Thursday, May 26, 2011

Postcards from Africa

I cannot travel without a plan. I’m not anal about it. It’s just that I need to know what I can and what I cannot do when I go to a new place.

Like you absolutely cannot carry a camera in public in Japan – hypocritical considering how a camera seems to be the natural appendage of any Japanese tourist – but well, you cannot. It’s frowned upon. (Also, if your toilet seat has a number of buttons and you’re too drunk to read any of them, DO NOT PUSH ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. It will only result in involuntary self soiling. True fact!)

Or you cannot call Mao a faggot in China. ‘Where can I find water?’ or ‘Can I pee on THAT side of the great wall?’ carefully enunciated with finger-goes-into-mouth or point-to-crotch-and-trace-pee-trajectory gestures get you no response. But ‘Mao’s a fucking faggot’ apparently means the same in Mandarin as it does in English and has them Chinks seeing red.

Point being, I cannot travel without a plan and I’m not being anal about it.

So while reading up on Malawi it was of mild discomfort when I read that in I could go to jail for farting in public. This is hands down the most ridiculous thing I have ever come across – criminal public flatulence.

The law - “Any person who vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

If this was ever contested in a court, the trial would boil down to bloody kindergarten squabble.

It wasn’t me.

Denial Your Honour! Denial! And we all know that he who denied it, supplied it.

Or circumstantial evidence perhaps?

Beer, fries and baked beans for lunch me lord! We have a sinner!

This did not sound right. Also, when all your travel companions are Caucasians, reports of albinos being mutilated in Zanzibar by witch-doctors did not help either.

Nonetheless, pseudo-undeterred we took off from our respective homes.

From the moment we landed it was clear that Africa is not black. It’s red. Retards at Airtel had taken the bit about ‘painting the town red’ quite literally. So having spent its entire budget on red paint, there clearly wasn’t any left to put up signal towers. (My way of saying - all those calls missed, messages not responded to – not me fault, mostly.)

On the main highway, almost medieval sights (a welding shop with the welder in front over an open fire) mix with signs of our time. A nightclub owner had heard of current events but had maybe not quite understood – his establishment was called the Afghanistan Bar. A barber doubled as a place to charge your phone, which lead to the not entirely trust-inspiring sign ‘Barber – Foni Charges’. A classifieds advert had a young woman named Yammie inviting people to her bridal shower with the warm note ‘Let’s shower’.

If you have ever visited the far east, you will notice that nearly every one has an anglicized or a catholic name so that most of us who are not Asian-Asian don’t choke while saying QingXao. The rationale used when choosing the name is simple – ‘Hi I’m Fat. Because I am Fat’ or ‘Hi I’m Fish. Do you like seafood?’

Fair enough I think. Not very inventive but fair enough.

However, the folks in Africa have decided that it’s most convenient to instead use a literal translation of their names. So Simpiwe Mazibuko calls himself Gift Mazibuko. Consequently, we have Bless Me Nkhata, Been Well Gawa, Wisdom Tasosa and the sisters Wonderful and Graceful Mkina.

Clearly, there was a lot of sense being lost in translation. But the Africans weren’t the only ones at fault.

We ran into quite some trouble with the locals because an enthusiastic Frenchwoman Sev (retro-shades woman in the 4th pic) tried to speak only in the local language, Chichewa, despite clear signs that English would do just fine. Just to make it clear – I’m all for learning the local language before new travels (BB for instance – learning Spanish just so she can be pounded to pulp by tomatoes – what resolve and all etcetra!).

But what a Frenchwoman does not realize is that no matter what she says, how she says, in whichever language she says – it all sounds French. So Chombo (fish) sounded like Chomba (hashish) and Chombe (tea) sounded like Chomba as well. And none of us wanted the waiter to dish out narcotics – especially not in a nation where breaking wind could land you in prison beside Sodomizing Siwombo.

It did not help that her refrain whenever she botched up Chichewa was - ‘This is the best Chihuahua I can do you know’.

Apart from a fortnight of linguistic hurdles, traveling with a bus-driver preoccupied with singing haunting Malawian gospels ensured that we were oftentimes lost in transit as well. And if not for better judgement and border patrol – we might have been lost in Transvaal.

Not that I’m complaining.

Just saying.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Williaminder weds Katepreet

If only Lizzie and family were Punjabi

P.S. Please to check out Prince Harry towards the end of the video.