Home Columns Anantha Narayan Continental Drift

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    If large pockets of the world still think we are a land of snake charmers, we are equally guilty of nursing some bizarre notions about Africa. We blithely assume it to be a Tarzan-comic tourist zoo, with well-demarcated areas for giraffes, lions, elephants, pygmies, pirates, ebola, AIDS and cricket.
    Admit it a�� your knowledge about the second largest continent is not enough. You probably think Afrikaans is the most widely spoken language there (fact: ita��s Arabic). You have no idea how big it is (fact: it houses 54 countries). You must be under the impression that sub-Saharan Africa is poorer than the usual notion of poverty, (fact: there are as many people below poverty line in eight states in India)
    Therea��s a lot you need to learn about Modia��s latest excuse for earning frequent flier points. Africa aina��t all masai mara and mumbo jumbo. Ita��s a macrocosm full of surprises.
    Coffee, the drink South Indians cannot do without, comes from the Kaffa region in Ethiopia. The story goes that a goat herder named Kaldi discovered it when he noticed his goats jumping with joy after feasting on some berries from a mystery plant.
    Even cola has an African origin. The kola nut is the fruit of the kola tree, which was supposedly first planted in Nigeria. Without kola, we wona��t get our soft drinks.
    Sticking with nature, we couldna��t have enjoyed the ladies finger or yam without the generosity of West Africa. The famed peri peri sauce of Nandoa��s also has the same roots. Piri piri in Swahili means a�?pepper peppera��.
    Remember the legendary Chevrolet Impala? It derives its name from Africaa��s graceful antelope, best known for leaping over nine-foot high obstacles. By the way, Reebok, too, is a nod to the South African antelope, rhebok.
    Likewise, the ultra-fashionable tote bags that a woman cana��t do without, has an African connection. They say, the word tote is derived from tuta in Kimbundo, which means a�?to carrya��.
    Jazz, juke, jive, samba, banjo, conga and several other musical and dance forms originate there. And guess what, in big backward Congo, solar-powered aluminium robots direct traffic using surveillance cameras! So the next time you reduce Africa to a clichA�, you better go on a discovery trek (another African invention) or in other words, a safari.

    (This column is back due to popular demand)

    Anantha Narayan

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