Saturday, 1 January 2011


I have always been around doctors or became friends with them. My own late father, Dr Hosea Macha, was a known local medic; therefore, when I was a kid growing on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, I would hear him wake up late at night to tend patients. It could be someone knocking on our door because his wife or neighbour was having a baby; or an emergency because a farmer had cut himself seriously with a machete or been bitten by a snake. My father was always working.

Conflict arose when he was called to dig roads that were making their way into rural Moshi in the 1960’s. As you know Chaggas are re known for developing their banana and coffee farms called Mndenyi which is Mgombani in Swahili.
Anyway, back then my father was one of the very few people who owned a car, so he was given stick as consequence. While we sat eating our dinner (usually cooked bananas with meat and Mbege drink) he would protest:
“I work 24 hours serving everyone for free then I am told to dig roads, too? This is so unfair; I am a civil servant not a tycoon.”
My mother would nod.
She too felt troubled. Although her husband was giving a free service through these odd unpaid night shifts plus hard work at the clinic, she had to assist too. She was a self taught nurse in her own right who would easily bandage wounds and knew traditional herbs such as Aloe Vera. Today Aloe Vera is an established world wide phenomenon with amazing multiple healing functions.
My parents were very hard-working. I would listen to them talking about health and hygiene. Subsequently then, at an early age I got accustomed to The Doctor Talk. Check this. Around 1963 we were at Mawenzi hospital in downtown Moshi. We saw a man being carried on a stretcher and trembling. I could not see any blood yet noticed his face was filled with pain while tears trailed down his cheeks.
“Why is he crying?”
My parents explained that he had internal injuries after been knocked by a hit and run driver. How can an eight year old boy understand internal injuries?
For the next hour as we drove home past Kiboriloni market, up paths leading to Tella and Mori the village we lived, my parents would elaborate what internal organs meant, how a person might have no visible torn skin but still suffer serious ruptures inside the body.
It fascinated and baffled me.
It also helped me understand people’s bodies and the likelihood that I could one day become a doctor, too. Yes I would have turned doctor because I did Biology very well in secondary school. But it takes more than Biology to be a doctor. You need Chemistry and Maths, as well.
My passion for Literature, History and Languages surpassed Chemistry; incidentally, today I am in a different field. However, the tendency to sit, speak and listen to doctors never stopped.
Amongst professional doctors I love hanging out is a man I will give a false name of Dr. Ian Cooper. Dr Cooper, a trained psychologist, works with mentally ill people.
A few days before Christmas we were having a drink here in London when one lady mentioned the so called predictions of Nicodemus, Mayan calendar and impending end of the world in 2012.
“Total rubbish,” said Dr. Cooper.
Three other people at the table totally disagreed citing several examples. The recent banking crisis, tsunamis, the Haiti earthquake, excessive floods, heavy snow, high death tolls in Africa due to Malaria, HIV and so on.
“God is punishing us,” one charged.
Doctor Cooper laughed. “These are hallucinations. I see it everyday in my practise. When someone is overwhelmed by something they tend to create fantasy. When the diversion does not work they go mental.”
There was a brief silence then he went on. “In order to survive, a human being needs to be in charge. At the end of the day he must feel that he has achieved something, secondly he must have fun, at least laugh or feel good, thirdly he must learn a skill and last, control his life at a very small level.”
It is this last bit that extended the discussion for hours as we downed more beers. Despite disagreements and debate it made me think of the coming 2011. How can we hope to manage if we are unaware of our tiniest abilities? Isn’t that why some of us have created the ridiculous illusion of end of the world, in 2012?     

-London, 28th December, 2010.

Published in Citizen Tanzania, Friday 31st December, 2010

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