A visit to my Homeland – Zanzibar
… and a Meditation on ABUNDANCE (Part 2)
By Bhadra Vadgama.
We spent a
day visiting Jozani Forest, a place I had never visited before.
exciting to see the Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey, Procolobus kirkii close up. Its
population count is about 1000. It is a rainforest species (unlike the
black-and-white colobus found in other regions of Africa), is also known as
Kirk’s red colobus, named after Sir John Kirk, the British Resident of Zanzibar
who had first brought it to the attention of zoological science.
was even more impressive was the thick mangrove plantation.
site to see the monkeys and the mangrove forest.
We then spent two days on Matemwe Beach, on the northeast coast of the Island and stayed in Tamani Villas. Check their site
We chose this
place because Tamani was founded on a deep passion for education, and the
desire for giving back to the local community. The founders, Shabbir &
Fatema Somji, having successfully sent all their kids to college, decided the
time was ripe to fulfil their dream of one day opening their own school that
would serve the locals of Tanzania. My nephew is one of the trustees, and with
his recommendation and our interest in education we decided to stay there and
perhaps spend a day in the school. They run nursery and primary schools and a
it was the midterm holiday break: the school was closed. However, we were able
to meet Zahra Panjwani, a British Ithnashari lady who is the head of the
Academy and she took us around to show us the campus. She explained to us the
difficulties she faced being in a village where electricity was erratic and
there was a lack of funds to buy necessary equipment for the Academy. Watch
this video to see the marvellous job a young lady is doing. Here is what she
said about her post:
“Currently, I am the Academic Manager at
Tamani Foundation, responsible for the operation and running of the whole
school from nursery up to primary. I have a wide and diverse range of
responsibilities, including managing and training the teachers(including
providing training programmes for teachers abroad), teaching students and
adults, organising key events, interviewing prospective teachers, observing
teachers and providing CPD, providing support systems and meeting with parents
and parents committee, linking with other foundations and schools, involvement
with education inspections, developing curriculums and ultimately raising the
standard of teaching and learning throughout the school.”
volunteers, so why not offer a few weeks if you have time to spare?
the holiday time, there were many students hanging around the beach, and we
were lucky to record a song in Kiswahili sung by two young girls. Later on, we
met some boys who were revising science in a group out in the open. We had a
pleasant chat with them, and I ended up drawing a map in the sand to explain to
them the geographical position of Zanzibar. Great fun it was. We talked to
local Masaaiis; I even joined in their jumping dance on the beach.
experience was exceptional - at no point we felt unsafe. We followed a local
man who, at our request, was trying to take us to a spot from where we could
watch the sunset! You would know how quickly it gets dark in the Tropics once
the sun has set. And yet here were following a total stranger as if he was a
still a lot ‘Abundance’ for me to
collect. We met an interesting Asian lady from Zambia we befriended one evening
while we went for a meal in the nearby hotel.
We had a good
rapport with our taxi driver, who loved Bollywood songs. I ended up explaining
the meaning of some of his favourites. It also meant I could listen to Indian
music while travelling at a snail’s speed of less than 30 mph on fairly good
roads. It was delightful to hear about his young wife and son.
Once back in
Stone Town, we decided to stay at the Mizingani hotel on the seafront, not far
from where we were to board the ferry back to Daressalaam. The hotel had
beautiful old furniture. The bed next to the swimming pool is a typical
four-poster bed found in Gujarati havelis in India and must have been made by a
Gurjar Suthar. You can see it in the site below:
Also, in the
video, you can see the state of our secondary girls’ school.
We took a
stroll around the Forodhani, and although we enjoyed a drink of fresh sugarcane
juice, we refrained from eating the variety of fresh seafood, meat and
vegetarian dishes cooked by locals on their small portable ‘stalls’ as not only
did it all look confusing but also the flies hovering over the food didn’t
appeal to us.
If you put
Forodhani Gardens Zanzibar and looked at the images, you will get an idea of
the variety of foods offered and the buzz of the tourists in the evening.
our stay in the town, we noticed groups of tourists, escorted by a local young
tour guide. We had an opportunity to talk to one who spoke French, which he had
studied at Zanzibar University. He found conversation with us fascinating as we
had first-hand knowledge of some of the sites near the Forodhani, like the
Beit-el-Ajaib, the Portuguese Fort, Princess Margaret Jetty and Euan Smith
Madressa School. He laughed and said, ‘You know so much more than me. I
sometimes just make up things for the tourists!’ I even advised him on how to
promote his trade.
We found a
pure vegetarian Gujarati restaurant for our evening meal, and once again I
ended up teaching the African waitress how to greet customers in Gujarati, ‘Kem
chho? Aavo. Khavanun saras chhe.’
We had the
whole morning to roam around the town as we were catching a late afternoon
ferry. We walked through the main road and bumped into Master Malkan’s sons and
their families who were now residing in the States. I couldn’t believe the
hotel they stayed in was converted from our Haveli in the street next to D S
Babla’s shop. By the way, that shop is now an up-market jewellery shop. The
African owner was delighted to talk to us and talked about Kanubha Babla and
his family, whom he had met..
delightful to be caught up in one of those short tropical showers and take
refuge under the roof of the door leading to my late classmate Sushila
Valambhia’s house. No one was carrying an umbrella! And as predicted, the rain
We wanted to
visit Victoria Gardens but unfortunately, the road from the High Court, now
called Kaunda Road, was closed to the public since the old British Residency
has become the State House for the President of Zanzibar. So down we went
through a side road and emerged at the Medical Centre, a place where I had my
first smallpox vaccination in 1940s.
We would have
loved to visit the museums, but time was limited.
On our way
back, we saw a gate that went into Victoria Gardens. So happily we went in,
only to be stopped by a member of Government staff as it was a restricted area.
He too, was very cordial towards us when we told him we were born in Zanzibar.
hordes of people sitting around that area, and one little girl looked ill.
Talking to the mother we discovered she had a headache, so I gave her a little
acupressure, and she let me. I hope she was cured.
We walked on
the beach at what we used to call German Fordho and through back street by our
Hindu Kanyashala. It looked good. We read the posters outside the house where
Freddie Mercury was born [opposite D S Babla’s old shop].
hadn’t deserted me yet. On the ferry back to Daressalaam, a young man sat next
to me, and in my usual way I started talking to him. His great-grandfather had
moved to Zanzibar from Diu, the Portuguese colony in Gujarat. He told me that
he had kept records of his grandfather’s business, including invoices and
receipts etc., which started in 40s. His family had moved to the mainland after
the 1964 Revolution. He said he had started to write his family history. I was
extremely pleased to find a young Gujarati man who was interested in this
field, unlike our ancestors. I put him in touch with Prof. Renu Modi, Head of
the Afro Asian Studies at the University of Mumbai. She is always on the
lookout for such personal history about East African Indians and would
definitely advise the young man on how to collate his data.
Daressalaam, I stayed with my sister Dhanlaxmi, my nephew Chandresh and his
wife Bhavini, who had been one of the meditation group participants. They lived
on the outskirts of the city in a very quiet area. The Kutchhi Patel owner
turned out to be the uncle of a close friend of mine in London. Coming from a
farming community, the landlord was very much into gardening. Not only was
there a well-maintained garden with lovely flowers, but there was also a large
vegetables and herbs garden as well.
A swim in the
pool was refreshing. Abundance was there in terms of love from the family and
the beautiful environment.
A visit to
watch the local craftsmen carve wooden sculptures was a special treat. I also
had the opportunity of visiting Chuma Art Gallery in Oyster Bay area to see a
great variety of paintings by local and other African artists. The owner’s
circular house was unique in terms of architecture. It was nice to greet his
very old mum, who was born in Zanzibar in the Jafferji family.
at Oyster Bay is a must for all tourists. The beach that used to be visited by
Indians on Sundays is totally transformed into a food fair, like the Forodhani
of Zanzibar. Freshly fried mohogo
chips with fresh coconut chutney were delicious.
visit to the Hindu haveli where I met
cousins and old friends from Zanzibar and ended the visit by a meal with my
brothers, sister and their families in a local Indian restaurant.
Both Rozy and
I felt we needed more time to be with our families in Dar, to explore Stone
Town of Zanzibar more fully and to visit the nearby islands.