Monday, April 13, 2020

Your memories, your nostalgia, a sentimental journey of joy


Please enrich this post by adding your own memories:

Kenya, East Africa, is always a many splendid country!

Memories, memories, fading memories,
Heartbreak, clawing fingers, extended arms
Desperately hanging on to every shred
Of every memory, places, faces, moments,
Events, happenings, the food, sports,
Nightclubs, clubs, the streets, the shops
The suburbs, the long drives, on muddy roads
Or on silken black tarmac, room for one car,
Ponds Cream white silver sands, Malindi
Watamu Beach Resort, and millions more.

Desperately seeking familiar faces of my
Youth, where, oh where, have they all gone,
Oh the loneliness, of being marooned
On this Earth without my youth, my friends,
Those I have loved, fallen in and out of love with,
Where have they all gone, where has the time gone
Desperate, desperate, betrayed, let down,
Broken hearted, broken spirited, helpless,

What, what is it, why are you waking me?
Oh sorry,
Oh, a nightmare, I am just having, am I?
Felt very real …

Soft, sweet, gentle things, kisses from a whispering Nairobi breeze on any
evening, I remember about the other love of my life: Nairobi.

Slip-sliding on fallen jacaranda flowers, loving every petal, every leaf born nearby.
The coffee farms, the tea farms in Kericho, the wheat belts of the Rift Valley,
the glorious game parks and even some romantic game lodges ... Treetops and
the Mount Kenya Safari Clubs and its once shoddy owners. The Ark, Secret Valley,
the magnificent Mara and memories of the Adamsons, oh mighty Tsavo, Mt Kenya
National Park, troubt in Embu and the green, green grass of Meru and the Central
Province as a whole...; Uplands bacon and sausages the like of which we will 
never see again.

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 (or Goa for that matter) lacks taste, aroma, that just plucked freshness, and just does taste that Kenya sweetness. And why is this particularly true of those gorgeous matundas (passionfruit) that I used to eat by the kikapuful (basketful) at one sitting topped off with a couple of slices of pineapple. And what about the madafu (tender coconut), guava, jumnams, apples, peaches,bananas, berries of a thousand kind? What is it about the Kenyan coast that makes them so different? And all those mitai (Indian) 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! White Bobby socks, those girls’ shoes from Bata, pinafores, long skirts, shorts skirts, ribbons in their hair, gold chains around their necks and coconut oil in their hair and Ponds vanishing cream on their faces … strange perfumes, little dabs behind the ears and the upside of their wrists. Oh, and the boldest with a little dare-devil mascara. Boys in short pants, short-sleeveds shirts. Long socks in tennis shoes or leather shoes if you could afford them. Skinny belts tightened to hold up the khaki pants. Bruised egos and grazes knees from football, twisted ankles and countless cramps, reddened knuckles and swollen ankles from hockey … boys who wore those girls’ shoes with a strap at the front. Or the joy of walking barefoot on green, green grass or brown depending on the season of rain or dry. Picnics, climbing trees and perhaps the greatest joy of all … gone fishing for tilapia or black bass or freshwater prawns in Stone Athi. Later, the Drive-In (all boys jammed in a car or the lucky ones with girls’ heads on their shoulders, and this and that.)

Grams and jugus (groundnuts) cooked in hot sand ... delicious also charcoal grilled corn and yam chips (mogo), sweet sweet mandaasi (deeped fried dumpling), irio (vegetable mash), maharagwe (beans), skinny muchusi (curry) and the king of foods: ugali (mealie meal). 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 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 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 afters Jevanjee Gardens: basking in the midday sun, not too far from the hustle and bustle of the city, in the 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! Green Hotel for delicious Potato chips and Coke or chai or faluda (at Keby’s).

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.

Blue jeans and blue suede shoes (if you could find them, got mine at an Italian shop in the city), Elvie Presley kiss curls and shortsleeved collars turned up. The girls looked even more beautiful, first in the teenage years and then into early womanhood. Some mums and dads got even more scarier. Thank God for our emissary, Tony Reg D’Souza. Tusker, White Cap, City and the imported stuff. Scotch, gin and T, Rum and C, Vodka and O, Brandy and... G ...Vincarnis, white wine, red wine, BabyCham.

Embassy, Dunhill, Rex, Clipper, Jogoo, Sportsman, State Express, 555, Players Navy Cut, Senior Service, Pall Mall, CravenA, B&H, Black Cat, Woodbine, Chesterfield, du Maurier, Gitanes ... and this and that... biddies?

Working at the Nation: the greatest moments of my life! Daily drinks at Sans Chique and World Cup at table football against the Laval gang, the late Cyril and Guy were a deadly combination.

Lunch and drinks any Saturday at the Tropicana and their brilliant salad ray!

Faluda at Keby's (had to do this twice, because my late wife loved this and once walked the length of a Bandra street loving every new flavor). The world's best lamb samosas and aloo (potato) bajjias at the Ismalia Café opposite the Khoja Mosque.

Maru's Cafe in Reata Road. Kheema-mayaii chapatis (egg and mince), delicious kebabs cooked fresh everywhere, 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 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 (haunts of secret lovers, far from prying Goan eyes or their resultant torrid gossip), Naivasha, Gilgil, Nakuru anywhere, a million dreams.

World's greatest breakfasts at the Wagon Wheel Hotel Eldoret, Kericho Tea Hotel, Nakuru Hotel. Best chips and sandwiches at Brunners (Queen’s Hotel) Opposite the City Hall.

The bathing of the mind at any game lodge: Watching that magical moment, the last nano second when evening morphs into night. The first chorus of the night orchestra mixed with the grunting, sighs of the animal kingdom going to lala.

Being somewhat mesmerised by the magic of Karen and in awe of you-know-who I met only once or twice. Lost and won at the Ngong Racecourse. Loved every moment at Langa Langa and the Nakuru car races ... especially watching that daredevil Jack Simonian. East mud, bogged down to the waste sometimes at Easter during the East African Safari. The colonial streets of Nairobi when two cars on the road meant a traffic jam. The Italian men's clothes shops, the like of which I have never seen again. Those windows filled with ladies' gorgeous hats, all so grand in their feathery grandeur.

All Saints Cathedral and Holy Family Basilica. In awe.

The schools. Each in their separate memories. The ugly side of life in all quarters, most of us quarantined from all that ... but we accepted it was all life. Tough, but British administrative order for most, pain for some. Injustice. A clean city, somewhat clean towns and districts. The wonderful buses and taxis we rarely rode, it was easier and safe to walk even at four in the morning. Or ride a bike. The absence of kitu kidogo. Lines at the Post Office, at the Tax Office, at the bus stop (sometimes) but everywhere ... order and more often than not courtesy within your kind and sometimes from other kinds.


But, one day it would soon end. It would be time find a home elsewhere. The trickle of the exodus began sometime before 1960, blew out to pandemic proportions (I exaggerate a little) by 1968. 

The East African Standard and the Sunday Post which I read second hand and The Nation where my whole life and perspective changed completely for the better and I worked along side great white folks as equals ... except for the pay. Even the Aga Khan was prejudiced when it came to money. Who am I too complain? I got a new life and a wonderful, unforgettable career at the age of 16 going on 17. That is another story.

Eastleigh, Pangani, Juja Road, River Road. Starehe. Kariokor. Karen, Dagoretti. Killeshwa, Lavington, Mincing Lane, Nairobi markets, the churches, the temples, a million smiles. Nairobi West, South C, South B, Nairobi West, Langata, Embakasi, Kilimani ………..

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, Kiambu Club, Limuru Golf Club

Waited with panting nostrils each Easter to cover the East African Safari. I will treasure every single moment I spent in every game lodge, one of the greatest experiences of my life and everyone should do it at least once.

The first time I took a girl to the Thorn Tree. The first time I took a girl to lunch inside the Thorn Tree. Champion and Caviar at the Norfolk sauna! Exquisite lunches at the Muthaiga Golf Club .... Limuru, Kiambu, golf clubs. Lunch at Parliament House, any day a memorable event. Impala, Parklands, Nairobi (tennis), Railway, Kongonis, sports clubs something to savour ... many others too. Lots of Tusker and apres hockey, cricket, rugby, soccer ... Once high tea at the old Torr's or Pan Afric Hotel and those forgotten hotels in outskirts of Nairobi. Sans Chique, the watering hole of journos and others who are best forgotten. The Lobster Pot for that very special posh lunch? What do you remember most ... please to this!

Nairobi Market... all those flowers and curios and everything else.

I am sure you guys have your special memories. Please add.

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