An untold tale and some unsung Indian heroes in Uganda

Featuring NICA, The North Indian Cultural Association (Uganda)

 

Hi readers, it has been a very long time since the last blog post on 21st March. I hope the week was good to all of you. The financial year has just ended and  now we are in a different  bent of mind, ready to welcome Spring season  in different forms and colours  in different parts of the globe.For my country India , it is a combination of the spring festival celebrations  and the election climate.

Today through my blog, I would like to introduce a unique  social organization in Uganda  NICA by name. Its full form being North Indian Cultural Association. NICA in Punjabi language(an Indian language) means infant or a toddler and the members of this special organization consider themselves as learners amongst all other sister associations in Uganda. My  words will  fall short to praise them or even this entire blog post is not enough to cover their entire yeoman’s service that they have been rendering  to the needy and  poor  sections of  Uganda ,since  inception in 2011. NICA is an association with a difference ,genuinely wishing to contribute towards the common goals of promoting strong cultural values among the new generation and rendering all possible support for the betterment of the local society.

NICA is  an initiative of  a few like-minded and noble-hearted  Indians hailing from northern India but  residing in Uganda on account of their jobs or businesses in Africa.They are willing to give back to the  society by reaching out to  its under privileged and needy. Particularly ,they are taking care of the poor people suffering from eye ailments  and impaired vision but cannot afford medical assistance or even buy a pair of spectacles or medicines.NICA has embarked on a CSR activity named “Your Vision – Our Mission” and organizes free eye medical camps every month in various slum areas around and outside Kampala ,the capital city of Uganda.  The motto or the slogan Your vision-Our Mission really touches my soul .It is really a meaningful one  and a noble cause for their existence .  These eye camps are held in conjunction with Ministry of Health,Uganda, Mulago referral Hospital, SAMTA Natural Resources Uganda Ltd and Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital(a reknowned Indian eye hospital in Uganda), which make use of state-of-the-art equipment and an extremely competent pool of Doctors/Specialists.

NICA is guided by certain objectives.

  • To identify the major cause of severe visual impairment and blindness among children and adults and offer treatment accordingly.
  • To create awareness about preventive measures in order to reduce the risk of eye diseases.

The most notable features of the camps they conduct include free testing/scanning and distribution of optical medicines and spectacles to the unprivileged local community members. In addition, they also provide optical surgeries to those who are on the verge of blindness and also curing the reversible blindness.

 The first eye camp was held on New Year’s Day 2016 and forty-seven (47) camps have subsequently been organized with the following vital stats about beneficiaries.

1. No of Free Eye camp held : 48

2. No of camps for Free Cataract Surgeries : 15

3. No of Patients Scanned : 19,142

4. Free Spectacles distributed : 7,060

5. Free Treatment (Medicines) : 7,524

6. Free Cataract Surgeries : 1,093

 7. Free Cornea Transplant : 03

 8. Cataract Diagnosed : 74 (Treatment Pending)

Modus Operandi: They have a team of three to four members who  are entrusted with the task of identifying and selecting  slum areas suitable for organizing the camps by communicating with the administration of the locality. Usually, the preferred location is that with a church or school situated in close proximity.

So far, out of total 48 camps the seventeen (17) camps have been held outside Kampala,the capital city of Uganda

 • Kikandwas sub country. Mityana; • Sekanyonyo Health Centre –Mityana District; • Rushere Community Hospital –Rushere –Kiruhura District; • Kawolo Hospital ,Lugazi–Mukono; Regional Referral Hospital Fortpotal (twice), • Kasana Helath Centre -Luwero district (thrice). • Rugyeyo Community Hospital-Kanungu (twice) • Benedictine Eye Hospital -Tororo District. • Kalangala Islands Health Centre IV-Kalangala • Kakindu Stadium –Jinja; Health Centre IV,Busia • Maska Regional Referral Hospital-Masaka • Bikurungu Health Centre, Rukingiri

The Honorary Consul of Uganda in Bombay – His Excellency Madhusudhan Agrawal, through his organization SAMTA Natural Resources Uganda has offered free cataract surgeries for unprivileged people in Uganda on continual basis. The Madhvani family (Kakira Sugar) and other donors from different countries along with Indian community in Uganda are continuously supporting these camps. Currently, the association has membership of about 120 Indian expatriates who contribute to the association’s CSR activities as well.

The 1st “Eye Surgery Camp” was held in conjunction with Ministry of Health,Uganda and Mulago Hospital(a hospital in Uganda) on 25th to 27th August 2017, in which 83 Free Cataract surgeries were successfully performed.

Future Course of Action: NICA would like to continue these camps on a periodic basis and raise them onto a National level beyond Kampala. All praises for NICA for the good work you have done .You have made all Indians in this globe feel very proud by spreading the good name across continents. Long live NICA!

Some posters of the recently conducted eye camps in rural Uganda

An newspaper clipping featuring NICA in a local newspaper in Uganda

 

Website address: ww.nica.org

Facebook Page: North Indian Cultural Association of Uganda

CONTACT DETAILS

Chairperson : Mr Dharmendra Agarwal

Address: Plot No. 35, Coffee House (Beautiful Living),

P.O.Box 31082, Jinja Road, Kampala, Uganda
Tele/Fax: +256 41 434 9679

Finding a new home in Africa continued……..

Reaching Uganda :The Pearl of Africa :Part 2

My daily route to Kyambogo university where I am also teaching as a guest faculty in Marketing

Before I begin my second innings, let me write a small note of thanks to all my wonderful readers for their continued support and encouragement .

Thanks, viewers for the loads of love and support that have been consistently coming across the globe and reaching me on real time here. I really loved the way how people had reciprocated to my messages or posts in various social media platforms and their eagerness to know about Part 2. In less than a month’s time, 1000 views to my blog site are beyond my expectation for a minion like me. So it is indeed a blessing I must say.

So let’s start now with the next part of my story.

It was somewhere in August 2017. I had just reached India. For the first time I was travelling alone in an international airline, with four back to back flights till I reached my final destination, Guwahati, my home. You could very well imagine the feeling of reaching one’s own motherland after such a first time experience. The feeling of happiness on reaching my own soil started as soon as I reached the immigration counters of the receiving airport, Chhatrapati  Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. Tears of joy rolled down my face after getting my passport stamped as arrived. As if I was surrounded with a feeling of some achievement or some small kind of victory outside one’s own soil. The feeling kept on elevating throughout my subsequent domestic flights to reach Guwahati. I reached home safe and sound. People were happy to see me back after a long time.

Reaching
Chhatrapati  Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai

A couple of months rolled on. I got busy with my exam preparations and also I managed to devote my best time to my parents at home, trying to put my hands in household chores or outside work related to daily life. I also met my closest friends and my ex-colleagues of India in between their busy schedules. It was a good way of reviving oneself and telling them real stories on the other side of the globe and listening to theirs after a long time.

It was 5th November, 2018. The day of UGC NET examination in India. I gave my best effort that time. Also , I was already four months away from my husband. He was at his job in Uganda. It was not easy to continue like this for months. But we have always been supporting each other in fulfilling each other’s life goals, wherever we are. His role in my transition phase is magnanimous and worth mentioning. In December, as usual, he reached India for his yearly home trip and we spent some days together at both my place and my in-laws’ place. After a month, it was time to pack our luggage and bid goodbye to my native place and return to Uganda. For me, the feeling was a bit different from his. I had spent almost five months at my home in Guwahati. And I really didn’t know when will be that next time to avail such a long break for homestay, considering the fate of a married girl. Alas! An emotional adieu and a sad return!

We were back to Uganda, my husband’s workplace. No sooner had we reached there than the results of the NET examination (which I was talking about in the last part of part 1), was announced. I did not expect such early announcements. It was a mixed feeling for me. I was so contented with my success because this examination which is actually very tough in the national level. Secondly clearing the exam after a decade of my MBA graduation made be double happy. And now that I had succeeded, I couldn’t afford to sit there in Uganda without applying for a few relevant posts in India.

They say the universe has a great sense of humor. That sometimes having your dream come true can feel like a nightmare. Because getting what you want always come with strings attached”-Gossip Girl. (Gossip Girl is an American teen drama television series based on the book series of the same name written by Cecily von Ziegesar.)

The same feeling haunted me at that time.

In this way, a couple of months passed by in Uganda. However, I kept myself busy with the online applications of relevant jobs in India. Then one day I decided to go back to India in the hope of getting a good job or enroll myself in a PhD program in a good institute. So, I flew back home. But to my utter despair, I couldn’t make it to the best choices for PhD. After a few days, I got shortlisted for the post of Assistant Professor in a renowned college in Bhubaneswar (a city on the East coast of India,capital of Odisha). Without any second thought, I flew to this place in the hope of something good and hence our future settlement in India, leaving offshores forever. But alas! My bad luck again. There was an indefinite postponement of the interview as per the recent notifications of UGC regulations of those times. This implied that there was no point staying in India at that point of time as the same regulation was valid for all other colleges and universities as well. I came back to my hometown, Guwahati.

 Just a few days after all this, I got an ISD call from an unknown number in Uganda. But to my utter surprise, I found out that the number belonged to none other than the Head of the Department of Management Science, Kyambogo University, a government university in Uganda. I was elated with joy as she had offered me a job in her university and I was supposed to report in the next ten days as classes were beginning after the long semester break. I was even getting job offers as guest faculty in my home town. But I had to take a quick decision of choosing this one from Uganda so that my husband could peacefully continue his job there. So it seemed that it was time for Africa again. However I was under no pressure to do that but a kind of moral conscience or compassion for him for all the sacrifice he had done for me to establish my new career, came to the forefront and backed me to take that upfront move. This was because I could not bear to ask him to quit his long-standing job just for me and also he had no immediate backup plans of jobs or any business.

 I reached the African continent back again in August 2018. It seemed as if life was sending me back and again to this beautiful place for some reason or the other. Frankly speaking, when I had arrived at this place initially in 2017, I did not like the place at all, keeping aside the beautiful nature on one side as I had basically nothing to do. I was just waiting for the weekends to move out of the house along with my husband when he got somehow free from his busy project schedules. Life was really terrible for me in the first part, doing nothing basically except cooking and maintaining the house.

It is my honest confession, my dear readers, as time progressed, I started viewing life in a different way. I have always believed that one must have simple and straight forward goals in life for self-sustenance, whether one is single or married, working or not working. Slowly and steadily, I learned to welcome every move that came on my way, good or bad with equal élan. The highs and lows of life had taught me to overcome both sides of the coin. Today I am somewhat happy with the person I have evolved with times. Happy teaching and learning, happy touching minds in a different country, in a different continent across different cultures. Learning about their crafts, history, festivals, food habits, dressings, attending public functions and marriages are adding to my knowledge store every day.

One of favourite moments at End of the Year Party at my university, The Pumpkin Dance…Watch out those dried and huge pumpkin skins or shells!

The other most noteworthy point to be highlighted about this part of the globe is its surprising similarity to our Meghalaya (a state in North -Eastern India and my neighbor state of Assam). You might be shocked to hear all this! But, yeah, it is true in Africa too. The first thing that generally strikes any mind about Africa is that it very hot and it’s called Dark Continent across the globe. However, I have found that it is not so everywhere across the continent.

Uganda resembles Meghalaya for quite a number of reasons……..The abode of clouds, casting hill station- like looks with beautiful pine trees and maintaining decent mercury levels with soothing temperatures from dawn to dusk throughout the year. The waterfalls spread across the region, the lofty hills throughout the towns and villages and the breathtakingly beautiful golf courses in the capital city and outside the city. Apart from the natural beauty of this country, Uganda is the hub of the United Nations in the entire East African Region. Like Meghalaya, the inhabitants of this country are jovial and active. They too have a deep love for football and music. Moreover, the tone of the language bears so much resemblance to our various indigenous tribes of North East India. And yes, one most important thing, the women power and their independence. Like Meghalaya, women are very independent here with respect to her choices of work, dressing and living. The women selling local fruits and vegetables on the roadsides or the markets bring me vivid memories of my yesteryears stay in Shillong, one of my previous workplaces. Also one of its neighboring countries, Rwanda is even much more equivalent to our Meghalaya with respect to the picturesque beauty and its cleanliness. Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda stalls tall with its reputation of being the cleanest city in the entire continent. One can even sit near a gutter and enjoy one’s meal comfortably. In this case, Kigali corresponds to Asia’s cleanest city, Mawlynong, a place in Meghalaya. For me, it’s a throwback of the times I had lived in Meghalaya.

My Indian friends….Doesn’t it remind us of Nongpoh ,roadside Kongs(we call Nyabo here to ladies) selling local fruits.
This is not Polo grounds of Shillong! But look ,what a similarity here in Entebbe,Uganda.This one is too a polo ground here with pine trees at theg backdrop in an equatorial region…Surprising,right??
Of clouds,hills and trees around…Nature at its best!
The scenic university campus.Reminds me of IIT Guwahati and N.E,H.U. Shillong,India
The cleanliness thing reminds me of Mawlyngnong,Asia’s cleanest city.

The above-mentioned similarities make me somewhat feel like home outside the home (motherland).And I am happy about it. Every day, I try to relate my experiences here with those of my homeland. Slowly and steadily, my apprehensions and insecurities of initial years calmed down to a significant level and almost gone now. And here I am! Today I am happily teaching as a guest faculty at Kyambogo University and sharing experiences with my students and colleagues. I try to thank God for every beautiful sunshine and the picturesque views I come across every day –be it on the way to work or going to the market for daily needs of life. My hidden love for nature has now erupted so much now with nature’s setting here that I can’t help capturing everything that catches my eye and arrests my soul. I am so passionate about photography now. I am also passionate about telling life’s real stories, beautiful or ugly. I want to showcase the beauty of truths of life and the power of perseverance and positivity and hope in our lives.

Truly I am at home! Found my home and some sunshine.

 Happy reading until we meet again with my next post!

Finding a new home in Africa

Reaching Uganda :The Pearl of Africa :Part 1

Home is where the heart lies. I am not talking about buying a piece of land to build a house or buying an apartment in a sought after location with all modern amenities for a comfortable living. It was somewhere in mid-January in the year 2017 when I along with my husband had reached Uganda for the first time. Although for him, Africa was quite familiar as he had already worked in almost five to six countries in the East African region.

I had just got married in India a month back during that time. Imagine the heights of anxiety and apprehensions that I was surrounded with, on my first few days in a new country in a new continent. A month ago, I had just resigned from a job in IIT Guwahati where I was quite happy with my work and life and also I was near home for every weekend to see my parents.

Life was taking me through a different route. A married girl miles away from her parents, siblings, away from a job for the first time and of course the Indian crowd. It was a multitude of changes which I had to accept and manage myself in a very short period of time. I still remember how much desperate I was to hunt for some work, be it banking , NGO or any decent school or educational institution in Kampala,the capital city of Uganda. It was a really very tough time for both of us to find myself a desirable job in a country far far away home.At times my husband even got ready to quit his job for my sake but i always forbade him to do so.


Months rolled on.I gradually began to accept life as it is with my inner self always persuading me to find solutions to my problems that cropped up at various stages of my life. It is my honest confession. I had always been more than an average student in my entire educational career.A career good enough to have landed in some decent government job in India and would have fetched a fortune of peace and stability in job life. This is how most Indians think. But today I really do not regret at all. I am happy for what I am. I have surrendered myself to time, the supreme element of life.


Another turning point …..It was somewhere in the month of August 2017. I suddenly became a victim of dental problems.Medical facilities were not that sound in the country.Moreover, the cost was abnormally high here.It is like unless one buys a good amount of medical insurance, one cannot afford medical facilities here. Moreover, during that time I had some urgent calling from home which needed my immediate attention and response. So I immediately decided to fly back home.And yes, in the process, I missed my NRI tag just for two days! I could just complete 178 days of my stay here in my first league. But the best part of this trip really paid me well. My hard work and persuasion to take transit to the teaching career corporate sector bore me fruit.I succeeded in UGC NET in 2017 (an examination in India to be eligible to be an Assistant Professor in Colleges and Universities).I had been preparing and sitting for this exam for a few number of times , like most other peers of my times ,amidst hectic corporate schedule of yester years .But this time of course ,a preparation with no work pressure in Uganda really helped a lot .

A new journey on a day of love

Today is a special day, a day of love, “Valentine’s Day” as the world celebrates. In fact, the whole week had very been special for lovebirds around the world. But, of course, love has a deeper meaning than celebrating it on a single day or a week either. If you have ever listened to your soul and loved someone to the moon and back, be it a person or any hobby or whatsoever, I am sure you will understand what I want to convey.

Coincidentally, I am setting out for a new journey for my love today itself. I actually want to give a home or a shelter to my thoughts and expressions in the form of blogs. This journey should have begun a long time back but due to some reason or the other, it always took a back seat. My friends, colleagues and all my well wishers have always been the prime source of inspiration and encouragement to give me this final push. So my heartfelt thanks to all of you to make me realise my skills and take it to the next level. I have always been a very expressive and aggressive person with regards to my flow of thoughts and communication.

As a guest lecturer in Marketing in Kyambogo University, Kampala, I have always been teaching my students about the importance of respecting oneself, listening and responding to one’s soul and most importantly the art of communication in our daily lives. Communication is not only confined to the echelons of any society in this world. You need not be a Shashi Tharoor to scatter “Farrago” of communication or use jargons or bombastic words only to show off your in-depth knowledge of lexicon or the Oxford Dictionary. What is the use of communication if two persons do not understand what one is communicating? Since my first days of working in an African environment, mostly being around with the student community, I have been understanding well the importance of communication. Also, it is my first teaching job in life and that too teaching students of a different country and a different continent, who are not raised like students in India. Culture plays an important part in communication. What is good in India may not be the same here and vice versa. The exchange of accent, tone and most importantly a brief understanding of syllables were the initial takeaways for both sides. It was more like a student exchange program or a confluence of ideas related to culture, race and the land of origin for the first few days. However, my subject of teaching posed no serious problems or threats to my new career as knowledge remains the same across the world. But, I again started reading books by Kotler and Keller in Africa too to brush up my knowledge. This time, the editions were a decade new to me since I did my MBA ten years back in 2008. Will share more experiences in the coming days. Keep loving and sharing my stories. See you soon until my next blog!