memories of family outings.....

Saturday

A Boxing Day and a Vexing day.

26th. December evokes two distinct memories.

One from the early years of 1980s. when we were residing in Lagos, Nigeria. We had traveled to Jos, during Christmas break, partly on holiday, partly for the husband to keep an appointment there on the 27th.
When we enquired about what X'mas festivities we could expect in Jos, the capital city Plateau State, we were told that "Boxing Day", on the 26th., would be the most exciting event of the season. Thats when, for the first time, I heard about "Boxing Day".

'Boxing ? Probably a traditional sporting event' i thought, remembering the Wrestling shows put up by the Pehlwans of the famous traditional Garadis ( akhadas) during Dasara in Mysore. An uneducated wild guess it turned out to be ; way off the mark !
I learnt that the "Boxing" in Boxing Day denoted a regular box used for collecting monetary gifts. This boxing custom apparently originated in Victorian England and had spread to its colonies. But somehow, i had never, till that date, heard of it ! Its the day on which the Have-Enoughs gave tips ( Baksheesh) ,as thanksgiving, to the Have-Nots who serve them directly or indirectly throughout the year.

JOS, the capital city of Plateau State, which is located at the exact geographic center on the map of Nigeria, was founded by the British colonisers as a Depot Stop for the flourishing Tin mines located all around the plateau. The mineral wealth ( tin, columbite, feldspar) were transported from this depot to the ports at Lagos and Port Harcourt for shipment abroad. It was thanks to the tin mines that the place got one of the earliest railway lines in that part of Africa.
The name JOS ( neither jaws nor joss !) is a corruption of the old name Geash. Because of the elevation, the region enjoys a good climate. Its mineral resources attracted good industry and contributed to the region's prosperity. These factors paved the way for the settlement of a cosmopolitan population of different races, ethnicities and religions.
Plateau State is endowed with a selection of different terrains - jungles, savannah and rugged rockeries. Consequently, the state attracts tourists looking for scenic picnic spots. A very popular spot is Kurra Water Falls - surprisingly, not a natural phenomenon, but a consequence of opening up of tin mines and diversion of wild streams ! A small hydro electric project harvests electricity from it to satisfy local needs. The other items of " scenic beauty" that the locals are quite proud of are the Riyom Rocks ( interesting formations of stacked boulders) and Wase Rock ( an insleberg , favoured by rock climbers).


Having heard that The State Museum houses archeological relics of the very ancient and mysterious NOK culture, i made time to squeeze in a quick visit. But, sad to say, the museum had gone to seed and the few terracotta artefacts lying in a haphazard manner gave no intimation either about their age or function. Very disappointing. ( Years later, i saw some beautiful NOK specimens in a history exhibition halfway across the globe, in Singapore !). I heard that the Jos museum is in good shape today.

As we were short of time, we did not visit the Game Sanctuary - but after seeing photographs of a friend's visit, consoled ourselves that we had not missed much.


But we were really glad to catch the Boxing Day merriment.


By mid morning, groups of children and young adults were out on the streets, in a variety of masquerades, dancing to the beat of lively music, both local and international. Everybody wore masks, made of all kinds of material : wood, metal, leather, fabric, plastic, green leaves ! Some of the huge wooden masks were gloriously coloured in shiny paint that dazzled in the bright sun. Costumes defied description ! Ribbons, badges, scarves, strings, beads, bells, shells and bottle caps enlivened the robes and pantaloons. It was like an overload of colour, sound, shapes and movement !
The groups sang, mimed, danced and acted out skits before extending huge card board boxes , soliciting tips. Everyone cheered them but only some dropped a donation. We did ............. from their approach, i got the feeling that, as expatriates, we were not entitled to the option of withholding tips !

At the local market in Jos, we got to see some wonderfully tooled leather articles. Tribal motifs predominated.
Leather Pouffes ( bean bags) from this region used to be a great fad when we lived there, no expat worth his residence permit would repatriate without one !
( Where is mine now ? - scratching my head !)


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The other memory that 26th Dec. evokes is an eerie visual :

In an unnaturally pale and murky light, four or five fishing boats, crashed to splinters, lie in an upright heap against the wall of All India Radio Compound . Across the road , beyond the famous Marina beach,Chennai, the sea is slate gray and deathly still, though the sand, the road, everything is wet and puddled. It is completely deserted.

This visual, when recalled, sends a clammy feeling down the gut even now.

The radio in the taxi, in which we had traveled to the city, was still talking of flooding water and unusually big waves . On the road, totally confused policemen, sans co-ordination, were diverting a thin traffic helter skelter . At our destination, very close to Edward Elliotts Beach, pedestrians were cordoned off the sands while all the pie dogs of the fishing colonies, that had invaded the residential layouts earlier in the day, cowered under parked vehicles and behind trash bins...............
It was only the next day that a new, dreaded, alien word entered the vernacular tongue : Tsunami.

23 comments:

avdi said...

I didnt know what 'Boxing Day' denoted either. Quite like the Diwali Baksheesh, it turns out !

Though I am far from any seashore, the idea of Tsunami sends a chill down my spine. a

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Nice to read about your Nigerian experience. I first heard about Boxing Day in the UK long back and I know its big in Australia too. India was also their colony, for a long time that too, but we never picked up this from the Brits! We've picked all the American Holidays now, such as Valentines Day and recently I even heard that Thanksgiving is becoming a trend, without anyone of them even knowing what it denotes and why the North Americans made it a Holiday! Here in Sing too, they have no clue about Halloween and Thanksgiving but they get into costumes for the former and turkey dinner for the latter!

Happy New Year to you and the family, have a great 2010! That's one holiday/event that the entire World celebrates!

JC said...

Yosee, Best wishes for A very Happy New Year (and for Happy Blogging too) to you and to all your family members!

JC said...

Yosee, besides the two events you have recalled, '26' (2+6 = 8), as 26/1, reminds me also of two events: Year 1950 when India officially became a Republic, and year 2001 when I too was shaken up in New Delhi - while preparing to watch on TV the Republic Day Parade - due to 'Bhuj earthquake' that took a heavy toll on men and material in Gujrat...

The coincidence, related to dates as stated above - also as a chain reaction - reminded me of two events, but related with the number '15': Year 1947, August (the 8th month), when India became politically independent, and the year 1950 (again) on the same date when NE India experienced a catastrophic earthquake. The event that was triggered in the upper reaches of River Brahmputra resulted in (Old) Sadiya Town getting erased from the map of earthquake prone Assam as the natural temporary dam, having come up due to landslides, intitially blocked the flow of river Lohit and eventually burst suddenly that night...

I coincidentally met a gentleman who hailed from Sadiya and as a child had escaped...

Besides that, Brahmputra river's changed course resulted in heavy damages also to its original banks in Dibrugarh (when the town was originally located on the banks of River Dibru) and consequently needed heavy repair works to train the river...

YOSEE said...

Avdi , Capt, Anup, & JC :
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Boxing Day and other memorable dates.

As the world shrinks, it becomes inevitable that excuses for celebrations cross borders and get assimilated with native features. This year Halloween was celebrated noticeably here ( bangalore) not just by american expats, but by locals too ! The other imported event well advertised was Oktoberfest !

Wish you all a very happy and peaceful new year.
Regards.

JC said...

Thanks for the greetings, Yosee!

My grand daughter also takes part in the celebrations related with Halloween at New Jersey, USA. And, in fact, I first heard about it from her and my eldest daughter only.

(I didn't mention 26/7/'05 and 26/11/'08 in the last decade that were eventful as far as India, and Mumbai particularly, are concerned = for the record floods and terrorist attack, respectively)...

LG said...

Naaneno baxing day andre nijavaglu fighting anthane artha madkonde bidi.ehehehe..adikke bega conclusionge barbardu annodu doddoru :) Nimmelarigu hosa varushada shubhashayagalu.

Gauri Gharpure said...

hello.. am first time here and liked your detailed, crisp description style.. the first piece was an excellent travelogue and the second a memory that will stay with you for long. incidentally, my husband spent a few months in Nigeria in class 8 or 9 and he has some wonderful memories of the period..

will read up more on your blog.. :)

Rwitoja said...

I had heard of Boxing Day, but had thought it had something to do with boxing,the sport.It is interesting how festivals get imported and then are given the local flavour.We Indians seem to have an insatiable appetite for festivals.We have so many of our own and yet keep importing more.Valentines Day is here to stay and now Halloween too!The Custodians of the Purity of Our Culture have a tough time ahead of them.
The Tsunami was a terrible reminder of how life can change in a matter of seconds.

YOSEE said...

Lakshmi : Sadya ! Naan obbaley peddu ankondu idde ! Company idey bidi ! :-)
Nimagoo haardika subhashayagalu.

YOSEE said...

Gauri : Thanks for visiting and for your kind comments. Nice to know that your hubby studied in Nigeria. I'm sure he'll have some "whacky" stories to tell you abt. life there !

YOSEE said...

Rwitoja : Seems like i was not the only one to be misled by that name "Boxing" !........ya, we are forever looking for excuses to celebrate ! Even in India itself, within a past few years a whole lot of festivities not native to the South have been adopted with gusto: Holi,Raksha Bandan, Akshaya Tritiya, Sangeet Day for weddings, Garba etc. None of these were celebrated by locals during my childhood !....
I wonder what The Custodians Of Our Culture think of Diwali in Obama's White House !!! :-)

JC said...

Yosee, Sorry! for eaves-dropping!

Rwitoja's remark, "...Custodians of the Purity of Our Culture have a tough time ahead of them..." and Yosee yours, "I wonder what The Custodians Of Our Culture think of Diwali in Obama's White House !!! :-)", of course, shows to the present day confused Custodians the need to at least enter the mind/ head of the 'wiser ancients' who apparetnly had reached the Absolute Truth: Of fusion or yoga of 'mayavi', ie, illusory and ever changing temporary exterior physical universe/ world; and gravity (of Heavenly Bodies)/ soul (in animal life forms) as components of the Parmatma or Supreme Soul (in 'non-living' as well as 'living world') - believed as unborn as well unending...

Before Obama the 'Black' (Krishna) came into the picture, even a 'Fair' (Gouri) westerner scientist, Stephen Hawking expressed his desire 'to enter the mind of God' at the beginning of this millennium when he was in 'India', the original land of the 'Hindus' as the believable starting point/ goal (vide The Gita) on the globe...when 'churning of the white milky-ocan was just started by Krishna the 8th incarnation (most evolved in human form as the real 'Custodian' of humans - and our galasy is called the 'Milky Way Galaxy) of Vishnu the Nadbindu the original formless Custodian of the eventual infinite Universe...:)

Rwitoja said...

After having lived in a Middle Eastern country for some years I can better appreciate India's festival loving spirit and the way we borrow and assimilate festivals from other cultures. They did not celebrate any festival apart from those of their own which were not many. There was no New Year, not even the new millenium was celebrated.Public celebrations were not allowed.Life tended to be monotonous and drab.Each day resembled the other.Festivals bring so much variety and joy in our lives. I feel even poor people in India enjoy life more than wealthy people in those countries do.We complain about noise pollution , traffic congestion etc because of festivals but these are a small price to pay.

JC said...

Yes, Rwitoja, 'India' is really the blessed country, the birth-place of gods in physical forms from time to time, as it is claimed in The Gita by 'Yogiraj Krishna'...

If only one could heed the advice: To 'look inwards', attached only to the self (ie, God's component within), remaining 'sithpragya' or unmoved of the pains and pleasures of the external world...However, one is also cautioned that having entered the 'kal-chakra' there is no escape from three types of actions by anyone. However, while performing these actions, the wise remains unattached, and accept whatever be the outcome - happily, as His will...Of course, it's easier said than done :)

Indrani said...

Great read. Very interestingly related.

I wish you and your loved ones a Very Happy and Safe 2010!

YOSEE said...

Indirani : Thank you for your good wishes. Hope you have a great 2010 too.

YOSEE said...

Rwitoja & JC : Thanks for your inputs.
Osmosis can be beneficial as it can promote sharing and brotherhood, provided some filters of prudence are also employed , so that the spirit behind an imported festivity is understood and its relevance determined.
I see no point in Bengalureans roasting turkey in Bengaluru to commemorate the arrival of The Pilgrim Fathers on American shores.
Vasudaiva Kutumbakam ? :-)

JC said...

"...I see no point in Bengalureans roasting turkey in Bengaluru to commemorate the arrival of The Pilgrim Fathers on American shores..."

Yosee, it might sound hypothetical. Just as the whole world celebrated man's landing on Moon, in the same spirit,let us celebrate the event as achievement of our ancestors, belonging to Shiva's clan. Otherwise, Bengalureans - as the name suggests - would have eaten nothing but the particular beans only - monotonously just as Rwitoja felt in a 'foreign land' :)

I had a friend, an army man, who as a commando was trained to eat even a snake...:)

Yes, 'Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam' or 'one family of earth' conveys the realisation of the Truth by wise ancients...

YOSEE said...

JC: You favour eclectic choice. Fair enough. But thats an uncharitable innuendo you have made about bengalureans being doomed to a life of boiled bean staple, had not America lifted it to IT highlife.With due respect to your said conviction, i submit that we had a rich enough variety in life even before that.

I concede lucky breaks are godsend but no society has perished yet for want of foreign patrons.

Oh, BTW, Feb.2 is "Groundhog Day" in USA and Canada.Just an info.to keep in mind, in case the non indigenous creature called groundhog emerges from a burrow in your garden suddenly! :-)

JC said...

Yosee, I am sorry, you have viewed the example cited from an angle I hadn't intended at all.

Who hasn't heard about the believable tolerance of Indians in the past, and the consequent variety in all aspects of human behaviour?

I know Karnatak is the meeting point of North and South India, geographically as well as culturally. I had, earlier also, already said that 'India' is the 'blessed country', (Bharat, or Mahabharat the entire globe that in fact is Lord Shiva Himself as Gangadhar), which includes any other city called by any other name at any time...

I am sorry if I have inadvertantly hurt you...

I can only say that if you still feel, as the blog owner, you are at liberty to delete all my comments. However, please be assured I have no intentions to hurt you, (or a mosquito even, for which I am known in my personal circle as 'eccentric' because I don't kill it accepting it as my guest and allow it to drink my blood :). And, I have very close friends who hail from Karnataka.

'Miracles' do happen at all the times.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!!!

YOSEE said...

JC : dear Sir, the word "Sorry" embarrasses me no end. I am certainly not hurt nor do i feel the need to delete comments.I specially inserted a smilie in my last response to convey as much.Dint you notice ?
Written words have a life of their own, giving birth to meanings never intended.It wasn't my intention either to sound petulant..........
( As an aside : had i been younger, more hot headed and less mature, i could jump and slap a libel suit on you for equating me with a vampire mosquito! hahahaha !)

JC said...

Yosee, I am glad the fog is cleared (although its presence in the atmosphere for some time continues to act as an irritant to travellers in India, during winters in the north particularly :)

Yes, words, spoken - and particularly the written ones, for they do not allow one to read the 'body language' as well as hear the tone also - many a times need more words to clear the air :)