Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bits and pieces

I switch on the TV and I see bits of Africa being torn to shreds. I go to the movies and I watch Africa bleeding a brutal death. I open the papers and read obituaries of a place I treasure. And it breaks my heart.

I grew up in Africa. In a small country called Zambia. And in the ten years that I spent there, I learnt almost everything that makes me who I am today. I discovered books there, I poured through libraries full of them, in a childhood not hounded by homework but in the shadows of leafy green trees, behind paperbacks and watching Hindi movies. It is where I first began to write, which in the coming years, I realised, was the only thing I was any good at. It’s where I fell in love with football: the Africa Cup, then the World Cup and then the European Leagues. Tennis followed football and paved a future for cricket.

I spent my holidays in the most amazing places – in safari parks where giraffes reached somewhere above the jungles, chewing leaves off the top of trees and elephants tapped at our windows in the middle of the night. I remember the guides telling us of man-eating lions on the prowl and pointing to a leopard in the tree overhead. I remember having breakfast watching crocs and hippos sunbathe. I remember being completely over awed at the Victoria Falls, not realising that not every kid gets to see what I was growing up with. And I remember almost falling into a river infested with crocs. Happy, happy memories.

Of course, something dark was always looming around. Crime was common and we constantly heard of coups and civil war around the neighbourhood. Rwanda happened when I was 13. And it happened next door. Uganda, Angola, South Africa and Zaire were always near by. And AIDS had just kicked-off. But it still didn’t seem so morbid. It always seemed like things would eventually get better. They never did of course. They just got so much more worse. War. Refugees. Genocide. Landmines. Maimed Limbs. Failed economies. Civil war after civil war. Poverty. Hunger. Disease. Pain. AIDS. Death. Africa.

When I left Zambia, it wasn’t just Zambia, but Africa I rooted for - African teams, African athletes - because they took me back to a time I so loved, bringing back memories of a happy place, full of people with the warmest smiles.

One day, they will get their smiles back.
I hope.

4 comments:

Tabula Rasa said...

around the same time you were writing this, i was at a youssou n'dour concert. it was of course a fabulous show -- and he concluded with a beautiful song that he introduced with sentiments much the same as these.

i always root for the african teams as well.

Kits said...

I went to the Imperial Museum in London. I saw a film on African genocide- Rwanda had just finished then! It hurt me, seeing the way ppl kill each other because they belong to a different ethnic group!

I saw Blood Diamond.TIA cut me up!There's a line in the film,"Everytime someone finds something in Africa,the common people suffer."

G said...

Africa is one place I simply HAVE to visit! Good to see you back :)

Neha said...

tabula rasa, kits: *sigh*

g: yes you must!!