East African Asians, the Wahindi

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sorry sorry sanna

Sorry, sorry sanna....!

Oh gosh! I have been away so long. Life has been hectic but readers have continued to amaze me with their interest and support. Asante sanna, "thank you too much", just as our home worker used to say when overwhelmed by my family's simple generosity. The reason of the gratitude? An odd shillingi here for washing the car or a pat on the back for killing the mouse at the back of the kitchen cupboard.

Wahindis have been appalled by the behaviour of an old Sikh woman from the Panjab who has been jailed for having her daughter-in-law, Surjit killed and then thrown into the River Ravi. Surjit drowned and was never seen again but the old demonic sassu ji ( mother-in-law) will have to learn to swim in the river of truth and justice as she prepares for a lonely existence in jail. Lonely? Not really, the old mama ya matata may have drug peddlers, murderers and prostitues for company. When in Rome, be like the Romans they say but the old bigot will have to swim her way out of self imposed moral malaria. The mosquito of justice has just bitten where it hurts - her conscience.

How many Surjits are still suffering while their mother-in-laws, husbands and new families that are acquired after marriage are stabbing them daily with the knife of mental cruelty? Was this also a problem in the old homeland of the wahindi? What do you think? Of course it was! There were probably no murders and no conveniently located rivers to throw the daughter-in-law into the river of hate but there were many women who were exchanged into the life of mental demise on a daily basis. The notion of exchange comes from acquiring a good for nothing husband who never learned to stand up to his dominant parents but expected the wife to calmly surrender to his lust when the old mama was apparently sleeping.

The wahindi ya zamani has to become the wahindi ya kesho. Lets look forward to morally reclaimed tomorrows when the old morally corrupt acid in the mama is released before they can harm any more daughters in laws.

Wahindi ya kesho

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Asians have not learnt their lesson, they say!

Various commentators have responded to this blog, for which I am grateful.

One ndugu (brother) from Kenya, who describes himself as a Black Kenyan says that there is still no "social interaction" between the Asians and the local people. If this is true of all sections of the two communities, I am truly saddened. In all social interactions there has to be a common purpose - business, religion, sport, performing arts and professional links which open up peoples' homes after close working brings them together. Reciprocity is vital as is the need to respect the culture of the host. Food is often an interesting source of definition and intentions. When in Zambia, my boss invited us to a traditional Zambian meal. For us former Ugandan Asians, much of the food was quite familiar and we made quick work of the various dishes on offer. However, the top delicacy was fried caterpillars and we could not bring ourselves to eat them. The host did not take offence when he found out that we were not eating his favourite dish. On an other occasion, we made dry mushroom curry, which did not go down too well with our Zambian friends. It would be good to hear from our commentator from Kenya. What form of social interaction is not taking place and what are the expectations of people from both sides.

Another commentator, this time from Uganda, seems to be saying that the Asian community is 'still' far too much engaged in business and its own affairs. They are not supporting community development projects and helping the poor. What form of support are the Asians in Uganda offering as far as health and welfare is concerned? How are they falling short of achieving common objectives?

I think there is a need to know more about what the commentators have in mind. Both of them raise a common concern - is this reported lack of Asian input going to create adverse consequences for the Asians? In what way?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

When in Chengdu, China, do visit the Indian shops

During a recent holiday on the Chinese mainland, it was great to visit the old city of Chengdu, that is the one they have preserved and recreated sections to capture the old glory of the Sichuan capital. It was great fun. The new parts of Chengdu are busy, with major traffic jams during the rush hours. The city is undergoing major expansion and coping with the one major blot on Chinese landscape... smog and general pollution caused by burning coal in factories and from emissions from cars and factories. They are doing something about it, we were told.

Imagine our surprise when the music from the Indian film Swades broke out on a quiet Chengdu afternoon. The music was loud but not intrusive. We were told that music was coming from an Indian restaurant located above a gift shop...it was truly amazing but very welcome. I did not have the time to go check it out but when I had passed the shop earlier, there were only Chinese staff working on the ground floor.

That musical interlude brought back memories of our African friends in Uganda and Kenya who used to sing Hindi songs at popular functions. One of such African musicians was a specialist singer of Mukesh's songs. He was working for Gujarati people and had made a safe choice in copying Mukesh who was one of India's greatest popular singers. It was well known that Gujaratis did not like Mohammed Rafi who was a Muslim, except when he sang Hindi bhajans or religious hymns.

I guess it is a matter of time when a Chinese staff member of the Chengdu shop will be singing songs from Bollywood films. The nearest national border around Chengdu runs along the Tibetan side. Did this factor help to explain why an Indian shop should open up in Chengdu? I hope to post a picture of the shopfront soon.

Can anyone help to explain the Indian influence in Chengdu?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Its best to blame the British. For everything!

Tales from the pseudo-politicians' infertile imaginations.....

Here is an extract from a speech, " Weeeeh, in Indiaah, were living in perfect harmoneey, Hindoos and Muzlims, just like a rich cream of milk, until the Breetish came and put vinegarrh into the pott and turned us into a blend of crude yellowish yoghurt".

Do you need to know more about this speech!

The source of this speech? Well, just imagine that you were reading my first novel. The inspiration is based on real situations and real people. The idea of good milk turning sour after a drop of vinegar is added to it is a very common, but an old one. Whenever disaster strikes as a result of disunity, that is, when one party or faction is trying to blame an external force which seemingly brought them disaster, it is considered best to blame the British...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I really wish I could go to the Samosa Festival!

Zahid Rajan and Zarina Patel of Awaaz Magazine have organised this festival in Nairobi. Details are presented below. I love festivals and have made creating and running them a part of my career.

The programming, content and scope of the events tell me a few things about the festival directors' vision and how they hope to entertain, celebrate and communicate the culture of Asian diaspora. It would be good to be there, talk to the wahindi and their rafikis. They have selected good films and it remains to be seen how the mix of their audiences respond to this offering.

I have seen the films but would see them again. What I would be most interested in is the Photographic and Art Exhibitions. I would like to see how the creators of the work submitted to the Festival see and interpret the cross-cutting themes in their lives through these artforms.

Congratulations to Zahid and Zarina for putting this together. I wish them success. If they are anything like most creative people who are gluttons for punishment, they will be thinking of the next festival before this one has even ended!





Photographic and Art Exhibitions Open Daily 10.00am - 5.00pm (Entry Free)

Thursday 16 November 6.30pm - Opening of Festival

Friday 17 November 7.00pm - Indian Dance Night: Entry 300/- pp

Saturday 18 November 10.00am - 4.00pm - Childrens Activities
7.00pm - Kachumbari Sounds: Entry 300/- pp

Film Shows at Alliance Francaise at 6.30pm (Entry Free)

Tuesday 21 November - 'Water' by Deepa Mehta

Thursday 23 November - '15 Park Avenue' by Aparna Sen

The Godown Arts Centre: 555227, 555770

Zahid Rajan and Zarina Patel Awaaz Magazine Website: http://www.awaazmag.com/P O Box 32843 NairobiTel: 0722 344900, 0733 741085 Alternative email: http://uk.f862.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=zand.graphics@gmail.com

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I have no evidence but I shudder to think...

Do you know of any unwanted and forgotten children...?

It seems to be well known, fully accepted and clearly documented fact that many American soldiers fathered children during their tours of duty in Vietnam. It seems that almost all of of these children were left behind to be brought up by their Vietnamese mothers. I am not aware of any concerted efforts that were made by American servicemen to go back to 'claim' their partners and their children. I think this is an aspect of the war in Vietnam that has not been well documented. I have not come across any serious book which deals with this subject. There was also major occurrence of intermarriage between white men and Indian women during the British raj, leading to the formation of the Anglo-Indian community, which was culturally rich and an achieving one for that.

I would like to know more about what happened in Vietnam and would welcome information from reliable sources.

During the time I was in school in Kampala, one often came across children of mixed race whose fathers had decided to bring them up as Asians. There were notable names in school and divulging them here would be irresponsible. Many of them did well and in the case of a few they also made a name for themselves in several arenas.

So what did really happen to children who were fathered by Ugandan Asian men? Were they living in any predominant geographical area eg the capital or the rural areas? Were they supported by their absentee fathers? I would think not. I shudder to accept the reality that the children were abandoned. I have no evidence but one would hope that the children found stable homes and were able to attend schools of their choice.

However, we also know of some Asian men who married African women, set up respectable homes with them and tried to give the women a proper place in the Asian society. I dont think the Asian society was ready for them. It was racist, judgmental and unfair in a situation where the same society accepted mixed marriages where the women were white. For various reasons, more German women seemed to have married Asian men than any sub-category of 'white' partners. I think there were underlying factors which I will return to in a future post.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Where are they now?

The private sadness of lonely fathers...and mothers.

The story of Asian migration into East Africa consists of many cycles of arrivals lasting 80 odd years from 1890 onwards. The rapid departure of a different generation of Asian people from 1968 to 1972 also shows how a large number of the descendents of the early migrants and of the late arrivals left the three countries in a relatively short period.

It seems safe to say that the Asians followed patterns of chain migration into Africa in very much the same way that their descendants and the aging band of early Asians left the three countries on their way out to find their fortunes in UK, US, Canada, Europe and other parts of the world.

The pattern of dispersal of arrivals into Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania was fairly predictable. Incoming Asians tended to settle in the main cities, Nairobi, Kampala and Dar-es-salaam and the minor towns while many went to the rural areas to run shops or to build new centres for development under the watchful eye of the colonial ruler. Some communities such as the Gujaratis were fairly sedentary, having decided where to set up their businesses they remained there until they were expelled. Others like the Sikhs, Goans and Muslims were fairly mobile. They were not tied to specific locations to earn their living. They moved where there were better prospects.

One thing that was common, regardless of the pattern of arrival or dispersal within the three countries, was how many older Asians acquired secret African mistresses, partners or wives depending on how they wanted to express their relationship in law or in terms of morality. The African women were also sometimes aware that the men had left wives ‘back home’ and that they preferred to have children with their Asian wives than with their African partners. Many Asian families were made up of children that were born after their fathers went on ‘home leave’ after three or four years. The childrens’ ages confirmed these returns.

There were also many children of ‘mixed race’ born to African wives or ‘consorts’ of the departing Asian men. They were almost certainly hidden away in the bush towns and left behind with their mothers. There is no evidence of numbers involved but the Asian men carried their secret children in their hearts and minds. There was also acute sadness in a few cases that I am aware of …. the men, who did not have any other children or partners after they were expelled. They lived alone until they died. How did those children cope after they were abandoned?