Saturday, July 27, 2019

NAIROBI SOUTH: The genesis of a happy event

Every one of my friends who attended the Nairobi South Reunion in London recently has told me glowingly how much they enjoyed the event. Everyone was singular in toasting Lambert and Berti Pereira for coming up with the vision for the event, mustering an army of helpers and then bringing everything together on the day. The smiling faces in the photographs are a testament to what most if not everyone is saying about the fun and joy of the day. How did it come about? Lambert Pereira explains the genesis of the fun event:\\

The following note of congratulations is representatives of many, many other similar sentiments expressed: 

Congratulations to Lambert, Fatima and the rest of the team for organising such an enjoyable get together of Nairobi South residents and friends on 21 July 2019, at Heston Catholic Social Club.  We were delighted to meet up with our neighbours and talk about those halcyon days in Nairobi South when the sun always shone and there was time for convivial evenings together.  A sense of nostalgia pervaded the proceedings.   The photographs and the very helpful street plan of Nairobi South helped to settle many discussions we had had about who lived where!

The occasion was a great opportunity to exchange memories and recall all those bygone years where in many cases we grew up as children. Our beloved parents and in some cases our siblings have passed away and we now are the next generation of Nairobi South Goan immigrants to Great Britain.  The event also had the effect of highlighting the people who could not be there because they now live in other parts of the world and those who could not attend due to ill-health.  

Many of those who attended are now in retirement, but hopefully will have the opportunity to “meet again some sunny day”, as the Vera Lynn song goes!In conclusion, we have to say that we visited Nairobi South while on a visit to Kenya three years ago.  The place has changed and is barely recognisable from what it was like during our time.  We caught glimpses of our houses and from an archaeological perspective, it was clear to see the impact of just 50 years of development. 

Thelma & Raul Gonsalves


Just over a year ago the idea of having a get-together in London of ex-residents of Nairobi South, Kenya, was conceived in my mind.  I then casually sounded out a few friends and individuals hailing from that part of the world and was happy to receive enthusiastic responses. 

Although in past years I have organised several successful get-togethers, office parties, picnics, etc, this first-time reunion of ex-residents of a far-off land, was a new kind of challenge for me. With the realisation that I could not do all that needed to be done single-handedly, about three months ago I started a mini- committee comprising Alvira Almeida, Chris Moniz and myself  So the ball started rolling as it were. Initially, it was envisaged that we would invite around 40 to 50 or so of ex-residents and their spouses and meet for lunch at a suitable restaurant or pub in central London, whereby one could chat about the good old days. For this purpose a suitable venue was sourced in Victoria, central London. 

However, once we started contacting people, the interest in a reunion turned out to be bigger than expected, and we therefore had to find a venue that could accommodate slightly bigger numbers of say 100 or so. That venue, for various logistic reasons, turned out to be the Heston Catholic Social Club in West London, in the county of Middlesex, and a date was set for Sunday 21st July 2019.    

Thereafter, whilst Alvira and Chris set about informing all concerned by telephone and e-mail, I concentrated on other tasks like booking of the hall, the band and the caterers, who luckily were local to the area. I also started to put together a programme in the form of a booklet which we could give to all attendees as a souvenir on the day. This booklet with various images of African scenes included a few articles submitted by ex-residents giving their views of the times spent in Nairobi South all those years ago – before we all immigrated to the UK. 

On the eve of the event, together with a core team of helpers including my neighbour Alves Coutinho, Chris , Fatima, her sister Florie, and friend Eulet, we started to decorate the hall with balloons, banners, etc with a colour theme of green, black, red and white – the colours of the Kenya flag. As the saying goes’ many hands make light work’. Judging by the many favourable comments received from those who attended, 
 the Reunion seemed to be a great success. It is hoped that a similar one can be organised next year God willing! 

By Lambert Pereira 
(July 2019) 

Held at Heston Catholic Social Club Eton Avenue, Heston, Middlesex, England

(Brochure for an event that turned out to be one everyone admired and enjoyed to the hilt ==CRF)

By Viola Lawrence (nee Rodrigues)
Hello to all the folks I was privileged to know during the years I lived in Zanzibar Road, Nairobi South B, with my parents Victor and Violet Rodrigues and brothers Vivian and Vernon. Kudos to Lambert Pereira and his committee for thinking of and organising this Reunion. I feel blessed that my husband, George, and I, have maintained our friendship with him over the years and also with many other ex-residents of Nairobi South, many of whom have scattered to different parts of the world.

My husband and I, with our extended family, live in Washington State, USA. My memories of those carefree days in Nairobi South will never fade away. A vivid and hilarious one is spotting some of the young lads scampering for cover each time I drove my Dad’s car along those not-so-busy streets then! We dearly miss those ex-residents who have passed away including my dearly beloved parents and so many others too. May their souls Rest in Peace. Here’s wishing each of you and your loved ones Good Health and Happiness of every kind, and Safety wherever you may be. Hope you all make the best of this opportunity to ‘meet and greet’ at the Reunion.


By Thelma Gonsalves (nee Fernandes)

My parents and my six siblings moved into our new house in Deccan Road, Nairobi South ‘B’ in 1953. My father’s name was Luis Fernandes and this name was emblazoned on the big, silver, double gates at the entrance to our drive. 

My family comprised three brothers and four sisters including myself. My eldest brother, Apollo, worked at the Standard Bank in Nairobi before leaving for the UK in the early ’60s. My second brother, Alex, worked at the TV and Radio station, VOK. Sadly he died in a tragic accident in 1970 in Mombasa. My sister, Ophelia, worked for East African Railways. My younger sister, Alba, taught at St Theresa’s and is still fondly remembered by her ex-pupils. My younger brother, Julian still keeps in touch with many ex-residents of Nairobi South. My youngest sister, Cascilda, was the baby of the family. She was a truly beautiful person who had Down’s Syndrome and passed away in England.

 I attended St Teresa’s Girls School in Eastleigh and later the Duchess of Gloucester School in Ngara. I won a Kenya Government scholarship to study at Leicester University, England and so left Kenya in 1963. Following my graduation, I returned to Nairobi in 1966. I then did a teaching stint at Kirangari Boys High School. I got to know my husband, Raul Gonsalves, who lived around the corner from us and wooed me with his red VSW Beetle (Reg KKG 500). When my teaching contract in Kenya ended, I joined Raul in England and we were married in 1968. 
I have fond memories of our immediate neighbours in Nairobi South, Mr and Mrs Jerome D’Souza with their children Vera, Lira, Primo, Ilda and Bernard. They had adopted a cutest little pet – a dik-dik which had strayed into their garden from the National Park situated quite close to the residential area at the time. We too had a most adorable pet dog called ‘Pluto’ – a cross between a Dalmatian and a Daschund. He was quite distinctive being a black-and-white sausage bundle of cuteness. 

My Dad would often take him for evening walks when passing strangers would stop to admire and express delight at the two of them.  *********************************************************************

By Raul Gonsalves

The Gonsalves family moved from Milner Road  near Dr Ribeiro Goan School, in the early 1950s following the decision by the Government to allocate land for housing to the Goan community in Nairobi South B. My parents decided to build our home on a plot in Deccan Road. The house had a reinforced concrete roof as it was envisaged that as the family grew we would be able to extend the construction upwards.
 We were a large family of seven brothers (Roman, Rossi, Rudolf, Ray, Ralph, Rodney and myself) and three sisters (Ruth, Rowena and Rose-Curie). When we moved to that part of Nairobi my younger siblings were still in school, whereas Ruth and I, being the oldest members of the family, started to earn a living.
Our house in Deccan Road was between that of Mr and Mrs Jacques with their 3 children Savio, Myra and Pammy and that of Mr and Mrs D’Souza with their 4 children Nora, Edith,Vincy and Clarence. 

I became the family chauffeur as soon as I was able to drive having passed my driving test. Our first car was a black Ford Anglia (Reg. T9362) followed 2 years later by a new grey Peugeot 203 family saloon (Reg. KFK 237). Soon I was driving my brothers and sisters to school, and the family on holiday to the coastal towns of Mombasa and Malindi. Any semblance of mechanical skill that I can claim was acquired working on the 2 family cars, replacing broken leaf-springs, removing and cleaning the fuel tanks, cleaning the carburettors and replacing the fuel pumps. Later I had my own red Volkswagen 500 Beetle (Reg KKG 500) which was sheer pleasure to drive.

The children of our neighbours, such as Primo, Assumption, Savio, Rayner, Allwyn and Levit became our good friends. We organised picnics and had parties in our homes when our parents were away - a chance to let our hair down fortified with drinks and music. My mother reared chickens and turkeys but had the misfortune of finding them stolen from time to time. Nairobi South residents, living at that time on the periphery of the National Park, would often come across wildlife looking for water during the dry season. Such sights of animals illuminated by the headlights of cars were a joy to behold – sights that present-day residents will never experience.   The parents of many of those who lived in Nairobi South have passed away and we of the next generation have dispersed to various parts of the world. Like our parents who came to East Africa as immigrants with no knowledge of what to expect, we were the first generation of Nairobi South Goans who immigrated to Great Britain and other countries that were as foreign to us as was Kenya to our parents.

When Kenya gained independence, sadly many of us had to leave the country. I myself after having worked for 14 years for the Kenya Government, was prematurely retired at the age of 33 in order to facilitate the process of Africanisation. I was, of course, fortunate to have met and being captivated by a wonderful person who happened to live a few doors away in Deccan Road. That person was Thelma Fernandes who also left Kenya for the UK where we were married in 1968.

By Nora Vas and family

It is over fifty years since we parted ways and went to various parts of the world, and life has evolved. As children, our world was school, Nairobi South, clubs, picnics and mostly Goan open-house hospitality. Among the group of friends we played with were the Coutinhos, D’Souzas, D’sas, Gonsalves, Pereiras, Pintos and others. We played soccer, cricket, rounders, seven-tiles and hopscotch together. These games were usually played behind or by the side of Pinto’s house as there was a grassy open space there.

 Sometimes we were up to pranks and capers or we just sat around and enjoyed each other’s company.  At Carnival time we went from house to house with our small band of musicians, singing and dancing in fancy dress and with masks, in an attempt to hide our identity - for fear of being accused of singing out-of-tune perhaps! 

 We remember when we were ill, our first port of call was Mrs Pereira, across the road, rather than telephone the emergency services or doctor.  Then, if need be, either Dr Patel or Dr D’Souza was contacted. Medical advice was also sought from Mrs D’sa, who recommended home remedies, including cuppings and hot poultices.  Hearing the word ‘enema’ suggested one recovered very quickly. These remedies have become fashionable and expensive.  We have survived!!   We have fond memories of our man servant, Leo Simba, who we called ‘Mzee’. He cooked and looked after us.  We would often sit around the shigdi (metal stove) with him, eating mahindi or drinking porridge. He would tell us stories, usually about the war, when he was a soldier in the King’s African Rifles.  We would finish off with all of us singing ‘ Funga Safari’. Even after he left us, we would call on him and he would do whatever he could to help us. Those were lovely happy times !!
By Levit Pereira

Ever since my late beloved parents laid the foundation stone of what was to be our humble home in Nairobi South ‘B’, my memories of that period are wide and varied. In those early days, I recall encountering a pride of lions feasting on a captured zebra. One early morning, I also recall having to chase a herd of about 10 zebras from the junction of Zanzibar Road and Chittagong Road all the way to the shopping centre. The sound of the pounding hooves of this episode would no doubt have woken up the entire neighbourhood thinking that perhaps an earthquake was imminent!!

I am so blessed to hail from a very musical family. My Dad used to play the double bass in a band called ‘Blue Notes’ in the ’50s and my Mum learned to play the piano and subsequently tutored my only sister, Linda. Whenever we received any visitors to the family home, it was customary for all of us to entertain the guests playing various instruments and singing the hits of the times. There was never an occasion when we did not tune in to the local radio station to listen to the so-called ‘Hit-parade’.  A few days later we would play the records of artistes like Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers and Jim Reeves, acquired from the renowned ‘ Shankar Das and Sons’.  
Like most ex-pats from Goa, my parents were very industrious and caring. I remember Dad giving much of his spare time to voluntary work as Secretary of the Governing Body of the Dr Ribeiro Goan School where most of us derived our education. Each evening I recall Dad going to the dairy at the end of the road to fetch milk in a special container. Evidently, his 4 sons were too lazy to do the same. Mum was, in fact, a midwife and was the first person in the family to drive the family saloon a Ford Taunus. In later years Mum started a small registered nursery at home where children from surrounding areas would be cared for, together with my own 3 young ones. 

In my working life with Voice of Kenya (VOK), where I was a sound recording engineer, I was fortunate to befriend the late musicians Daudi Kabaka, who composed ‘Harambee Harambee and the late Fadhili Williams,of Malaika fame. I also had the opportunity to record various other musical shows such as the ‘the 65 Special’ featuring stars like Henry Braganza, Gilbert Fernandes and Xavier Almeida.  My close friends at the time were John D’Souza, Rayner Correa, Raul Gonsalves, Ivor Pereira, and Johnny Mason. 

Much of our spare time was spent either tinkering with our respective cars or going on outings to Mombasa or to the local game reserves to do a bit of hunting and indulging thereafter in the traditional barbecue of ‘nyama choma’.  

Christmas time was a truly joyous time preparing the crib and the stars (we had 3 of them) each year. The highlight for me was when families exchanged trays of specially prepared Xmas sweets like neurios, bulinhas, dhose and of course the famous bebinca. I guess this tradition has since died a natural death- more’s the pity!!

I have so many wonderful memories of that time spent with family and friends in Nairobi. I hope and pray that you will all enjoy the Reunion organised by my brother, Lambert, with his select team of advisors and helpers. Have a great time and sorry that I cannot be with you. Kwaheri Sasa!!
By Ruby Monteiro, Rita Po (sisters of the late Phillip and Hubert DeSouza)

The DeSouza family, comprising our Dad, David, and our Mum, Rosy, moved to Nairobi South in the early 50’s. We lived in the Government quarters at a time when that area was not developed, and we would often see cows and goats running past our front door. At the rear of these quarters was a Rifle Range where the Army would come to practice and improve on their marksmanship. Dad was a keen gardener and we helped in cultivating bananas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, coriander and various other vegetables. We would often accompany Dad on his fishing trips to Nairobi Dam not far away from home.   

It was during our tenure here that Dad was attacked by mobs on three occasions. In one of these attacks, Dad was robbed of his bicycle and had his teeth damaged. It was then that our parents reminded us of the hardships they had to undergo during those early days in Kenya, at a time when the Mau Mau terrorists were waging war with the British police and army. Many were to lose their lives during those troublesome times.   
We attended Catholic Parochial School until the year 1957 when Dad retired from Government service, and so we had to vacate the home in Nairobi South. Thereafter, we lived in council flats just behind the Goan Institute and continued our education at St Theresa’s School in Eastleigh and Dr Ribeiro’s School in Parklands. Dad was a life member of the Goan Institute (GI) and he would often take us to the club to enjoy special events like New Year’s dances and Sportsmen’s Day.

As a family, we travelled to Goa a few times. These wonderful trips were made by train to Mombasa and then by steamship to either Bombay or Marmagoa Port in Goa. These 9-day voyages across the Indian Ocean would entail a stop-over at Seychelles or Calcutta and we remember having such fun on these trips. The family also travelled to Kampala where we boarded the S.S Victoria for a trip around Lake Victoria taking in ports like Kisumu, Entebbe and Mwanza en route.

Growing up in Kenya was special, as we had the privilege of meeting so many other Goan families, all of whom had a tale or two to relate about their own thrills and challenges of life in those days. Sadly with the onset of Independence and the Africanisation that followed, many, like ourselves, had to leave Kenya and start a new life in another part of the world, be it Great Britain, Canada or Australia. Nevertheless, our memories of those nostalgic times will linger in our hearts forever.

 By Alvira Almeida(nee D’Sa)
The D’Sa family lived at the extreme end of Zanzibar Road and comprised my parents, John and Artemisia, myself and my siblings, Antush, Avena and Francis. Sadly, Avena passed away after a car accident in the ’60s.

Life in Nairobi South was one big bonanza of happy and fun-filled times when never a day went by without meeting and greeting neighbours and friends. Dad had an open house,   so all who entered were invited to join in the family prayers like the Angelus at 6 pm or the Rosary at 8 pm. Dad was a keen cyclist and would commute to and from work on his bicycle merrily greeting passers-by whom he knew. I recall there being a wonderful community spirit in that area when we shared our joys and our sorrows as one big family. Special bonds of affection and friendship were forged during those times . It was quite common for neighbours to borrow a cup of salt or sugar when their own supplies ran low. One did not need to make appointments to visit each other. One just came and went freely, in a spirit of openness and ‘bonhomie’

Just opposite our home was a field of corn whereas youngsters we would play hide-and-seek and also help ourselves to some of the ripened cobs of corn. Soon we were spotted by the owner of the field and severely reprimanded for our misdemeanours. Mum did pay the farmer for his losses though. The stolen cobs of corn tasted even better than those bought from the ‘mutumias’ who, carrying their weighty supplies of fruit and vegetables, went from house to house to earn a living. Opposite our house was a road where I used to race a bicycle borrowed from our neighbours, the DeSouza’s.  Many of us participated in outdoor activities in the evenings or at weekends. The playing field close-by would often see mainly boys enjoying games of football or cricket. I remember having to pay a few shillings just to join in such activities and I certainly made my presence felt much to the annoyance of others.

Christmas time was so wonderful and joyous and full of excitement. Most of the neighbours would decorate their homes before the 25th December with the customary cribs and stars, tinsel and colourful lights. My favourite moments at this time were those that entailed the preparation of the various traditional sweets. Families would take the time to make all varieties of sweets and then share with neighbours and families in special trays covered with a white doyley or serviette. Mothers would compete with each other to see who made the best sweets. Mum was known for presenting a wide selection of delectable delights like bibic, dodol, neurios etc etc. Our man servant Kamau used to be even more excited than us youngsters as he would get his special ’bakshi’ at such festive occasions. 
Most of us were educated at Dr Ribeiro Goan School where we were privileged to learn and to make many friends, most of whom we still are in contact with. Such is the nature of our Goan community – a community that prides itself not only on educational skills, but social and sporting skills to boot!

By Christopher Moniz

The Moniz family moved into our newly-built house in Deccan Road in 1954 as did our relatives next door. For some time thereafter, and until the new housing developed in the area, the open spaces behind one’s home was the stomping grounds of various animals from Nairobi National Park situated close by.

During 1955, we welcomed into the family our baby sister, Esme, who was delivered by Lambert’s mother, Mrs Lucy Pereira, at their home just down the road. For a while my brother, Edward, and I revelled in playing soccer and cricket with a tennis ball in our bedroom, much to the chagrin of my mother. So we were relegated to the back yard and spent many a time climbing over the separating wall into the back garden of our neighbours, the Georges, in order to retrieve wayward balls. Later on, we sweet-talked the care-taker of Our Lady of Mercy School who allowed us to make use of the school football field to amuse ourselves and hopefully keep out of trouble.

The corner of Deccan Road, just outside the Pereira residence, is where we would often catch up with buddies to talk about all sorts of adventures, amusements and of course the girls living in the area. Our family were fortunate to have friendly and helpful neighbours and Christmas family visits were so special and ever so much fun.
It is true to say that Deccan Road was where four of my Dr Ribeiro Goan School classmates resided, two of whom I am still in contact with!!


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