Sunday, January 31, 2010

Young Kimaro, Daily News Dar Es Salaam: "Precious gems of human kindness: That’s Tanzania"

Precious gems of human kindness: That’s Tanzania

Young Kimaro, 22nd January 2010 @ 21:00

ONE day, a Ugandan journalist gets hopelessly lost in the maze of streets of Dar es Salaam. An ice cream; just what she needed. After a few bites into pure, refreshing coldness she asks the vendor, do you know where I could get a taxi?

Wait, he tells her and sprints away even before she could utter a word. Moments later he reappears, beaming, with a taxi trailing at his heels.

A young girl passes her Primary School Leaving Exams with flying colours. But there is no way her unwed mother could scrape up enough money to send her to secondary school.

Forget about it, her mother tells her. You can stay home and help out. There are household chores to be done, a plot to cultivate, things to sell at the market. But the young girl just can’t let go of a bigger dream for herself.

The girl hears about a kind neighbour. She stalks this neighbour’s comings and goings. She wants to ask for help but her courage fails her each time.

The neighbour catches fleeting glimpses of a young face that vanishes the moment she notices it. It’s the same face each time, she was sure of it. Who are you? What are you doing there?

What do you want? One day, she calls out quickly before the face could vanish again. A pause. Then a skinny little girl with two beautiful, huge eyes slowly and timidly materializes from behind a bush. She opens her mouth to speak.

No sooner than had she spoken three words, a flood of tears. Between her wild sobs, the good neighbour makes out a few words … passed exams … first division … secondary … no money … help.

Ten years thereafter, that little girl has grown into a beautiful young lady with two beautiful, huge eyes. She is in her final year at the University of Nairobi. Her neighbour had come to her rescue and taken her in. Now it’s as if she had been born into that family.

An old woman goes to weed her farm as usual. Unknowingly she disturbs a hive of wasps. At the rude jerk on their dwelling, angry drones swarm over the presumed attacker and release a torrent of stings. She cries out for help. A neighbor runs over. Wasps go at him too.

Ignoring their stings, he lights a fire to make smoke and fiercely thrashes back at them with a branch full of leaves. Fire, smoke and the thrashing.

Eventually the wasps take off to look for a quieter, more hospitable setting to build a new home for themselves. The neighbour picks up the old woman, now only half conscious, and carries her to another who rushes her to a nearby hospital in a car.

Life saved. That old woman, my mother-in-law, lived for many more years, showering her family, friends and neighbours with love and a delicious sense of humour to the very end.

Wife of a young man dies, leaving him with a little child. A few years later he remarries. His sister takes in the child and raises her as if she was her own. This year that child graduated from Sokoine University.

An elderly woman from U.K. visits her friend in Tanzania shortly after she’s had a hip surgery. The Nissan Patrol of her friend sits so high that her arm muscles strain to hoist her into the car.

Her friend’s driver Hassani has a solution. He keeps a stepping stool in the car on the ready. Every time she gets in or out of the car, Hassani is there with the stool, a smile and a helping hand to steady her climbs up or down.

To this day, she proclaims to whomsoever will listen that Hassani, that driver in Tanzania, has given her the best help ever, anywhere. For these and other good reasons, an expatriate from a developed country claims that there is nowhere on earth she’d rather be than in rural Tanzania.

What if you fall sick? I ask, needling her. Oh, I have already lived long enough. When my time comes, it comes. With that she brushes off my concern and continues happily with her life in a Tanzanian village.

Human kindness; that, we have in abundance in Tanzania. They are so common that more often than not we take them for granted. They are the gems that brighten our lives. But the dehumanizing hand of poverty threatens.

Already we see ominous signs. Can we get out of poverty before it destroys these precious gems of human kindness?

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