FIELD NOTES

Malawi will always hold a very special place in my heart for a variety of reasons.  It’s a country of soul, nature and an amazing community of Global Indians – from hotel owners, incredible chefs, construction magnets through to stationery merchants.  It is also a place where you see the spirit of Global Indians come together in a better way than the UK; it’s less divisive, more harmonious and in keeping with the liberal values of India.

Here Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians celebrate one another’s festivities and this wave of trust should be a deeper encouragement to our community worldwide.

It is also a place where the wildlife is in deep connection with the city and the drive between the two major hubs – Lilongwe and Blantyre – will leave you breathless with sceneries of village life and nature (including the time I came across the Black Mamba snake), local entrepreneurial street vendors who will charm you out of your cars, and of course the beauty of the African night sky along with its thunderstorms, that will leave you spell bounded.  If you venture over to Lake Malawi you get to dive into Africa’s deepest natural lake with its own unique biodiversity and if you voyage even further, you will have the opportunity to climb Mount Mulange in its entire glory. If you have not got the memo yet… the country is incredible.

Downside:

Malawi in my opinion is one of the most misunderstood countries in the region but also unfortunately when I was there, one of the country’s that also had huge waves of the population showing little trust of the Indian community, something like that in Sierra Leone. I remember hearing on the radio that a spokesperson had told the general public they should target Indian houses as they hoarded cash. Also, when you look back on the history of the Indian community in the country, they were constantly shifted from village to city and city back to village because of their innate ability to do business, which made them targeted by a range of Governments. Something that I would assume has changed somewhat in recent years.

Also, when you look back on the history of the Indian community in the country, they were constantly shifted from village to city and city back to village because of their innate ability to do business, which made them targeted by a range of Governments

I was in Malawi at a very peculiar time, but in my day to day experience over the course of months I was in the country for, I personally never had any incidents against me with an ethnic undercurrent behind it. Even when we appeared on the front pages of a national paper, we were inundated with kindness rather than suspicion.

Food, people and Malaria

There are plenty of things that will pleasantly amuse you whilst I was in the country. From the time that I was served pasta and beef stew for breakfast or when our maintenance person had unintentionally turned our tap into a fountain by fixing the equipment upside down! But apart from the quirky, there were also memorable moments where we ate alongside the locals village cuisine and tried the local delicacy of Chambo, road rooster, Nsima and giant fried flying ants (when in season), whilst having incredible conversations about the aid train that was creating more issues in the country than solutions.  I remember eating French snails for the first time in the Grill 21 restaurant in Blantyre, after which we were treated to Dosa at one of many local Indian restaurants which incidentally had me witness a rat being stuck in the air vent of a vegetarian restaurant… and many other questionable cooking techniques.

I remember eating French snails for the first time in the Grill 21 restaurant in Blantyre, after which we were treated to Dosa at one of many local Indian restaurants which incidentally had me witness a rat being stuck in the air vent of a vegetarian restaurant… and many other questionable cooking techniques.

Culturally, Malawians are incredibly open and kind and like everywhere in the world, treating people with genuine respect takes you a long way. The Government officials I met including the then President Bingu Wa Mutharica and his brother – (now president) Peter Mutharika, were very open but admittedly politicians true to form. There is so much to say about this ‘landlinked’ country



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