sat around the dance floor, the men usually vanished to the bar. They then hold their drinks and watch from the sidelines until somebody gathers up the nerve to commence dancing.

(Cyprian: Watching from the back of the hall is also another tribe of Goan men, young Goan men. The wannabe Romeos, the love-sick scaredy cats, and the not-so-drunk showing off an imaginary plumage but not girls worthy of respect are likely to engage them. The peacock plumages’ lair at the back is also home to the “tough guy” lovers who only dance the midnight special (usually cheek-to-cheek in the dim light) and last dance which is reserved for that special girl.)

Then the men go up to the ladies of their choice (they dance with their wives first) (Cyprian: a duty dance) and say: “May I have the next dance, please?” The reply is usually “Yes” in which case they go round the floor in varying degrees of happiness.  (Not Fortunato D’Mello, who never took dancing lessons. When I asked him why, he said that he once counted the number of times a couple went round the dance floor. He then estimated the length and breadth of the floor. After which, he calculated that a couple moved 17 miles (27 km) round the floor during that dance. “All that distance and they got nowhere,” he said)

The band plays a set of three pieces – say three quicksteps. Each piece lasts for three or four minutes. The band takes a break and the two return to their seats, the man saying “thank you very much” and “may I get you a drink”.

The next dance starts – a set of three foxtrots.  And the dancing starts.  Three waltzes.  A break.  A set of three rhumbas. Break. Three jive/soul. Break. A mild of set of African dance songs. Break.

There is no eroticism in Goan dances. Rather, whatever eroticism exists is submerged and can only be detected when a wolf-like Joaquim D’Costa is dancing with a long-haired married lady. And there is no break in the civilised behaviour, except for the inevitable fight around the bar, which ends by somebody bringing the warring parties together over a drink or somebody being thrown out.

A lot of my friends loved the Italian Cha Cha Cha which made me chuckle. Some were very special at dancing the waltz, others invented their own version of the dance. There was one guy who took his partner round the hall almost as if he was driving in a Grand Prix. Naturally, everyone kept out of his way. The Swahili international hit,  Malaika (angel) first recorded by its writer Fadhili William was high on the hits list for the Midnight Special or the Last Dance. The Midnight Special was also famous for traditional Goan dances like the mandos  and something British called The Lancets (?), aped from the British in India (I think). We locked arms and sang those ole time ole English favourites .... She'll be coming round the mountain ... and dozens of others. Remember the Hokey Pokey ... you put your left leg in ...? And the Conga Line after rocking in the New Year? We loved everyone ... and,  of course, Auld langsyne to bring in the New Year. As the years went by Rock 'n' Roll, the Twist, African-American soul and West Indian reggae began to dominate. Rowland Rebello was perhaps the finest exponent of the jive and the twist. Goans did not take to the jive too quickly but eventually most people were doing it. The samba and the rumba were a lot of fun. The rumba often lent itself to be a favourite of mine but I loved the jive (rock 'n' roll) and the soul hits the most. 

Then, of course, there was the "tag" or "tap" dance in which the men were allowed to cut in on a couple mid-dance by tapping on the shoulder of the male partner. This dance proved handy if you were shy of actually going up to her and asking her to dance while she sat with her parents. It was also useful to cut out any potential suitors by having your army of friends not allowing more than a step or two for the intruder. The "ladies' special" allowed the girls a chance to ask the man of their choice, sometimes announcing in public who they fancied or who was courting them. Others played it safe by dancing with a brother or father.

The other critical element in the social development of young Goans in East Africa were sports visits  from one city to another. The sports contests were ferocious to say the least but all that tough love on the field sometimes turned to good love on the dance floor as new friendships were made and new loves were found. The sports visit was a high point in the social calendar of both the hosts and the visitors.

The dance, especially at Valentine's (usually a masked ball) in February, Bachelors and Spinsters, Leap Year Ball, Easter, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, as well as the day occasions (the “hops”) played a central role in the social evolution of young Goans. Only the "best" people attended the dances as the ticket prices were reasonably high to keep the "riff-raff"out.

Dress was formal: men wore lounge suits and girls were in dresses. At Christmas or the New Year's Eve Ball, men wore their best suits or black dinner jackets. A few brought their prized  white shark skin tuxedos out of the moth balls. The women wore glorious full-length gowns and were at their stunning best. It was also usual for girls to wear a new dress at every dance which they sewed themselves or a neighbour obliged for a small fee. Some families used the same tailor throughout out his life or their lives.

As the traditional arranged marriage (usually with someone in Goa and later with someone in the African country where you lived) continued to be erased from the Goan ethos, it was left up to the Goan social clubs to cater for the young to take the embryonic steps towards the mating game. It is here the besotted finally got a chance to get real and personal with the girl of their current dreams (but not too close, the eagle-eyed parents kept a sharp look-out and (in the very early days) it was not uncommon for a parent to come on to the dance floor and insist on a more respectable distance between the two dancers. However, it was not long before young Goans were dancing cheek-to-cheek, or the girl resting her head on the boy’s shoulder, sometimes rather awkwardly. That’s it. If you liked the girl so much, you may have had one duty dance with her mother or her sister and then you danced every other dance with her. If you were brave enough, you sat with the family. If you were virtually one step away from the engagement ring, you held sweaty hands for the rest of the night and everyone in the hall knew who was going get married next. The dance was also the scene of many a heart break as a partner was dumped for another or chose to play the field.

The most important dances were midnight special and the last dance. Dancing cheek-to-cheek under very dim lights, or no lights, a special guy saved this dance for a special girl or the best choice for the night. Some of these cheek-to-cheek encounters did result in happy and long-lasting relationships. At the Railway Goan Institute, most couples tried to hog one of the three or four ceiling fans, dumped the tradition dance steps that they had learned from the Bonny Rodrigues School of Dancing and opted for a kind of sweet soul, slow, slow gyration, virtually in the one spot. Heaven, if you were that special girl

It was also unforgivable for a girl to ask a boy to dance (except, of course, once a night in the ladies special). “Decent girls don’t do things like that”. “Decent girls don’t throw themselves at a boy”. “What will he think of you?” Once in a blue moon, if you were mooning in on other people’s conversations, you might hear: Why did you dance with her (or him). In the case of “her” it was because she was just a friend. In the case of “him” it was because he asked for the dance.

Now and again, the father of the girl (after having his elbow well and twisted by both daughter and wife) would approach the boy say to him: “You should come and visit us sometimes.” The boy would be there the next day, for a little while. If that did not happen he would be circling the house desperately trying to catch a glimpse or miraculously crash into her as she ran an errand for her mother. A few would even have their secret meeting places.

When you were invited to a home, on the rare occasion, you were asked to bring your university degree, your Post Office (on bank) savings book or evidence of your potential as an ideal suitor. Some boys never took up the invitation because the mother or the father frightened the daylights out of them. In later life, some lived to regret that but others dined on the experience as an after-dinner joke.

The progression, of course, (in Nairobi at least) was a date to the movies (20th Century or Kenya Cinema) or faluda and samosas at Keby’s, ice cream at the various joints. Much later into the relationship, it was coffee out at Embakasi Airport or a smooch-in at a friend’s place or in a parked car outside her home or the grounds of the club. No physical sins were committed. Sins of thought are another matter. Then, there were those wonderful picnics in the back of a truck or in a convoy of cars. Lots of games, lots of singing and music and lots of “getting closer to her or him (or the partner for the day)”.

I am sure my readers will decorate this piece with your own wonderful experiences in Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kericho, Kampala, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanga, Arusha, Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe, or anywhere else in the world.

I met the girl of my dreams, my late wife, at the Railway Goan Institute.

Like a lot of my contemporary friends, I loved the Goan dances

Monday, October 2, 2017

Just reminiscing and missing ... you!

7 hrs · 
I have walked quietly into the abyss ... and, I have, just as quietly walked out.
I have seen hints of heaven, but have remained outside looking in.
I have seen the faces of angels: AA AA AA, have been charmed, allowed myself
to be enslaved by the power of the greatest glory of the innocence of children.
I have been dazzled beyond description by the creation of man.
My mind, my heart and my soul has been lost by the destruction of man of glory.
I stand confused by the creation of man in the name of God, only to become the ashes of wrath.
I have gazed upon new realities, marveled at truths I had not imagined, yet not become their prisoner.
I have greeted each glorious sunrise and each glorious sunset with with a celebration in my heart that soared beyond the universe, for such is the gift of life.
I met many, many strangers ... and we talked, talked and talked and shared, shared yet again ... and I have known what it is to be a child again, eyes wide open, my head the largest globe of admiration and, like the first space conqueror, been where no man has been before.
I have feasted on knowledge I knew not existed and I have been both a stranger, an interloper of sorts, and I have probed, inquisited and questioned beyond the borders of seeking answers to questions.
Most of all I have looked into each moment and have found a beautiful experience, happiness, satisfaction, delight, joy, love, wonderment and bewilderment, just the wonderful of life with gratitude that I have been alive and have been given licence to live these moments in a manner that creases my face with a billion smiles in thanks to the gods of the universe (and my own God, too) ... for the gift of living.
Yet, however fulfilled my soul is, however entranced my body feels afloat in in love, warmth, caring, friendship, new friendships, and everything that heaven has to offer ... I am out of my body self in celebrating that I am back with you again. Where I belong. For the moment at least.
So, as I cherish you, celebrate you, enjoy you and am safe with you, let us continue the business of making a memory each day ... the business of living.
In Sydney, Australia.
I am home and I love you

With thanks to my brother Johnny and his forever love Matilda, for making part of the journey possible in coming to the UK instead of meeting other commitments.
Mervyn and Elsie Maciel, for the honour of chatting briefly with two special people.
Alvira and Don, for sharing friends, laughter, smiles, memories, and making memories.
Jacinto, Polly, James and Loretta for allowing me into your lives again!
Alex Rebello, a keeper of the flame of St Teresa’s who achieves the impossible of bringing  my former classmates on a regular basis.
Steve, Marjie and Mel … eternally and unbreakable bond.
Gerry and Leo … travellers from my roots!
Des and Olga … Only You …
Alex and Dahlia … together, living our memories and creating new ones together.

And hundreds more I met in the UK, Spain Portugal, Morocco, Singapore …especially some fantastic folks who were my companions on coaches, planes, ferries and other modes of travel.

Thank You.


  PAUL NAZARETH A dedicated clubman Paul Nazareth is typical of the young Goans who grew up in East Africa and Nairobi and Mombasa in ...