Thursday, July 14, 2016

Out of Africa

If large pockets of the world still think we are a land of snake charmers, we are equally guilty of nursing some bizarre notions about Africa. We blithely assume it to be a Tarzan comic tourist zoo with well demarcated areas for giraffes, lions, elephants, pygmies, pirates, ebola, AIDS and cricket.

Admit it: your knowledge of the second largest continent sucks! You probably think Afrikaans is the most widely spoken language there (Fact: it’s Arabic). You have no idea how big it is (Fact: it houses 54 countries). You must be under the impression that Sub Saharan Africa is poorer than the word ‘poor’ (Fact: there are as many people below poverty, in 8 states in India).

See, there’s a lot you need to learn about Modi’s latest excuse for earning frequent flier points. Africa ain’t all masai mara and mumbo jumbo. It’s a macrocosm full of surprises.

Coffee, the drink, us South Indians, cannot do without, comes from the Kaffa region in Ethiopia. The story goes that a goat herder named Kaldi discovered it when he noticed his goats jumping with joy after feasting on some berries from a mystery plant.

Even Cola has an African origin. The Kola nut is the fruit of the Kola tree, which was supposedly first planted in Nigeria. Without Kola, we’ll neither have Coca Cola or Pepsi.

Sticking with nature, we couldn’t have enjoyed the Ladies’ Finger or Yam without the generosity of West Africa. The famed Peri Peri sauce of Nando’s, also has the same roots. Piri Piri in Swahili apparently means ‘pepper pepper’.

Remember the legendary Impala car from Chevrolet? It derives its name from the graceful antelope of Africa, best known for leaping over 9-feet high obstacles. By the way, Reebok too, is a nod to the South African antelope called ‘rhebok’.

Likewise, the ultra-fashionable tote bags that a woman can’t do without, has an African connection. They say, ‘tote’ is derived from ‘tuta’ in Kimbundo, which means ‘to carry’.

Jazz, juke, jive, samba, banjo, conga and several other musical and dance forms originate here. And shocker of shockers, in big backward Congo, solar-powered aluminium robots direct traffic equipped with surveillance cameras! So, the next time you reduce Africa to a cliché, you better go on a discovery trek (another African invention) or better still, a safari!