Friday, November 29, 2019

Goa's pots of clay



Clay emerges from mother earth, and the pot is likened to a child that comes from the womb of a woman.  For millennia, women made clay pots, by hand.  Then the wheel got invented and it gave birth to the potter’s-wheel, and the role of pot-making shifted to men.  Women would collect and prepare the clay, and embellish pots with designs, after men had shaped them.  In archaeological digs, shards of pottery become historical treasure troves.  Ancient civilizations were adept at working with clay.  It is believed that man’s introduction to the art of making clay pots was a huge fire that destroyed everything in its path, except for a piece of burnt clay.  This piece was as hard as stone and did not absorb water.  It led early man to making pots and jars of clay, drying them in the sun and then firing them in a crude kiln. Hey Presto! Vessels capable of holding liquids securely, a pot to cook in, a dish, bowl or container, were born.

But first, a potter had to find suitable clay, then dampen it and knead it like flour, roll and flatten it with his knuckles.  He then had to mould and shape a glob of clay into a symmetrical utensil.  A water pot is pretty thin but has a strong curled lip to take the noose of a rope and haul the full pot up from a well.  Other pots are a little thicker and have to be able to withstand high temperatures.  Bowls for feeding pigs or dogs, are really thick and heavy.  Curry-pots were akin to the Chinese woks, but without a handle.  They were wide, had rounded bottoms and thick rims for grasping. These round-bottomed pots sat firmly on fireplaces that consisted of three laterite blocks, and could be stirred safely with a coconut-shell ladle. Pots that had a nice patina when fired, turned black when used as curry-pots or for cooking.  So also, did heavy pots in which rice was cooked.

As any Goan worth his salt knows, food cooked in an earthenware pot has a flavour all its own.  Goan potters(kumbars)  turned out pots for cooking rice and canjee (burkolo/podgo), curry, meat, fish, vegetables (khundem). Large pots like amphorae were used to store water, grains or salted meats. They also made platters, bowls (matul) to drink from, pots (bindool) for drawing water from a well, heavy bowl-shaped pots(khodem) to feed pigs and dogs, water decanters (gurgulet), flowerpots (jarin), Roman roofing tiles (nolle).  With no ovens in the past, three large curry-pots were piled on top of each other, with coconut-shell coal in the top and bottom ones, and bebinca in the middle one. Bowls for smoking pipes were also made by the potter, and a hollow bamboo stem attached to it.  Our ancestors enjoyed their tobacco (dungti) in these clay pipes. No village fair was complete, without the fruits of a potter’s handiwork offered for sale.  And, rich folks may have had fancy crockery in their dining rooms, but behind the scenes, rich and poor alike found identical pottery utensils indispensable.

Many moons ago, Anjuna had a famous restaurant called the Haystack.  It had a live band and folkloric plays in Konkanim and Portuguese.  But the real draw was the unique hot buffet actually served in large curry-pots set in a row, from which people served themselves with a ladle.  Police presence was required to control the crowds drawn in by the enticing aromas wafting from the “potted” banquet.

If for a moment you thought that clay pots had little value, think again.  My doctor uncle got paid in pots when he treated a kumbar or his family!        

And when its purpose has been served, a crumbling or broken pot reverts to where it came from. In biblical parlance, it was pre-destined: “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return”.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The BBC and Me ...

For a friend who would not stop asking:
The BBC and me, a beautiful love affair
I must have been four or six years when I first listened to to the BBC World Service’s Sports Round-up. My next-door neighbour, Mr Pinto (Peter, Francis, Jenny and seven or eight other children’s dad), also a tailor, used switch his radio on to listen to the British racing results and from Day One I used to be sitting on the floor with my ears pricked. After a week or so I tried very quickly noting down some notes and over the next few weeks and months got a handle on the British sports and their seasons. I would then tell my friends after school all about it.
I did not take down the racing results – Lestor Piggot, Scobbie Breasley, Frankie Durr and a whole bunch of other jockeys appeared interesting  -- but I did not pay much attention and I paid a somewhat cursory attention to complete results of the football matches on Saturday nights delivered in a sort of funeral tone, with an equally funeral rhythm … but I did get to know the names of all the teams, first in Division I, then in II, III and eventually III.
I also got to some of players, especially those who made the headlines regularly, the big goal scorers of the day: Stanley Matthews, George Best, Bobby Charlton, Len Shackelton, Russian Lev Yashin (in the internationals and after whom I would wear a full black outfit the little time I played football) Billy Wright and many others.
Football, of course, always dominated the news in the English winter and Rugby Union appeared to come a sort of by-the-nose second. Further in the year, Ascot and the Aintree Grand National and that is very I began getting a little interested. Especially in the Epsom Derby.
Summer brought what was going to be the great joys of my life: Cricket. It was not long before I abandoned the radio and turned to a second-hand crystal set and made into my own personal radio thanks to the electrical skills of some Seyschellois friends. It was really great. Tuck it under the blanket, fix the ear-phones to the ears, listen to the dulcet tones John Arlott, who became my all-time favourite commentator and when I went to England about six or seven times I tried to meet him but missed him by a few minutes or an hour or two. There were others: the authoritative voice of E.W. Swanton, Rex Alston, Alan Gibson and a rosary-full of others.
In a way, the BBC actually created a reporter out of me from that early age. I listened and regurgitated parrot-fashion.
One of the big handicaps, of course, was trying to figure just exactly where the “covers”, “long on” “long off”, “mid-on” “mid-off” somewhere halfway down the ground, “square leg” etc … I did not really find until I bought an MMC booklet for cricket trainers from the Smith’s Bookstore in Government Road Nairobi. Even at that stage, I really was in the dark, as I mentioned in Yesterday in Paradise.
What really impressed me most, as the years wore, was the complete faith I had in the BBC … if they said it was so. It was unbiased, utterly truthful and set the standards for the rest of the world to emulate in honest journalism. It also helped that London Times and the Telegraph were also the guardians of the truth as was The Evening Standard and one or two whose names I forget. The Sun I got to know for its Page 3 girlies nudies, the Mirror for its left-wing stance and the News of World no mother or father would allow their child to read or be seen anywhere around the house. Then, of course, there was what became the outstanding tabloid of our time: The London Daily Mail: bold headlines, stories crisply told, probably gave birth to the bible-like 25-word opening paragraph: the intro: if the Bible can be rewritten on the back of matchbox, then you can surely write your first paragraph, dramatic, brilliant, punch, the essence of the whole story in that one paragraph from which the sub-editor was handed the headline on a plate, any day. Hell, you can tell the whole story in that one paragraph.
The other thing about the Times and the Daily Mail was that both had brilliant crosswords, both became equally famous and the set the pace for the other newspapers to follow.
Then, of course, there the independent TV stations and independent radio stations which I really got to know except for the four short years we lived first in London and then in Leicester.
I sometimes feel that I love the BBC World Service more than anything else that I know since I have entered the twilight zone for the aged for whom companionship is the single most important element in the continued struggle for survival … that in the absence of a partner. Hence in a strange sort of way, the BBCWS is my partner. Monday to Friday I listen to it 11 to midnight and if there is anything hot on between 11 to 1 am. Other times I will check in on special features, debates and House of Commons. I must say I have tried to follow the debates on Brexit and my mind feels as if it has been through a mincing machine and I have surrendered myself to the result on December 12, being something of royalist/monarchist I would like the British people to regain control of their country and their services which I am told are going to pot being inundated by legal and illegal migrants, asylum seekers and the like. I had heard it said many times the NHSS is quickly heading for self-destruction yet a friend in the know denies it vehemently.
But my memories keep my heart warm: I was there when Churchill made speeches that were some of the greatest spin invented, the rallying calls were the truth and inspired every many woman and child to take up and fight the enemy on our shores, in the air and on the sea. We shall never surrender. Thank God they never did. As the re-runs were played on-air and in the
I have been preaching change to anyone who would care to listen in my profession and elsewhere. However, I am somewhat in caught in a web of sillydom, wondering what the hell is going by the oversaturation of Indian and other subcontinental accents, some good some better of with a sponge in their mouths. I want to know more about what is going in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the rest of Europe and the USA, the big stories in South America, the Caribbean, Canada (occasionally) and like Canada, India occasionally, just the big headline stories. These days I am often forced to switch off the BBC because whatever is on I find pretty boring including some of Brexit and lots of
Trump. Yet I was completely enthralled by a BBC TV story called the Guardians of the Synagogues of Kolkota. The original Jews came from Baghdad, Iran, and a hundred other places and when Palestine was born, they left. Today there are less than 30 for prayers in two or three world-class living museums, cared for by second and third-generation Muslims who swear they will stay their mission forever.
I wonder if the change will drive me to switch forever. Never mind, can always watch the cricket and soccer live on Foxtel which also a pretty pathetical looking compared to its early years. Wish the old Nine would come back from the dead!
Once, when I flicked the switch on for the BBC World Service, I transported into a land of real by magic and I was there in person, real person a witness to real news many thousands of miles away.
Much later in life, I had a regular sport on the British Forces Radio Service in Nairobi with a guy called Keith Skewes who went to become a big bwana on the BBC. When the Voice of Kenya started its entertain program, I was one of the first presenters with entertainer Julie Laval, Henry Braganza with various bands, Leo Rodrigues, Augie Alvarez and a host of other names I forget. I only quit because I had to travel.
One other claim to fame: I was the first journalist in the world to trackside interviews at the Munich Olympics. Spoke ever winner of every medal and some losers. Got because I walked in on cructches provided by the Games doctors as well as unnecessary painkiller in my button and a note saying that I was serverly incapiciated bordering being an invalide. I had noticed the day before the Games started that they only people allowed in the inner ring of the track were people who were in wheel chairs or otherwise declared handicapped. The rest as they say is history. Gerald Sinstadt of the BBC interviewed me for radio. Could not do the TV interview because I passing through.
Throughout my life I have been blessed in meeting and working with some of the greatest journalistic minds both from the UK and the USA, in sport and in general news.

So you were asking ….

No photographs but Norman Da Costa and lots of others are my witnesses.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Manu and the coconut thief in Saligao

From a booklet by Melwyn

Every ward in Saligao seemed to have at least one teenager who had earned the notoriety of being a rascal. They were either loners, or outgoing kids with a mischievous look in their eyes that seemed to attract an accusing finger whenever something untoward happened in their ward. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, I would say that those kids were smarter and far more creative than most of their peers but were constrained from displaying their creativity by the staid and proper Catholic society that pervaded their formative years. I often wonder what ever happened to some of these characters, one of whom was a loner name Euric (Yo-rick) who was in his late teens. He had a slight hunch, and he walked with a loping stride, his hands close to his pant pockets, and his head raised forward that gave him the appearance of a human camel.

Euric had the reputation of being a thief of ‘tender coconuts’ - a coconut before it ripens and acquires a dried grey husk. Whenever tender coconuts were found to be missing from a tree, the finger of suspicion would invariably point towards Euric. However, nobody would dare challenge him openly, simply because no evidence could ever be found to link him to the theft. But if Euric was indeed the culprit - and the twinkle in his eye seemed to confirm it - he certainly earned my admiration for committing these petty crimes with a finesse that was beyond the capability of most Goan mortals. Now, the sweet milky fluid of a tender coconut and the soft fleshy kernel were a great tropical delight. And like all great delights, they were hard to come by, simply because the ripened coconut, a Goan staple, was too valuable to be sacrificed in its tender stage merely to satisfy the discriminating palate of a bona fide Goan.

To obtain a tender coconut, one would normally have to place an order with a toddy tapper who would deliver a few to your home. Sometimes, a stranger would show up in the market with a bunch of tender coconuts that were probably stolen from another village; and they would be bought without anyone questioning the source of the merchandise. As long as we claimed to be unaware of buying stolen property, we had one less sin to confess, and a few less Hail Mary’s to recite as penance at our next confession.

One year, however, on a hot summer’s day, I aided and abetted a thief in stealing a couple of tender coconuts. And the thief was none other than Euric!  It was around noon when we had just finished erecting the bamboo bandstand for the Mae de Deus church salve that was assigned to the Cruz Vaddo section of Arrarim that evening. Our leader was a medical student, Manuel “Manu” D’Cruz, home on holiday from his college in Bombay. Every year he’d organize the young boys into groups to look after various salve-related activities such as soliciting funds door-to-door, making the lanterns and buntings, and stealing bamboo poles for the bandstand, while he managed the funds to pay for all expenses, including the band … and the bhajias (lentil fritters) for the team of volunteers at the conclusion of the salve. Well, it being a hot and humid day, Manu felt we should be treated to some sharop (strawberry or orange flavoured soda). But he didn’t have any spare funds to cover this purchase. Meanwhile, as luck would have it, Euric happened to be passing by. Manu called out to him and asked if he could pluck a couple of tender coconuts from the trees just outside the church boundary wall.

Euric agreed, but was concerned about being caught by the curate, Pde. Roberto Vaz, reading his breviary as he sat by the window of his study. What would have alerted the priest would be the loud thud of the coconuts hitting the ground from a height of about forty feet. But Euric had an idea. He made two cone-shaped mounds of sand about 18 inches in diameter and about nine inches high at the foot of a coconut tree. He asked Manu to stand near the bandstand in full view of the curate and got a few of us kids to stand near the two mounds, blocked from the view of the curate by the boundary wall. He told us that he would climb up the coconut tree and pluck two tender coconuts which would be dropped in quick succession, one on each mound.
At the precise moment the first coconut hit the mound, we were instructed to yell “Manu”, and “Yeh, reh” (come here, man) as the second one landed. Euric then climbed the tree, twisted the first tender coconut off the bunch, and dropped it right on the peak of the first sand mound as we yelled “Manu” to drown the muffled thud of its landing. And two seconds later, he aimed another coconut right on target as we yelled “Yeh, reh” in perfect sync. Manu responded by calmly stepping away from the stage as if to find out what was going on.

The curate looked up from his breviary when he heard our call, and seeing Manu walking calmly towards us, returned to his meditation, convinced that Manu had everything under control. Euric deftly husked the two coconuts with a coitho (a machete shaped like a parrot’s beak), cut a hole in each one for us to take a swig of coconut milk, and then split the nut to scoop the kernel. Like many of his ilk, Euric indulged in petty mischief just for the fun of it rather than monetary gain. And if offered payment for his dubious services, I’m sure he would have refused to accept any money, citing his good Catholic upbringing and his own interpretation of the old adage that “crime does not pay.”

Death of a great Kenya Goan icon

Tears for a Goan icon


Dr Manu (Manuel) D’Cruz was an outstanding Kenyan Goan Ear Nose and Throat consultant physician and a consultant sergeon who graduated in Edinburgh. His passion for treating the sick, especially the poor villagers miles away from major town centres, had to be seen to be believed. Nothing would stop him driving 200 miles unless, of course, his beloved Volvo was Ill. He was recognised as a great Kenyan when  President Moi bestowed on him the Order of the Great Warrior. As you will see he was also a devoted Goan. On the social scene, of course, his first love was the Nairobi Goan Gymkhana. He served as president/chairman countless times and was always ready to put up his hand if there were no one else for a committee post. He was also a dedicated Rotarian and was regularly lauded for his work with the organisation. I have left the tributes below to speak in their owners’ voices. He was born in Saligao, Goa.

He passed away yesterday after a three week battle for his life. He had fallen an suffered an injury to his head and has been in a coma since October 31. He is survived by his wife Dr Clara and his sister Lillian Castellino.  Cyprian

Mervyn Maciel: the two older guys are L-R  Casimiro Dantas & Louis Borges

The youngsters: L-R:  Lydia, my brother Joe, Lena and me
Bottom L-R   Wilfred, Lillian & Manu The youngsters: L-R:  Lydia, my brother Joe, Lena and me The youngsters: L-R:  Lydia, my brother Joe, Lena and me Bottom L-R   Wilfred, Lillian & Manu

MERVYN MACIEL:  My own recollections of Manu go back to my childhood as we were neighbours in Nairobi. It was to the D'Cruz household that we were taken to when my mother died. I met Manu briefly when we were both schooled at St. Paul's in Belgaum. He later left for Bandra and we lost touch. We were to meet again when he returned after completing his medical studies in Edinburgh.

Manu was a great help to my later brother, Wilfred. We were to meet again during his regular trips to London when visiting Lillian. Manu and I are of the same age and I am already missing him.

Also found this photo was taken with Manu, Lillian and me with our two Aussie grandchildren: Henry (son of Pollyanna) and Aliya (daughter of Josey).

Jerry Lobo’s memories of Dr Manu and Dr Clara

JERRY LOBO: We all have very fond memories of Dr Manu. I still recall a trip to Mombasa in the early eighties. I went with Dr Manu and Dr Clara in his white Volvo 244 “KQT 243”.

He was a very skilled and fast driver I must say. We left early and were in Mombasa for lunch.

During this trip and while we were at the Mombasa Institute, I felt a sore throat coming along and told my mum about it. She suggested I speak to Doc and so I did.
He looked at me and said come with me. I thought he was going to his car to get me some medication. Instead, we headed for the MI bar and he ordered me a nice shot of Brandy which did the trick….

 I did a few trips to Nairobi recently and wanted to meet Doc Manu. I was told best to be at the GG at 12:30 pm sharp on a Saturday. Like clockwork, Dr Manu arrived and ordered a cold Tusker and some hot Samosas! We enjoyed our meeting and he insisted he buys me a drink instead of the other way round – that is Doc Manu.
Before long he was gone. Dr Clara was waiting for lunch.  

JOHNNY AND MAURA LOBO: In the 1920s in Kenya we were close family friends and neighbours with the D'Cruz family and our friendship has continued with Manu and Clara till today. I am reminded of one afternoon in our earlier years when
we saw Mrs D'Cruz carrying Manu in her arms, running towards our house and screaming to my mother that her little boy was dying. My mother opened the door and Mrs  D'Cruz told her Manu had stuffed a corn seed in his nose, stopped breathing and turned blue. My mother who was crocheting at the time had the presence of mind to use the crochet needle and with a steady hand dislodged the seed and Manu began breathing again. Manu told us while growing up he heard that story many times from his parents, and it was one of the reasons he was inspired to become an ENT.

When Manu practised as an ENT Consultant our memories of him were of a loving, compassionate gentleman. We had six children who he was very fond of. Whenever I took them for a checkup he would come out and say "my girl what's the problem and which one of them is it this time". He was always so kind with his words and deeds and looked after us all with such care. Our family till today has very fond memories of our dear
friend Manu.

Dr Manu D'Cruz was founder of the Goan Cultural Society in Nairobi, Kenya and contributed to the success of uniting the Goan community under the umbrella of cultural and social gatherings. These included the Annual Mando and Theatrical Festivals promoting and showcasing our Goan and Portuguese heritage through music, song and dance. He also presented them with an annual trophy in the shape of copper ghumot (a traditional Goan clay pot with a leather tied firmly at the opening and another at the bottom. It is often referred to as the national instrument of Goa.)

Through this society, we inclusively and for the first time in our history, reached out to the local Kenyan people and trained them to perform and participate in the singing of the Mando. A notable record of Manu's contributions to our Goan society in Kenya.

CYPRIAN FERNANDES: When I first met Manu D’Cruz not many Goans actually knew what a medical consultant was in those early days. Neither did I. I would pop into his office in Vedic House on my way to the Court House, City Hall for coffee with the lawyers or a snack at one of the nearby outlets.
On the third or the fourth occasion, this is how the conversation went.
“Doc, why do you say enter after your name and degrees on the door?”
“Where? Come show me.”
So, we went to the culprit door and turned it around.
“That is not “enter”, it is short for Ear, Nose and Throat (specialist consultant).”  And after an hour at the Queens’ Hotel (Brunners), a roast beef sandwich, a plate of sizzling chips and a glass of this and that …I was somewhat familiar and for the rest of the time, I was in Kenya until 1974 he would either ring me up or meet me to tell about this or that advancement in ENT.

Another friend popped in for a chat with Doc. During the course of the chatter, Doc was irked by something in the man’s throat or nose and he had him quickly in the treatment chair. After a couple of minutes of examination, Doc told the guy to go and see Dr Paes because “you may be coming down with the flu and suffer some pain in the throat.”
A few days later the man was back.
“Why did you send me this bill for 70 shillings? You did not treat me or give me a prescription. I did not ask you to look down my throat … I thought you were being a friend, friend … anyway, you are not a doctor. As a consultant, you probably only write reports”
“Yes. I might have saved you from something far worse, now pay up.”
“I will have to do it in instalments”
“OK. But don’t forget.”
I don’t think until the man’s dying day that Doc ever saw a cent. I asked him why he did not pursue it and he just shook his head. “I see him regularly at the Gym and sometimes at the GI, we just smile at each other.”
There were thousands that Doc treated around Kenya, all free of charge.
This was a kindly man, a generous man and always the epitome of a blessing to his community, his friends and his patients. For a somewhat small man, Doc was blessed with an energy that a herd of elephants would have been proud of. Unlike the elephants, he moved quietly, always elegant in dress and always eager to lend a hand whatever the problem may be.
We had long hours of talks about the Kenya Hockey Union and his passion for improvement. He had a huge imagination and lofty ideas. Once, he even thought that game, could go professional, like English soccer already had. But “in Kenya and one murram ground at City Park?” and his answer was: You never know. Time will tell.
We rekindled our friendship when he was on a brief visit to Sydney. I was president of the local Goan association and he seemed to spend every moment encouraging me to greater deeds in the service of the local Goan community… that elephant stubbornness.
I am sure he infected everyone he met with his passion and enthusiasm, especially in medicine (healing the sick) people generally but especially the Goans, their music, their food, their dances (although I can’t remember him dancing very much in those early days) and of course their sport.
Doc was that kind of a guy, just one of kind, the very good kind, and the world is surely the poorer for his passing.

BRAZ “Matata Books” MENEZES: Manu was senior to me by about 10 years. I knew him growing up as his father was very active in the Goan Gymkhana. He left for boarding school in Goa or Bangalore in about 1948 and didn’t return to Nairobi for about 25 years.

Thereafter, we met each other regularly at the club. He was always very involved in the club’s activities, on every committee, and was never short of ideas for moving the club forward. I enjoyed the early days as we all had time on our hands, and until his dear Clara came along, his evenings were free.

He was the first responder at my mum’s last hours she collapsed on the GG’s dance floor on December 26, 1967 (as I described in my latest book Among the Jacaranda.)

FELIX & HAZEL NAZARETH: Doc was born on the 25th of December and christened Manuel J. D’Cruz. He was the founder of the Kenya Ear Foundation. He used to travel the length and breadth of Kenya in his beloved Volvo checking the ears of everyone who would let him especially in the bush. He charged them nothing. This was his passion and labour of love. He also used to bring doctors from India to help on his mission to help the poor.
During the presidency of Mr Daniel arap Moi, Doc was recognized for his dedication and passion and services for the people of Kenya and decorated with high Kenyan honour.
He was also a Rotarian. He was also almost the permanent president of the Goan Gymkhana and was involved with the Goan Welfare Society (which survives well to this day) and he was a staunch supporter of Goan sports in Kenya.
He was a very generous and kind person. He would not let anyone sit alone, he would take them to his friends and introduce them.
He was very much the son of the earth because he loved going camping all over Kenya. He used his surgical skills in deftly skinning whatever was going to be on the menu that day.

VICTOR and  MONICA NAZARETH: Doc Manu as he was known to his friends, which was a very wide circle in Nairobi, Kenya, in the Goan Community and beyond.
He was greatly involved in his Medical profession and after hours he had a finger in every pie. For starters, he was involved with the Goan Gymkhana, just like his father did. Manu was responsible for starting up the Goan Cultural Society and organised the first Mando Festival. He had a hand in setting up The Goan Welfare Society. His next venture was to start clearing up the cemetery, which he happened to discover, in Nairobi South 'B' which was the resting place of the early Goan Pioneers.
Manu was a great Goan going back to his roots in Saligao, Goa and was very much involved in celebrating the Saligao feast in Nairobi
He was a Rotarian and helped a lot of organisations that needed help financially or otherwise.
Manu was a sportsman, played Badminton and got himself in the hockey administration.
At the weekends he would accompany us into the 'bush' camping. He loved fishing and would help with the cooking. He also loved his glass of beer.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Teacher in a million, wins a million!

Kenyan Teacher wins $1million Global Teacher prize. WOW!

From 1961 to 1970, I was a teacher at Menengai High School, Nakuru which had a population then of about 60,000. There was one other high school, Nakuru Secondary School. Both schools, like most Government schools, were well-appointed and had staff members who were graduates and included expatriates from Britain, Canada and the U.S.A. The population of Kenya has grown by leaps and bounds since then with the majority of the young rural hopefuls flocking to urban centres to seek education or employment. I find it hard to believe that the once sleepy town I lived in has become a bustling city of 500,000 in less than 50 years. 

This population explosion has not taken place without a price. There is a shortage of affordable housing so slum areas have come up, resources are strained and unemployment has led to an increase in crime. The school population has sky-rocketed and Government schools can no longer cope with the numbers. Community schools have sprung up to absorb the overflow. Many of these community schools are sadly sub-standard and it takes a very special kind of person to leave a job in a "proper" school and throw his lot in with the rough and tumble of a community school, often called "harambee schools" after the post-independence "harambee" movement where communities attempted to provide for themselves rather than wait for Government to respond to local needs.

This is the background then to an astounding achievement: a Franciscan Brother teaching in one of these ill-equipped schools that would certainly not be allowed to exist in Canada has just won the Global Teacher Award of $1 million!!! Peter Tabichi was presented the award in Dubai in April this year.

Although I left Kenya 44 years ago, I am well aware of the kind of conditions in which Peter worked this miracle. I often helped with in-service sessions for teachers  working in these so-called "Harambee" schools and was appalled at the lack of resources. In one school that I visited, the only books they had were in a tea chest that had come from the U.S.A. The students in that school would become very knowledgeable about J.F. Kennedy but very little else. Science labs and equipment? They would be very lucky to have a room with four walls and some desks, forget test tubes and chemicals! One elementary school Cybele worked at had walls but no doors or a roof.

It is that milieu that you should bear in mind when reading the report below and watching the video that follows. As a retired teacher, I am proud that my profession has the likes of Peter Tibachi to exemplify the dedication to pupils without which a school ceases to be a school.

For details of his achievement please click on: 
For a video of Tibachi receiving his award please click on:

Sunday, November 17, 2019


September 7, 1938 – November 15, 2019

We are sad to announce that on Friday November 15th, 2019, Leo Moraes, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 81. Loving husband to Sheila for 49 years, father to Lorraine (Keith), Judy, and grandfather to Lucas.

Leo is fondly remembered by his siblings Hipo/Laura (deceased), James (deceased), George/Carmen, Paul (deceased)/Audrey. Leo will be sadly missed by his many nephews, nieces, friends and family.

Leo’s quiet demeanour and gentle nature touched all of those who knew and loved him. Leo was an avid traveller and camper. He loved spending time in his retired years cruising the seas and playing with his grandson, Lucas.

Chapel Ridge Funeral Home, 8911 Woodbine Avenue, Markham on Monday November 18th from 2-4 pm and 6-9 pm.

St. Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, 10295 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill on November 19th at 11 am.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada - Follow the link to donate:

Saturday, November 16, 2019

What makes children happy

What makes children happy?

It is just the middle of November but the annual blitz has started. I am referring to the endless commercials on TV and the advertisements in the flyers paid for by toy manufacturers and retailers to persuade children - and adults - that the lives of our young people will be forever blighted if Santa does not bring them a certain toy or the latest in electronic gadgetry. When I visit homes where the floor is littered with expensive gifts and the children are having fun in one corner with the cardboard cartons in which the gifts came, my mind wanders back to Africa and my own childhood. 

My father was a hard worker but salaries were small in the thirties and forties. He always handed over his entire monthly salary to my mother who worked miracles providing us with the necessities of life, making sure we were well fed and clothed and received a good education. Christmas was a special time when my three sisters could be sure that Mum would get Mrs. Dias, a wonderful seamstress, to produce Christmas dresses for them. Mum and Mrs. Dias would pore through the fashion books and choose patterns with puffed sleeves and flared skirts that were bound to make my sisters the envy of all their friends. Dad never owned a car his entire life so on Christmas Day we would walk the two miles to St. Francis Xavier Church in Parklands. Mum and her three girls sailed in front, a rather splendid sight that called to mind the Spanish Armada in all its magnificent finery. Dad and I walked a discreet distance behind hoping that nobody would associate us with the galleons advancing ominously some distance in front. I prayed fervently that I would not chance on any of my friends en route. I could just imagine their smirks unless, of course, they were enduring a similar situation to mine...

Mum managed always to get each of us a Christmas present. It was not big or expensive but it was always appreciated because it was ours. I remember that one year I received a plastic flute and the following year a four-inch Hohner mouth organ. I guess that the sounds I produced with those instruments convinced my parents that I was not destined to be a Mozart-like child protégé. They resigned themselves to the sad fact that their son was more interested in sports than the fine arts. Whatever the case, from that time on Santa's gifts were definitely more sporting than artistic in nature.

But I digress. My sisters and I never felt deprived growing up. This was partly because most Goan families in the thirties and forties in Kenya didn't have a lot of money to throw around. We did not realise it then but compared to indigenous Africans we were really well off. It was only as an adult that I began to have the opportunity to see both urban and rural African children and realise that the vast majority had very little in material terms. I travelled a great deal, chiefly to game parks. On my safaris, I often came across villages in the boondocks where the children were dressed in rags and the younger children wore little more than a shirt, if that. Most rural areas in Kenya survived on a subsistence economy basis and the crops that farmers produced on their small holdings were barely sufficient to feed themselves and their families, leave alone afford luxuries. It is easy to blame colonial policies for large numbers of families living from hand to mouth. The fact is, however, that independence has not changed the situation in most of Africa. In large areas of Africa, famine and lack of water remain very real concerns. Among people who are struggling to survive, generations of children have grown up without the luxury of new dresses for Christmas or mouth organs under a Christmas tree.

All these thoughts came flooding back to me when a friend sent me the video attached below. I realise, of course, that everything in the video is staged and those are hardly children from deprived situations dancing spontaneously. I love them and I think you will enjoy them greatly as, choreographed or not, they have an infectious joy about them. But they are not the deprived children that I was referring to earlier. I emigrated from Kenya forty years ago but my enduring memory of children in the shanty towns and the outlying areas was of children who had little or nothing in material terms. Yet I rarely saw a child crying or throwing tantrums. Rather, the laughter and joy of living were ever present. They had never known better and, in the remote areas, there was no television to create an awareness of the Good Life that the rest of the world was living. So they found happiness in spontaneous song and rhythm and companionship and family. Western Civilisation has brought children material well-being of a kind that those bush children cannot even imagine. Yet I sometimes wonder if we have not lost something in the consumer society we have created. As for me, I am deeply grateful for the childhood that I and my dear sisters enjoyed thanks to our dear parents. We were so blessed.


Pakistani Jazz

In 1977, the conservative Islamic regime of Ziya-ul-Haq, who banned
Almost all secular music, came to power in Pakistan. This repressive
policy hit the residents of Lahore, traditionally considered the musical  capital of Pakistan, leaving many musicians out of work and forcing them to hide.
(I don't know the name of the magazine I picked this up from, apologies. Title in a distant language untranslateable.)
In the early 2000s, Pakistani millionaire Izzat Majid brought together the remnants of Lahore’s music circles in his Sachal studio, trying to restore his lost musical heritage. Influenced by his childhood interest in American jazzman Dave Brubeck, he created the Sachal ensemble, which combines the features of traditional Pakistani music with Western pop and jazz.
During their recent tour in the USA, performing in Saratoga, the ensemble performed a mixture of traditional Pakistani music, original compositions by Majid and conductor Nidat Ali, as well as several Western tunes, for 70 minutes.
Opening the concert with a purely Pakistani folklore performance, the ensemble played a tune from the famous musical Rogers and Hammerstein of the show, the tune “Some Enchanted Evening”, so that the audience could hear for the first time how the ensemble masterfully masters the classical themes of Western jazz music. Then other tunes sounded, such as Michel Legrand's composition Windmills of Your Mind, Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme, and Ben King's classic Stand by Me, followed a clear pattern.
The piano and electric bass performed the main theme, setting the basis for the structure of each melody, which allowed percussionists, flutist Bakar Abbas or the master of the “saranga” (Indian string instrument - Islamosphere) to solo or add improvisations to the melody, taking the viewer from the sound palette of the Western hemisphere and feel in South Asia.
Although the ensemble demonstrated by its performance of cover versions of well-known jazz compositions that it could successfully mix Western motifs with traditional Indian music, their original works showed a better mix of cultures. Majid’s songs “Shalimar” and “Lahore Jazz” rely on melodies written under the influence of American jazz bands on the west coast of the 1950s, but they intentionally included Pakistani classical and folk motifs in their current American tour program.
To hear their wonderful music google YouTube Sachal Take Five

Friday, November 15, 2019

Old farts: sorry no lift, no tap! CHECK OUT THE VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM

Gerald was brooding like a chook that had lost its egg.

If he was a chook he would have been pecking at the ground, its nose picking up all the little bits of this and that in the ground.

Eventually, because the rest of the guys were in minor twitches of mirth,  he said, rather sheepishly. "My lift is stuck on the ground."
Someone said rather loudly: "Take the stairs"
"Not that kind of a lift, you git," growled Gerald.
After a few minutes of silence, one or two "Ohs" were murmured.

It was not long before Dr Google was passing his phone around.

Here's what he had on the screen:

Doctor’s Response

The most common sexual problem in men as they age is erectile dysfunction (ED). In general, the younger a man is, the better his sexual function will be.

About 40% of men are affected by erectile dysfunction at age 40, and nearly 70% of men are affected by ED by the time they turn 70.

Aside from age, risk factors for developing ED include smokingobesitydiabetes, cardiovascular disease, inactive lifestyle, cancerstroke, and taking certain medications such as antidepressants or beta-blockers.

Psychogenic ED was thought to be the most common cause of ED, however, psychologic causes often coexist with physical or functional causes of ED.
Erection problems usually produce a significant psychological and emotional reaction in most men. This is often described as a pattern of anxiety, low self-esteem, and stress that can further interfere with normal sexual performance. This "performance anxiety" needs to be recognized and addressed by your health care provider.

There are several areas of the brain involved in sexual behavior and erections. In psychogenic ED, the brain may send messages that prevent (inhibit) erections or psychogenic ED may be related to the body's response to stressors and the release of chemicals (catecholamines) that tighten the penile muscles, preventing them from relaxing.

Certain feelings can interfere with normal sexual function, including feeling nervous about or self-conscious about sex, feeling stressed either at home or at work, or feeling troubled in your current sexual relationship. In these cases, treatment incorporating psychological counseling with you and your sexual partner may be successful. One episode of failure, regardless of cause, may propagate further psychological distress, leading to further erectile failure. Los of desire or interest in sexual activity can be psychological or due to low testosterone levels.

Individuals suffering from psychogenic ED may benefit from psychotherapy, treatment of the ED, or a combination of the two. Also, medications used to treat psychologic troubles may cause ED; however, it is best to consult with your physician prior to stopping any medications that you are taking.

Lots of "ohs", "ahs", "doesn't bother mes" and after that silence. You see most of these drinking buddies were past 75 and getting closer to their 80th birthday ... I suspect many were stuck on the ground floor and would be having a chat with their doctor, if only out of curiosity rather than practicality.

Such is life. There always comes a time to stop.

Just sharing because I checked it out with the doctor yesterday... Jimmy Blue!
Now there is no lift, no tap and the V doesn't help!


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