Sunday, 25 October 2015


If you are reading this...
If you are reading this you are either highly educated; therefore, speak English fluently. You are among the minority ten percent in Africa, who crossed the line. It means you might have a car, domestic helps, money in the bank, a relatively good life. You might even possess a jutting out tummy.

 In the old days, this was famously referred as “public opinion.” And our African politicians (here I am generalising) tend to have big bellies. Many a woman in Africa (another generalisation) still believes a man with a big stomach has money, power, and influence.
 Public opinion equals beer belly, equal, high position. “High position” to paraphrase the late Nigerian protest musician, Fela Kuti.
During the 1980s, Fela recorded ITT (International Thief- Thief), on how multinational companies pick local tough guys to boost their economic interests (neo- colonialism).
“...Them go pick one African man
A man with low mentality
Them go give am million naira breads
To become of high position here
Him go bribe some thousand-naira bread
To become one useless chief...”

I hope you can follow West Africa’s Pidgin English, also known as Creole. Naira is the Nigerian national currency.
One London summer evening, many years ago, I was somewhere covering a story with a couple of fellow media buddies.  It was Ramadan, the holy Islamic month. We had been invited to Futari, the delicious Iftar or breaking the fast meal. As we massacred the food, two colleagues said they were off to Tanzania. One looked extremely lean and fit (“I go to the Gym to work out regularly” he bragged) while the other massaged his huge mid riff (“I love beer and meat,” he smiled). We laughed.
Another colleague joked:
“When fatty bell here arrives home he shall have adoring females. But our thin pal will feel as if he is in Sahara desert.”
More laughter vibrated across the room.
May we generalise again? In London, being fat is considered unattractive by most women while the opposite is the case in developing countries.
This generalisation ushers memories of the 1980s when I used to jog with a certain lady in Dar es Salaam. Jogging itself was considered a novelty. Now. Top such a “distant planet idea” with a man and woman running together.  Street comments were horrendous.
“You two should go to bed instead of wasting time!”
“Watch the way her behind is trembling and shaking!”
You think those sexist opinions were bad?
How about the following?
“Two thieves! Catch them!”
Shouts of thief in Africa mean “public execution.”
I used to run with a huge stick sometimes. Ha ha ha.
But, listen.
During the same period, a couple from Msasani village introduced Yoga. I wonder where Sada and Juma are these days. We had the first ever Yoga classes along Jamhuri street in downtown Dar.  Yoga was then considered an Indian thing. It was 1983.
Meanwhile, the Yoga craze was floating like a butterfly (to quote, boxer Muhammad Ali), in Europe and the USA.  I remember speaking to a born- again Christian chap in the1990s. He condemned Yoga as anti God.
“Yoga is a worship of the devil...”
Many still consider Yoga a religion. Some Indian thing. Others think you have to be overtly athletic to perform....
Yogic acrobatics. Be supple.
Tree Pose in Yoga. This form strengthens the spine, legs, posture and mental stealth.  
Pic from Hot Yoga.

All over the world, Yoga is actually being recommended by healthy institutions as an essential, beneficial activity. Whereas in the past it was a strange, dubious “Indian thing”, now Yoga is scientifically accepted as a way to lose weight, gain fitness, a prolonged life.
Yoga is at least 5,000 years old. The word originates from Sanskrit, language of Hinduism. It is derived from “Yuj” which signifies union. Although there are many types of Yoga (most known are eight), the practise is aimed at unifying mind, body and spirit through body positions or exercises (“Asanas”), and correct breathing.
This union focuses you (meditative aspect), builds concentration, good posture (benefiting the spine from prolonged sitting on computers, driving etc) and burns off excessive fats and toxins.
 Most common form is Hatha Yoga and the best to begin with. Others are Ashtanga (vigorous and fast) - loved by singer Madonna- Iyengar (slow, focusing on alignment, posture), Tantra (partly connected to sexuality) and Bikram. Although slightly controversial, Bikram Yoga (developed by Bikram Choudhury) is done in highly heated rooms to filter out excessive fats and toxins through sweat.
I began this column by addressing the elites.
 African elites enjoy basic comforts but are continuously being killed by diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation, arthritis and kidney failure. The elite need Yoga. Explaining Yoga to the uneducated might be a tricky task. For now, Yoga, however, is for you reading this. Find it.  Learn it.  I have done Yoga, almost daily, since the 1970s.

Published in Citizen Tanzania, Friday October 16th , 2015.


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