Tuesday, January 26, 2010

M. G. Vassanji was in Dar es Salaam, and he said the same thing as Yoda

I was lucky enough to meet and chat with the award-winning author M G Vassanji over the weekend during an event organized by the Soma Book Cafe. It is always fascinating to meet successful artists and get a sense of the individual behind the creative work. I found Dr. Vassanji to be quiet, thoughtful and sensitive- and very patient with some of our clumsier questions such as "Is this your first visit to Tanzania?" And although I have heard this sentiment before, Dr. Vassanji's advice to aspiring writers resonated: just do it. That's the achievement worth working towards.

Flying back from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam yesterday was an experience. As we sat on the tarmac in the Coastal Aviation puddle jumper- barebones conveyance, no air conditioning in a sardine can with about fifteen passengers- we were delayed for nearly an hour because a Boeing that was meant to take off before us couldn't leave due to debris on the runway. The Zanzibar airport authorities were supposed to have taken care of the problem two hours ago. Instead, we got treated to the French accents of the Boeing pilot declaring: "Welcome to Zanzibaaarrr, welcome to 'ell" over the radio. Its official: Hell is a gorgeous tropical island.

As my boss had said earlier on during the day, it was surprising and perhaps instructive that Zanzibaris had come out en mass in support of Maridhiano had not once protested the lack of power on the island. This is the second month running since the undersea cable from the mainland snapped and here we were waiting for someone to clear pebbles off the runway so that a Boeing could take off, while hundreds of stranded tourists- the red blood cells of the Zanzibari economy- sweated out their bottled water in the airport lounge behind us. This island wants economic autonomy. Really?

"Do or do not...there is no try." Yoda said it, a nuclear physicist-turned-author-said it, sometimes that's just the way it is.


  1. Re Vassanji - did you also ask where he gets his ideas from? Heheh.

    Re Zenj - I say give them free! Lower middle east inasubiri kuwadaka, and US will have fullgrown cats but hey!

    Word Verification = phouran. Think I'll call my kid that - fooran.

  2. Re Vassanji- well, there is an uncanny resemblance to Yoda if you ask me...

    Re Zenj- Ooooooh, you. went. there. :)


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