Friday, 11 July 2014

…. That Ends Well

When I took the flight from home to Africa (12 June), I remember catching the Brazil game (Brazil vs. Croatia) at the Dubai airport. The World Cup had just kicked off and the entire world was getting ready to get charged up for a 30 day-whirlwind-journey. I was getting ready as well, for a very different kind of 30 days-journey.
Exactly 30 days later – 12 July, here I am – at the Dubai airport again – on my way back home. And guess what – Brazil is playing once again (!) – with Netherlands this time – for the 3rd place spot. The charged up crowd no longer appears to show the same energy to stand up and cheer Brazil in this dead derby, I feel chargeless too Smile . My 30-day journey has come to a close as well.
Lightening never strikes the same place twice. But it seems some things do. And hence perhaps this is the perfect stage to script this blog.
It seems just yesterday when we all got started. And time flew with the blink of our eyes. Looking back, it seems time travel - with flashes of Jo’burg, the students of Mafeking – the Professors – our lectures – the School – the Wilds – and also the not-so-wilds – all in front our eyes perfectly stitched collage !

By Thursday (10/07), people had started to show signs of nostalgia and grim. 14 uncommon people, unknown to each other, had gathered together for 30 days and ended up discovering the common-ness amongst each other. Wonder what was the unique element that bound so many people – was it Africa or was it simple co-incidence – one wonders.
On my way to the Airport, I wondered whether most of us were under the same nostalgic attack as the protagonists of Lost Rolling on the floor laughing (the American TV Series), minus of course the super-natural stuff.
Bulk of the team proceeded towards Capetown & Botswana, some towards Kruger and some like me flying back home directly. I don’t wanna watch the Argentina final anywhere else, and with nobody else other than my son – back home.
Very soon, we’d be in the Real world. A friend and I were discussing a weird concept today over breakfast – about co-existences of alternate worlds. Remember James Cameron – Avatar?
The smaller, unreal world appears in our dreams and is the most desired, but eventually gets engulfed by the other bigger, visible (&audible), powerful real world. And the engulfing is quicker than one realises.
Just a couple more days. Almost everyone is about to get absorbed into our respective civilisations. Reality.
Just hoping that the memories of the ‘unreal’ one manages to leave a few permanent traces behind. Priceless.


The Last Supper

_MG_4042_1The last, but not by any means the least, supper was at The Moyo’s. And it certainly was the best by any means. A perfect African ambience, dimmed lights, followed by a traditional African welcome and some Zulu face-designs that come as complimentary, this was an evening to remember. The entrance of the restaurant takes you through a small shopping arena which never goes unnoticed (needless to say, un-purchased).
Suro says goodbye to the team
The entire team (including Professor Maaga, John and Muriuki) was there. The only person missing was Suro (for reasons known) who bid adieu to most of us by 5 pm itself.
The food was awesome and elaborate. The relaxed mood of the team was very evident – it was clear that everyone was looking out for an evening like this to ‘break out’.

PicMonkey Collage1Everyone seemed to have been seeking for a chance like this to open up, like never before. The feeling of ‘adieu’ was also there – it was clear in many faces. After all, this was the most happening 30 days in most of our lives – 30 days that pushed you to open up, explore and discover one’s own selves.
But it wasn’t yet time for philosophy – so let’s try to capture the mood. And the food.
First, the food was good. And the good food was very experimental. Our friends Aruna and Chandra were quite thrilled as well to find a good coverage of vegan dishes (yep! I know you haven’t missed Chandra’s delight in the picture on the left). Effie and Julie were our best wine-selectors as usual.
The restaurant folks soon turned up with some blankets for everyone (watch Prof. Maaga with one on the lest picture). The blankets gave a feeling of having dinner in a Zulu environment. The fireplace was at a distance and provided the perfect backdrop.
Soon, the folks returned with painting brushes and palettes in their hands – to paint our faces and turn us into Zulu beings ! The team was quite thrilled by this and I remember nobody not wanting to have a go !

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PicMonkey Collage_5But yet another highlight of this restaurant was the live music. The person who was performing with his guitar, soon broke out into a terrific tap dance! The Professor joined him too briefly (for the vocals, not the tap dance). Yes Professor, we know you could do that as well, when you were young and beautiful.

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A beautiful evening spent beautifully. In the company of some of the most beautiful people.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Goodbye Mafeking !

After spending almost a month in this sheepish town, tucked away in the North-Western corner of the country, we are heading back to Jo’burg tomorrow. But not before making our final presentation before the University – the respective Deans of Agriculture, Tourism, Comp Science and Media and the Vice-Rector of NWU. The response has been pretty awesome and we believe out recommendations has been well received. Hoping that the recommendations are implemented to take Mafeking to the next level of advancement.
It seemed the nature opened up to bid us Goodbye, as the morning welcomed us with a perfect (and a very rare) view right in front of our hotel. The temperature had dropped quite a bit – but at 8.30 on the morning, it was sunny. Yet – we find the tree right in front – partially covered in ice – yes ice (and not snow) while the rest of the tree showed no signs of any frozenness. There was no sign of any snow anywhere around as well. And since this tree-branch was right in front of the fountain, we had a wonderful view of a rainbow

That was a real wow (!) moment.
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Icy Leaves on the tree + full sunlight + the rainbow. Pic courtesy: Effie Kakoutis

It was an emotional goodbye over dinner tonight with the students, professors and the Vice-Rectors of NWU.
World Cup update - It was an emotional goodbye to Brazil as well, as an epic scoreline awaited them. While the world watched them in amazement, they conceded 4 goals in 6 mins to give shape to a 7-1 (!!) scoreline. Germany moves to the Semis. Its Argentina vs The Netherlands tomorrow. Hoping to catching the match tomorrow from Jo’burg.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A day to go before Adieu …

Just a day to go before  we say goodbye to Mafeking. While preparing for the final showdown tomorrow – preparing and finalising the deck – I felt it was time I made a short note on some of the most wonderful food we have been having all along. Hope this also acts as a food-guide for all future Jo’burg/Mafeking visitors.

IMG_2086Grilled Kingklip with Lemon Butter sauce, Peas and Fries. Had at Tashas, Rosebank Mall, Johannesburg. Kingklip is a kind of eel found mainly in the South African seas. I had never heard about this fish earlier anywhere, and if you would really want to know more, look up for Genypterus Capensis (its scientific name) and you wouldn’t like to look back at it due to its ugliness. But thankfully I never was interested to look up in Google and boy ! – does this fish taste good!
I had this Kingklip for the first time in the Rosebank Mall in Jo’burg, but went on to have it several times in Mafeking. If you don’t specify, they usually make it fried (with batter etc.), but if you want to have it great – then request for it to be grilled. You would never regret it.


If you are ever in Mafeking, DO NOT MISS this. Not sure if you would get it elsewhere (at least my friends from 9 different countries said they didn’t) – this is African cuisine at its best. Oxtail with pumpkin and spinach. Yes – that is the tail of the Ox. Beautifully cooked and succulent, it’s a bit like mutton kassa which we have back home in India. This, by far has been the best dish in Mafeking we have had so far.


IMG_2095We were invited for a special African lunch at the SABC (South African Broadcast Corporation), which they host every Thursday. Needless to say, we did go back to SABC after a IMG_2096couple of weeks to have the lunch once again. Interesting menu that comprised of Chicken (grilled), Beef curry and Mashed Pork. Of course, no African dish is complete without some pumpkin and so we had them as well.
There was a nice mish mash of mushroom (at the lower end of my picture in the right), which my Vegan friends were simply thrilled to have. I liked it a lot as well.
However, on our 2nd visit to this place, I learnt that it was more than some mushrooms. But I’d rather not spell the beans  now Be right back – at least not before I leave South African boundaries.

IMG_2105That’s a beef fillet with rice. And yes, no prize for guessing – the yellow ‘thing’ is pumpkin paste. The amount was – how should I put it – inconsequential ? But tasted super great.
Venue – Tourism and Hotel Management Institute, Mafeking.

IMG_2118This was called “The Madagascar Steak”. Basically beef steak medium-done. With pepper sauce. And with veggies and pumpkin (what else did you expect?). This was at a restaurant called The Buffalo in Mafeking, to celebrate the birthday of Daniel, our bus driver who has been our constant companion all throughout. The steak was – absolutement, perfecto ! 


This was a Veggie platter, ordered by my Australian friend Chandra. In The Buffalo restaurant, this, for a change, showed that the South Africans did know how to make a veggie dish look beautiful !

There was another place that deserves special mention – and that is in the Bakubung Lodge, Pilanesburg. The buffet and the food was s-i-m-p-l-y awesome. Italian, Indian, Greek, Lebanese, Beef, Veal, Chicken, Fish, etc. etc. and etc. They had it all and the quality was truly fantastic. They also a an open-air slow-roasted lamb thing – where they put in the whole lamb inside a covered grill and let it cook (reminded me of Obelix). Pity I don’t have a decent picture of this experience.



IMG_2278[1]We were invited to play Golf for a local Cancer Fundaraiser this Sunday. And every bit of Thanks (!) goes to Savi for figuring it out. After all, none was aware that Mafeking had a Golf course !












Saturday, 5 July 2014

Shine !


Centuries before we even understood what the world is, Plato came up with the concept of two worlds.

The one world that we are familiar with – is the Visible World. This is the world that is made up of physical objects. The sun is the entity that allows us to see physical objects.

And then there is the Intelligible World. This is the world that is made up of the images and reflections of all objects that exist in the Visible World. This is the Invisible world, where everything is an image. And it is not the Sun, but it is The Good that allows us to see and understand things of the Intelligible World.

Not my words, but Plato’s. But it takes special situations in life to truly decipher the meanings of such words. Most often, we don’t even come across such events in our lifetimes. I was most fortunate a few days back to experience this and of course most thankful to life for the opportunities and events surrounding me in the last three weeks.

_MG_3435The hours we spent in the Bophelong Special School (doesn’t even exist in Google Maps) would remain with us for ever. This is a school for children with special needs. The children were all decked up to greet us. After all, they all knew that some special people would be coming to meet and greet them! The initial hesitance broke into jubilation and joy when we danced, sang, drew, read and played (football) with them. But deep inside, I was feeling a hollowness which I could not express. Looking into the eyes of the little children, my mind was filled with a sense of desperation, anxiety and escapism. Are our efforts enough? Has humanity been fair to them? Most of them have a disability of some order, and having born with such disability in ridiculously poor families in one of the most neglected areas of the world – is this a start that you deserve at the beginning of your life? And I know there are millions of such children across the continent, across the world.

My friends Tariq (US), Julie (US), Lucia (Brazil) and I tried playing a nice game. We drew up the “Hello” in charts in various languages and drew the respective country (in a world map) with the children. So an “Oi” in Costa Rican led to a dash of colour near the Panama Canal, a “Namaste” led to a yellow mark in India and a “Hi” led to a splash in the North American continent.

_MG_3460_1Our children started to open up during a round of Musical Chair. And then they all broke out into a wonderful prayer, which their teacher helps them with, each morning.

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But every barrier broke when we rushed outside, on the ground for the beautiful game. This game knows no boundaries, no language, no introduction, no teaching. All it gives you is sheer joy. How rightly said. Forget the drawing board, this is where you want to be, under the sun with a football with you.










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While we drove back – to the surreal world, I kept wishing that these hours we spent together, stays on in their memories for as long it stays in our memories.

Plato’s two worlds coexist. And they would continue to coexist for ever.

But the stupid question that kept on lingering in my mind was – how right are we to assume that the world we live in – the world that is familiar with the De Beers and the BMWs and the Multiplexes, is not the Visible World? Perhaps it’s the other way round?