1 Early Days

 

My birth certificate. Note the subtle racial discrimination by British Government, under heading Nationality of parents, column 7. This was later used by Britain to prevent many Indians from settling in Britain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On sixth of January 1936, my mummy, your grandma Jeroo, was taken to the Mulago hospital in Kampala, Uganda. It was late in the evening and I had started mischief in granny Jeroo’s tummy. At exactly five minutes past six on the morning of the seventh I was born and cried a lot because I had my bottom smacked.

However, I did not live in Uganda. Dad, your grandpa Minoo, worked in a bank and was transferred to Mwanza in Tanganyika when I was nearly three months old. It was in Mwanza that I spent my early childhood. Mwanza was then a little town on the southern shore of lake Victoria, the second largest lake on Earth. Victoria Nile, a tributary of the longest river on our planet, the Nile, starts from this lake.

I remember a lot from when I was three years and onwards and it’s all great fun and rather jolly. I had a stroller. In those days, it was made of a metal frame and a canvas seat. It had brakes but it was rigid and could not be folded. Like a modern day stroller it too had a safety belt but being a leather strap which was buckled over the tummy, it was a bit hard to lean into.

One evening, your grandpa Minoo, and granny Jeroo with me in the stroller went for our usual walk on the way to the club. The roads in Mwanza were kacha, not tarred, but with gutters on either side. Over the gutters were little cement slabs for bridges at regular intervals connecting with the shops. All the shops had cement fronts, which also served as footpath.

This evening mum and dad were looking at the shop windows and had left me in the stroller by their side. I suppose they were discussing their purchases. They were looking at the shop window opposite the largest shop in town, the Bata Store. Besides selling Bata shoes after which it was named, it also sold other things and toys! I spotted a window full of toys and began to wriggle in my stroller. Soon I squeezed myself under the belt and was off across the road looking at the toy window.

After sometime, I heard a voice call my name. I looked around and saw mum waving at me as dad pushed the stroller. I ran, along the footpath over the gutter and down the road toward the club. As I looked back I saw mum in sari and court shoes trying to catch me while dad trailed her, as he pushed the stroller. I ran on till I rounded the corner of a bank down the road and collided with a pair of legs in khaki putty. I staggered back and looked up straight in the face of an askari, a policeman, with a big gun who stood guard at the bank. I muttered a timid jambo and waited. He smiled and bent down to talk to me just as mum arrived. They chatted and laughed and when dad came with the stroller, he picked and put me in it.

“Hapana toroka tena! Don’t run away again,” he said shaking a finger at me. This policeman, who I named Askari meaning a policeman, became one of my many, rafiki, friends, in Mwanza. On our way to the club, I always stopped for a chat with him. One day he even showed me all the risasi, bullets, in his pochi, pouch.

After this I also came to know all the different policemen who stood guard at the banks, port, court, government offices and the hospital. However dad was somewhat perplexed by all this. One afternoon as he came home he exclaimed to mum, "Did you know your son is well known to all the policemen. Whenever I meet them, they ask how is your mtoto, boy, Kesi."

 

 

With mum and stroller, note the leather strap on seat.
With Simba who taught me all about wilderness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back/Next