Tuesday, January 31, 2017

About Home Between Crossings

It’s mid-twentieth century. Uprisings and nationalism shake Great Britain’s East African Empire. It’s also a pivotal moment for the cloistered Ismaili Khoja community of several thousand in East Africa to begin a process of disassembling from their Indian history and heritage - their native languages, dress and worship practices, and learn to live with a new identity. All this is happening at once in the name of modernization and adaptation, seemingly in response to the Wind of Change blowing over Africa and the associated violence – the riots and armed rebellions. The decade of the 1960s sees independence come to Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika followed by an escalation of African nationalism that swings from anti-European to anti-Asian. The global media begins reporting on exoduses of Asians from East Africa. This comes to a climax in the winter of 1972 when Uganda Asians begin landing as refugees in Canada, Europe, Australia and the USA.

Moti Bai, the middle-aged wife of a Khoja bead merchant on the savannah in Kenya, is confounded. She feels displaced. Like her pioneer forefathers, she hopes to live through the political turmoil with the resilience of her faith and traditions. Yet, both are shifting under her feet, uprooting her from the stories and songs that anchor her. Where do I belong? She asks. What am I without a language I can call my own? Who are my people without a history we can say is ours? Who are we? There are many questions

Home Between Crossings carries an enthralling feminine voice spoken in Frame Story. The literary genre embeds Saurashtran Oral Traditions as spoken in homilies called waez in the jamat khana of the time.

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