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Beautiful Burundi

Burundi – a paradise in the middle of nowhere -2

Paradise elicits images of beauty and peace. But this world is not a utopia and neither is Burundi. If I want to crib, I can crib, for a long, long time. The easiest example being, day before yesterday I went to 3 supermarkets searching for a hairbrush and I found… NONE. Zilch. Zero. Nada… And this is just the least of my grouses.

But every thing in this world, including you and me is not perfect. So why focus on the imperfections?

Coming to Burundi has given me many conveniences, which I don’t think I can  get in present day India. For example, domestic help. Any woman, working or not, will testify, what a big blessing having a reliable domestic help at home is. Right now, in India, I cannot even imagine having a full time domestic help at home, let alone two, without having to shell out an arm and a leg. Frankly, sometimes I feel I am having the Royal treatment here. 😎

And speaking of costs, everything is expensive in Burundi, except for fruits and vegetables. There is a lot of locally sourced fruits here – buttery avocados (big ones that resemble a medium sized papaya), sweet pineapples, succulent mangoes, fresh red strawberries, crunchy guavas, fleshy jackfruit (!), ripe papayas, saccharine soursop (a fruit that looks similar to a small jackfruit and is touted to have amazing medicinal value for treating cancer), tangy oranges, sweet lime, passion fruit, tree tomatoes and the like. Since the land is rich and fertile, there is an abundance of produce, and since the country is poor, there is not much fertilizers and pesticides. I don’t think my generation of urbanites has had access to such fresh, chemical free produce; at all. No worries about endosulfan, no worries about cancer.

At this juncture, I have to tell something that I say to anyone who gives me a willing ear. It is about a co-operative named Mutoyi, which has an outlet in my neighbourhood. Run by Nuns, this co-operative utilises the locally sourced produce and milk for making end products like juice concentrate, jam, fruit flavoured and plain yoghurt, different kinds of cheese, butter, fresh cream etc. (Their yoghurt tastes so much like my mom’s curd). The best part is, they are all preservative free!

Another precious commodity, which is becoming very scarce nowadays is found in abundance in Burundi. No, no, I am not talking about diamonds or gold or even dollars. I am talking about time or rather the utilisation of time. Life here is quite laid back, therefore making leisure a habit not a luxury. It is like somebody has put sudden brakes in our lives. We swung from one extreme to the other. From leading very busy metropolitan lives, where we didn’t even have time to look at each other’s faces we went to having too much time on our hands. I am not spending all my waking hours running from errand to errand. Now, I have the time to spend with my family, I have the time to think, I have the time to read… ( ONLY e-books. I guess this is the only country in the world without a bookshop.) Also I am able to clock 8 hours of sleep everyday.

Burundians generally follow the healthier early to bed, early to rise routine. Also they understand the value of exercise in their lives. Jogging or running is their preferred activity and it was not uncommon to see groups of joggers, old and young, men and women, jogging early in the morning on weekends, a year back. Even now though we don’t see groups anymore, Burundians still lace up their sneakers and run.

Sometimes people understand the value of something, only when they loose it. Today’s urban Indians have woken up to the evils of chemicals in food, lack of sleep etc. There is not a single day that passes me by without seeing a health related forward on fb or whatsapp. Healthy food and body is something that should be a given, a part of daily life. But now these have become something we aspire for. So yes, in a way Burundi is a paradise for me, because it has brought me closer to pristine, natural beauty and has given me peace of mind regarding my family’s health….

Burundi – a paradise in the middle of nowhere – 1

The first time we heard of Burundi, we were all like – what? Where is this place? 3 years down the line, things are no different. Even now when we stand at the immigration counter, the officials go – “Burundi? What?….” Or worse still, people say, ” Ah, Brunei. Yes, I know that place. The Sultan of Brunei. Once, the richest man in the world!” Sometimes, I correct, sometimes…. I just let it go and smile, “Yes. Yes.”

Burundi is a tiny country, in central-east Africa. The country is land bound on all sides except the West. On the west is Lake Tanganyika. How do I explain this lake? A simplistic way of saying is, it is HUGE. I am not going to give the dimensions here, anyone interested can always Google it up. Let me put it this way, when i was talking about the lake to one of my friends back in India, she said, “oh yes, like our Mettur dam Lake!” How do I tell her that the Mettur dam Lake is akin to a tiny fishing pond when you compare Lake Tanganyika. I mean, you have beaches in the middle of the African continent because of this Lake. Beaches with non-salty, freshest, bluest water. If this was a more developed country, movie-makers would be clamouring here for their shooting schedule.

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Which brings us to another statistic: This is one of the least developed and  one of the poorest country in the world. (Hey, World Bank says that, not me). The irony is, the land is so fertile and there is no scarcity for water. Even the poor do not go hungry because they can grow anything on this land. (Of course, I am not talking about the urban poor or the nutritional value of their food – I am just talking about hunger). But there is no gold, diamond or oil deposits here; maybe that’s why no one is much bothered about this country.

Every time, we travel, we just can’t help admiring the beauty of this country. It reminds me so much of Kerala, by the way – lush green vistas, misty hills, red sand… And every time, we (my husband and I) say to each other, “When development happens (which I am sure, it will, some day), I hope they respect this beauty and work around it and not against it”.

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