Visit to Tanzania…some reflections

Mohit Anand

Tanzania is a large enough country with a modestly sized population which has resulted in large areas remaining underutilized and untouched by material development and human activity. There are only a few cities, which are quite small in size and population as compared to the urban sprawl that we are used to at least here in India. The majority of the country consists of rural areas with the population mostly engaged in primary activities like farming and fishing. It is worth observing that though there is no significant industrial development in the country, the government has ensured that basic infrastructure is in place and works efficiently. One gets a sense that while on the whole the population is not very well to-do, the economic level is quite consistent throughout the populace with the absence of the extreme economic disparities that are common in Indian society. This is probably due to the fundamentally socialist economic model that the country has strictly adhered to until very recently. On the whole, Tanzania has managed to retain much of the natural wealth and charm of its lands while at the same time providing its citizens enough to sustain themselves.

One gets a feeling that the lack of aggressive development based on the western capitalist model has actually helped the Tanzanians retain their sense of community and has preserved their appreciation for the more qualitative aspects of human life. This becomes apparent from the first contact with a Tanzanian which typically would include a multitude of welcoming comments and gestures. Karibu and Asante, you are welcome and thank you in Kiswahili, can easily be identified as the motto of the people and an aspect that underlines the overall attitude and outlook of the Tanzanians. Their sense of courtesy and respect is unlike what I have seen anywhere in India or in the few other countries that I have visited. What is most striking is the uniformity with which this attitude is expressed by almost every single Tanzanian in any possible setting. A real surprise (especially when coming from India) is their superb road sense which appears to be a manifestation of their general ethos of accommodating others and respecting the rule of law. It even seems that they follow the lane system and maintain decorum on the roads – and this is not only in the cities, it is more on the highways and in villages – out of common sense than any particular fear of the law. In fact, it is very interesting to observe the bonhomie between the people and the police even when they are being checked for apparent offences. All of the above really tosses out of the window the argument that better traffic sense would prevail with greater development, one that we are all too used to in India.

If the beautiful landscape and the heartwarming people were not enough, Tanzanian food and culture is really something that can get you hooked. The fact that most villages have a pool/snooker table along with a bar as a common hangout place really speaks volumes for the laid back and easygoing attitude of the people. They enjoy their alcohol (there are more than six brands of local beer), relish their food and spend enough time on song and dance. A typical eatery anywhere would have great reggae or hip hop music playing while serving all the local beers and any other liquor that one might need. The food is heavenly for anyone with a weakness for roasted meats. The Tanzanians take pride in the fact that meat – copious quantities of it – is a significant part of their diet. It is no wonder then that what could be taken as their national dish, Nyama Choma, basically roasted meat with fried potatoes, is available almost everywhere on the streets throughout the country.

 Within a day of being in Tanzania, I could sense that there was a lot about it that I would appreciate and could easily get addicted to. It is easy to fall in love with a country which is not only truly beautiful, but has supremely nice people, great food and a brilliant knack of living the life. Despite its economic problems, Tanzania stands as a glowing example of how easy it is to lead a good life with simple priorities and humble principles. I can hardly wait to go back and get a dose again.