12 December 2011

My Ayah a snapshot memory...

Kieron and Nigosti circa 1962 
In the British Raj nannies were known as ayahs, after the Portuguese word aia for nurse or governess. I grew up in Aden (Yemen) a mini version of India, where ayahs were mainly either beautifully slender Somali women or Etheopians. 
I had two that I can remember Rhum was Somali with striking East African features and Nigosti who was a great cook. I have only memory flashes of this time but it is of course Nigosti I remember best. She would arrive in the evening to babysit me as my parents went out to dinner or to play bridge. My mum would put me to bed, tuck me in and kiss me goodnight but no sooner than the car would pull out of the drive than Nigosti would burst into my room pull me out of bed and put me sitting cross legged in the middle of the living room rug to share her evening meal. She always brought a tiffin box with her (a three tier aluminium food container with a single handle) which was opened up to reveal delicious food and spread around the floor. One container had rice or vegetables another usually an eye wateringly hot meat curry and the last a type of East African naan bread which was grey in colour and had the texture of a sponge. Perfect for mopping up. We ate with our fingers or more specifically the first three fingers and thumb of the right hand. 
These are some of the earliest tastes I can remember enhanced in no small measure by the delicious naughtiness of being up and doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing and that my mum and dad didn't know about. Something that all kids love! I suspect now my parents must've had an idea of what was going on but decided on balance it was probably prudent to turn a blind eye.


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