Ugandans & Indians are not so different, after all

10 Jul

Ugandans & Indians are not so different, after all

I am on the way out of Chennai, India, and reflecting on the time I have spent here.

I was on a Rotary-sponsored trip to India and have spent plenty of time at the Madras Medical Mission (MMM) hospital where a team of Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) staff, that I am leading, has engaged in training activities.

The team has gotten used to the excellent routines and standards of MMM and we are all impressed by the human resource provision in intensive care units!

At the end of a shift, the handover is impressive – the new team is taken round the patients, bed-by-bed. This is before handing over reports and notes.

And all shifts are full – 10 people are replaced by 10. Note that there are three shifts per day. True, we cannot match India in terms of numbers. But still UHI would do well to aspire to this.

Of course I had to visit a school; the entire Taibah International School community is happy to be regaled by the principal’s travel reports. I spent half a day at Maharishi Vidya Mdir. It is a new primary school opened just three weeks ago.

Amazingly, they have hit their target of 1,300 pupils in the first month well ahead of schedule. As someone from the private sector, this fascinates me; they have an excellent brand.

They have large rooms with small classes, expansive stairways, Lego play materials, etc. Standard stuff for a good school! What caught my eye is the entrance to each toilet.

The entire school is housed in one huge rectangular structure with four floors. Each floor has three sets of toilets and the entrance to each is decorated by stunning mosaics. Perhaps it makes one’s visit to the washroom pleasurable.

For television, I focused on Times Now, a news channel covering the whole of India. With Times Now TV, entertainment is absolutely unnecessary. There seems to be a passionate debate featured every hour!

The last one I watched was a 9pm News Hour discussion on whether Pakistan is sponsoring terrorists against India. Common courtesy, debating etiquette and diplomacy are non-existent on the shows.

This particular debate featured two influential people from India and Pakistan and they screamed at and called each other all sorts of rude names. And it seems that the TV station gets away with it.

Drink in hand and together with Indian dessert sweets, I enjoyed the drama. Apart from the cardiac training for the team, of course, the Indian food has blown us away.

The chilli and spices seemed too much when we had just arrived. However, the entire team now tolerates, and even enjoys, different levels of chilli to the point that we may even find home food bland, to begin with.

Beware when an Indian chef tells you that the food is just slightly spiced with no chilli!  Even that can be hot.

I would like to explore Indian food some more. For the first time, I could manage many days on a vegetarian diet, and not find it dull. It is possible to eat only Indian from breakfast through to dinner when you are here.

They also have something for everything; for example, buttermilk will settle your tummy. I liked the way food is respected; they tuck in with their hands just like you probably did on Eid day or when in the village for Christmas.

Our host calls it finger technology as opposed to cutlery. And just like my mother would, one can easily pass on to you a chapatti or piece of chicken from their plate using their hands.

Interestingly I only had one stomach upset which is rather unusual for me!  Perhaps it is the spices we use in Kampala that get me going.

There are great similarities between Ugandans and Indians. Folks in India remove shoes before going into the house just as we do. However, I noticed that sometimes it is extended to the office.

We are equally mad once in a car; the driving is aggressive but no road rage really. Their equivalent of the boda boda is the tuk tuk and their ‘drivers’ are as infuriating as riders in Kampala.

The Indians do love to party and they are great hosts. I was beginning to think that perhaps they are more glamorous but then remembered that we, too, have weddings with limousines, outrider escort bikes and wedding cakes that can fill up a room!

The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.