Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The African Diaries - Zappa City

When writing a serious travelogue, one is always on the horns of a dilemma - does one dwell on specifics, providing local flavor at the risk of losing over-all perspective or is it better to give the reader a reliable general idea of the place and avoid the dynamics of change?

Luckily I'm not writing a serious travelogue. I've had too much Zappa for that. Ah, I see you are not familiar with that little tissue restorer. Well, Zappa is an aniseed liqueur that the manufacturers have, no doubt from the best of motives, colored blue. It is also several notches more concentrated than regular booze, causing a sudden disconnection in the circuitry responsible, among other things, for balanced and rational conversation.

Coming back to the Diary. Our hotel in Kampala, the Golf Course Hotel, turned out to be a lavish and well appointed place. It overlooks a Golf Course (duh) and I could spy, outside the starboard window, a portly white gentleman cussing like a trucker, his ball having gone where no ball had been before. Most picturesque. Panning the camera 180 degrees and into the room, the scene was one of raucous debate. For Tom had rounded up all his Ugandan friends and initiated revelry.

Amongst the invitees were a couple of party animals who found the Golf Course Hotel too tame for the red-blooded. They decided to relocate and presently I found myself ushered into an Irish Pub. I swear. The place was full of Mzungus which is Swahili for "White people", and like white people all over the world, they were dancing like something pulled out of a morgue and treated with electricity. Not happening, we decided, though I had taken a shine to an excellent beer called "Tusker", and further relocation was carried out.

The Kyoto bar, which we went to next, was a lot more lively. An elderly Mzungu, who had evidently been drinking stronger stuff than lemonade, decided to undress progressively while dancing. This livened up the place considerably, especially when a young lad who looked like a Filipino or Malay or something, decided to join him. Soon, matters reached a point where a substantially muscled member of the management regretfully decided to apply eviction and these two worthies urgently vacated the premises. But one of our friends who, it turned out was a part time DJ used his contacts to get the DJ to play Punjabi Bhangra music to a gathering which, with the exception of about a dozen of us, was ebony and ivory. To my great amazement, the entire crowd started gyrating to the beat and for the next hour or so, we had the "Oye Balle Balle" stuff that most of us have learnt to recognize and dread. And the Ebony and Ivory crowd? Danced like there was no tomorrow. All that you hear about India's cultural hegemony is true. Brown people shall inherit the world, amen, though the specific brown people are likely to be the ones connected with the movie business rather than those of us fiddling with computers.

And then, someone ushered me to the bar counter where there were little liqueur glasses filled to the brim with an ink blue liquid I later learnt was Zappa. Someone lit it with a lighter and asked me to extinguish it by placing my palm over the mouth of the glass. I did the needful and found that the glass had stuck to my palm. The flame drove out the air and caused a vacuum etc., though at the time, my problem solving skills were a bit beer impaired. Cool, I thought and yanking the glass off my palm, proceeded to guzzle its contents. "Whew! Strong stuff", I said but the rest of the entourage was busy taking the lead from me. Several rounds were repeated and I staggered out to occupy the dance floor which was mysteriously floating around.

I realize that I carry an enormous responsibility, being such a respected historian, but for some reason, all world events that happened in the next 8 hours are a mystery to me. You'll have to find someone else to fill you in on the developments in Iraq or the sub-prime crisis that happened during this period. But if you care to hear about my trip to the equator, drop in next week and
JOIN ME FOR A ROUND OF ZAPPA

19 comments:

Ok said...

"does one dwell on specifics, providing local flavor at the risk of losing over-all perspective or is it better to give the reader a reliable general idea of the place and avoid the dynamics of change?"

I read this yesterday is "What ho, Jeeves!". Does the Zappa do something like a "Pick'em up" or would you need one "Pick'em up" after the Zappa?

Drenched said...

The first thought that came to my mind upon reading the title of the post was, "Wow, maybe, he's visited a city dedicated to Frank Zappa!" I'm heartbroken, devastated and nearly dying due to all that. Kindly do not raise such expectations in the future *wipes her tears*.

And don't tell me that the Africans danced to that horrible Bhangra music with its weird lyrics!! :O You're kidding, right?

Do we get this Zappa thingie in India? Pliss to be posting some fotu. I'm dreadfully curious about it.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

hmmm..bhangra ..ur friends like BHANGRA? tsk, tsk

Nandita said...

Lovin' the blog. Have linked you.

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

Hilarious, man, this Africa trip seems to have brought out the Bryson in you. Looks like you have a nice second choice of career should you need it. :-)

I have not had Zappa, but have drunk Tusker. Strong stuff.

Hope your wife's not reading these posts, or else you will be cooking for the next year. ;-)

Maddy said...

now i know why you were taking dancing lessons some months ago..as i wrote this, a very funny thought entered my mind, narendra and one of those water melon carriers on the floor and then after the first steps, turning around for the next step and knocking behinds..narendra...maan waht all where you upto??

narendra shenoy said...

@ok- Injudicious consumption of Zappa would most certainly require the production of pick-me-ups. I am moderation personified, though. :)

@drenched - Bhangra leaves me similarly petrified. Very difficult to convince foreigners that our culture is an ancient and erudite one after exposing them to an hour or so of Bhangra. You have to appreciate the vigor, though. I can imagine the true Bhangra person doing a Balle Balle for the dullest and dreariest tasks, such as filing his tax return or answering a phone call selling a cellphone plan. Admirable.

Zappa, sadly, is not available in India except, to judge from reported incidents, occassionaly in the lower house of the Parliament.

narendra shenoy said...

@cynic - I should try and hush it up, I know. I am more to be pitied than censured *sob*

@nandita - Thanks! You get the N. Shenoy prize for good taste in literature.

@bpsk - Thanks. I just love Bill Bryson. And you are the nicest guy in the world, please share N. Shenoy prize with nandita above.

Yes, my wife is luckily not a blog reader. Not only would I be cooking all through next year, I would also be doing it with a couple of black eyes and cauliflower ears.

@maddy- I can imagine dancing the salsa with some of them watermelon specials! A quick collision during a spin would probably launch me into orbit.

Coconut Chutney said...

Several rounds were repeated and I staggered out to occupy the dance floor which was mysteriously floating around.
And was that Zappa strong enough to make you dance like Himesh?
Please say yes. :D

Anita said...

ah the miracle of zappa - developing the ability to hear bhangra music continuously

PREETI said...

"and like white people all over the world, they were dancing like something pulled out of a morgue and treated with electricity"

they really do dance like that, don't they? n them doin the bhangra...unimaginable!

"tussi funny ho"

tatz all the bhangra language i knw!

Drenched said...

Very difficult to convince foreigners that our culture is an ancient and erudite one after exposing them to an hour or so of Bhangra.
Hahaha, tell me about it! They seem to associate every Indian with that particular troop of er, musicians. I've had jaws-on-the-floor moments when I did the mistake of telling overly curious Whites that I'm Punjabi. The first question they ask after that is, "Oh, wow, so, can you translate [so-and-so] Punjabi MC song for me? Oooh, we just lurrrrve it!" Who, just who the hell listens to dumb 'Boom' songs in India and even thinks of its translations in other languages? :/ And what in the world happened to people's music tastes? *grumpy*

Ok said...

Aged friend, I have a task for you

http://bp0.blogger.com/_vuO4FHQygng/R9nOzwlWqjI/AAAAAAAAA1Y/EKXYORu_A2A/s1600-h/mood.bmp

Ron Lemon said...

First time on ya blog. I was going through your profile. wanna say just one thing, eventhough that would sound me like a school girl...


WE ALL LOVE YOU :)

Naveen said...

great ... hope u r off zappa by now and are not too taken to tusker, which i agree is great ....

i was in entebbe myself a few months back ... been to jinja? ...did u try rafting, kayaking etc? ....

waiting for the next one ...

narendra shenoy said...

@coconut chutney - I haven't actually seen Himesh dancing, what with all the demands on my time, but he's the one who has to wear a cap to protect his last functioning brain cell, isn't he? Admired for routing musical notes through his nose (and, if his critics are to be believed, other apertures as well). Thus I am unable to assure the house that I resembled the Reshammiya in the twinkle toes department. But witnesses have subsequently told me that my steps were quite suitable for someone who had accidentally sat on a live charcoal fire. Vigorous.

@anita - One could also view zappa as the great musical desensitizer.

@preeti - Thanks for compliment!
Most white people are more wooden than a teak wood plank when it comes to a dance floor.And unlike your run-of-the-mill teak wood plank which accepts its limitations and lies decorously inert, they believe themselves to be Michael Jackson dance alikes.

narendra shenoy said...

@drenched - *high five* Two of my closest friends are Punjabis and they share with you a profound sense of embarassment over the balle balle stuff. They atone for it by being tremendous cooks (their moms at any rate). If some day I roll over and die of a coronary, there is enough evidence to indict the state of Punjab.

@ok- Saw that post and your tag. I thought it was brilliant. I'm working on it.

Aged friend, forsooth! I'm a mere slip of a lad of 43.

@ron lemon - Thanks, mate! I see you're from Bangalore, my favorite city for the acquisition of calories. We probably have a lot in common.

@naveen - I did go to Jinja. Quaint little city isnt it?. Didn't get to go kayaking though (no guts, actually, though I'm telling everyone no time.)

Siri said...

Zapp! Travel is so much fun! :(

I don't rely on booze. I can sleep like the dead for 8 hours without it. I can talk like I'm sloshed without it. I can get sad without it. Whot use!

Nice nice i say. what happened next?

Bikerdude said...

Gaaahahaha. Awesome posts. A combination of Bhangra and Zappa = Bhangra-Zap.

Gaaahahaha. (sorry- hormonal imbalance has the happened)