Saturday, 5 March 2016

Brownies & Swimming - Our Extracurricular!


My sisters, Farah, Faiza and I in our Brownie uniforms after a March past during a Khushali celebration.
The Brownie Promise
I promise to do my best, to do my duty to God and the Queen and to help other people every day especially those at home. 

The Brownie Law
A Brownie is truthful, obedient and cheerful.
A Brownie thinks of others before herself.

We started every brownie meeting, standing at attention in a circle with two fingers raised reciting the Promise and the Law.  We were a part of the Nairobi Ismaili Brownie troop. Our meetings were on Saturday afternoons on the Aga Khan Primary School field. We were little brownies in our brown uniforms, belts and yellow scarves held together by woggles, with our bird group on the above the right pocket, our wings above the left pocket, and our badges adorning the right sleeve.

Mrs. Noorani was the leader of the Ismaili Girl Guides. She was also our religion teacher primary school. Our wise owls or leaders were Anar and Rozina and two others I can't remember.

The Kenya Girl Guides Association's headquarters is at the Arboretum in Nairobi. We went to buy uniforms and supplies. I remember this big old wooden building whose musty smell was so distinct that I can smell it to this day.

In Brownies we learned to tie knots. The one I remember to this day is the reef knot - right over left and under, left over right and under.  There was another one about a rabbit and a hole, can't remember how to do it though!

Reef Knot

Getting badges were a big part of being a Brownie. You had to do certain tasks to earn a badge.

Brownie badges - I don't know what the top row left and bottom row left ones are for.
Also forgotten what bird groups I was in and what most of them were!
I remember one of the groups was Bulbul. And each of the groups had a jingle; "We are the (seagulls?), swift and six, always flying in a fix".

If anyone remembers the names of the other groups, group leaders and the jingles, please share them.

The one badge I remember getting tested for is the cooking badge (can't even remember if I got it because I failed so miserably!).  Mrs. Noorani tested me in the canteen kitchen during school one day. My mum used to make these fried delicate dough treats called Swedish Rosettes. When my mum made them, they looked pretty simple to make, so that's what I was going to make!  Well, mine did not turn out at all like how my mum made them! The batter just wouldn't stick to the metal flower and I had no idea how to fix it - do I put more milk, or more flour, or more eggs? I think I ended up doing it all! It still wouldn't stick, so I just fried the mixture and made big fat lumps of fried dough!

Camp songs I can still sing to this day (my own version of course!)


Gin Gan Goolie

Kookabara Sits on the Old Gum Tree

The best part of being a Brownie was the camping. We went to Roland camp - 40 years later I find out it's not Roland but Rowallan! 

Rowallan Camp not Roland Camp!
We usually went camping with the the Guides and Scouts and because we were the younges we got to camp indoors! I remember laying my sleeping bag down next to Khatija Didarali and Nighat Bholla and we'd always run for the corner spot. The scouts would tell us ghost stories about Zombie! We had no idea what zombie meant, the way they made it sound, we thought it was the name of the ghost - this one-legged ghost who was killed in the outdoor chapel and now haunted everyone! We were petrified of Zombie! 

Look what I found! A picture of the Rowallan Camp chapel where Zombie lived/lives! 
Other places we went camping were Mount Suswa. We always went with the Scouts. The Scout leaders were so much fun and we looked up to them. I may have forgotten some of them, but the ones I remember are Hitler, Mehboob, Tiny and Toffee.

Lord and Lady Baden Powell were the founders of the Scouting and Guiding movement. They lived in Nyeri, Kenya for two years just before Lord Baden Powell died in 1941. He is buried in Nyeri. This is an interesting read on why Lord Baden Powell chose Nyeri, Kenya as his last home; PAXTU, Oct 1938 - Jan 8, 1941 (I just discovered - My dad was born in Nyeri on December 1941 - missed Lord Baden Powell by 11 months!)). 

When Lady Baden Powell died in England on July 25, 1977, her ashes were flown back to Nyeri to be buried beside her husband. My mum, my sisters and I attended her funeral service at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. We then took the buses they had arranged for everyone to go to Nyeri (100 km away) for the funeral.  We hadn't eaten all day and I fainted standing in a lineup with all the other brownies and guides waiting for the funeral to start! I was revived before Lady Baden Powell's daughter arrived for the burial. It remember it being very exciting rubbing shoulders with her.

Girl Guides

I was also a Girl Guide, but I don't remember a lot. 

Every year at Khushali (July 11th - refer to 'I-S-M-A-I-L-I' - Blog 11) brownies, guides and scouts participated in a March Past (a Parade). It started off with the Aga Khan Band which would start the parade and we'd come marching behind them.

The Aga Khan Band, the faces have changed and the uniform isn't as smart, but the music still sounds the same. 

Thanks to Rosy Gillani for this photo. Here we come marching behind the band!
First column - Karima Jivraj, Rosy Gillani, me in pig tails, Ashifa Lalji, Shemina Kurji, ?, Rukshana Rashid
Second column - Shenaz Velji, Yasmin Thawer


My sisters and I learned to swim quite by accident. Farah my younger twin sister was pushed into a pool when she was quite young and began to drown, till a kind soul dived in to save her. That day my mum decided we were going to learn to swim. 

We lived in Westlands and we didn't have a car so we'd take the bus to the YMCA on Uhura Highway for swimming lessons every day after school. The stop was near the University of Nairobi. We'd get off the bus and walk in the tunnel under the highway to get to the YMCA. It would be an understatement to say I didn't like going. The pool was green and gross, our swimming instructor Mrs. Donahue was strict and I didn't like practicing! I didn't appreciate Mrs. Donahue at the time, but I do now. In her bathing suit and umbrella, she'd walked up and down the pool watching the way we swam. I remember having to do four lengths of each stroke (did not like butterfly!) and then just kick strokes and arm strokes with the floater. 

Later there was also Mr. Waweru who taught us.

What we looked forward to after swimming was the hot cocoa my mum would carry for us in a thermos and sometimes we'd get treats from the tuck shop. Then the hard part was the 45 minute walk home!

Don't know these people (random for the internet taken in 1973) but it would have been shortly before we started going to the YMCA. The pool looked like this, old, green and slimy and I remember this fountain. Not sure it's purpose though! There was a little hill behind where the photographer is standing where my mum would sit with our stuff and where we'd we'd sit on and drink our hot cocoa after swimming.
This is what the YMCA pool looks like now. So much more inviting!
At Aga Khan Primary School, there was a really strict swimming teacher, Mr. Walji who would throw kids that didn't know how to swim into the pool!  When he left, Mr. Waweru who we knew from the YMCA came to teach us and he started a swim team that my sisters and I were on. The practices that we stopped at the Y started at lunch time at school. We would swim every day at lunch - the very same lengths I dreaded at the Y. What we looked forward to was the hot lunches my grandmother would send after. We didn't care that they were curries. We were famished and we'd gobble it up!

I think we had some swim meets with other schools and we'd have an annual Swimming gala at school where the different houses (Blue-Chui, Green-Twiga, Yellow-Simba, Red-Impala) would compete.

We were also always working towards swimming badges; endurance swims, life saving and survival swimming where we had to tread water and blow up pyjama bottoms for buoys.

The top 'fish' badges were for swimming lengths. I got to 5000m which was 200 lengths (could not do anywhere near that now!). The Bronze, Siliver, Gold and Honours badges were Survival 

Swimming at that level ended for me after Primary School. My high school did not have a pool and I have never swam at that level again. My sisters and I are grateful however that we can swim and have my mum to thank for.

Kahzmir's Day 2 of 10 in 10 Days!
My First Birthday!

Thank you for sharing Day 15 of 50 with me!


  1. I never knew the Powells' were burried in Kenya. That's really cool. Learnt something new!

  2. Amazing Minaz . I was both a brownie & a girl guide.BringS back lots of memories.Keep on writing.Loving every bit of it.Yours or your sisters faces haven't changed. WELL MORE PRETTY & BEAUTIFUL NOW!

  3. Omg- i want to cry- all these memories... I just want sing eji tariyetu tarana ah rakulawana ..., and eat aloo bateta from canteen and the chips at the back and kill Mr Kariuki and wonder if Miss Thobani had a thing for .... And just enjoy Grease and Abba song books and omg win the back stroke in swimming gala!

    1. Sidharth, so nice to hear from you! I bet you can sing ginans better than the rest of us Ismailies! I meant to mention you in the swimming... and your sisters and Rukshana Rashid and Bhinda! Have also been thinking about those awesome plastic lunch containers you would give the entire class on your birthdays! Everyone wanted to be in class with you then!