Friday, November 18, 2011


Fifteen years have passed since we left Zambia, but memories are still fresh in my mind. During my idle hours while I recline at home, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, I let loose my mind to wander along the streets and by-lanes of Mufulira where we spent a good part of our life: quarter of a century.

Pictures of the town depicting house No. 34 which was our home for fourteen years, as my starting point on Faraday drive which was later renamed as David Kaunda drive on either side of which stood the Rose Avenue (Pamodzi) primary school where my son studied and the Mufulira High School where my wife and I taught, the Mine flats at the Top shops where No.3, Mulungushi house accommodated us for another ten years, the Maina Soko road leading to the combined Kitwe-Ndola main road which passes through the edge of the town as Chatulinga road and goes up to the Zairean border of Mokambo giving off a branch namely Chachacha road at the corner of Mufulira Hindu Hall before reaching the town and which goes to the second class trading area passing by the side of Ray's Motti Rozzi garage, bus station and Zesco and then connecting with the road from the second class trading area to Kantanshi while the Jomo Kenyatta road which passes through the main residential area of the upper class miners cuts through the road to Mokambo and becomes the high street which runs in between the Civic centre and the Mufulira hotel leading to the town centre where the main post office and the Zambia National Commercial bank are situated on one side and the Barclays bank on the other, ZCBC shopping mall and Solanki's super market on either side, with a side road to the Malcolm Watson hospital and the posh residential area of the senior staff miners, the high street then giving rise to another road passing in between the second class trading area and the vegetable market, making a semi circle around the grounds of the Ronald Ross Mine hospital and going all the way to the Basuto Road Secondary school (Butondo) and the Kankoyo shaft while the main road from Kitwe-Ndola, after passing along the edge of the town, branching off to the left just before the railway crossing and going straight to the main office and the vast plant area of the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, are all etched vividly in my memory. The Eastlea primary school, the Dominican convent, and the Rose Avenue (Pamodzi) primary school where my children Lisa, Liju and Lindsey had their primary education and the High school where my wife and I taught for twenty five years stand up in relief on my mental map of Mufulira.

However, my thoughts always come back and revolve around the few acres of school grounds situated in between the Kafironda club and the Liemba road that goes around the Tennis courts, the Foot ball fields and the Teachers' quarters to join with another road near the Top shop high level water storage tank. This is where Mufulira Secondary School, popularly known as the "High School" is situated. The massive "IN" and "OUT" gates on the side of David Kaunda Drive, the semi circular drive way, Davidson’s metal workshop on one side, the cycle shed and car park area, the double-storey main building housing the Administration block, the Staff room, various offices, Jackson’s Technical drawing room, Casson’s Wood work room, Mrs. Costello’s Domestic science room, a number of other class rooms, Banerjee’s Physics lab. and my Biology lab., all built around the spacious quadrangle where morning assemblies were held, Mwambwa’s English departmental office, Mweshi’s Careers room and Asthana’s Science office on the sides, the foyer with its double glass doors on both sides, the show-piece school hall that was once the pride of the school as headmaster A.J.Pillay used to say, the swimming pool, Mrs. Masiye’s Art block, N.M.Pillai’s History block, Mrs. Rajadyn’s Chemistry laboratory on its own, and the new World Bank buildings that accommodated several class rooms are all part of this magnificent building complex. This is where we taught our classes, supervised sports and other activities of our pupils, mingled with them, joked and laughed with them, encouraged and praised them sometimes, reprimanded or punished them at times, played with them and even cried with them whenever tragedy struck the school community and lived for twenty five years. This is where we were loved and admired by our students, liked and respected by our colleagues, trusted and relied upon by our superiors.

The other day, a friend of mine asked me an interesting question: What career would I like to follow if I were given a second chance to do it all over again? I did not have to think twice before answering that I would like to be a teacher at my former school for another twenty five years, teaching the same subject to the same pupils I taught before and having the same old colleagues along with me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi was announced and the passengers started scrambling down the steep staircase from the departure lounge to the corridor leading to the pathway to the tarmac. The blue and silver Boeing 737 stood majestically in the bright afternoon sun. The date was 25th May 1996 and we were at Lusaka international airport in Zambia, just about to bid farewell to the country that was our home for the past twenty-eight years.
My wife and I were the last ones to leave the departure lounge. We had our bags slung from our shoulders and also one or two pieces held in hand. Once in the open, we looked back to have a last glimpse of the terminal building. We knew that our friends who had come to see us off were watching from the balcony on the first floor and waved at them even though we could not distinguish them in the crowd. Two or three hands waved back.

The Kenyan air hostess in a smart-looking uniform, on the platform at the top of the staircase, greeted us in Swahili (the language of East Africa) and directed us to our seats. In the limited space of the 737, we walked awkwardly to reach our seats. My wife took the window seat and I sat next to her after stowing our cabin baggage safely in the overhead lockers. Soon, the last passenger also got in and the door swung shut. The "No smoking" and "Fasten the seatbelt" signs stood lit up and soft music from the loud speakers had a soothing effect on us. Before long we felt the aircraft moving, leaving people and vehicles on the tarmac far behind. It moved away from the proximity of the terminal buildings to the starting point of the runway where it took a 90 degree turn and came to a halt. It stood still for a few moments as if taking a deep breath before the final onslaught. The Rolls Royce twin engines worked up to a crescendo and the aircraft started rushing forward at break-neck speed along the long stretch of the runway for the “take off”.

It was final departure for us from Zambia, the "Friendly Country" where we had spent the best part of our lives. While I watched for the last time through the double perspex window the Zambian topography falling away as the Boeing rose to new heights I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes clouded. I felt as if I were leaving behind a part of me and the thought that I would not be coming back to this beautiful country ever again made me very sad. Now that the aircraft had reached the desired altitude even above the thick canopy of waterless clouds, it hung as if motionless while moving swiftly along the dazzling blue expanse of the African sky towards its destination while my heart cried out silently the words "Good bye, Friendly country, good bye".