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Goya love: From India to Japan, a bitter gourd and taste of home | Food



By the time I was 14, my family was visiting Jorhat annually during summer breaks – taking a 33-hour train ride from Bombay to Calcutta, then an overnight stay at the Broadway Hotel on Calcutta’s Esplanade Street, followed by an Indian Airlines flight at noon to Assam’s capital, Guwahati, 20 days at my mother’s family home in Guwahati, and finally an eight-hour bus ride from Guwahati to Jorhat which included a 30-minute lunch break at the same highway restaurant in Nagaon, always.

As I look back on these trips during the early 1990s, I understand that they were to connect with my family’s roots in Assam in India’s northeast, a region so far from the country’s megapolis Bombay (now Mumbai) that there was no direct flight back then; flying westward to Dubai was cheaper and takes less time even today.

In Bombay, I was the only Assamese girl in my school until I was 15; my brother was the only Assamese boy at his school. Both of us proudly proclaimed ourselves as Assamese, and our parents took pride in teaching us the Assamese script during shorter Diwali holidays. We would write three-sentence letters to our older relatives in Assam; during summer holidays in Assam, my brother and I would try to read signage.

Priyanka’s ancestral home in the mid-1990s [Photo courtesy of Priyanka Borpujari]

A gourd with crocodile’s skin

During one of the trips to Jorhat – definitely before I turned 10, because habits needed to be instilled early – Khura presided over the dining table in an authoritative way, unlike at any other meal. Even though Khura is my father’s younger brother, he commanded authority in that massive nearly-century-old house that has been witness to several births, marriages and deaths. Over the years, he had become the gentle patriarch of the family, whose opinion was sought on all matters, even by his married older sisters and their children.

Khura was the one who took my mother to the hospital when she was in labour. Khuri, the wife of my father’s younger brother, was the first person in my family to hold me after I emerged from a liquid world into this one. So it was obvious that certain habits would be instilled in me, in my birth home in Jorhat, by Khura. His one stare was enough that particular day: somehow the fried karela finally made its way down into my intestine. I may have seen a devilish smile on my mother’s face. I think I was too scared of the consequences if I threw up.

Goya love - Priyanka Borpujari

Priyanka’s parents (left) with Khura and Khuri (right), when the latter visited their Bombay home for the first time ever, in 2000 [Photo courtesy of Priyanka Borpujari]

Karela (bitter gourd) is the nemesis of Indian children. Shaped like a long mouse, the gourd has rough ridges that resemble a crocodile’s skin (I remember this resemblance when I went to the zoo and saw that giant amphibian napping under the sun, half its body submerged in an artificial swamp). Laterally cut, if someone were to dip the karela in watercolour and then stamp it on a paper, the image would be of a flower with a large visible pistil, and small petals of different lengths and widths. But we could not use karela for art: we had to eat it, compulsorily. And kids dreaded karela.

For, karela is bitter, perhaps the most bitter taste that my child’s tongue had encountered. My parents had been trying to get me to eat it: “It’s good for your stomach since you anyway suffer from constipation.” But the fussy eater that I was, I did not budge. (My younger brother, not a fussy eater by any measure, does not eat it even today). So my mother realised that I had to undergo a rite-of-passage in Jorhat, as the daughter of the Borpujari family. And that is how, Khura, once again, went for his post-lunch siesta following the triumph of having introduced karela to yet another scared and grumpy kid.

And I am glad for that fear of retribution (no chocolates) if I did not eat my karela during the rest of that summer holiday. Because it instilled in me, eventually, an ardent love for karela.

Goya love - Priyanka Borpujari

Karela, a mouse-shaped vegetable with a ridged exterior and bitter taste [Mike Derer/AP Photo]

Comforting blanket

Sliced about a centimetre thick (and every karela yields, I guess, about 20 slices), Assamese homes throw them into a wok of hot mustard oil. Chillies are added sometimes, but turmeric and salt are added always. The lid might go on but eventually, and what comes onto the plate are deep-fried karela slices, some of them fried until almost burned and crispy.

Since Assamese households often have more than one dish to go along with the staple of rice – one bowl of lentils, and two vegetables, and fish, obviously, because of the mighty Brahmaputra river flowing through and across Assam – fried karela is the first to be eaten with the rice. The oil gives just enough viscosity for the two to be eaten together. On days when I would return from work late and soaked in Bombay’s monsoon rain, karela fry, daal (lentils) and hot rice aplenty became an unusual comforting blanket.

Goya love - Priyanka Borpujari

A photo from 1984 of Priyanka’s father’s family in Jorhat, immediately after her parents got married; today, from the photo of 25 people, only 14 are still alive [Photo courtesy of Priyanka Borpujari]

Over the years, I have travelled and lived in various countries, and have eaten various vegetables that I had never seen in India while growing up: Brussels sprouts, avocado, prunes, maple syrup and more. I was raised in an India where only domestically-grown fruits and vegetables were consumed. In fact, my platter in Bombay was very different from that in Assam during the holidays: the vast distance between the two places meant a vast difference in the flora and fauna. My Assamese cousins visiting us in Bombay could not stand the taste of sea fish; friends visiting us in Bombay could not fathom the taste of the river fish that one particular vendor at the local fish market would sell to Papa. Travelling abroad over extended months, I have missed karela fry; I have missed the atypical ways that both sea fish (mackerel) and river fish (carp) are cooked in Bombay and Assam, respectively.

Mocking meals

In recent years, Western foods have appeared in the Indian market, obviously at a high price. At the same time, supermarkets in the West have long stocked up on “Indian Curry Masala”, an idea that feels simply wrong.

Curry can be best described as sauce, and there is not one type of sauce. How could there be just one Indian curry, when India is geographically as large as Europe? Do we consider one type of pasta sauce to be the sauce eaten with every dish across Europe? When people in the West proclaim to me, “I love curry,” what I hear is, “I love food.”

As an Assamese raised in Bombay, my mother cooked several types of Assamese curries, each with a distinct texture and a name rendering that identity for it. As a resident of Bombay, I was exposed to foods of other parts of India – our neighbours and my family were almost always sharing food – and they too had different names for their curries. We would mock the twisted names of their curries; they would mock ours. Maybe we were doing to each others’ meals what the West does to “Indian curry”?

Goya love - Priyanka Borpujari

Priyanka and her brother, aged four and one, enjoying cleaning and tidying their Bombay home [Photo courtesy of Priyanka Borpujari]

In a foreign land

One evening in Tokyo in October 2019, a month after I had arrived in Japan, I found myself at Gyomu Super market. I was told that it stocked foreign foods. I reckoned a trip through a food market with ingredients I recognised would soothe the discomfort I felt as a gaijin (foreigner); an identity I was confronted with repeatedly, albeit politely, as I tried to make sense of the endless rules that seemed to govern every institution.

Walking through the vegetable section and adding ginger, potatoes, onions and tomatoes to my shopping basket, I was converting the Japanese yen to Indian rupee on a phone app. And then suddenly, I saw the vegetable that took me back to summer holidays in Jorhat with Khura glaring at me, and Bombay dinners with my family.

Goya love - Priyanka Borpujari

Priyanka within a week of arriving in Tokyo [Photo courtesy of Priyanka Borpujari]

I had travelled to more than 20 countries and never before found it, but here it was in Japan.

I looked around, then picked up the karela and sniffed it instinctively before smiling at my own stupidity: it has no strong scent.

The currency converter on my phone told me that it was too expensive. But seeing karela that day in a foreign land where I had finally set up a home after many years on the road assured me that I could recreate familiar and familial memories there.

But how could I explain my karela to Japanese ears – when they are already familiar with it? And how would I call this comforting vegetable by its new name, in a new land?


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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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