Pani re pani tera rang kaisa

Pani re pani tera rang kaisa…

Welcome to 2012 and bucketfuls of dreams, aspirations and perhaps a few regrets as well.  There will be more commentaries on each of these during this year. There is a song at the bottom but you have to read this first!

My use of the word ‘bucketfuls’ is intentional. A recent television advertisement by Water Aid, the UK based charity, affected me a great deal. Of course their work is commendable and the charity deserves every support that they can get. This blog is fiercely independent and does not claim to, or aim to, represent Water Aid or any of the two more charities that I am going to adopt for 2012. Why all this hassle? What is it about water that moves us most?

My mum used to believe that giving water to anyone who was thirsty was the most humane of all acts of ‘charitable’ giving. The whole aspect of charity is also debatable and I will return to this some other time or add a link here later. But offering water to the needy was seen as the greatest of all favours that mum could perform. Each of the words in italics suggests an assumption which will also be discussed when I return to charitable giving. My mum died 51 years ago and she taught us to offer water to any passing traveller and even our African neighbours from the adjoining ‘shambas’.  This one is for you, mum.

The television advertisement for Water Aid featured an appeal for funds. The charity presents its credentials and seeks funding for improving access to clean water in some of the poorest parts of the world. The advertisement shows poor children drinking dirty and polluted water. The pictures are not for the squeamish but there is a view that charities do tend to use the bleakest and most upsetting pictures of people undergoing immense suffering when they try to raise funds. Most people have mixed views on how charities should present their case. However, as the prime focus of Water Aid is to create access to safe and clean drinking water for some of the neediest people in deprived areas of the world, one could hardly expect them to use a less convincing approach. The pictures and cases that they use are very moving and perhaps justly so. Now there, I have said it. Let us not be critical of the campaign and but more supportive of the need.

Just in case you are thinking of sending in the money, here is the link to their website: http://www.wateraid.org/uk

A visit to the site is highly recommended. I found that Water Aid has been working in Uganda. Please click this link to discover for yourself: http://www.wateraid.org/uk/what_we_do/where_we_work/uganda/

Water Aid’s work in Tanzania is shown by this link: http://www.wateraid.org/uk/what_we_do/where_we_work/tanzania/default.asp

So, would it be a good time to support Water Aid in the countries where some of us were born and bred? It is really up to you. My role is to provide the information. If you are interested please visit the main site at http://www.wateraid.org/uk

Water Aid is also supporting various projects in India and Pakistan. Please do not allow yourself to be distracted by news about India’s economic growth and how it is now one of the fastest emerging economies under the group of BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Some people refer to BRICS, the ‘S’ is for South Africa. Pakistan seems to have missed the economic miracle and for some it may be more deserving of help. Water Aid’s work in these countries is shown by the following links:

India: http://www.wateraid.org/uk/what_we_do/where_we_work/india/

Pakistan: http://www.wateraid.org/uk/what_we_do/where_we_work/pakistan/

Remember this blog is not appointed by Water Aid and the writer is not an authorised fund raiser for this charity. The rest is up to you.

If you are still reading this you deserve a small treat. Here goes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol8fY8sExDI

And, promise not to be too distracted by the wet saris….

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The Asian weltanschauung 2:

How did the Africans see the Asian émigrés?

 

My thoughts are turning to the forthcoming 40th anniversary of the Asian expulsion from Uganda. September 2012 will see the completion of four decades of life after Amin, an initial period of adjustment, but then onwards as hard work, reward and reflection for many Asians like me who arrived in the UK, and others in US and Canada as young graduates.

My title reflects on how the East African Africans saw the predicament of the departing Asians. The popular view was that the Africans were delighted beyond their wildest beliefs. It was a windfall, a lottery and a goldmine for people who always envied the Asian for their prosperity and accumulated wealth which came from ‘two centuries’ of hard work. There was also a great deal of sadness in the minds of the departing Asians. The vast majority of working class Asians had never planned to leave and had always seen their future in Uganda even though their plans did not reflect a real stakeholder status as citizens and nationals with a long-term commitment. Many took the world for granted in which the bus would wait for them at the bus stop until they were ready to climb in. However, the vast majority had no choices to make; they were working class Asians disguised as shopkeepers and artisans. What the African saw in the well stocked Asian shops was the affluent shopkeeper who often practiced unfair trade practices such as price discrimination. Did they know that the people who fronted the rich shops were actually poor people like themselves who were also being exploited by their richer relations?

There is a view that a vast majority of retailers used family members to subsidise labour costs; a practice which also earned the Asian shopkeeper extensive competitive advantage in the corner stores of United Kingdom, the US and Canada! Rich Asian ‘magnates’ have been accused of using labour from the extended family as a ‘competitive weapon’ but also sometimes as a device for  dodging taxes. Most importantly, they used family labour as a protection against industrial action and loss of stock through pilferage. These views actually distract the debate even if there was some truth behind these assertions. The vast majority of under qualified shop assistants would not have been able to compete in the real market place. It is arguable whether they had any more to offer than the ordinary African customers that they served in the shops. The practice of employing the family clan and the extended family to support the Asian entrepreneurs has also been responsible for their success in the countries to which they migrated. There is nothing wrong with this practice; only that it created an artificial labour market that subsidised potentially unprofitable Asian businesses which could not survive in a free market. The same has been attributed to Asian success in retailing in the UK’s high streets. Why does a shopkeeper have to employ staff if his wife, her mother and her sister as well his mother and his sister were able to offer help at a rate below the market rate? Besides, many hundreds of young women have been able to start families and look after their children in the ‘back room’ while the husband and father was working in the shop front?

After the Asians left and large retailing outlets were taken over by enterprising Ugandans, they also recruited family and clan connections to run their businesses and to subsidise costs. This is the nature of successful retailing all over the world; only that the Asians in East Africa were singled out for their success and for not offering jobs in retailing to African labour.

 

Then there was also the African houseboy, the cleaner, driver, and the gardener and in some families also the cook where religious beliefs about ‘purity of touch’ were disregarded and African chefs were allowed to cook. The concern about purity of touch worked something like this. Such was the concern of old Asian women in the Asian household that the African cook was either unclean or unsafe because he was a meat eater and a drunkard, or both rolled into one. Worse still the African cook could cough or spit into the clean food and render the entire cuisine unsuitable for human consumption.

Such worries about the unsuitability of the African labour in the vicinity of the Asian kitchen or even where they could touch their utensils also worked their way into how the Africans were sometimes offered food or drink. In many households in the compounds or ‘sakati’ where I grew up, the African ‘houseboy’ had been allocated an old tomato tin can to be used as a ‘cup’ for their water or tea. It was a multiuse cup; regardless of the contents and the temperature of the contents. The African staff  were offered old plates to eat leftovers of food. The African labourer had to wash their utensils away from the main Asian kitchen sink by using the tap which normally used for attaching the garden hose. Both sides, that is, the Asian family and their workers were pleased that the African was not hungry when they went to bed in a shack at the back of the affluent Asian household. Of course these practices were stemmed as the Africans asserted themselves through the power of their governments.

In other Asian households the long term African employee had won their respect and trust and they were even allowed to eat and drink from the same crockery as that used by the Asian family. I have to tell you this! Aloizio[1], our long-term African house worker became an ‘enemy’ of our mum when dad promoted him beyond her levels of tolerance and they often decided to have a beer or two to celebrate Uganda’s Independence Day on 9th October each year. Worse still, mum had to cook pakoras and bhaji which dad knew that both he and Aloizio really loved. Aloizio had come to our house as a young teenager and stayed for 60 years. However, he worked with our father on building sites for over 50 years and then was promoted to easier jobs in the house.

By the time we left Uganda, he had the freedom to ‘raid’ the kitchen (as his critics claimed) and to help himself with sugar, milk and tea leaves which he took to his purpose built home that our father had built for him at the back of our house. When we were expelled from Uganda, Aloizio was heartbroken and went back to his village. He knew that no one was going to offer him a job at his age. We never heard from Aloizio again. I do hope that he did not suffer too much.


[1] My spellchecker suggests Aloysius

The Wahindi Weltansschauung

How the Africans saw us: The Wahindi Weltanschauung

There were at least three predominant scenarios in the world of the wahindi or the perception of East the African Asians’ weltanschauung[1]at the time of the prime and decline of the wahindi fortunes in East Africa. The scenarios were:

  • ·       How the Asian saw the African
  • ·       How the African saw the Asian or the wahindi
  • ·       How the wahindi saw the wahindi
  • ·       How the world saw the East African Asian. This was never a consideration.

All of the above worldviews have interesting and inspirational properties. I intend to develop them in the next few posts.

How did the Asian weltanschauung manifest itself? An assessment of Asian worldview is itself beset with many difficulties. These scenarios are interesting, ranging from heart warming to stupid according some Asian perceptions. The Asians were such a diversified group that what was ‘good’ for one community was probably ‘dire’ for another section of the community. There was no single common denominator which could be used to assess the wahindis’ accommodation for other people in an alien African environment. We were all wahindis but each community was different.

For the majority of Asians, ‘wellness’ could well have been equated to sound working opportunities and beneficial conditions in an economically and politically safe environment. The majority of Asians had little or no stake in the political process. Where the ogre of intra-African tribalism reared its ugly head in the towns and cities, the Asian was not too perturbed; it was ‘their’ problem, meaning, that it was the Africans’ millstone around their necks. Life in Kampala or Kitgum was fine as long as the wahindi did not feel threatened by outbursts of ‘the African problem’; a term sometimes used, even sympathetically, to refer to African tribalism. Ironically, it was easy to condemn African tribalism when the majority of Asian populations could not come to terms with their own differences. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims worked in competition to build their own separatist infrastructure such as schools, sports clubs and community centres until the onset of independence. Then, by one universal decree, the owners of community institutions had to open their doors to ‘the Africans’. The arrival of African children in Asian controlled schools was reasonably well managed. It is not known whether any of the management boards in Asian controlled schools actually developed proactive diversity policies to welcome African students…..an aspect that Asian parents declared to be their human right when they migrated to the UK…. That is another story for another day. There were tensions in some Asian households. How were they going to allow their daughters to go to school where African ‘boys’ (then suddenly perceived as men) were also going to study in the same schools? It is not possible to provide the evidence but it is safe to claim that a few Asian families found that this was a sufficient reason to move to safer schools in India or Pakistan. A number of families withdrew their older teenage girls from secondary school and the search for husbands was prioritised.

Another factor came into play. What was the point of educating Asian girls when they were only going to be married off? For the heads of many families, which had suddenly provided eligible young men to rescue the teenage Asian girls from mixed race co-education, it was unthinkable for them to send their young daughter-in-laws to ‘work for money’. Forcing newly married girls to enter the job market was below their ‘status’ in life. ‘We do not do such things in our family’ my best friend’s father told me. ‘It is a reflection on us, you understand? The society would think that we are unable to sustain them in a household where we, the men, do not earn enough money that we have to send our daughters and daughter-in-laws to work? Noh! That is not for us’.  Consequently a few emissaries were also sent to Nairobi to find eligible young men in the Asian community in Kenya. Some young girls were despatched to India and Pakistan to find suitable husbands to protect family honours in East Africa.

Thirty years later I met a middle aged Asian parent in Southall, West London. We had a long chat at ‘Sagoo and Takhar’ and I decided to agree with most of what he had to say in order to lead him on with his thesis. ‘The day when you send your daughters to university you lose them’ he concluded. ‘They will not be able to marry anyone you choose for them’. There is a variant to this view. What was the point of educating young girls when they were only going to marry’?

 

 


[1] A comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics. It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it. See the details in wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_view for further illumination.

 

The Commwealth Games were a success!

Despite all the concerns and the barrage of criticism by various prophets of doom, the Games were a success by all accounts. Good for India but also good for other developing countries with similar aspirations. Some records were set and others were broken.

There was also a considerable amount of short-termism combined with narrow tunnel vision. One example refers to a prominent Indian who has a following in conservation and environmental matters. Another person who spoke out against the basic premise of hosting the Commonwealth Games referred to the cost. I am sorry I did not note their names. This is bad blogging I agree!

What the second critic said was that India had committed itself to spending around £2 billion of public money. That money, he argued, could have been used for a host of alternative purposes. The Games were a waste of time, money and human energy… Many projects in rural development and education would have found ready takers. Of course any number of organisations would have found alternative uses of the funds! However what is not known is the cost benefit analysis of the Games. It should be remembered that sides of the equation consisted of tangible as well as intangible costs and benefits. However, if one was to focus on tangibles for the moment there must be a benefit equation which would suggest how every rupee spent on the Games would have translated into direct tangible outcomes. Did the proposers of the Games publish such data? It would be very helpful to examine any analysis of cost and benefits and to engage in positively critical analysis. Readers’ contributions are invited. Did the Games generate a factor of 2 or 3 in terms of their returns, that is, did every one rupee invested in the Games provide a suitable return of over 1 rupee? Again it would be very good to see the analysis.

Another recent scenario relating to the hosting of large sporting events was the FIFA World Cup. The Russians beat us and many howls of despair were heard across the UK. Was it a fair decision or did the FIFA Executive Board Members punish the English media and therefore England for exposing alleged backhanders and bribes? Who knows? Secondly was the award of the 2022 World Cup also similarly tainted? The fact remains that subject to expert management of both World Cup bids the hosts, namely Russia and Qatar should do very well out of the Cup. Only time will tell! In th meantime it is best to rely on expert evidence.

Commonwealth Games in India: Mr Lalit Banoi, go buy a decent suit and tie

Does the public and the consumer matter? A good PR team must be put in place to deal with the international media.

There is no doubt that the current media frenzy has caught the Commonwealth Games authorities in India by surprise. The media is having a field day in raising penetrating questions with potential spectators In India and millions who will watch on international television netwroks, dreading about the news from the games- will they or wont they take place?

As a first safeguard, let us not allow the bureaucrats to derail the Games which have been reported to have cost India close to £2.5 billion to put up. Those of us who want the games to succeed have been appalled by the way the people who front the Games Organisation have been driven to the defensive by a spate of allegations regarding corruption and incompetence. There will be plenty of time to address these allegations later. The Games have well wishers and consumers all over the world. They will have seen these allegations as a poor reflection of the value that the Games are expected to deliver. Many people in the UK and Canada may have been planning a holiday and trips to the world famous landmark sites in India after they have been to the Games.

‘Commonwealth Games on a knife-edge’ the media says this evening. Participating teams are waiting for positive signals before they make up their minds. Can it be confidently stated that given the time and close supervision by higher authorities, the Games will be successfully hosted? Cleaning up post-construction debris and restoring accommodation to international safety standards is not rocket science. These actions can be delivered in good time. However, the Games need a consumer focus – a regular reminder to millions of potential spectators who may not even be going to India but may have invested in large screen high density television sets and who first watched the 2010 World Cup Football (which was a phenomenal success by all accounts), and now the Commonwealth Games and then the London Olympics 2012.

The saddest aspect of the defensive action has seen poorly presented bureaucrats with creased short sleeve shirts with little or no media management skills taking tough questions from skilled journalists. They have been highly defensive with little or no regard to the concerns of millions of consumers worldwide. India deserves better.

If the Games wish to retain interest of the international consumer, it is not too late to mount a strong defence by appointing skilled PR and media specialists to come to the forefront. In the meantime, Mr Lalit Bhanoi, please convince us that you not only take the criticism seriously but that you also respect the international consumer. Appearing on international television with a crumpled, half sleeved yellow shirt with open buttons and no tie does not reflect professionalism that the games demand. Yes, as a proud British Asian, the writer may have ‘conservative’ tastes but as a subscriber to an expensive international TV sports channel, the consumer is entitled to be addressed by a professional marketing and public relations team which can provide evidence of achievable targets and not grudging statements and even reckless remarks.

As a consumer with Indian ancestry, I also expect to see high standards of accountability. Mr Bhanoi instead decided to challenge the critics regarding cleanliness of the athletes’ accommodation. He said something to the effect on NDTV, the New Delhi Television Station :

“I am sitting here which is a clean place but they will say that this place is not clean’ referring to heads of overseas teams with noticeable arrogance. “Okay then, we will go and clean up the place [ if that is what they want]”. The Commonwealth Games Authority would do well to take total control of PR. It is they who should be held to account and not Mr Bhanoi.

Consumer confidence will return when more reassuring messages are broadcast, not only to defend an interview but to project the reputation of the Games. Yes, also make sure that any premature trials for failure must be held in private. India can deliver. India must deliver. It is hoped that by the time the closing ceremony tales place the current crisis will have been forgotten.

In the meantime, Mr Lalit Bhanoi, go buy a decent suit and tie and help India and Indians to hold their heads high.  Come back to the closing ceremony in your new suit.

It is time to support Sajjad Khan’s bretheren in Pakistan

There was a time when East African Asians would celebrate traditional events from the cultural calendars of all communities.  Those who know a little bit about the sakati system ( a community living within a block which was defined by tall walls, with families living in accommodation on the boundaries of large rectangular plots which defined the shape of the sakati. All of the houses faced inwards onto a large shared space, the sakati, which was essentially a central courtyard. Many Asians will remember their early lives in such communes. Each sakati was a community. It was welded by strong pillars of cultural and emotional bonds by living in shared communal space for many years before some families became affluent and moved into independent houses with their own verandas and private gardens but with no sense of community.

The sakati was like a live organism. It took me many years afterwards to realise that life in the sakatis was bliss, a paradise compared to private houses that affluent Asians built as they began to earn large amounts of money by running businesses or by working as professional people. When in the sakati, you could look into people’s front rooms if you were seriously nosy and sometimes even smell the food they were going to eat at their next mealtime. You could hear children being beaten when they had misbehaved during the day and after their mother had ‘reported’ them to their father soon after he came home from work. You would know when the Muslim families in the commune were going to celebrate their Eid festival and when the Gujaratis were planning to make wonderful food and snacks to celebrate their diwali. As a family of Sikhs, we were also grossly involved in our own cultural lives but for us boys, it was pleasant smell of food from the neighbours’ kitchens which was the highlight of the cultural season.

The common thread of the sakati system was its cultural inter-connections. The Muslims would play their qawalis quite loud, which meant that we did not have to build a rival collection of those wonderful Sufi songs. Everybody tuned in to Voice of Kenya; the African radio station played Hindi film music and celebrated religious and cultural festivals. I used to look forward to food, no matter where it came from. When the Muslims were celebrating Eid, there was a good reason to expect that a tray full of goodies would soon appear at our doorstep when my brothers and I would make a controlled dash for the food. When the Gujaratis started to play their religious music at exceptionally loud volume, you knew that they were preparing for diwali and some sakatis which had predominant Gujarati tenants would also organise raas and garba dances accompanied by live music. What a delight when the massi ( the auntie) next door would slip a tray of wonderfully smelling fresh mouth watering  bhajia and sweet snacks accompanied by a type of heavy duty yoghurt drink. My mum was also pleased because we were so happy. But sometimes she secretly told us off for being so greedy… Greedy? We did not ask for the food; it just turned up. She felt sidelined. Did we dislike like her food so much that we used to wait for the Muslim ‘thaal’ to come through? Never mind. After the Eid celebration was over there was plenty of time to make up with mother who was soon very happy as we devoured everything she cooked. What can you say to teenagers were going through sporadic growth spurts? We ate to live.

Our Muslim neighbours would talk with sadness about how the Panjab was a single land ‘unit’ and how the wicked politicians had destroyed everything and created two countries. The worst culprits were the ‘angrez’, they said, the English who had benefitted from ‘divide and rule’; a much favoured analysis which our dad had also read about in a dirty yellow and grey newspaper came from India. The cheap yellowing newsprint led to huge blurring of words to create light grey texts.

The Gujaratis did not share this emotion partly because they did not share the language and the Panjabi culture. Their loyalty to Gandhi and Nehru also isolated them from the Punjabis but that did not do any harm as far as the sakati was concerned. On very rare occasions we referred to our Islamic neighbours as Muslims, but never as Pakistanis. They were Panjabis like us.

When the war broke out in 1965 between India and Pakistan, our dad called us into the house and gave us strict instructions… we were not to talk about a war which was taking place 5000 miles away; that was his best estimate. We were not going to jeopardise family honour and friendships by pointing fingers of blame at our Muslim neighbours and should they say anything contentious, we were expected to pretend that we had suddenly gone deaf. There was a compact, a concordat and a bond of friendship which defied political developments after 1947 as far as dad was concerned.

One day, Sajjad Khan (not his real name) started to play a deeply penetrating ‘song’ about the story of a man who was robbed by bandits. It called people to get together and to listen to the story of Namaaz (the Muslim prayer). The man’s wife who was then at home also felt the pain of the sticks as the robbers began to beat him. He prayed to Allah and asked for the safety of his wife and children as he fell to the ground. We heard how she ran out of her house without any sort of footwear and took the long road which led to a spot in the desert where her husband lay on the hard ground in the intense heat. He passed out just as his wife came on to the scene…. We cried and shared the grief of the very old Muslim elder who explained the difficult lyrics from the Urdu language…. The woman prayed for several hours while she massaged her husband’s feet with an oil-based balm, which was made with camphor and cinnamon amongst other ingredients. And slowly he came back to life. ‘Kudrat Khudaah ki dekhieyeh woh murda jee uthaah’! Glory to Allah, the man slowly came back to life.

Today, the land which inspired so many similar stories of faith and fellowship that became an essential part of our philosophical and spiritual education is flooded after the heavy rains.

The river banks could not contain nature’s fury and the floods have covered thousands of miles of territory downstream. Sajjad died many years ago but his music and the generosity of the old man Gulab Din who explained the stories to us had left a mark on me and my brothers. We never heard about them after the Asians were expelled from Uganda.

It is time to give. It is time to support the victims of the floods who are held together by the same Namaaz that Gulab Din (not his real name) had explained to me and which led me to respect so much. Yesterday I gave a small amount of money to the flood appeal and next week I will be asking family and friends to make their contributions.

The most important recollection I have is that the religious ‘story’ was sung in perfect Urdu by Mukesh, a popular Hindi singer. I am hoping that Sikh temples in the UK and all over the world will also support the flood appeal. I will be contacting one of the temples where I go regularly to ask them to appeal for donations if they have not already done so. Many of the old men and women who are in the Sikh congregation may also have lived in one of those sakatis where Sajjad Khan used to play his music. Thanks to the informal culture of the communes, we were able to learn so much before we also became affluent and went on to live in a private house.

I have been looking for that piece of music ever since.

The Traditional Arts Xchange

An Invitation to Participate in a Creative Arts Programme for Hobby, Education and Examinations: The Traditional Arts of your community

A Traditional Arts Exchange:

Bring, exchange and buy!

Please forward to teachers!

 

When I am not blogging I am supposed to be working in  my main job in economics. Nah! The arts are more creative.

In 1999 I created the Festival of Ephemeral Arts and it was an immediate success. During the last ten years, over 15,000 visitors have attended the festival and over 40 schools in London and the South East of England have taken part. These attendance figures would have been a lot higher but another project, known as “Earning a Living” has taken time. Yes, my own income has also subsidised the festival and the development programme. Having said this, this project has also won substantial arts funding from the Arts Council, local authorities and the National Lottery fund in the UK.

Students at GCSE level have found the festival very helpful in creating a research projects for their coursework assessment.

Many other students and teachers regularly download materials from the festival website which is located at:

www.ephemeralarts.com

A Note for Parents, Grandparents, Teachers and School Librarians:

The Festival programme has now been taken over by a new trading entity known as Mirador Creative Culture. We are investing significantly in developing the creative arts and cultural outcomes of what I call time-based culture. These are the arts which are  temporary or short-lived, based on a specific occasion or event and transitory in nature.

Think of the rangoli, the Tibetan mandala or the good old Christmas tree! They are all examples of work that is created for an occasion and then is destroyed after the event. Note: the Christmas tree is not a good example!

The forthcoming programmes are aimed at encouraging maximum participation of children from late primary school and the whole of secondary school.

Can you help?

Yes, you can help by:

Circulating information and advising children who are joining secondary school to visit the above website.

Recommending to GCSE level students to contact us and to see how they can create an original school project for submission as a course work assessment. Over ten schools took part in Slough and we believe that 200 students received excellent grades in the course work assessment

Recommending university students of art to get involved in the academic programme. Various online seminars and “webinars” are planned.

 Asking teachers of arts, culture, liberal studies, anthropology and geography to contact me to discuss how they may get involved. A great deal of the work is to be carried out via websites and blogs. We have plans to create a Virtual Festival as well. So teachers and school librarians will find it helpful to take part.

Asking Parents of children of all ages to contact us and discuss how they be able to create various links to culture and for their children’s guidance and support for the education at home.

The background to this work can be found at www.asianartsaccess.org  This is the original work programme that I created in 1989 as a hobby but it has grown as a result of public and official support. When I am not doing this work, I am working business and economics to earn money, quite a lot of which finds its way into this passion! But then creative people are always a bit crazy as well.

Contacts: 

Kalwant Ajimal FRSA, Founder

kalwant.ajimal@btinternet.com

Let the sleeping men lie

Sky News reports how a dog ate a drunken man’s toe and saved his life. For further details for the full story visit: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/5/20100804/tod-dog-saves-drunk-man-s-life-by-eating-870a197.html

A dog is man’s (also woman’s) best friend and many stories feature highly impressive and selfless acts of service by pet dogs which have the special sense and can alert people on forthcoming dangers. Dogs have pulled their owners out of buildings before an earthquake. I have heard about the dog that wailed everytime he put his head protectively on his owner’s chest. She decided to take medical advice and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not to mention the dog in the bollywood film ‘ Noorie’. Some friends thought it was hilarious but they had forgotten about the stories of Lassi, the wonderdog in the television series of the 1970s!

Those of us who grew up in East Africa also know that the Sikhs had special liking for the amber liquids, sometimes referred to as ‘daru’. Many a Sikh thought that their Gujarati friends or neighbours were inferior because they did not eat meat and did not take beer or waragi, the Ugandan white spirit which was extracted by fermenting bananas. Indeed, I witnessed a fair amount of drinking in our own extended family and when a person is fully sloshed out, he or she does not remember that they are Sikh, Hindu or Christian. Drink is a wonderful unifier. The Gujaratis decided that the Sikhs should no longer have the competitive advantage. Today many Sikhs have considerably scaled down their drink but the Gujarati is still trying to beat the much defeated Sikh in a race which will end badly for both.

Now imagine having a dog that has a better sense of perceiving risk and danger and is aware  that his owner is exposing himself to huge risks by reaching out to the bottle every day. The Sikh’s dog could become the ‘daru-meter’ and when the owner has reached a critical limit the dog would bark incessantly or better still steal the bottle and dump it into Lake Victoria. Being environmentally conscious, the dog would make sure that the bottle top is tightly shut to make sure that there would be no more possibility of creating crocodiles with a drink habit. It would also be unfair for the dog to selfishly save its owner but instead to expose the fish to the dangers of alcohol. If you have been reading so far, take a boat ride along the banks of the Nile just after crossing the famous Bujangali Falls and be prepared to see crocodiles nursing their hangovers by drinking alcohol which leaked from the bottles.  Then keep a lookout for the dentist birds which help the crocs to keep their teeth clean; they may also get knocked out by the whiff of alcohol from the mouths of the helpless reptiles as they slowly recover from the sardarji’s bottle. It may take time for the crocodiles to adopt a dog but there are some problems of sheer practicalities…drunken crocs also get very hungry in the same way that many men do.

The spillage of oil following the accident at BP’s drilling station off the Gulf of Mexico has been no joke. It has remind us about the dangers of environmental pollution and also brought the local economies to a virtual standstill.  Thousands of acres of prime land may have been permanently destroyed after the oil slicks have washed onto the shores of the American states which share the coastline. However, there were no reports of the inlets of Lake Victoria being polluted by the  alcohol  bottles hurled downstream by angry dogs who were trying to save their Sikh owners. It just happens that the dog is such an intelligent animal that other dogs belonging to drinkers from other communities have also jined the ‘save my owner from drink campaign’. There are some dangers lurking around; not the crocodiles but the law. In the event a link could be proved, who would the leader of the country sue for polluting the lake? The dog who throws away the bottles of drink or the owner who buys them? The smartest lawyers would have to prove wilful damage but the problem is that owner could claim loss of capacity apart from passing out and the dog is only doing his job; in fact obeying orders in the course of duty.

Given all these challenges, let the sleeping drunkards lie. We only have to ensure that the dogs also do not fall asleep by being so close to their owners who smell like a distillery. Now this story is definitely true in that it was narrated by my late brother. He and his friends went for a picnic on the shores of Lake Victoria at a campsite known as Kazi, about 20 miles from Kampala. There was plenty of food and …drink and the revellers had a jolly good evening. No one felt the mosquito bites that started as darkness fell but when they woke up in the morning, they saw thousands of mosquitoes which had passed out after biting the drunken party goers. We will need someone to verify this because the Sikhs may have inadvertently discovered how to control the spread of malaria. It is not known how many mosquitoes recovered from their drunken ordeal and flew awayto safety but there are signs that since that day fewer Sikhs have malaria.

(It is not my intention to insult anyone. This story does not have any resemblance to people, dogs or mosquitoes which may be dead or alive. The article has been written in good faith to celebrate the innumerable acts of kindness by dogs to save man’s best friend, the bottle). Sorry, please delete the word ‘bottle’ and replace it with ‘dog’ in the previous sentence. Thank you.

Presenting Rashmi Paun

Rashmi Paun’s ‘Escape from Uganda’

I am delighted to present an emerging novel by Rashmi Paun with her kind permission. The work has been circulating on various Asian lists and probably elsewhere but I discovered upon contacting Rashmi Paun that the material is in fact a Prologue and that a more substantial novel is on its way.

I would recommend that you read Rashmi Paun’s contribution, which is provided in one of the pages listed above. I hope to talk to Rashmi soon and expect to bring news and insight into her work, motivation and why she is writing on Ugandan Asian issues.

I was interested in Rashmi’s story because it is authentic and written sensitively. I have felt for a long time that many serious experiences which may have had long-term effects seem to have been ignored or not made into news.

I remember the story of an Asian couple who were travelling on the Kampala-Jinja Road. When going downhill into a valley created by a local river, the driver lost control and the car ended up in a precarious tilt on the river bank. All seemed to be fine until the couple realised that their five year old daughter had fallen out and almost certainly washed away by the strong current of the river. Did the child drown or was she saved by a miracle or by local people? The couple never found out and had to leave the country. It must have been a major shock for them and their relatives. Did they get help in overcoming their trauma? I very much doubt it.

Over to Rashmi Paun…please click this link https://wahindi.wordpress.com/rashmi-paun-escape-from-uganda/  or go straight to the title given above as a page.

Rashmi Paun’s work has been featured by Kala Kahani, an arts organisation based in Leicester, England. Here is a link to their website which first introduced her work http://www.kalakahani.co.uk

Crime in Nairobi: Is it time to keep things in perspective…?

Many people have sent me the report which I reproduce below. I do not know the source of the publication and could not ask for permission to reproduce it. I take it that the article is taken from one of the English language dailies in Nairobi or perhaps an online version of a local paper.

 The report makes serious reading. I have not been in touch with the situation in Nairobi and have no idea what is happening at the street level as far as law and order is concerned. However, many people will be quick to generalise that things are falling apart and that the authorities have lost their grip on crime prevention or containment. Others may even assert that the forces of law and order had been colluding in the crime and that they also stood to gain. This assertion will need substantial evidence if it is going to win my interest; in the main the rumour factory goes into overdrive and people churn out stories to destabilise the situation and cause unrest.

 When I lived in Zambia during the late 1970s, there were reports of similar events and in one case the Asian family had to hide under their beds for several hours before they could summon help. The story in Nairobi will have been a most traumatic situation for the family concerned and one hopes that they will soon recover. What can any police force do to enforce law and order? In Nairobi, the authorities are probably doing their best and the gang which was responsible for the reported attack may have slipped through the security net or had been watching the trading patterns at the liquor store. It is likely that  popular ‘lambasting’ of Kenyan authorities will follow and many assertions will be made on how they may have failed to address the crime. No police force wants such an embarrassing crime story at their doorstep. It would be well to maintain a responsible approach and to understand these unfortunate developments in their proper context.

 Critics may argue that it is easy for outsiders to comment when they may be enjoying the relative safety of London, New York or Toronto. The fact is that dangerous criminals can spring up anywhere and create serious problems for everyone when they resort to violence.  An Asian family has been robbed of all of their expensive belongings, cash and credit cards, i-pods, cameras, laptops and other high value items; they live in the heart of  ‘stockbroker belt’ in Surrey, south of London. It is possible that the criminals did not even know that the house belonged to Asians but it has been argued that occurence of similar robberies suggest that Asian families may have been targeted. Luckily the family was away at the time of the robbery.

 It is essential that such incidents in Nairobi or Kampala are not used to politicise public opinion and to pass judgement on the entire system of law and order. Prevention must remain a priority for everyone and to adopt an anti-African sentiment is unfair.

 There is a final point. People always look back to the days when one could leave one’s front door unlocked and have cars without alarms. Windows were left open on warm and muggy nights and no one ‘dared’ to lift an item form the vehicles. In London, the milkman left your supplies at the doorstep and parcels delivered during the day when the owner was absent were always left in a hatch. No one took them. Then one day, I discovered that our milk bottles had been pierced, leaving a number of small holes in the lid made out of silver foil .  The birds had struck when they had found the shiny lids too much of an attraction.  I have to yet to figure out whether the birds knew that there was milk in those bottles and that they belonged to Ugandan Asians…..

One wishes the family in Nairobi well and hopes that they will have the courage and capacity to cope and recover from their ordeal. This is a difficult time for Asians in Nairobi but they must maintain a sense of balance and perspective….

 Gangsters Hack To Death Nairobi’s Wine Seller In West Lands

Date: Tue 02nd February 2010

 BY MAXWELL MASAVA

 A city businessman was on Sunday night hacked to death by gangsters who raided his home in Westlands. Vinod Ruparel, who owns Slates and Whitaker Wines and Spirits shop. in the city centre, bled to death after the four men cut him up with a panga during the 10pm robbery.

 His 28-year-old son Roop was seriously injured and was admitted to the MP Shah Hospital where doctors operated on him late yesterday. He sustained a deep cut on the right side of his face. The panga missed his eyes with an inch, doctors said. Ruparel’s wife was also slightly injured and was too traumatised to talk to the press at the MP Shah Hospital.

 According to Gigiri police, the father and his son were accosted by the gangsters as they drove into their compound next to Graffins College on Westlands Road. The pair had driven in from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at about 10 at night. The gangsters took the whole family hostage for about an hour as they ransacked the house for valuables.

They stole electronic equipment, cash and other valuables before leaving. their victims half dead. Relatives and friends who visited the young Roop at the hospital said only Ruparel, his wife and their son were at home when the attack happened. The family’s other son and two daughters were away.

 “It is not the first time gangsters are trailing people in this area. We wonder what the police are doing to safeguard our lives,” one of Roop’s friends said.