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

1 comment:

  1. Well written! Did not know it was you who wrote this article!
    Thank you!



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