What is Happiness?
Happiness is going down memory lane and being twelve again. Remembering my childhood experiencing MOTHER NATURE in Mongu.
Jogging your memory to recall the name of a tree that was an important part of my childhood. Yes, i managed to recall the vernacular name of the tree where i spent many happy hours with the local Zambian kids.
I am talking about my stay in Mongu, in the western province of Zambia,a country in Africa.
I was initiated to the wonders of nature by my father. I grew up in sprawling colony in Allahabad in Bamrauli. We had a beautiful garden and kitchen garden in the government house where we lived for the first twelve years of my life. It was my father who inculcated the love of nature in me. We had fruit trees growing in our aangan - guava, custard apple and lemon. The neighbors had a Jamun tree which we had proclaimed as our own by climbing on the roof and plucking ripe jamuns.
The front verandah garden had Bougainvillea, Rangoon creeper and Ivy growing against the walls. The garden's hedge was made of three varieties of shrubs. Henna, Hibiscus and Jasmine,
Father would diligently tend to the garden growing crops like tomatoes, potatoes, Brinjal, . Chillies etc. He taught me to till the soil, add manure, plant a sapling. dig the earth to remove the weeds and how to transplant a plant.
It was he who taught me to be in sync with nature. Whether it was carefully wrapping custard apples in newspapers to allow them to ripen or tending to an injured sparrow whose wings had been hurt by accidentally striking against the fan ( yes in those days in Allahabad, sparrows not just visited your aangan but ventured into your rooms too), or feeding Bajra to pigeons, he succeeded in forging my tryst with Mother Nature,
Besides the garden in our home, the entire Bamrauli colony was a treasure house of every imaginable flower and trees.
While the government offices and the Swimming pool complex would have pots and beds of seasonal flowers, large trees dotted the colony.
So i grew up getting acquainted with Banyan, Pipal, Tamarind, Gulmohar, Mango, Ber, Mulberry,Grape fruit, lemon. We had twp guava orchards in the colony which bore an excellent produce of famous Allahabad guavas in winters,
The legacy of my childhood in Allahabad got an extension in Mongu. Coming back to the tree i was talking about . It was called Muzauli, in Lozi the local language of the Lozi people who inhabit the Western province of Zambia particularly in Mongu.
Happiness is discovering the scientific name of the Muzauli tree. It is Guibouritia coleosperma, aka African Rosewood or Large False Mopane tree.
Happiness is checking out my Stamp collection and discovering the different MOTHER NATURE theme stamps.
I am sharing some of the stamps in this post .
The Red Muzauli seeds have a thin semi fleshy coating which the neighborhood kids would chew and we would emulate the kids and chew it for a while only to spit it out as this was no fruit to be savored. The hard red seeds came in handy for playing in door games, just like marbles.
According to one research shows that the Muzauli tree, native to the Kalhari sands which occupy much of Western province is used to treat Newcastle disease, which is a contagious bird disease affecting many domestic and wild avian species; it is transmissible to humans.
The leaves and stalks of the Muzauli tree are pounded and added to drinking water.
Another tale tells of how the locals survived a tough drought times by eating the Muzauli seeds.
A stamp of Muzauli tree
Mongu is famous for mangoes. While we lived in Mongu, Dad worked at the Airport and every season the mango produce was shared amongst the employees. Dad would get sackful of his share of mngoes and we would feed on the ripe mangoes. However this African variety was very fibrous unlike the pulpy and fiber free mangoes found in India.
|Pic Courtesy Lusakatimes.com|
Strangely, the Airport also had a Cashew nut tree where we would get to see the False Apple fruit
Although the entire town of Mongu was sandy, it did not deter the locals from farming . Majority of the houses in those days were single houses , open from all l four sides and having a kitchen garden.
When we moved in to the house the house had a small garden at the back. However i would accompany Dad in his Fiat car and bring sack full of black soil of the Zambezi plains to cover the sandy soil in the backyard. And we successfully managed to triple the kitchen garden space and added a back lawn of green grass where we would often have picnic meals in the Winter sun.
The main food of Zambia is maize. It is crushed to a powder form called Meali Meal which is the staple food. The natives use Mealie meal to cook a porridge called nshima which is eaten with vegetables and meat dishes.
The stamp shows women pounding Maize in the traditional way.
The sandy soil in Mongu is perfect for growing ground nuts and father too had a bed of groundnuts every season. It was the first time i had seen a soft ground nut , so different from the dry groundnuts we would crack and eat in Allahabad.
The peanut, or groundnut (Arachis hypogaea)
This stamp shows women farming ground nuts,
The two most common vegetables eaten with nshima are Cabbage and Rape leaves.
Another favorite local vegetable is Cassava. It is either eaten as such or dried and powdered to form a porridge a bit like nshima
During our stay in Mongu at times we had to depend on our own kitchen garden for vegetables. There were many Indian families staying in Mongu and the Gujaratis were very prominent. It was a Gujarati family which encouraged us to grow Arhar dal.
The arhar dal grew so well that is served as a boundary wall for the garden. I
ARHAR, scientific name Cajanus cajan
Besides the Departmental stores in Mongu, there was an African market where items like Basket handicrafts, dried fish, tobacco leaves and other native stuff was sold.
The two stamps show Tobacco farming.
The culture of Kitchen garden was found even in our boarding school. Besides other crops, Pine apples were grown in the kitchen garden of our school.
pineapple (Ananas comosus)
Besides mangoes, Mongu is also famous for Fishing as the town lies along the Zambezi river. Here in the Zambezi the locals would fish and the three common varieties of fishes are Lake Tanganyka sardines which is celled Kapenta, Bream and Tiger fish.
While in Mongu i discovered for the first time that Kapenta fish was dried and sold as food item. In those days it was sold openly, while now it is packaged and sold.
The second abundant variety of fish is Bream
The stamp shows a variety of Bream.
The third variety of common fish is The Tiger fish
Zambia has a variety of birds, the most common being the Crow.
One marked difference in the Common Crow found there is that the African Crow is completely black unlike the Indian crow which has patches of white breast.
The National bird of Zambia is the African Fish Eagle.
Our house which was walking distance from both the town Library and the the Lewanika Hospital was open from all four sides as most houses in Mongu were then. To avoid insects and other creatures from entering the house, there was a hedge of cactus plant on two sides. But one fine day we had a visitor. Very creepy. Very poisonous. Very scary. A glistening long green scaly creature. Yes it was a snake.
My sister and i stared unbelievably at the green snake, But the neighbor's kids who were with us exclaimed in hushed tones:
As the Zambian kid chased the snake, it slithered back into the dense grass beyond our house. it was a sight i will never forget.
Today thanks to the competition by KISSAN , i went back in time to remember my Happy days as a child growing up in a dramatically different flora and fauna from Allahabad, This contest also made me open my stamp book and jog my memory of my happy childhood in Mongu.
Happiness is dreaming of my second tryst with MOTHER NATURE in Mongu. (The first tryst was in Bamrauli, Allahabad and you can read about it in Growing Up in Bamrauli)
A dream of checking whether the Muzauli tree still stands on the side of the house we lived in. Whether the Cashew nut tree and mango trees still grace the Airport.
A dream of standing on the road in front of the Dairy and checking the cattle in the Dairy. Of gazing at he breathtaking beautiful expanse of the Zambezi river flood plains, preferably in the rainy season when the plains are full of water and fishermen in narrow canoes can be seen moving through the water.
A dream of taking a motor boat ride on the Zambezi river from the harbor and heading to the nearest island village.
Even though i am a vegetarian i would still buy a packet of dry Kapenta for family and friends and dare them to experiment with their taste buds.
Of watching the Sun set on the Zambezi plains.
A dream of walking thought he roads and hear little children shout 'Mukua' excitedly which means foreigner in the local language Lozi.
Of halting by at my neighbors home, cupping my hands and clapping them three times and saying:
And hear them reply back: 'Ensha'
A dream of eating golden deep fried sweet flour balls , Matumbua.
A dream of visiting my school and checking the kitchen garden to see whether they still grow Pine apples.
A dream of wrapping a Chitenge on my hips .just like the locals
A dream of witnessing the world famous KUOMBOKA ceremony during the rainy season at Limulunga, near Mongu.
A dream of spending two nights again at he Kafue National park.
Mongu is calling. I want to be 12 again and re live my childhood a midst he Zambian flora, fauna and the town.
Happiness is writing this nostalgic post.
Thank you KISSAN!
[This post is n entry for the KISSANPUR contest by KISSAN by Indiblogger]