My dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,
Still continuing my theme of Uganda, I have an input from Kiranmasi about her recent stay in Uganda. As you all know Kiranmasi and Uncle Michael are now working in Cambodia, but the miracle of modern technology has helped me to include her letter to you in this blog. In one of my future letters I hope to tell you all about the migration of the Gujarati community to E. Africa. As always do add your inputs at the end. With this letter I am posting two more recipes; khaandvi and coriander(green) chutney. Though khaandvi can be tricky to make, attempt it a few times and it can become your signature dish like it is for me! I learnt that skill from Lalitaba and how apt that it was recently proposed as the Surajba clan signature dish!
Until my next letter, with all my love, hugs and kisses,
Dear Komal, Anjli and Amar,
Your mum has been asking to write about my recent stay in Uganda (more specifically Jinja) for ages and I have finally managed to do it!
I left Uganda in October,1972 with Anil and Mukund a year after your mum had already settled in London. I had no desire to return as I had such a positive picture of Jinja and Uganda that I did not want to see the devastation caused by Idi Amin. In 1997, Michael persuaded me to visit when we were visiting Kenya. So Ananda, Michael and I went to Jinja for 4 days. A short visit and although the place was completely run down and everything looked like it needed repairs and a lick of paint, one could still glimpse the beauty of Jinja. We spent most of the time walking around the streets and after the experience of being behind gated houses and high walls (in Kenya),and not being able to walk the streets without fear of being attacked, Jinja was like a breath of fresh air.
Michael and I returned to Uganda again in 2011 for work and stayed 4 years this time. We visited Jinja many times for work and for pleasure and again we spent a lot of time walking around and me reminiscing about my childhood there. There were many places that still needed to be totally renovated and there were many buildings that had been completely renovated beyond recognition, one being our house. I do not have a picture of it taken in 1977 so you will not be able to tell how different it was, your mum will be able to see it. In fact, my mum kept saying to me are you sure you got the right house?
We were able to talk to each other across the short gap in between the two houses. Vish spent a lot of time at our house so my mum had the help of two young girls instead of one! We used to bake hundreds of biscuits once mum had mixed the dough, and these were distributed generously between the two families. We were happy chatting and baking for a few hours at a time. Food used to be exchanged through the kitchen window regularly due to the differences between Lohana and Patel cuisines. Achala also helped serve rotlis whilst Vish and I were in school and for her efforts she was once given a dress by my mum.
Every evening around 4:30 – 5:00 p.m. we would play under this tree and sometimes buy spicy cassava chips made by the man who worked at our house. He used all ingredients from mum’s kitchen except the cassava for this treat that we really enjoyed. I am not sure why “mogo” bought on the streets always tasted better! The tree was right opposite our houses. At that time, it used to be full of bats and nowadays there are not so many bats, I am not sure what made them disappear as the tree remains the same.
Atish and Anil used to play football on these grounds across from the house and always had to be called in when dinner was being served by our mums or us.
I remember one incident very clearly when Jimmy, your mum’s dog killed a chick under the tree while a few of us were admiring the young chicks of the hen owned by our neighbours on the other side. The neighbours on whose tree Vish had climbed onto and where we first met.
On Sundays we used to walk to the pier in Jinja, alas most of the riverside walk has disappeared now as new ugly buildings have been built right at the edge of the hilltop near the river banks. We used to walk past this hotel which was very posh in those days. We felt we could not go there because it was only the “whites” who went to these hotels. It is not like that anymore. All hotels in Uganda are frequented by the rich from all nationalities. The poor still cannot imagine going to one of these hotels unless of course they were working in there. This was the oldest hotel in Jinja and many more have been built since then but none of them would have the glamour that this one held for me when I was young.
The main street was another street where we used to parade ourselves and walk up and down in our best clothes at the weekend! There were many buildings that used to be focal points for us – the post office, police station, Madhavani building, and the town hall. Our lives were that exciting!
I have included photos of our primary schools – we both attended different schools. Vish attended Naranbhai school which was a bit posher than the one I attended, Main Street school (also called Wooden school as the classrooms were made of wood).
And of course the temples where we played “garba” and “dandiya raas” every Navratri plus the temples also used to be where we used to “walk” in the evenings on Sundays.