Pearl of Africa

My dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar

મારા વ્હાલા કોમલ, અંજલી અને અમર

    Five weeks are over, Ba has returned home and the household is back to normal, eerily quiet. We are all missing her very much.  The deflated atmosphere after her visit reminds me of the empty feeling we used to experience after our visitors left us in Jinja. Friends and relatives from all over East Africa used to come and stay with us. Uganda was and still is known as ‘The Pearl of Africa‘.

Due to its many waterways and lakes it is a very green country with fertile soil. There is abundant natural and wildlife beauty to be discovered here and hence our many visitors.  They came from places like, Limuru, Mbale, Kampala, Gulu, Tororo, Nairobi, Lugazi, Entebbe, Kericho, Kisumu, Kitale and even as far away as Mombasa. In my times, Jinja was said to be situated at the source of River Nile on the shores of Lake Victoria. I have to deviate here and relate how I amused everyone with my huge verbal protests last year  during the times of the airing of the programme, ‘Walking the Nile’. It was a 3 part Channel 4 production where the presenter Levison Wood traced the flow of the river Nile (the White Nile). In today’s geography, the Nile begins its journey much further south from Lake Victoria. A fact I am forced to accept! What infuriated me was that he never showed his journey to Jinja and also never mentioned that it was previously thought to be the source of the Nile. Now my age-old introduction of ‘lived in Jinja, the source of river Nile’ sounds fake!

As for our visitors, it was usually complete families numbering between 4 to 8! Where did they sleep?…always on mattresses lined up on the floor, with the children (visitors and in-house) bundled up in the lounge(sitting room, as we called it). This was the one occasion where we played cards late into the night and with the radio providing the background  music! The household was well prepared for the onslaught of visitors, as we always had extra 15-20 home-made mattresses (this was after all Gangaba‘s realm). All these mattresses were piled up in front of (and hiding) the walk-in safe. Having 2 visitors keeps me on my toes, can you imagine the work involved for an entourage! We always had a great time, more outings, more picnics, more playmates. Picnicking was a great past time, and the picnic spots were uncountable. Two of the greatest spots were the beach of Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria and the Chico swimming area near the town of Kakira, the Google town of my times! It was a town built for the employees of the Kakira sugar cane factory by the entrepreneurial Madhavani family. As for swimming, I learnt my swimming through my school in the U.K. while studying for my A levels and not at Chico or even in lake Victoria. The deterrents in lake Victoria were the crocodiles and the hippos. This then is what people refer to as the jungles of Africa!

Courtesy of Sangimasi and Bafoi, I have been able to find a gallery of photos taken at our numerous picnics. So who can you recognise here?

Talking of jungles, even in the 1960s there were a few designated Safari Parks in Uganda. The three I remember from my times were, Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo National Parks. These days Uganda boasts over 10 Safari Parks. I was never fortunate to visit any of these parks as there were never enough places for the younger members of the family during the safari trips. “There is plenty of time to visit them when you get older!” So Anjli, this gives us another reason to visit Uganda. Perhaps also visit the now very famous Gorilla Park of Uganda. Get planning eh?

Navratri started yesterday, and we had our first taste of it in Baden. Great fun as usual. Just before leaving and so not during the dancing, Daddy and I both had an ‘accident’ and found ourselves slumped on to the floor! Thankfully no permanent bodily injuries, but you should see the state of Dad’s mobile! Do hope one of you is attending garba somewhere!

This time I have decided to post a basic recipe of cooking rice, ભાત! I have also added a page to the Gujarati kitchen to help you in your food shopping, ‘Know your rice and other grains‘.

So until the next letter,

With all my love, hugs and kisses,



11 thoughts on “Pearl of Africa”

  1. I too was amazed to see you in the photo. Is the weather anything like Uganda’s in your part of the world?

  2. Great blog Vish, we Guji’s invented picnics obviously!! Brilliant photos. Maybe that’s where we get our love of the great outdoors?

  3. Vish
    Picture 8 the boy in the middle with Big Ears….hmmmmm looks very familiar ??

  4. Yes Atish…. our Norway settled cousins! And you are also right about JD and Praful. Notice Sitamami perched on the wall in the background! What a gathering!

  5. I recognise most people in the picnics! You and your siblings are the most obvious and of course Sangimasi & Rajumama, Nayanamasi, Sabba, Bafoi, &lalilataba & dada.

  6. That is me in that 7th pic..but my chotlis are more visible sitting on the swings in the 5th pic!! Where are those tussles now? Those chotlis are a result of all that regular oil massaging and the kind water of Africa!
    Who else can you recognise in the photos, Anjli?

  7. Yes mum, let’s get planning on that trip!! We should do a picnic in Switzerland one of these days, maybe next summer..?
    Btw is that you with the long chotli in the last pic?! Lovely long hair!

    – Anjli

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