My mum, the pilot

Once upon a time, a little girl was told that women shouldn’t fly airplanes … I grew up knowing ‘mum flew planes’. This was one of a series of simple facts in my childhood: my sister and I were born in London; our parents came from India; dad sang; mum flew. She told us stories…

In Search of Silence and the Missing Female to Female Nine Pin

It’s been a few months since I last posted for the series ‘Letters from the Heart of Africa’. We are now over halfway through with 21 posts (A list of these are at the bottom of this post – I aim to finish the series by the middle of 2018!). Thanks for your patience with…

Memories of my father

Over half a century ago, a young man, my father Kamal Hazarika, sat at the back of a bus listening to the sound of its engine ticking over. He became inspired with its rhythmic backbeat and the embryo of a song developed in his mind. He composed the tune and penned its lyrics before any…

A Merry Assamese Christmas Day

Prologue: When I was a child in the 80s, families from Assam in north east India who had settled in the UK would meet  to celebrate Christmas Day. This post weaves together a collection of memories of those bygone days of friends, togetherness, laughter and joy . *** It was the warmth at first. Usually on the…

The Childhood Adventures of Owning a Globe

On my seventh birthday my parents gave me a globe. My own spherical world of colourful landmasses and oceans, strung together with lines and stitched down with words, sat on a shelf  by my bed. At first I thought it was broken for it tilted to one side. My dad convinced me that many things in…

Mistakes on a train: a helpful traveller goofs up

Travelling can bring out the very best in us; we help each other with heavy luggage; we give up seats; we share food, books and mobile phone chargers; people once strangers can become life-long friends after a few plastic meals together on a flight. There is though one type of travel where that kindness doesn’t…

The nemesis of my sole

Heel gobbler. Lace snapper. Tongue cracker. In the stony, dusty backstreets of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, shoes took one hell of a daily beating. Twice in my first three months my shoes needed resoling. The Kigali streets eat up shoes with a clinical assault; abrasive sands rub them down on every tread; rainwater softens…

Feeling down: the 6th Week Blip

Six weeks in to my volunteering placement in Rwanda I felt down. I had hit what psychologists call the ‘6th week blip’. The theory goes something like this: after 6 weeks of being in a new cultural environment you hit a wall. You’ve had enough. The initial joy of encountering a new place, wears off. Fascination…

A weekend in the rural beauty of Rwanda

One Friday after work, I took a bus from Kigali till I reached a sleepy village called Gahini beside a lake that, by late afternoon, shone like mercury. Paula , a VSO teacher on a 3 year placement, had invited some of us volunteers for a weekend break and raring to see the countryside I…