Monday, January 31, 2022

The enigmatic Jayson D'Gomes

 The mysterious Jayson D'Gomes


Another yarn ... believe it or not!

JAYSON D’GOMES was that rare breed of young men who are made for success. He was a child prodigy, a quick learner, success was going to be his destiny in whatever field of life he chose to excel. At a very young age, his sports teacher/coach recognised him as a potential who could wear the national colours in hockey, cricket, soccer and athletics. He was also a dab hand at table tennis. However, it was school, later high school and university that grabbed most of his attention. Yet as he headed towards a BA (biology) degree in Medicine, he did not completely ignore his leisure requirements. He wore the colours of Kenya with great pride, especially in local hockey internationals, if he was that way inclined. He never had the time for the Olympics, the World Championships or overseas tours. He just could not spare the time from his education.

Jayson was born in Nairobi in the 1940s, went to one of the Goan schools and eventually to Nairobi University. 

There was even greater pride on the faces of his mother Lamantina, father Jaisilvan and young brother Hayson. Naturally, he was the pride of the Goan community. From childhood, his parents had made sure he was family with all three clubs but their favourite was the Goan Gymkhana. Jayson spent what little spare time he had at the other two clubs, played hockey for the Railway Goan Institute and Cricket for the Nairobi Goan Institute, where a chap called Lobo was one of his early mentors. His father grudgingly gave in, knowing that the two clubs were the better for sports, since each had several Olympians in their ranks.

His first sort of girlfriend was Melinda Sa D’Mello. They met at school and both sets of parents held the secret hope that they would one day marry. Marriage, of course, was always the furthest thing from his mind.

His mother tried to teach him the waltz, the foxtrot etc. It was just too much. So, he was trotted off to the Bonny Rodrigues school of dancing and it was not long before our hero had lost his inhibitions about asking a girl to dance. His friends agreed he was pretty good at it too. So did the girls.

He got his lessons on how to court a girl from his friends at the club. Well, it did not work out because most of them were trying to pull his leg, in between crumbs of truth. He found some consolation in his favourite teacher: Miss Irinia Conceicao D’Lima, who taught, French and Geography. She approached the subject from her own experience and what most girls expect of a guy.

“When shall I kiss her; how shall I kiss her?” And Miss said: “You will get there with trial and error. Start with a kiss on the cheeks and work your way with time to her lips. You will know eventually. If you don’t, she will show you. In time you will learn.”

It was not long before he was hanging around with a bunch of guys called The Jokers. They were into parties, dances at the clubs, holidays at the coast, marathon card games at farmhouses in Limuru and Kiambu (lush greed suburbs just outside of Nairobi), picnics, fishing trips, visits to Malindi, Mombasa, and sports, including gin rummy and three card brag for money. The Jokers usually met at the Tropicana Restaurant in heart of Nairobi and later proceeded to the RGI for tombola and more drinks in between snooker or darts or table tennis. Jayson was always the first to go home. His father always promptly collected him at 9 pm. He stayed later for dances and parties.

For us and everyone else in the world, December 3 or 4 wherever you were in the world was a momentous day. It came right out of the blue, like a new comet streaking across the heavens and visible to the naked eye, especially its glistening myriad colours. It was a moment in time when it seemed the earth itself shook and everyone who cared was shaking with the earth. It was the day when Dr Christiaan Barnard achieved the unthinkable, the first human transplant.

Here is a historic record: On the night of 2/3 December 1967, Dr Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human-to-human orthotopic heart transplant in his patient, Louis Washkansky. Washkansky, a 53-year-old man with severe coronary insufficiency, was far from an ideal recipient by today’s standards, being a diabetic and a smoker with peripheral vascular disease. Furthermore, his massive dependent edema had required drainage by needles placed into the subcutaneous tissues of the lower legs, and these puncture sites and accompanying stasis ulcers had become infected.

On 2 December, a young white woman, Denise Darvall, sustained a massive head injury after being hit by a car and was certified as having a lethal brain injury without any chance of recovery, by the neurosurgeon who had been called to treat the patient and who eventually referred her as an organ donor. There were no laws relating to brain death and organ transplantation in South Africa at that time, as elsewhere, and Barnard elected to take no chances. He invited the State’s forensic pathologist to the operating room, where ventilation of the donor (already prepared and draped for surgery) was discontinued. The blood pressure steadily fell and the heart arrested. The medical examiner pronounced that death had occurred. Barnard’s assistants then rapidly opened the chest, initiated pump-oxygenator support, cooled the heart to a low temperature and excised it.

The recipient had been prepared in the adjacent operating room and Barnard proceeded with the transplant. The enormity of what he was attempting was impressed upon him when, for the first time in his life, he looked into the chest and saw an empty pericardial cavity. The procedure went well and the heart functioned satisfactorily. No photographs were taken during the operation so there is no visual record of this historic surgical procedure.

Washkansky’s daily progress was followed intensely around the world, with almost every aspect of his care being made public. His early recovery was excellent, and the team was impressed with how rapidly the patient’s peripheral oedema was lost as his new heart functioned strongly. This excellent progress continued for almost two weeks when Washkansky’s condition began to deteriorate, and he developed radiographic infiltrates in the lungs. The surgical team was uncertain whether these were due to pulmonary oedema associated with cardiac failure from rejection, or with infection. Mistakenly, they initially elected to treat for rejection, intensifying the immunosuppressive therapy. This step was a lethal error as the patient had developed bilateral pneumonia, which was aggravated by the enhanced immunosuppression, and he, unfortunately, succumbed from severe pneumonia and septicaemia on the 18th day post-operatively. (Cardiovascular Journal of Africa)

It was a Saturday or a Sunday in the Southern Hemisphere. On the same day, there was a failed assassination attempt on Bob Marley, Australian Derek Clayton ran a new world record marathon (2 hours, 9 minutes, 36.4 seconds) in the Fukuoka Marathon, among other things.

Naturally, my friends and I were engrossed with the heart transplant news. I shared with them copies of teletype reports by the Associated Press, Reuters, and other news agencies. The world rejoiced but there were others who condemned the transplant as the world of the devil and warned Barnard that his damnation was close at hand. Bugger that, we celebrated the achievement with more than a few Tuskers. Perhaps, the most enamored and inspired amongst us was Jayson. Later that afternoon, after a pretty long lunch, he said: “Hey guys, I won’t be seeing you all for a very long time after I get my uni degree results next week. I am reasonably confident that I did well in my BA Science (Biology).”

There was a chorus of “why what’s happening, are you getting married, off on a holiday, what is the mystery?)

“Well,” he said, biting his lower lip, “You all know I have always wanted to become a doctor, a heart surgeon really. But now, I think I will have to raise my expectations and become a heart transplant specialist.

"I have spent thousands of nights wondering what should I do, what profession, what skills, what university, ... what, what, what. Today I knew exactly where my future lies. Christiaan Barnard's miraculous achievement has told me exactly what I should do.

“It will take many, many years, but I am game for. First of all, I have to pass a University Entrance Exam for admission to Guy’s Hospital London but of the University of London set-up think. Next week, I will visit the British High Commission and after I have the relevant information, I will have a chat with our Dean of the University.

“First of all, I have to talk to my Mum and Dad. I have had long chats with them about becoming a doctor and they have promised me all the help they can give but it is going to be a very long journey and I have a lot of thinking to do, a lot more fact-finding, so I am going to be very busy for the next few weeks.

He sort of retired from all sports ... and we could believe that. It was madness for a talented guy like that give his many chances at fame and fortune. Madness, we thought.

“I am not sure if I will ever see any of you again, unless you come to London. But then again, I may not see you there either, I will be too busy with my studies. I doubt if there will be any Goans left in Kenya after the next few years … I mean they will chuck out all the Asians and Europeans.”


There were a few “don’t be sillies” “they need us to help them run the country”, “who is going to replace us?”, “they will have to give us a few years notice, at the very least”, “it can’t happen overnight,” “you will still find us drinking here or at the Railway Institute or dancing at the Goan Institute or holidaying at one of the game lodges”, “our paradise will not end for a few more decades,” “they will bury us here first”.

The big teacher fella was a little more emphatic: “Don’t be bloody silly …the UK may not let you in,” Elvis Presley, just smiled, and said, changing the subject: “Anyone fancy going to the Nairobi horse races?”

The other couple of teachers were a little more realistic: “I don’t think they will let us stay here forever,” said the tall handsome bloke, “but it will be for a long while.”

The reporter chap was a little bit more contemplative: “The exodus has already begun. More and more Goans are making their way to the UK. One of these days, they may cancel our UK passports and stop us from migrating there.”

The big teacher fella, burst in: “Don’t be an idiot. The UK Government will not be able to do that. It would be an internationally illegal act.”

Jayson realised that friendly banter was quickly turning into hot burning tempers. “All I am saying to you is that you should all give some thought.” It was not long before everyone forgot all about it.

Later that night at the Railway Institute, the big teacher fella said: “Jayson’s folks must be loaded … but I can’t see how. His father is just a humble clerk.” They agreed but wished the guy well anyway.

What they did not know was that Jayson had been planning his move for more than the three years he had spent in university. He had it all figured out. He just needed a little bit of luck, the offer of an initial scholarship and once he got to London, he would work part-time to pay for his studies and keep. His father’s boss, the permanent secretary with a penchant for golf and single malt scotch, had promised to help him. In fact, he made the High Commissioner aware of Jayson’s plan. Jayson’s father had already got the families’ British Passports done a couple of years ago. The Permanent Secretary had also seen the writing on the wall: it was time to get out of Kenya.

If you looked hard enough, it was easy to see that life for most non-Kenyan citizens would end in the greatest heartbreak. I write Jayson’s story after having lived through the heartbreak and having seen firsthand the horror of so many people being forced to leave Kenya. All this a little more humanely than the monster Idi Amin did to the Asians of Uganda in 1972. By then the Kenya exodus had already begun in 1968, almost to the day when Christiaan Barnard had conjured up a medical miracle.

The Jokers never heard or saw anything of Jayson again. The reporter chap moved to the UK in 1974. The others followed to the UK, Canada, US, Australia, Goa and places unknown.

Paradise was lost.

The reporter chap, who had a part-time job in Fleet Street but lived and worked full-time elsewhere, managed to track down Jayson in London’s Guys’ Hospital. There was no time for a meeting but for a longer chat that evening. The longer chat lasted 10 minutes. Jayson was heading in the right direction in achieving his aim of becoming a human transplant surgeon, but there were many more years to go. He had married a Kikuyu girl. He met her at a Kenya Nite at a Goan Overseas Association function in London. She is a solicitor. His family lived in South London, a long way from his London flat. His parting words were: “Hope we run into each other sometimes, but I doubt it because most of my time is spent in the hospital, studying or other aspects of the internship. Good luck and all the best.”

The reporter chap had a million questions, but Jayson had no time for them. Just as curiosity killed the cat, the reporter chap wanted to know as a matter of life or death by wondering: how did he manage it? How did he marry a Kikuyu? How did his family allow it? In Kenya, most Goans would not be seen dead with a black woman … especially one who might be descended from the first freedom fighters, the Mau Mau.

LIKE the stars in the heavens (not as many as that though) Goans from East Africa are scattered around the world. Along with them, so are old friendships, memories and dreams of a paradise lost. Blessed are those who still keep in touch, and remember once upon a time…

PS: No facts intended!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

F

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Two elephant feet


THE STORY OF TWO ELEPHANT FEET

By Mervyn Maciel


Marsabit was noted for marauding elephants during my time there in the early 1950s, and it was not uncommon to see a herd of elephants outside one’s Government quarters, especially at night.

Quite often, as one relaxed indoors in the late evenings, listening to music from the old-fashion rather bulky portable battery-operated radio, one would hear the crash of breaking branches as the elephants feasted happily and noisily on the pepper trees outside our houses. For the locals, they were more of a pest as they raided their shambas, trampling over their crops and destroying what little home-grown food they’d hoped to harvest. It was therefore not uncommon for the Administration to call on the Game department for help from time to time.

On this particular occasion, the individual who arrived to do the culling was none other than Terence, the brother of George Adamson (Bwana Game fame) and brother-in-law of Joy (of Born Free fame). Terence had done a good culling job and the Administration labourers (notably the Turkana) were delighted at this unexpected bounty of fresh meat. I, on the other hand, was keen to acquire two of the feet as trophies (something to brighten my then sparsely-furnished bachelor home!). Imagine my disappointment when the men I’d sent returned empty-handed saying, “Bwana, watu wamekwisha kula wote" - the men have ‘polished off’ the lot!) Seeing I was unhappy, they quickly added that there were just two partly eaten feet still available, if I wanted them. When I said, “Ndio” (yes), they quickly disappeared and returned with 2 feet – one fore and one hind. We instantly set about scooping out the meat and bones, and after thoroughly rinsing out the feet with gallons of Dettol and Jeyes Fluid-filled water, we began filling them tightly with soil from the garden. The feet were then left outdoors to dry out. Imagine my horror when, on waking up one morning, I found the feet had gone!

I was very upset and asked some of our Station hands to look for them. Moments later they returned with both feet, one slightly damaged with sharp hyena teeth marks clearly visible.

Rather than risk leaving them out again, I used to keep them indoors and when they had hardened sufficiently, I emptied all the soil they’d been stuffed with and asked one of our Government truck drivers to leave them out in the Chalbi desert for drying out, on their next safari. This they promptly did, and the feet remained in the desert for 3 long months. No one dare touch them as they knew they belonged to a Bwana in D.C.’s office at Marsabit! When they were brought back to the boma, they felt rock hard. My next job was to stuff them with the moss found around Marsabit - (we called it elephant grass or ‘old man’s beard), and later send it to a cobbler friend in Moyale for converting into two sturdy stools.

Two Elephant Feet From Marsabit
With John Rendall
This he duly did, covering the top with a decorative hide. I’ve lost count of the number of tins of boot polish I’ve used on these feet for the past 60 years!

While I remained at Marsabit, there was no problem about possessing them, but when the time came for us to leave for the U.K. many years later, I applied for, and obtained a Permit from the Game Department in Nairobi. I had two crates specially made to ship these trophies to England and they now have pride of place in our lounge. Understandably, not everyone was pleased to see them and feel that they belong to the elephant (our grandchildren feel so too!) – but can I assure them and all animal lovers that this, and other elephants shot during the culling exercise, were not shot for pleasure or gain; the only reason I wanted to bring them with me to the U.K., was to retain that link with Marsabit and its people, who I love and still keep in touch with.

Postscript: A Happy Ending

Late in 2010, I was fortunate in meeting John Rendall of A Lion called Christian fame. As he is involved with the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust in Kenya, he willingly accepted these elephant feet on behalf of the Trust. My family and I were overjoyed that they were returning to the Africa (Kenya) where they rightly belong.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Goans: Silent Pioneers

 

This piece by my friend John Kamau is worth another read


Goans: Silent Pioneers Whose Place In History Seems Forgotten - John Kamau

The place of Goans in building the foundation of modern Kenya is actually downplayed.

 

A deeply religious group, the Goans in Nairobi had also built the Holy Family Basilica and St Theresa in Eastleigh and are actually credited as the bedrock of Catholic faith in the city. The Goans arrived in Nairobi, via Zanzibar and Mombasa, from the Portuguese colony of Goa – today the smallest State of India – at the time when the Kenya-Uganda railway was being laid. In its heyday 114-year-old, Goan Institute was the bastion of Kenyan politics, culture, sports and much more. The last time I was there was a few years back as they prepared their 100-year celebrations and I met a fine man, Vincent Azavedo, by then the chairman of the club, who showed me around. It is a small compound for a minority community with a rich background. Often, they get forgotten.

 

OLD CABINETS

 

I found that the old cabinets were still overflowing with trophies of yesteryears but the story behind this institute hides the secrets of a minority race that had arrived in East Africa to look for fortune, work and progress. They came as tailors, clerks, doctors and lawyers.

In this reclusive compound, near Parklands Police Station, you could chance upon stories of some of the best-known Goans in Kenya: Nairobi’s pioneer physician Dr Rosendo Ayres Ribeiro, Joachim Nazareth, Francis Xavier D’Silva better known as Baba Ndogo for his generosity for impoverished whites who lived in Baba Ndogo area, lawyers Fitz de Souza and John Nazareth, Pio Gama Pinto, who was political activist, and Joseph Zuzarte Murumbi, the half-Goan who was Kenya’s vice-president for a brief period before he was scared out of the position.

There was also Joe Rodrigues, a pioneer journalist, and another writer, Cyprian Fernandes.

Those who have seen early pictures of Nairobi must have noticed a man riding atop a Zebra. That was Dr Ribeiro in his escapades to attend to his patients. 

He had bought the young Zebra in 1907 and tamed it. Ribeiro was instrumental in the founding of the first Goan Institute and many other schools, including Parklands High School – which was first named Dr Ribeiro Goan School in his honour when it opened its doors in 1931. In 2015, it reverted to Dr Ribeiro Parklands School – a great effort to honour a doctor who had done so much for a country.

 

GOAN CLUB

 

With his brother Campos Ribeiro, they became some of the famous names in colonial Nairobi and Campos was the first President of the Goan Club.

 

There was something else about Dr Ribeiro. He was said to have some magical anti-malaria tablets and he was everyone’s doctor in the emerging township of Nairobi; especially during the days that plague outbreaks were common. At one point, his clinic at Bazaar Street was among those razed down as the administrators battled Nairobi rats. It is claimed that Dr Ribeiro is the one who advised the medical officer for health to burn the Indian shanties.

 

And now to Baba Ndogo, aka Xavier da Silva. He had decided to help the impoverished whites who lived adjacent to his 40 acres in Ruaraka, where they were said to have kept mistresses. He built several bungalows there to rent and planted lots of mango trees.. Most of the trees can still be spotted in Ruaraka.

 

Having said that, the place of Goans in building the foundation of modern Kenya is actually downplayed. Some of the institutions they raised funds for, and built, have largely been forgotten while most of those in public service were bundled out during the Kenyanisation process. Today, it is hard to find any Goan in public service – a shame for the country.

 

But the institutions they built still stand as a reminder of the halcyon days. At the junction of Prof Wangari Maathai Road (former Forest Road) and Limuru Road still stands St Francis Xavier Catholic Church – the signature project for the Goan Catholic community in Nairobi.

 

CRICKET CLUB

 

It was a celebration of Saint Francis Xavier – the man who had built Kenya’s first chapel in Malindi in 1542 when he landed there on his way to India. The small thatched Chapel still stands to date! A deeply religious group, the Goans in Nairobi had also built the Holy Family church. In its place stands Nairobi Basilica and St Teresa’s Church and schools in Eastleigh and are actually credited as the bedrock of Catholic faith in the city.

 

The Goans had arrived in Nairobi from the Portuguese colony of Goa – today the smallest State of India – at the time when the Kenya-Uganda railway was being laid. Together with the Indians, the largely Catholic Goans got jobs as clerks while the less educated arrived in Kenya as tailors, carpenters, shoemakers, etc. Actually, Goans are credited as the original tailors in Kenya and they had formed Nairobi Tailor’s Society. One of the best known was Alleluia Fernandes who at one-point stitched suits for Jomo Kenyatta.

 

Like the Europeans, and being a minority, the Goans started exclusive clubs and they – and the Indians – are credited with bringing the popular game of cricket into Kenya. This was first played at the modern-day ‘Kirigiti’ stadium in Kiambu, a corruption of the word cricket.

 

The Goans had founded the Portuguese Cricket Club in Nairobi in 1899 – just a few years after the railway had reached this edge of the Kikuyu escarpment. Being a desolate, windy, and muddy place when it rained, the only solace for the new settlers was in the clubs to kill boredom in a new country. The Portuguese Cricket Club had evolved into Goan Institute, which opened its doors in 1905. It was in the 1980s forced by President Daniel Moi to drop its Goan Institute name and adopted Nairobi Institute. It has since reverted to its original name.

 

COLONIAL GOVERNMENT

 

With mainly junior administrative positions in the colonial government, they could not join the all-European Nairobi Golf Club, which was in 1936 allowed to use the prefix “Royal” as a mark of the Silver Jubilee of King George V’s reign. That is how Goans started other clubs of their own, including the Goan Gymkhana and the exclusive Railway Goan Institute.

 

But there was a split with the elite Goans, employed by the railway — by then the best blue-chip employer — and the low-ranked tailors.

 

That saw the emergence of the Indo-Portuguese Institute (later Goan Institute), which was supposed to rival the Railway Goan Institute, then located on the grounds of modern-day Pangani Girls High School. There was also the Goan Union, whose members were once dismissed by PX da Gama Rose as “illiterate servants not equipped to engage socially or politically with the educated classes”. This is because the latter conducted its meetings in Goan language of Konkani.

 

Goan Institute was the place of some elite workers of the colony and when they built their dancing hall – they fixed some springs to support the wooden floor, and apart from Charter Hall in Nairobi, this was the only other dancing floor with such springs.

 

SPLENDID STARS

 

As the centre of sports, this was the heart of  soccer, cricket and hockey – and in 1960s when the likes of Kipchoge Keino, Ben Jipcho and Naftali Temu surprised the world of athletics, there is one other name that was a product of Goan Institute: Mombasa-born Seraphino Antao - first Kenyan athlete to win double gold medals on the international scene.

 

Antao, who died in 2011, was Kenya’s double gold medallist in the 100m and 200m during the 1962 Commonwealth Olympic games. As a result of the training they received, thanks to Goan Institute, Kenya was one-time ranked number four in hockey, with the majority of Goan internationals coming from two Nairobi Goan clubs.

 

 

It is interesting that the Goans are hardly mentioned after they were thrown around after independence and most of them had to leave for either UK or Canada. These silent pioneers have at best kept away from local politics after one of their own, Pio Gama Pinto – the best bet on Kenyan politics – was gunned down in Nairobi in 1965, the first politician to be assassinated in independent Kenya.

 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Marriage by application

 Marriage by application


FRANCISCUS (Franky) Antao was a civil servant in the British Colonial Civil Service. He was actually one of the hundreds of clerks in the Secretariat. Many, many years ago he had been seconded to the Permanent Secretary for Recruitment, Local and Overseas, Johnson William. Franky was William’s clerk with a key responsibility. JW, as he liked to be called, was a typical British foreign colonial from the old country. Mos
t of all he did not like to spend too much time in the office.

He was skilled enough to gather around him a team of mainly Goans and other Indians who made sure that the department was run as a pretty tight ship. He on the other hand was happiest at the Muthaiga Golf Club, on the course, naturally or lunching in one of the finest dining rooms in the country. The MGC also had a much-loved bar. With that came a reputation that no decent Catholic would have found sinful. However, meeting the sex-hunger needs of the wives of farmers and civil servants who were forced to endure life in the bush meant that the colonial government provided regular short-term local leave which the women loved spending in Nairobi and GMC was a haven for finding willing partners.  These short leave sexual encounters often took a regular turn and again there were regular incidents of angry husbands wanting their pounding flesh.

Nonetheless, the British stiff upper lip ensured that any newspaper-worthy sensational stories were spiked in-house. Thus, the ugly side of the MGC was usually swept aside and dressed by a kind of virtual whitewash.

To this day, the MGC remains the pillar of the upper echelons of society. I don’t think you will find any sexual shenanigans today. The sex-hungry farmer’s wives are now just a memory of the colonial past.

JW had a full complement of civil servants, from undersecretaries down to the humble junior clerk. Our Franky told everyone that he was the official “recruitment clerk” to JW and the department as a whole. He always forgot to mention that his “recruiting duties” were only one of his many chores as a clerk. He also forgot to mention that “recruiting duties” were restricted to sending “recruitment analysis forms” (a job application really) to applicants. Although his task was minuscule in this process, he did take the trouble to find out the mysteries embedded in the form and after a while, he was competent enough to understand who were the likely successful candidate/s for the advertised job. In the senior job section, the approvals team usually reserved the vacancies for English men and women from Briton. The other vacancies were filled by people marked as “others” of any colour except black …. except in the rare extreme.

As a result of his newly gained knowledge as “the” recruitment clerk, he became endeared to many Goans whom he helped with filling in the recruitment form to the best of his newfound knowledge which was eventually successful more often than not. Thus, Franky Antao gained for himself the respect and admiration of the Goan community. In the eyes of the many members of the Nairobi Goan Institute he was known for his astuteness and analytical skills but not for his skills at the card table.

At home too, his doting wife Mariela came to rely on his analytical skills and sought his help in solving many household problems and future plans. Mariela trusted her teacher-husband implicitly and enjoyed that her husband was such a clever chap.

Hence one Saturday night, after the children had gone to bed, she sat knitting while her husband enjoyed a cigarette and a Scotch while reading something of assumed high importance.

“Franky,” she said. “Can we talk, please?”

“Yes, sure. What about?”

“One of these days, Gildo’s parents will come to ask for Juanita’s hand in marriage with their son. How should we go about it? After they ask, we should have them around, dinner and drinks before we sit down to discuss everything,” she said somewhat sheepishly.

“Yes, yes, of course. I have been giving it some thought and I have come up with a plan. When he comes to ask a name a date when his parents could come to our house, I will have a chat with him. I have adapted my work recruitment form for him to fill out. That should give us all the answers we need. For example, we will know if likes and dislikes generally. His earning potential, savings, health, and everything else his potential in-laws would like to know before giving their consent and engaging the parents in setting a date,” he said with triumph.

Mariela’s eye’s lit up too. She knew her Franky would have a simple solution.

All spick and span, just like in the British Civil Service.

Well, the day came when Gildo followed Juanita into the Antao home. Waiting with open arms to greet them were Mariela and Franky (who was wafting a cigarette high above everyone and smiling to high heaven). When all had settled with a drink, Gildo asked the question. You know the one when can his parent come to visit the Antaos about finalising Gildo’s and Juanita’s wedding plans.

Frankie put his arm around Gildo and took him into the kitchen. “Gildo,” he said, “you know I am a bit of analytical nut. I have created a form that I ask you to kindly fill out. The answers you provide will give us a very clear idea about what we do not know about you. It’s nothing too serious, please oblige me.”

As Gildo picked up the form, Franky said: “I hope you will find it useful too.”

Beaming with delight, there were hugs all around before the “good nights”.

A couple of weeks later, Juanita asked her dad to come home early from his daily card table at the GI. “Gildo is coming back with the form you ask him to fill.”

When Gildo did arrive that night, he was fuming like a raging bull.

With tear-filled reddened eyes, he said: “My father told me to tell you that you should have a good idea what to do with your marriage proposal form. He asked me to inform you that no son of his would apply for the job of being married to anyone.” With that, he walked out and slammed the door as he left. That was the last they saw of Gildo. Much unhappiness, tears and sadness followed in the Antao household. Franky was a lesser man; his feathers as an analyst had been well and truly plucked. He never set foot in the GI again. His fall from grace was too much to bear.

You know what they say about little knowledge.

Juanita eventually married, a popular motor mechanic call Manuel. I suspect they lived happily ever after. Frankie kept his distance and relied on Mariela to do the needful. She had his full support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Nazareth returns to Uganda

 

John Nazareth: return to Uganda, 20 years after the nightmare


JULY 1993. MEMORIES OF A REUNION WITH COUNTRY AND FRIENDS


By John Nazareth


15 July 1993: The day is here at last. I cannot believe I am going back to the land of my birth after 20 years. It was August 1973 when I left to do postgraduate study in London, having taken a leave-of-absence from the Ministry of Finance and Planning, never realizing that it would be so long before I'd be back. For my wife Cynthia, it has been even longer; she left in July 1972 on a holiday (she was just my girlfriend then) and was not allowed to return. We are anxiously looking forward to not only seeing familiar places, but to meeting many friends whom we just did not expect to not see for so long. We bring along our son Paul (17) and daughter Rachel (13) to show them their Ugandan heritage.

Strangely, even though I could not come to Uganda all these years, Uganda came to me. Through a chance meeting (thanks to my brother Peter) with Claude Dusaide, who was doing his Ph D at York University, I came to know the whole Black Ugandan community in Toronto - around 100 families. (I consider myself a Ugandan, African [and Goan, Canadian, Indian], so how else to explain.) There were several St. Mary’s College (SMC) Kisubi Old-boys, my classmate Ben Ssenyonjo, Louis Kizito, Joe Tomusange - then High Commissioner to Canada; colleagues from Makerere: John-Draks Ssemakula (ex- Namilyango Toast), and Bakulu-Mpagi Wamala; Mrs John Kakonge and family, and many more. (Bakulu was a dear friend and I miss him terribly. Uganda lost a great, great son.)

17 July 1993: We land in Nairobi to spend a few days with Edgar and Tess Desa. Tess was Cynthia's old classmate in Gayaza High School (1967-68) and Edgar's brother Vince had studied with me in Makerere (Med School 1970). We visit Joe Tomusange (SMC SC 1966) who is now Uganda's High Commissioner in Kenya. (We know Joe from his days as High Commissioner to Canada.) Joe is a great High Commissioner - just what we need to make Uganda and Kenya friends again. He is dignified, yet humble - he makes time for everybody, big and small. My children have great regard for him. While I am waiting to meet Joe, I look through his visitors' book to see if I know anyone. Lo and behold, there was Stephen Nabeta. Stephen and I were classmates in primary school 1958-60; we were both in the Scouts together at that time; I scribble down his telephone number.

21 July 1993: At the airport in Nairobi, finally waiting for my flight to Entebbe. Had a minor accident and while I am resolving the problem, a co-traveler inquires with Cynthia whether all is okay. I come back and discover that he is a former classmate of mine from St Mary's - Joseph Muchope (SC 1964). A few minutes later while we are talking, we are joined by Ezra Bunyenyezi, an old friend. Ezra is a goldmine, he has the phone numbers of a whole host of friends I am looking for. I asked about Chris Ssendegeya Kibirige (SMC SC 1964), he says he knows a Prof Kibirige in Makerere Math Dept; can't be Chris. (But more later.) Yet another few minutes later and Chris Kassami walks by; Chris and I joined the Ministry of Finance and Planning around the same time. He looks like he is in his twenties, so young that it takes me some time to recognise him. (He is now the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry.) Hey, Uganda, can't you wait till I arrive, do you have to send out a welcoming party to Nairobi?

Finally arrive at Entebbe. Leave the plane and kiss the ground. Uganda, I am back.

Arthur De Mello, an old friend who wouldn't let anyone make him leave Uganda, is there to collect us. He is looking good.

We drive to Kampala. The scenery is great; Boy is it good to be back. Hmm, houses in the countryside aren't built of mud anymore, they are using mortar and bricks. Notice a lot of roadside vendors selling fruit on the way. Food is still plentiful; this place could be the breadbasket of Africa. Finally entering Kampala. The place has expanded - certainly more than 7 hills now. We settle in at Fairview Hotel, which is close to the Golf Course, and close to Arthur's place.

22 July 1993: We rent a car and drive around. The family keeps reminding me to "keep left". We go to the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) where Cynthia used to work. Cynthia meets the same old office receptionist who brings tears to her eyes. We inquire about Mrs Picho Ali, a dear friend; (she named her son John after me), but no news.

Visit Christ the King Church, and are amazed to find out how much people pray. Lunch-time rosary too!

Drop into parliament to search for old friends; the session has just ended. While there, someone says - " Hey! I know you, you're from Kisubi." It's Omara-Atubo. It's good to see him. I brought greetings for him from Louis Kizito in Toronto. He says the next session will be next Tuesday, and I promise to be back to search for other friends. I realize that Omara is in a bit of trouble, having read a lot from Uganda newsletters at the High Commission in Canada, and pray for his deliverance; we need more Kisubi guys in Parliament.

Pop in to see Mulago Hospital. Proceed to the Cancer Research Institute, which I had heard was headed by Dr Edward Katongole-Mbide (SMC HC 1966), an old classmate; would I be lucky and find him there? I am in luck, he is in. Even greater luck, my son is doing all the Video recording and captures Edward and me embracing to make up for 20 years. It is great to see him, and he is in good shape. It is good to know that not all the good people fled the country. We record a message for Dr Bernard Fernandes, Edward's colleague from Makerere who is now an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and a Clinical Pathologist at Mount Sinai Hospital.

We drive around Kampala, show the kids where their mother used to have a flat when she was working for the UDC, and where I used to court her. Kampala is beautiful in spite of the evidence of the war, and the hard times. The roads are in great shape (better than Nairobi's) and the city is pretty clean.

In the evening we meet Arthur's family for dinner.

23 July 1993 (Friday): Start off early and drive towards Entebbe. But first, a stop at St Mary's College Kisubi. The place looks in great shape. The children cannot believe that they are finally seeing the place that I had related so many stories about. My wife had been here on school dances, but not too often as she says the Gayaza Headmistress preferred Budo; she used to hide Kisubi's invitations. (Incidentally, she recalled that while at Gayaza, she met Bakulu Wamala who was at Budo at the time. Small world.) I showed them the classroom where, during night study in 1962 Ssendegeya (not Kibirige) had held a frog to a window, scaring Kkolokolo (S 2B) who thought it was a snake and proceeded to run out screaming, dragging first his whole class, and then the whole school, some jumping through windows slashing themselves. (We had talked about this often.)

While waiting to meet the Headmaster, we walk into the next room, and there are our old Class pictures. The family sees me, their uncle Cyril Fernandes (SC 1964; he married my sister), Muchope - who we had just met, and others. Finally, we meet Br Tinkasimire. I find out later that he is briefing his staff as his father has just died and he has to leave. We have a long chat about many topics. I am amazed to see so many women teachers. Before leaving we roam around, and as I peek in the Biology Lab, there is Sebastian Nsubuga! Sebastian (the Lab Assistant) who started working there in 1947! He is pleased to see us and shows the children around; they are impressed with his work. Walked through the school Church where I had served as Sacristan together with Tony Carvalho and Gaston Ndyajunwoha.

On to Entebbe. This is really home. I had lived here longer than anywhere else (although Toronto is catching up). We see all our Goan friends' houses and take videos and pictures to show those in Toronto. We see the house where my two brothers, sister and I were born. I cannot control my excitement, and it rubs off onto my family. Entebbe is beautiful, but most of the roads are in bad shape; some of Uganda's agonies can be seen in these roads, twisted, tortured, pot-holed. (But the people have survived with surprisingly good spirits. The characteristic friendliness I knew was still there. For a country that has suffered so much, one does not see a hint of meanness in the spirit or the evidence in their psyche of the violence that had become endemic. They seem to have come to a good balance between the old culture and the modern world. Perhaps we have all suffered so much that we are determined to make the best of things from now on.) The Botanical Gardens must have been rehabilitated recently - it looks just wonderful.

Then on to Bugonga Parish. On the way, we passed Mugwanya Road School, where I had spent three years. I'll never forget those days. What about the time Kadu Kironde was captaining our cricket side against the European School and he declared after we had scored 30 runs (because he was out). Hey Kadu, I know you are out there and I hear good things about you, but we did do some crazy things then, and you were quite a rascal (I wish I could tell your children of our escapades).

(Talking about children, when I first met John Kakonge's daughters, one (Victoria?) asked me what politics was like in the 1960s. I found myself explaining things about her father to her! I realized then that I could well be more Ugandan than she was as she had spent most of her years outside the country because of the troubles. But, I digress.)

Ah Bugonga (officially known as Sacred Heart Church). The church looks good; they are renovating the inside, but it is substantially the same. To think how many years I served Mass at altar server here. We meet the Parish Priest and inquire about Fr Kyeyune, who had been our Parish Priest in 1972 (we lost touch with him in 1989). Luckily the priest is Fr Kyeyune's nephew and so we find out that he is in Rubaga. We present some priest vestments that we had got from our Parish in Mississauga.

From there to Lake Victoria Hotel where we have lunch; it is in better shape than when I left in 1973. Here I buy a book "Uganda Since Independence" by Phares Mutibwa - a great book, that taught me a number of things I was too young to know about then. (On my return to Toronto I happened to mention Mutibwa to my brother Peter Nazareth, who is a Professor of English at the University of Iowa, he said "Hey! He used to be my classmate in Makerere; I always wondered where he got to.")

Then the downside, I go to visit my father's gravesite at the old Catholic Cemetery off the airport road near the old Printing Department. The place is so overrun with vegetation that it is impossible to see the cemetery. I go on sheer memory and brave snakes to look; my family cannot follow me. Then after twenty minutes, I find a few graves, including Helen De Mello’s, and Trevor D’Souza’s dad. So this is the correct site. But my father's was in such bad shape that I could not find the exact one. Ah well, I guess most people were so busy struggling to stay alive in the hard years that caring for the dead had to take a low priority. I will do something when I get back to Toronto.

24 July 1993 (Sat): I now realize that it was a mistake going to Entebbe yesterday. I should have tried to contact people first. Now I will have to wait two days for Monday. Carry on touring places. On to Jinja, where my wife was raised.

My wife actually lived in Lukumbi, 10 miles before Jinja, as her father was the manager of a coffee plantation. We drive towards her old house off the main road. The murram road is in terrible, terrible shape, meant for 4-wheel drives, and here I am with my little car. In some spots, everyone has to get out so that I can drive. Only God helps me manage. Suddenly, someone greets us; he is the current assistant manager. He knew that if a car was coming in, it could only be from the Fernandes’ who once lived there. He gives my wife a tour. But most of the coffee plantation is gone, cut down to grow maize (to survive the tough times). Cynthia's house is not there anymore; its bricks were taken away to build other things; times were tough. The assistant manager urges Cynthia to come back and help rebuild the place. How can we? Uganda keeps tugging at our hearts.

In Jinja, the Falls look beautiful, we see Cynthia's old school, scenery, etc.. The town is clean and seems to have been untouched by the war. We stop at Cynthia's sister's former house. As we are watching, a man walks up and asks us whether it was our house, and we explain. He then says "Why doesn't your sister come and reclaim it?" We say, "Why don't you tell her, we will videotape you." "But why don't you tell her", he replies. "It's your country", says Cynthia. "But it is your country too", he ends. And this from a stranger. Is it any wonder that we love this country so much? Our children are absorbing all this.

25 July 1993 (Sun): Attend Mass at Christ the King Church. The place is overflowing into the parking lot. The singing is beautiful. On to Rubaga Cathedral. The Cathedral is more beautiful than ever. All the services are over, but there is a lone organist playing pop songs in the Cathedral. (The songs are not too extravagant for a church and sound good.) Trying to find Fr Kyeyune. When we are about to give up, he walks out. A big embrace. We talk about the old days. He takes us to the shrine of the late Cardinal Nsubuga, who we had befriended in Toronto when he came there several years ago.

Later: we are videotaping Kampala from near the top of Kololo Hill. We cannot get to the top because the army has taken it over. As we are taping a soldier saunters over. (We then remember Joe Tomusange's warning: "John, take care when you are taking pictures".) He says: "Why don't you come with me to the top of our house; the view is better." We politely decline, he insists. The view is better. Boy, has the army changed.

26 July 1993 (Mon): Visit Makerere University. Show the children all the halls, and the Math Department, where I studied, New Hall (now Nkrumah) where I lived, the Box (Mary Stuart Hall).. . Go to the English Department to give them a few copies of my brother Peter's novel: "The General Is Up". Meet Prof Arthur Gakwanda, who informs me that they are teaching both of Peter's novels (the other being "In a Brown Mantle"). He insists that I make a formal presentation of the book. (Peter is widely known as a Ugandan writer.) My son Paul takes a picture of the presentation.

I then go to see Prof Joe Carasco (Biochemistry), who was my colleague in Makerere (Mitchell Hall 1971). With his big bushy beard, he is a well-known figure around town. Everyone knows him as "The Professor". Joe is a Namilyango OB, also of the Namilyango-toast days. While having lunch with Joe I mention Kibirige; he knows him and will take me there. While walking I notice someone familiar, a SMC O-B, "This is Kibirige" he says. It turns out that he is Chris's brother and Chris is in Nairobi working for UNESCO. Eureka!

Later: We visit Gayaza High School. Cynthia is disappointed that none of her old teachers are around, but a teacher who was a young student when Cynthia was there takes us around. We see a student on the list named Nabeta. Cynthia remembers that Christina Nabeta (Stephen's sister) was Headgirl when she was there. Small world.

Back in Kampala: I drop in to see an old schoolmate Edward Ssekandi[1] (SMC HSC 1963?), who is practicing law. From him, I find out exactly where J.B. Walusimbi[2] (my SMC classmate) has his Engineering practice, and go to see him too. (I had heard about his whereabouts from a common classmate, Anthony Carvalho, who is in Guinea working on a USAID engineering project.) I came to find friends, but I can't believe I found so many of them. 

Word is beginning to get around that I am in town, but I will be leaving in a few days! I get the impression that if we were to stay one more week there would be wild parties.

27 July 1993 (Tues): Not a great day. I miss practically everybody. Go to the Bank of Uganda to see Obura; he isn't in. I said I would try and get back but never get the chance. Go to see Celestine Opobo (who used to work with me in Min of Planning) at Foreign Affairs, no luck (turns out I went to the wrong ministry). Try to see Stephen Nabeta, his secretary says he is tied up in a meeting. Try to find James Kahoza (a colleague of my brother's), find out that he is now Auditor General, but have no luck finding his office.

Return to Parliament didn't see Omara or anyone else I knew: Kawanga (SMC SC 1964), Dr Ojok-Mulozi (found out he is not an MP anymore). Almost got into trouble moving around trying to get a better view. The security officer smiled when I explained.

Cynthia is luckier. We are walking around the National Theatre when Cynthia bumps into an old classmate from Gayaza, Stella Kahem. Screams, embraces long talks. She will come with friends tomorrow.

Our children are by now baffled. How is it we are so comfortable here with everyone, people are so happy to see us and give us big embraces, and yet we were "kicked out". I explain, but don't really need to; their eyes see everything.

Go to the Martyrs' Shrine, Namugongo (see one of the doors donated by J.B. Walusimbi) and pray there. Buy several books on the martyrs to take back for friends. I remember many friends who had died, including Godfrey Kiggala (SMC SC 1964).

That evening I call I.K. Kabanda and go immediately to pay a short visit. IK used to be my Permanent Secretary in Finance & Planning 1971/2 and was very good to me. (His wife is a Gayaza OG and so gives Cynthia special attention.) I will never forget his graciousness during the 1972 Expulsion and the aftermath.

28 July 1993 (Wed): Arthur takes us fishing in Entebbe with his beautiful boat. The fishing is good - we catch four Nile Perch in a few hours. It is hard to believe you can catch Nile Perch in Lake Victoria now. The scenery is breathtaking, and the children realize why we called Uganda, our Paradise Lost. (It is good to see paradise reawakening.)

Back in Kampala, we go to see Julie Okoth (nee Fernandes) who used to share a flat with Cynthia in 1971. It is good to see her. There find out the bad news that her brother Alex's wife had passed away a few years ago.

That evening we invite a few people to our hotel for a drink as Afrigo Band is playing. Cynthia's two classmates Stella and another are there. Tried to get Walusimbi yesterday, but we keep crossing each other. Left a message for Ezra, no luck. Couldn't contact Katongole... The Professor, Arthur and wife Jean, Joe Fernandes make it. Listening to Afrigo was great; (we bought several of their tapes yesterday). Paul and Rachel can't believe their eyes when Afrigo did their traditional Muganda number with dance. (Watch those bottoms shake at the speed of light!)

29 July 1993 (Thur): Wake up early and head for the airport. We leave for Nairobi. It has been too short, but thanks to Jesus, we made it. Arrive in Nairobi and head for four days in Mombasa by train. Meet a number of Goan friends. Also, meet Ashley Pinto (SMC 1962) who is doing well for himself. We meet after 31 years!

4 August 1993: Back in Nairobi with Edgar and Tess. Tried day and evening to get Chris Kibirige. Finally get him. Arrange to meet the next day. That evening we have a drink with Joe Tomusange; he is keen to see all the videos we had. We took 8 hours of them, but have time for about 2 hours.

5 August 1993: Finally, finally I meet Chris. Chris and I (besides being classmates in SMC) used to be good friends in 1972/73. I reflect: how we all scattered without exchanging addresses I will never understand. Perhaps we thought we would always have each other around. But on this trip I try to make up for it, and now, here is Chris. We can meet for only an hour or so as Chris is working and I am leaving for Toronto the same day, but this time we will keep in touch. He reminds me that I taught him how to drive in Kampala.

Later I go to see Prof Tony Rodrigues (SMC HSC 1963 - Prefect of Kakoza 1963 too), the one with the sweet voice and the accordion). He is Head of the Computer Department at the University of Nairobi. I find out that Chris and he know each other professionally through UNESCO programs at the U of N. We remember old times.

9:00pm: We finally leave for the airport to head for another home: Toronto. We are sad, but we are also happy. We did everything we wanted to. I wish I had met more people (where is J.B. Kifa?), but we have made contact. God bless Uganda and all its people.

On the way back I wonder about our homes: Goa, Uganda, Toronto; we feel a sense of belonging in all. Goa: our father, Uganda: our mother, Toronto: our adopted parents. We go back with renewed vigour to help Uganda. Ben Ssenyonjo, his wife Dr Joyce Nsubuga, and I had founded an association: "Friends of Uganda", through which we had sent 12,000 education books to Uganda in 1991/92 with Joe Tomusange's help for transportation. We have to keep on.

If you are wondering what I did since leaving Uganda in 1973 (besides getting married and have two great children) I studied at the London School of Economics (Dip Stats), University of Toronto (M.Sc. Stats) and York University (MBA). I am now a Reliability Project Engineer with Litton Systems, an electronics company. If you have flown on Boeing 727s, 737s, 747s, you were probably using our Inertial Guidance Systems.

John Nazareth
Toronto, 1994


Postscript 2018: In 1995 I joined Bombardier Aerospace (which had acquired De Havilland in 1992)and worked as Chief of Maintenance Data Analysis within the Reliability Engineering Department. My group collected data and publishes statistics to help our aircraft maintain good reliability and safety. I retired in September 2015.


[1] Postscript 2018: Ssekandi later joined politics and has been Vice-President of Uganda since 2011.

[2] Postscript 2018: Walusimbi served as Katikkiro of Buganda 2008-2013. Katikkiro is a position similar to a Provincial Premier.

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