Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Burantashi etc

Having not had the chance to check my uknaija email in a while, I finally got round to it and was pleasantly surprised by the number of emails there. The most interesting was from a gentleman asking if I could tell him where to buy burantashi as he has “suffered from ED” for a number of years. Burantashi had almost mythological status when I was growing up in Nigeria- it was the Hausa herbal answer to Viagra- and stories circulated of boys and men who had used it and subsequently ended up in accident and emergency units, laid low by the -ahem- potency of the product. Reading the email made a welcome change from the hundreds of spam messages asking if I would like to buy Viagra or other similar products. My correspondent appears to be based in Yugoslavia, and so it appears a business opportunity beckons for Northern Nigerian herbalists. If anyone knows suppliers of burantashi in Europe, please drop me a discreet line…

The six boys cluster round their teacher, smartly dressed in school uniform, obviously on a school trip or excursion of some sort. Seeing them, I am taken back to my school days, the prestige of being selected to represent the school at debates and quiz competitions; the freedom of being allowed to cut classes for the day and breathe the air of the outside world. Even more exhilarating were those occasions when we were successful and brought the trophy back- ah the heady giddiness of those days….

I’ve been reading a lot of what my literary friend disparagingly calls bubble-gum reading- perhaps it’s the January blues that are making me averse to plunging into anything too meaty or tasking. Having just finished Tina Brown’s The Diana Chronicles- with its lurid pink cover- a challenge to lug on to a train-, I progressed to Elinor Lipman’s My Latest Grievance, which had me laughing all the way through and looking forward to more Lipman tales.I am now simultaneously reading The Importance of Being Eton, a slim volume by an Old Etonian exploring the school’s place in English mythology and society and Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma which examines changes in Dutch society through the prism of the murder of Theo Van Gogh. I quite enjoyed The Diana Chronicles for its insights into contemporary British royal society, and while it was criticized for not having any new revelations in it, it certainly did pull together lots of different strands together in a very readable way. And reading it while the inquest goes on, breathlessly covered in the newspapers, perhaps made it even more readable.

I’ve also just finished Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope and gained a newer respect for him- I don’t always agree with him, but I can appreciate his freshness and appeal and his willingness to admit that he hasn’t necessarily got the right answers. His humanity comes across so vividly. And he writes well. I still remember a Nigerian friend from the US ringing me, breathless with excitement after Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention four years ago, convinced that he had just experienced a dramatic historical moment. Yet if I was in the US and a Democrat, I’m not sure who I’d vote for….don’t ask me why- I’m not sure I know the answer myself….

In Nigeria, the sadness of dysfunctional families doomed and locked into a cycle of hurt and despair grabbed the headlines, and made me cringe even as Lucky Igbinedion another of the hapless ex-governors was detained by the anti-corruption body the EFCC. Let’s hope he doesn’t fall ill and end up at the National Hospital Abuja like his mate Ibori…

I was pleased when Gordon Brown appointed Jacqui Smith as the first female Home Secretary, a refreshing break, I thought, from Blair’s tradition of appointing tough-talking bully-boys to the post. I was even more impressed when only a few days in post, she responded to the attempted bombing of Glasgow airport with level-headed calmness. I set this out to explain my bewilderment at her recent admission that she would not walk the streets of London at night- not in notorious Hackney and not in salubrious Kensington and Chelsea. Having walked the streets of Hackney late at night recently after seeing a play at the Arcola and then a meal at Obalende Suya, I am appalled by her comments, especially for the naivete she betrays when she says walking after midnight on the streets is not something people do. I have often argued with some of my City friends about the degree to which the rich and powerful are cocooned from “real life” but Ms Smith’s comments suggest a gap even wider than I had imagined…

Petina Gappah who’s visited us on this blog more than once now has her own blog and Igoni Barrett of Farafina has an excerpt from his forthcoming novel published in Guernica

9 comments:

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

Igbinedion was detained?....na real wah

I remember the days of competitions and spotless uniforms with socks...my latest post is sort of about that.

All the books you read...I envy the time you have to indulge yourself.

Onyeka Nwelue said...

Nice blog. I think it depends what they mean by that: the books you read make you more cultured.

Atutupoyoyo said...

For all you budding entrepeneurs, there is surely a viable business opportunty to be exploited in setting up a website www.burantashi.com. It could be marketed as a natural alternative to Viagra. The potential is infinite.

Spook E said...

**warning** I have a tendency to go on and on and on and...**warning**

Ugh! I can't believe your friends. Bubble gum books can be the most delightful things ever, like eating a whipped cream covered chocolate ice cream cake with a wedge of gorgonzola cheese - you know it's suicide by culinary over-indulgence but what's a clogged attery to a little piece of dairy heaven? I say nothing. Nothing at all. So read and read proud :-)

I started reading this book- you may have heard of it, "Crime and Punishment" by some obscure author...i think his name is Doestoy...whatever. I saw the book on a list of something like..."the 100 greatest books ever written" and found to my horror that I'd read exactly zero, nil, ziltch, nada , not even one of those books...made me feel so damn un-cultured. so I went out and picked out this Dostoy...whatever's book. First 200 or so pages were awesome until you hit the next 100 and find the protagonist is just plain annoying and dumb. Worse is, you've got like a hundred gazillion more pages to go. I was bored to tears. so...what am I trying to say here....

oh well, have a wonderful day.

Jaja said...

Ah, you don return...

the volumes you read, and your speed is daunting..

About that "Man Power" biz, It should be given consideration... As you may already know I am close to Source.. we could start something... what u say?

And RYC, hope you werent just being nice, cos I may hold u to it when the time comes :) Cheers!

Petina Gappah said...

Thanks for the promo, Naija.

CONSCOUSNESS said...

yes Star...!

...yet another off the reel of superbly penned posts...kudos n'all bruv...I also get slightly giddy-headed (and green with envy) at the vast amount of literature you cover...Barack v Clinton – an intriguing and pleasing face off to witness...however, if faced with the arduous choice, it'll have to be Barack for me - racial kinship et. al. (simplistic but that's real talk)...

...what a freak (and borderline incestuous) show unfolds in Naij...always knew these folk were nuts but this exhibition of clinical psychosis is disturbing trust mi!!

...again with the humblest thanks for the brain fodder...

peeeeeaaaccccceeeeeeee!
C!!

Snuffleupagus said...

Well I would vote for Obama. He's great. I read his first book a few years ago. He is a good writer as you say - but his life - and his values - that's why I would vote for him.

Talatu-Carmen said...

your blog is SO delightful--leaves me laughing and thoughtful everytime. Kai, burantashi, ko? To, there's one restaurant in my town called Buraka, which is the running joke of those of us who speak Hausa, amma babu burantashi. LOL!

I've just put Obama's book on my Amazon wishlist. I can understand your breathless friend. Despite my attempts to be cynical about politician-speak, I am dazzled every time I hear him speak--rhetoric or not, it's so refreshing to be able to get excited about the thought of voting for positive reasons rather than because it's the best of two unexciting choices. My vote for Kerry was cast out of dread at another 4 years of Bush. My vote for Obama will be because I'm blown away by him. And certainly, to be honest, it's on more of an emotional than an intellectual level, but intellectually, I grow very hopeful about his grass-roots community-organizing experience, his ability to rally young voters, his appeal for cooperation across partylines, his insistance on nuance, his refusal to get drawn into nasty cheap blows (i pray it will continue...), and, yes, finally, his humour and personality, shallow as that is for a voting reason.... I like him so much that I hate to see what American politics (and presidency) will end up doing to him, but for now, I'm being idealistic and excited, and it's SO nice to feel that way about American politics for a change... {-; I suppose we should enjoy it while it lasts...

I have a bit of long-deserved bubble-gum reading awaiting me, as soon as I finish my damn dissertation proposal: a fluffy Catherine Coulter romance novel a guest left in my apartment and the entire Harry Potter series... Oh to be done... {-;

As usual, thanks for your delightful blog.