INDIAN ELEMENTS IN THE WORKS OF M.G. VASSANJI

Dr. Hareshwar Roy

The present chapter aims at an evaluation of the varieties of indianity in the works of M.G. Vassanji. Diasporic writings are invariably concerned with exile, memory, diasporic consciousness, longing for return, alienation and search for identity. All these characteristics find unique articulation in the novels of M.G. Vassanji. Vassanji has produced five novels tracing the migration of people from South Asia in the late 19th century to East Africa, and then from Africa to North America in the 1960s and 1970s. The Gunny Sack is one of them. It deals with the story of four generations of Asians in Tanzania. Here the author has examined the theme of identity, displacement and race-relations. He also has endeavoured to retain and re-create oral histories and mythologies that have long been silenced.

          The Gunny Sack celebrates the spirit of Asian pioneers who moved to East Africa in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The novelist provides an insightful look also into the culture of one particular group of Indians who were born and grew up in East Africa during the mid 20th century. Living under German colonial rule, the family of Dhanji Govindji becomes permanent residents of Africa while witnessing historical events that result in the birth of African nationalism. In this fantastic piece of work the writer focuses on the problematic union of East Africa and South Asia. The tension arising from the contact between the two lands is captured mostly in the characters that migrated from India to East Africa. Here most of the Asian African characters such as Dhanji Govindji and his descendent Salim Juma take part in the quest for new homes and identity. It is interesting that the same quest for new homelands that were more promising in terms of prosperity was to be Govindji’s downfall.

          The main story of this novel is narrated by Salim Juma. It is he who is bequeathed a gunnysack by his mystical grandaunt named Ji Bai. This sack is an ancient sack that is full of mementos. It appears as a metaphor for the collective memory. It becomes a device to recall the author’s family history in India, Africa, England and finally North America. Nicknamed ‘Shehru’, the gunny unravels a gallery of characters whose unwritten stories reflect the Asian experience in East Africa over four generations. It seems that the novel is both the story of one extended family’s arrival and existence in East Africa as well as a repository for the collective memory and oral history of many other Asian Africans.
          The first section of The Gunny Sack is very interesting. In this section we see that Dhanji Govindji arrives to Zanzibar as a trader from Junapur in Gujarat in the late 19th century and then settles at Matamu in Tanzania. He has a son, Husein, with a discarded African slave, Bibi Taratibu. Later growing in prosperity, Dhanji Govindji marries Fatima. She is of Indian extraction. She is the Squint-eyed daughter of a Zanzibari widow with unknown antecedents. But when Dhanji Govindji’s half African son Hussein disappears into the east hinterland, he pays out his fortune in attempt to find him again. In search of Husein he devotes more and more time. In this search mission he spends not just his own money but embezzles that of others to support his search mission of his lost son. One morning Dhanji Govindji is mysteriously murdered. The cause of Dhanji’s death is narrated as a shabby affair that might be tied to his serving of ties with his relatives in India so as to establish himself and his descendents in the new world:

      A few years before, the Shamsi community in India had been torn apart by strife. Various parties had sprung up, with diverging fundamentalist positions, each taking up some thread of the complex and sometimes contradictory set of traditional beliefs, hitherto untainted by theologian hands, to some extreme conclusion and claming to represent the entire community. The bone of contention among Shia, Sunni, and Sufi and Vedanti factions became the funds collected in the small centres and mosques. Faced with this situation, Dhanji simply stopped sending the money on to any of the big centres and kept it in trust for the Matamu community. The strife had resulted in the murders in Bombay and Zanzibar. And now it seemed, in Matamu…. Mukhi Dhanji Govindji, Sharrifu to the Swahilis, was buried with full honours by the village of Matamu, carried in a procession of males headed by Shamsi, Bhatia and Swahili elders to the grave, grieved for by women ululating along the way.1

          We can read the implications of the strife outside Matamu in far away India as being intimately connected with Matamu itself. Moreover, we can also read the implications of Govindji’s mental turmoil on his community. As he has stopped sending funds to the mother community of the Shamsis back in India, Govindji declared the autonomy of the Shamis of East Africa and sought independence. There are insinuations in the novel that Dhanji Govindji had used money drawn from public coffers for personal needs without consulting other faithful. This independence of the mind was the one that had enabled him to make a journey in a dhow across the Indian Ocean to Zanzibar. In the novel, this act of dislocation from the originary homeland in Junapur and locating oneself in the East African coast is very significant. This act was to be the initial step in the troublesome quest to belong that future generation of Govindji’s family such as Salim Juma were to face.

          The novel ends with dejected Salim alone in a basement of a flat somewhere in Canada, the last memories coming out of a gunny sack he inherits, hoping that he will be the last migrant of his family-line. The last paragraph of the last chapter of The Gunny Sack captures Juma’s wish:
The running must stop now, Amina. The cycle of escape and rebirth, uprooting and regeneration, must cease in me. Let this be last runway, returned with one last, quixotic dream. Yes, perhaps here lies redemption, a faith in the future, even if it means for now to embrace the banal present, to pick up the pieces of our wounded selves, our wounded dreams, Little, One, we dreamt the world, which was large and beautiful and exciting and it came to us this world, even though it was more than we bargained for, it came in large soaking waves and wrecked us but we are thankful, for to have dream was enough. And so, dream, Little Flowered.2

Salim Juma, the narrator who now lives as an exile in Canada, utters this above-mentioned passage. He is just one of the droves of Asian Africans who left East Africa after independence for Britain, Canada and the United States. After the migration of his forebear, Dhanji Govindji, from Junapur in India to Zanjibar; after the migration of his family from Tanzania to Kenya, then back to Tanzania and finally after his migration to Canada, Salim is tired and exhausted by the perpetual feelings of unhomliness and impossibility of belonging.

          A sense of identity, a feeling of discrimination and demarcation, has always been in the writings of the literary members of Indian diaspora. Writing from a ‘hyphenated’3 space probably instigates authors like M.G. Vassanji to manifest their expressions of identity. In The Gunny Sack, M.G. Vassanji talks about volatile union of Africa and expatriate Indians. The being formed from this union is charged with the relentless quest of trying to find its own true meaning. The identity that the Indians are searching for is produced through this union. Salim Juma recounts the consequences of the family movement from Porbandar, India to Zanzibar, Africa. The narration carries an air of vividness and a sense of reality, as Salim recounts the fortune of his family under German, then British colonialism, and finally under Julius Nyrere’s socialism in independent Tanzania. It is a spirited saga of alliances, rivalries, success and failures. It illustrates the ability of the Shamsi community to survive oppression, fragmentation and displacement. For these children of Africa and India, the question of identity becomes an important issue. The maintenance of traditions and culture turns out to be significant.

          M.G. Vassanji seems to suggest that when several cultures exist together, it is essential for each culture to have its own distinguishing identity. But when this identity is imposed on a particular culture on the basis of race, colour and religion, the cruel brutalities become rife with reality. Vassanji focuses on this part of reality in his works. In The Gunny Sack the colour of human creed becomes important. The characters of this novel seem to draw their identities on this basis.

          The sense of being that Vassanji portrays for all the characters comes from the theory of discrimination. Perhaps through this observation, Vassanji draws our attention not only to the circumstances under which Asian Africans developed their interstitiality but also to the fact that they have lost their sense of a secure identity, theirs is now an identity of the in-between space, an identity that does not make sense in a world interpreted in terms of Black or White.

          The diasporic subjectivities that Vassanji and his characters illustrate are transfigured many times over in multiple sites through self-chosen migrancy or enforced wanderings as well as exile. Since diasporic identities get constantly ruptured together with their language, class, race and gender denominations, and get mutated as well as reconstituted in the trans-local spaces, the originary notions of home which are imagined over and over again in different ways across borders and boundaries become ambiguous in Vassanji’s case as well as in case of other diasporic writers. Having been removed from a place of supposed origin and without emotional, political and cultural affiliations, to territorially bound, static localities diasporic people move on, as indeed their homes do, like tortoises and their shells. Peter G. Mandeville, therefore, comments that ‘identity and place’4 of diasporic communities ‘travel together’5 and these communities practice ‘the complex politics of simultaneous here and there’. 6

For Vassanji, home is multi-locational in urban sites. Land based ties and strong social bonds that would generally hold together people rooted in native, rural places do not apply to this Kenyan-born-Tanzanian expatriate writer of Ismaili-Indian descent, domiciled in Canada. Owing to his over-hyphenated identity, the question of exilic condition in the urban landscape for him becomes entwined with the notion of home away from home in one sense and no home in particular in another sense. Home in his case is freighted with enormous investments of the imaginary. At least this is impression he casts on us when we read his interviews. In an interview with Sayantan, Vassanji says:

I am more comfortable defining myself in terms of my locale and city. That way Dar es Salaam would be probably the first place that figures as home. Every writer, I think belongs to his city, to the streets and his urban landscape, assuming he is part of an urban ethos. Another place I could call home in that sense would be Toronto in Canada.7

          In another interview with Gene Carey, Vassanji says:
Once I came to the United States I had a fear of losing my link with Tanzania. Then I feared going back because if I went back I feared losing the new world one had discovered.8

          Vassanji’s statements make it clear that he is caught between the homes ‘there’ and ‘here’. On the basis of the idea of multi-locational home he conciliates between the nostalgic desire for home and community through his characters. These characters are people living on the fringes of host society and dreaming of a home, replete with intimate memories and feelings of emotional affiliations. The narrator’s remark in The Gunny Sack sums up the lives of the Indian traders:
Among the trading immigrant peoples, loyalty to a land or a government, always loudly professed, is a trait one can normally look for in vain. Governments may come and go, but the immigrant’s only concern is the security of their families, their trade and their savings.9

          Their lives that unfold a saga of self-survival through countless dispersion, losses, separations, ruptures are never mapped onto the history of the nation they have either left behind or the one they have come to as immigrants. Their family lore across generations builds up an intimate domestic context that is far removed from nationalist politics and recorded public memory.

          The writings of all the Indian diasporic writers usually focus on the discrimination, differentiation, injustice and inequity that have been a part of life of almost every East Indian immigrant. Such treatment of life has compelled them to become nostalgic. Perhaps that is the reason why these writers tend to draw upon the reservoir of memories from their homelands. In The Gunny Sack Salim Juma’s remarkable remembering includes finding the significance of ancestral genesis and genealogy. Vassanji, double diasporic Indian writer, talks more about East Africa than anything else. His novels The Gunny Sack and The Book of Secrets and his collection of short stories, Uhuru Street – are all focused on the lines of Indians in East Africa. Vassanji says:

I write about my own people because we are a people without any sense of history and place. A person without history is like an orphan. We know the name of the place we stay, we know our immediate surroundings, but we tend to look towards a future – tomorrow and day after tomorrow – of a better future may be. But where is our past? Where are our roots? 10
          In an interview M.G. Vassanji says to Kanaganayakam:

Once I went to the United States, suddenly the Indian connection became very important: the sense of origins, trying to understand the roots that we had in us.11
          In Vassanji’s The Gunny Sack the historical past concerning origins engages his characters in a tortuous way, mediated through memories of countless displacements and ruptures:
…. wisps of memory. Cotton balls gliding from the gunny sack, each a window to the world….Asynchronous images projected on multiple cinema screens….Time here is not the continuous co-ordinate ….but a collection of blots like Uncle Jim drew in the Sunday Herald for the children, except that Uncle Jim numbered the blots for you so you traced the picture of a dog or a horse when you followed them with a pencil….here you number your own blots and there is no end to them, and each lies in wait for you like a black hole from which you could never return. 12

          Since a black hole is a condition in the outer space from which no matter and ray can escape, Vassanji uses this figurative as a dark, endless one way passage from which the diasporic self can’t return, nor indeed can he progress towards any closure or resolution unless it is forced and deliberate. In this fictional scheme, migrancy turns out to be basically an interminable narrative journey without any beginning or end.

          In The Gunny Sack, memory negotiates the colonial and postcolonial history of East Africa. Throughout the narrative the history of the struggle of imperial powers of Europe like Germany and England over colonies in Africa, the world wars, their impact on the demographic profile of Indian diaspora in the African east coast, and finally the decolonisation of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zanzibar and other nations constitute the troublesome destiny of the people. They are forced to migrate and re-migrate to places both imaginary and real. Throughout the novel Salim Juma negotiates communal and individual identities, the life of the continent of Africa and the lives of individuals. He explores the past, constructs genealogies and traces the complex formations of the sites of subjectivity through ruptures, dispersal and mutations.

          The past is retrieved in The Gunny Sack and reconstituted only through the backward gaze upon the gunny sack that still carries the dust of Kariakoo, a street in Dar es Salaam where young Kala Juma, the narrator, fortuitously meets Grandmother, Ji Bai, who conjures from the past people, times and places for him. He admits:

Thus past gets buried, but for my drab, my sagging ugly shehrbanoo, from which the dust of Kariakoo has not been shaken yet.13
          The dust -- metaphorically, the remains of the dead -- magically bodies forth the past and the entire line of forebears. Ji Bai speaks to him almost like a prophet. She says to him that she will give him his father Juma and his father Husein and his father -- And thereupon begins Juma’s journey back into the realms of past. He says:

Ji Bai opened a small window into the dark past for me ……and a whole world flew in, a world of my great grandfather who left India and my great grandmother who was an African, the world of Matamu where India and Africa met and the mixture exploded in the person of my half-cast grand father Husein who disappeared into the forest one day and never returned, the world of a changing Africa where Africa and Europe met and the result was even more explosive, not only in the lives of men but in the life of the continent.14

          The knowledge of one’s origins and past, howsoever shameful and sordid, is necessary. The search for the origins and past is also a moral responsibility towards the posterity and future to be assumed, in addition to the necessity for self-knowledge and survival on the part of the diasporic self.
No New Land is Vassanji’s second novel. It is a poignant story of the immigrant experience. It creates a rich portrait of a transplanted community. Here Vassanji appears as a keen observer of lives caught between one world and another.

          This saga of global uprootedness and unstable migration is dramatised in Vassanji’s No New Land. Here the novelist illustrates the fate of the Asian Africans in Canada. Like a keen observer Vassanji portrays how the immigrants are victimised. He wants to draw the attention of the readers on the themes of exile, alienation, memory, nostalgia, identity, race, culture, tradition and community.
          The novel, No New Land, opens in Canada, with the Lalani family shown in the grips of a big tension and panic because Nurdin Lalani, the head of the family, has not come back home from work. Nurdin and his family had come from Africa and settled down at Toronto. The family of the protagonist Nurdin Lalani is a double immigrant family -- Asia to Africa to Canada. The novel moves in flashback of incidents and events.

          No New Land deals with the story of Shamsi community. As we know that diasporic writings are invariably concerned with writers’ attachment to their homelands, it is quite evident in Vassanji’s No New Land. Here we get an elaborate description of East Africa in the second chapter. In this context Vassanji can be compared with Rohinton Mistry who also describes his homeland India in his novels like Such A Long Journey and A Fine Balance.
          The quest for identity is one of the important issues in the writings of diasporic writers. Vassanji’s No New Land is not an exception. In this novel Vassanji attempts to explore the quest for identity through the character of Nurdin Lalani. Lalani endeavours to establish an identity of his own. The family, the community and the society obstruct his endeavours. The displacement, racial discrimination and the generation differences put hindrances in the way to formulate an independent individual identity.

          Throughout the novel, Nurdin tries to formulate an identity for himself. In No New Land the discrimination based on colour is projected powerfully in the following observation:
The black kicked us out, now the whites will do the same…
Where do we go from here? 15

Roots play a significant role in the lives of immigrants. Their behaviour, attitude, and modes of life, seem to be formulated by their roots. Nurdin has his roots in India. His father went to Africa many years ago with certain innate Indian characteristics. Nurdin inherited these characteristics and came to Canada with them. The Indian characteristics can be seen through its customs, tradition, typicalities and cuisines that Vassanji portrays in No New Land. It can be observed in the very beginning of the novel. When Fatima receives envelop from some University, which may decide her career, she becomes excitedly anxious. Becoming nervous may be a human trait, but whispering prayers superstitiously due to nervousness, anxiety and excitement is a typical Indian characteristic:
It did not occur to her that the decision she awaited had already been made a few days before, and she whispered a prayer in much the same her mother sometimes did…16

          Nurdin’s wife Zera also shows the typical Indian traits in her. When the Lalanis immigrated to Canada, Zera had got with her lots of souvenirs and memories from Africa. But when they settled down in Sixty-nine Rosecliff Park, most of the things went to the dustbin, except the photograph of Hazi Lalani. It was the first objecte to go up on the walls. One may draw a conclusion that this sort of respect for father-in-law may be a traditional human trait but lighting incense sticks and holding them in front of the photograph is an Indian trait of respect and devotion for the father-in-law. Hanif, Nurdin’s son, has also some innate Indian characteristics. Hanif calls Nanji ‘Eeyore.’ 17 Eeyore is an accented form of the Indian word for friends. This is a typical way of summoning friends in India. Friends are sometimes called as ‘yaar’. Yasmin Ladha, one of the Indo Canadian authors, also uses this word ‘yaar’ in her collection of short stories, Lion’s Granddaughter and Other Stories. She addresses her readers as ‘yaar-readerji.18 Not only the Lalanis but other people of Indian roots in the Sixty-nine Rosecliff Park also have such inborn Indian Characteristics. Jamal uses the term ‘chacha’19 to summon an aged person. ‘Chacha’ is an Indian word to show respect for the elderly people. It is an Indian word for uncle.

          Through the various characters of No New Land, Vassanji beautifully portrays some Indian traditions and customs. Touching the feet of the elderly guests always concludes the welcoming ceremony in Indian tradition. When the Missionary, the religious man, comes to Nurdin’s apartment, there was a traditional welcoming ceremony. As he entered the room the females of the congregation, dressed in white, attempted an elaborate welcoming ceremony, ‘with touching of feet and cracking of Knuckles and garlanding….’20 When one visit someone’s house for the first time, it is an Indian tradition to take sweets or fruits along. Nurdin does not forget his tradition. When he and Romesh visit Sushila’s house at Kensington Market, they take some fruits with them.

          While portraying Indian traditions, customs and typical characteristics, Vassanji talks about the Indian cuisines. As we all know, the food one takes, affirms the traits of a particular place. The food that the Indian dwelling in Sixty-nine Rosecliff Park eats shows that they belong to India. For instance, chappatis is the staple food of people of Northern part of India. Indians prefer to take it with pickles. They even tend to put ghee or clarified butter over the chappatis. Sheru Mama and her husband, Ramju, tend to serve chappatis that way:

Sheru Mama makes hundreds of chappatis everyday and baby-sits to toddlers at the same time, while husband Ramju helps with the dishes and puts the required dollop of margarine over every chappati. Her customers tend to be single men who will eat a chappati with a pickle, or butter and jam, or curry canned in the United States. 21
          ‘Samosas’ 22 are one of the favourite snacks of the people of Northern part of India. They like to take them with tea, especially; ‘Tea would fetched and samosas.’23Vassanji mentions about having Samosas with tea even in one of the short stories in Uhuru Street. In ‘In the Quiet of a Sunday Afternoon’, Zarina sells samosas to the Indian people living in Uhuru Street. We can get a sentence like this, ‘I have tea and wait for the woman to bring samosas.’24 Indians are well known throughout the world for a variety of fried and spicy food. Even in breakfast, they prefer to have fried food. When Mohan and Lakshmi, the Indians from Guyana stayed back for a night in Nurdin’s apartment, Zera made some ‘puris.’25 Uma Parmeswaran, in her Rootless But Green are the Boulevard Trees, mentions several Indian cuisines. One of her characters says:

How about puris? I haven’t had a good Indian meal in ages. Here, I’ll get the dough ready. Arun, it is time you wash your eyes. Slice some onions for raita. 26
          The literary members of Indian diaspora use the names of Indian cuisines deliberately. Through this act they want to affirm their existence and identity. In fact, the cultural identity that comes up through food is very powerful because it exhibits the everyday modes of life. This is the reason why Vassanji mentions the names of food in all his works. It is not only descriptions of about food, but also enumerating the traditions, customs and typical Indian characteristics that prove the fact that maintenance of culture is an innate trait of immigrants.

M.G. Vassanji’s third novel, The Book of Secrets, was published in 1994. It’s a fine piece of work that foregrounds the themes and ideas that recur throughout M. G. Vassanji’s fiction. It is an engrossing account of Asians in East Africa. Rich in detail and description, this award winning fiction magnificently deals with immigrants and exiles. It appears as a story of displacement, physical and emotional, and one’s search for identity and a promised land. It explores the state of living in exile from one’s home and from oneself.
          The world of The Book of Secrets is part fiction - part memory, a history of the people who left Indian shores in search of a dream for Eastern Africa. Here the author focuses on the interaction between the Shamsi [Indian] community and native Africans, as well as the colonial administration. Even though none of the characters ever return to India, the presence of the country looms throughout the novel. Here M.G. Vassanji’s engagement with the history is very significant. With it he has attempted to explore his own past and the past of Indian community in East Africa. He has brilliantly and skillfully woven the past with the present. He discusses “how history affects the present and how personal and public history can overlap.”27

          The Book of Secrets is an eloquent story of the diary of Albert Corbin, a junior British colonial administrator, who has served many years in various East African colonies. Corbin is posted to Kikono, a tiny fictitious Kenyan town near the border of Tanganyika. Immigrants from India, who had come to East Africa in the second half of the 19th century, had founded this town. They became traders and over the generations, some of them prospered. They lived through two world wars, married within their community and lived within their faith. When independence came in 1960s, they were destroyed by the native powers. Thus M.G. Vassanji gives us the history of Indian settlements practically from their beginning to their almost destruction. Pius Fernandes, the narrator of this fascinating novel, uses this description to refer to an old diary on which the novel is based.

          Struggle for identity is one of the important features of diaspora. M.G. Vassanji always attempts to establish the quest for identity through his works. His novel The Book of Secrets is a beautiful example of his fictional efforts to resolve the enigma of identity.   The identity that M.G. Vassanji portrays for all his characters comes from the theory of discrimination. This theory is based on colour. But in The Book of Secrets the discrimination is tinged with staunch orthodoxy. The following passage in The Book of Secrets focuses the real feeling of the White for the people like Nurmohamed Pipa:

“The Indians are half savages”, Mrs. Bailey observed, beginning an explanation she had obviously thought out conclusively and in detail.
“And, therefore, worse”, said her companion.

“You can do nothing with them.”
“Gone too far the other way”, she means.
“At least the African you can mould. But the Indians and that Mussulman are incorrigible in their worst habits and superstitions. They will always remain so.”28
          Nurmohamed Pipa is a typical case of racially migrant born in East Africa -- though native; his alien origins make him simply impossible to belong to Africa. Pipa like his community in real life forever finds himself at the nexus between political discourse and identity formation. In other words, he can’t define himself out with the racialised political and socio-historical backgrounds that nurse him. His estranged sense of being starts from the very early moments of his life. It is visible in the following excerpt from The Book of Secrets:

His name was Nurmohamed Pipa….Pipa was the nickname given to the family by the neighbourhood, and had stuck. It made him feel a lack of respectability, of a place that was truly home. He was simply an Indian, a mhindi, from Moshi, a town in the vicinity of Kilimanjaro whose masters were Germans.29     
          Nurmohamed Pipa, a metonym of Asian African community, is not only a restless character but also a homeless one. It is a deep sense of unhomliness that makes the forefathers of Asian Africans such as Dhanji Govindjhi in The Gunny Sack to migrate from the borderlands of Cutch, Kathiawar and Punjab. It is the same deep sense of unhomliness that drives Nurmohamed Pipa away from his borderland birthplace of Moshi in search of comfort, home and security. It is still the same deep sense of unhomliness that drives scores of post-Pipa generations of Asian Africans from the borderland that is postcolonial East Africa. East Africa is a borderland, a world in-between India and the new Asian African homelands in North America and Western Europe.

          In The Book of Secrets Nurmohamed Pipa can be seen struggling for home. He feels compelled to run away from spaces that stand in the way of his desire for homely life. This is why Pius Fernandes expresses his view:
Pipa was home now, yet lived in fear. He was a marked man, known both to the agents of Maynard and the allies of Germans; any of them could call on him as they had done in Kikono.30

          This illustrated feeling of unhomliness that Nurmohamed Pipa feels after his interstitial experience of the First World War later becomes the hallmark of his state of being as well. No matter where he goes or what he does, he never gets comfort or feels at home. Here we are brought to share in the pains and searching for homes and the pains of losing these homes.

          Memory is also an important characteristic of diaspora. This characteristic has a significant place in The Book of secrets. The world of memories has always been the germ of Vassanji’s fiction. The author’s engagement with the past and heritage through memory is very significant. In The Book of Secrets memory negotiates the colonial and postcolonial history of East Africa to underscore its contradictions and contingencies. Throughout the novel the history of the struggle of imperial powers of Europe like Germany and England over colonies in Africa, the World Wars, their impact on the Indian diaspora in the African East Coast, and finally the decolonisation of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zanzibar and other nations constitute the troublesome destiny of the people. They are forced to migrate and re-migrate to the place both imaginary and real.

M.G. Vassanji’s fourth novel is Amriika. Once again it deals with the themes and ideas that recur throughout his novel. It is an excellent tale of immigrant experience.  It explores the state of living in exile. In ‘More Personal Notes on the Book’ the author himself has expressed his views about this book. He says:
How far can political commitment and radical dissent go? How far west can you go? In Canada this novel, beginning in Boston-Cambridge in the Vietnam War era, was seen as documenting the travails of an immigrant; in India it was seen pre-cursing 9/11.The reader can draw his or her conclusion. “Amriika” is how Indians pronounce America.31

          The novel Amriika deals with Ramji, the protagonist of the novel. His name has Indian essence. This earnest and intelligent novel, the fourth from the Indian born author of The Book of Secrets, sedulously charts an Asian African immigrant’s experience of three decades of recent American history. Here is a writer from the Indian diaspora who wishes to write back not just to the empire, but also to his homeland.

          Praised for its combination of history and fiction, The Gunny Sack was a movingly told story of a small community of Asian Africans, whom M.G. Vassanji called the Shamsis. “This community corresponds to the Ismailis, who regarded Aga Khan as the 10th avatar of Vishnu.”32 In Uhuru Street, M.G. Vassanji went back to the lives of Cutchi settlers in Dar es Salaam. In Amriika M.G. Vassanji uses the same material, but with a new twist.

          M.G. Vassanji, a gifted writer, is a shy, reticent man who hardly looks or behaves like a famous writer. Like The Gunny Sack, No New Land and The Book of Secrets his Amriika is a fantastic piece of work. It is a well told, even observing story that adds to Vassanji’s already versatile and considerable oeuvre. It is an outstanding novel of personal and political awakening that spans three highly charged decades of America and explores the eternal quest for home. Dealing with the theme of rootless ness, it suitably and beautifully articulates nearly all the features of diaspora. Talking of this book and the protagonist Gene Carey is of the view:
Vassanji has inevitably woven his newest tale around the issues of exile, longing, displacement and, ultimately, acceptance. The world of the 1960s from the backdrop – a world of changing values and sexual freedom, of peace marches, religious cults, and protest bombings -- that is the world that Ramji inherits and shapes to make his own.33

          In this beautiful and richly textured mosaic of lives and events, M.G. Vassanji deals with the personal experience of an immigrant named Ramji from the Cutchi Ismaili Muslim community. As M.G. Vassanji did in The In-Between world of Vikram Lall, he guides his narrator to a safe location to reminisce. In The In-Between World of Vikram Lall it is Southern Ontario in Canada but in the present novel it is California.

          Ramji, an immigrant from Dar es Salaam, narrates many parts of this novel by Vassanji. These parts tell a compelling story of displacement and it’s after effects. From the Gujarat he never knew, to the Dar es Salaam he grew up in, to the America he adopted as his own, M.G. Vassanji traces the diasporic journey of an immigrant in Amriika. The name of this immigrant is Ramji who is the protagonist of this novel. He seems to be modelled so closely on M.G. Vassanji himself. Here the author records his initiation into student life in Boston.

          The plot of this novel is very straightforward. Indian origin boy, a second generation African, Ramji is a native Gujarati Muslim. He belongs to a small community of Cutchi Ismaili Muslims who have settled in Dar es Salaam. His parents are dead and his deeply religious grandmother raises him. Like M.G. Vassanji himself, he leaves his home, and his grandmother in Dar es Salaam, to pursue a bachelor degree on scholarship at the Boston ‘Tech’, a prestigious American school. As a student he arrives in the United States in 1968 from Dar es Salaam, East Africa. ‘It was time of protest and counter culture.’34 Studying at ‘Tech’ which is obviously modelled on MIT, he is drawn into campus radicalism. He very soon finds himself engulfed in radical politics, especially the anti-war movement.

          As an immigrant Ramji comes in America in hope of achieving the great American dream. The myriad facets he is exposed to overwhelm him. But he finds an America far different from the one he dreams about, one caught up in anti-Vietnam war demonstrations, revolutionary life styles, racial discrimination and spiritual quests. The reality he faces is very harsh and awful, and finally he realizes that America cannot appear as a dreamland. He becomes helpless like Nurdin Lalani of No New Land. He has no option except to keep on living there.

          The story of Ramji obviously reflects that the journey undertaken by a migrant or a migrant community in search of identity, belonging and security is normally shattered by doubts, challenges and never-ending feelings of despair.
          M.G. Vassanji takes the dream of the 60s and tells a beautiful tale of a man’s search for his roots. It explores the eternal quest for home. Like other novels of Vassanji, Amriika once again illustrates the complex nature of diasporic narrative. It must speak both to the adopted home and to the homeland, and in Vassanji case the medium or the bridge between the two is older diasporic home, East Africa. In the present novel the protagonist has been shown struggling for home. He hankers after his desire for homely life. In search of this he leaves his first wife and goes to California with Rumina. But when after a subtle rift Rumina leaves home, Ramji is left once more homeless.

          M.G. Vassanji is caught between the home ‘there’ and ‘here’. It becomes clear when we study his novels and interviews. Asked about his sense of national identity, Vassanji observed:
In my heart I am still very much an African, but I have lived in Canada for a ling time and it feels like home. At some point in your life you realise there are several homes.35

          In an interview with Sayantan Dasgupta, Vassanji expresses his views:
I am more comfortable defining myself in terms of my locale and city. That way Dar es Salaam would be probably the first place that figures as home. Every writer I think belongs to his city, to the streets and his urban landscape, assuming he is part of an urban ethos. Another place I could call home in that sense would be Toronto in Canada.36
          In another interview with Gene Carey, M.G. Vassanji says:

Once I came to the United States I had a fear of losing my link with Tanzania. Then I feared going back because if I went back I feared losing the new world one had discovered.37
          He further says:

I went back to Tanzania in 1989 after 19 years. It is a part of my soul. The other part is India, which I visited for first time in 1993. My father has never been to India, the land of my forefathers.38
          Talking of his career and roots, M.G. Vassanji expresses his helplessness about returning. He clearly states:
Once you come here, cross the oceans, there is no going back. There is a psychological belonging to East Africa, Particularly Tanzania. You need something to hold on.39

Sometimes it seems that Ramji is Vassanji himself. Vassanji wanted to return to his homeland to teach after completing his Ph.D. but it was not possible for him. Like him Ramji also longs to go back to Tanzania to join in the political struggle but he is trapped in the ideals. Moreover, the American abundance in every possible way enthrals and mocks the atrophies back home. The siren call, in other words, so powerful that nothing can wean him off it – neither a beloved grandmother’s death, nor the political upheavals. Discussing Ramji’s situation Vassanji says:
He has guilt feelings about not returning back to Channel hi knowledge into politics but the idea remains the back of his mind. If learning about radicalism is the first irony in the book, the second one is realization that in America he is still considered a coloured person.40

Memory plays a very significant role in the novels of M.G. Vassanji. Either in The Gunny Sack or in The Book of Secrets, it is memory that has got a significant place. In The In-Between World of Vikram Lall and No New Land it has played vital role. In Amriika the story springs from the same memory. Vassanji’s engagement with the past is praiseworthy. Unlike the archives, where the past is already digested as the raw material for history writing, the past here is a past of memory. For him it is an aesthetic necessity, and it has great sacral value.

Decades later in a changed America, having recently left a marriage and sub-urban existence, an older Ramji, passionately in love, finds himself drawn into a set of circumstances which hold terrifying reminders of the past and its unanswered questions. In this context Makarand Paranjape observes:

Vassanji’s obsession with the past, with the history of his small community, is well reflected in the tanga painting that he gives to the host family; it bears a simple but telling legend: “Wayfarer look back.” In a sense, this is what Vassanji has been doing all along.41
          Told in a spiral fashion, the story of Ramji moves forth through remembrance, which he re-lives time and again, and his affairs of all sorts. With the help of the history Vassanji has tried to explore his own past and at the same time the past of Asian African community in East Africa and America. He has beautifully woven the past with the present. He tries to discuss “how history affects the present and how personal and public history overlap.”42   

          In Postcolonial times, the Indian community in East Africa got a strange position. Its condition became pitiable. It was marginalized by the postcolonial regime. The members of this community were forced into the international diaspora. The second phase of migration started in the sixties. Some members of the above-mentioned community later undergo a second migration from East Africa towards Europe, Canada and North America. Vassanji is then concerned how these migrations affect the lives and identities of his characters, an issue that is personal to him as well:

[The Indian diaspora] is very important…Once I went to the U.S., suddenly the Indian connections became very important: the sense of origins, trying to understand the roots of India that we had inside us.43
          Vassanji has observed about his characters:

I tell stories about marginalized people. All writers do, whether the people in question be a family of Jews in New York or a farming community in Saskatchewan…I’ve had people who’ve moved from Nova Scotia to Toronto tell me that they can appreciate my stories because it speaks to them of their experience. Again it is one of marginalisation.44

          In short, Amriika beautifully tackles ‘the predicament of in-between socities.’45 It is a fantastic diasporic reminiscence with a great, great deal of authentic detail. It also reads like autobiography, slipping from third to first person at various places in the text. Vassanji, of course, makes a point of insisting that everything in the novel is fictitious, but I cannot agree. The incident may be fictional, but the note of personal experience is unmistakable. Here the typical Third World characters, and their cries, inhabit the hyphenated identities and spaces that Vassanji, a literary member of Indian diaspora, explores.

A fascinating mix of contents flows in M.G. Vassanji, the first writer to win the prestigious Giller Prize twice. He is looming high on the arc of Indian diaspora writers. His fifth novel The In-Between world of Vikram Lall is an interesting and relevant account of the Indian diaspora. It deals with a compelling story of Vikram Lall, a third generation Kenyan Asian. Through this story, set in East Africa, we learn the ambiguous situation and the strange position of Indians of Kenya who are neither indigenous Africans nor European colonizers. Many of them can’t find a familiar refuge on the Indian subcontinent nor in the colonial home country. They are alienated from their African homelands regardless of their emotional attachment and legal status.


          In The In-Between World of Vikram Lall we get Vassanji’s articulation of a most complex diaspora. This novel brilliantly captures nearly all the characteristics of diaspora. It is profound and careful examination of an immigrant’s search for his place in the world. It also takes up themes that have run through Vassanji’s work, such as the nature of community in a volatile society, the relations between colony and colonizer, and the inescapable presence of the past. The major thing that stands out in the book is people who are in-between. The feeling of belonging and not belonging is very central to the book. In his various interviews M.G. Vassanji articulates time and again that when he lived in Tanzania he belonged and did not belong because he had come from Kenya. In short, this novel deals with exile, memory, alienation, longing for home, in-between status of immigrants and search for identity. Here Vassanji demonstrates how the individual is caught in the conflicting demands of race and nation.


          Narrated by Vikram Lall, a disreputable middle-aged businessman, from his new home on the shores of Canada’s Lake Ontario, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is an epic tale of modern Kenyan history, mapped out amid the major transplantations of the Lall family. In the course of about five decades, three generations of Lalls have migrated across three continents in the westward movement followed by a growing number of African born Asians. As a young man, Vikram’s grandfather, Anand Lall – along with tens of thousands of other indentured labourers – is shipped from British India to an alien, beautiful and wild country across the seas to work on the grand Mombassa-Kampala railway, Britain’s gateway to the African jewel. In this adopted land Vikram’s father, Ashok Lall, runs a grocery store in the central Kenyan town of Nakuru before moving to the capital, Nairobi. And it is from this country – now independent and governed by a clique of nepotistic politicians – that an adult Vikram is forced to flee by Kenya’s anticorruption hounds, Lall is fugitive, not from justice, and there is none where he comes from. Now he is alone and lost in the snowy Ontario, suspended between multiple worlds, neither Asian, nor African, nor Canadian, neither innocent nor guilty, a captive observer:

My name is Vikram Lall. I have the distinction of having been numbered one of Africa’s most corrupt men, a cheat of monstrous reptilian cunning. To me has been attributed the emptying of a large part of my troubled country’s treasury in recent years. I head my country’s List of Shame. These and other descriptions actually flatter my intelligence, if not my moral sensibility. But I do not intend here to defend myself or even seek redemption through confession; I simply crave to tell my story. In this clement retreat to which I have withdrawn myself, away from the torrid current temper of my country, I find myself with all the time and seclusion I may ever need for my purpose. I have even come upon a small revelation – and as I proceed daily to recall and reflect, and lay out on the page, it is with an increasing conviction of its truth, that if more of us told our stories to each other, where I come from, we would be a far happier and less nervous people.46  

          Divided in four parts – The Years of Our Loves and Friendships, The Years of Her Passion, The Years of Betrayal, and Homecoming – The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is a bold attempt at telling the epic tale of Asian people in Africa.
          In The In-Between World of Vikram Lall the major thing that stands out is people who are in-between. The story revolves around Vikram Lall whose grandfather, Anand Lall, was brought from India as an indentured worker to Kenya to help build the East African railway. Though his grandfather played a significant role in the development of Kenya, the status of his family remains enigmatic unsettlers. Indians in Africa are viewed as the Other by both whites and blacks. While reading the book we can easily conclude that Vassanji’s world is really in-between because as an Indian in Africa, he is positioned between two groups, the Europeans and the Africans, neither group of which he could be an intrinsic part of and looked down upon with deep suspicion, by both.

In fact, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall tells the story of an immigrant named Vikram Lall who represents the Indians in Kenya. Indeed, the Indians hold that tenuous in-between position, not as lowly or poor as the Africans, but definitely lacking in power and subject to the colonial overlords. Like his father who continued to work as a middleman, no longer in a shop but in the field of real estate, Vikram also took work as someone else’s agent.

In his very early life Vikram experiences the racism that was apparent everywhere. The British, or whites, were at the top of social ladder, while the Africans were on the bottom. Stuck in the middle were the Indians. The ugly and horrible face of the racism can be seen in the following excerpt:

By comparison our end was sedate, orderly: a few vehicles parked, a few rickety tables outside Arnauti’s occupied by Europeans on a good day…….and my sisters and I could go to Arnauti’s, where we were allowed a corner table outside, though not our black friend Njoroge, who with quite straight face, head in the air and hands in the pocket, would proudly wander off.47
          In such a racially divided society, interracial love is not only frowned upon, it can have explosive and far-reaching consequences. Deepa and Njoroge’s love story is drawn particularly gorgeously chiselling out the politics of race, class and identity. Vikram’s sister, Deepa learns this the hard way when she re-establishes contact with her childhood sweetheart, Njoroge. They try to ignore the cultural and colour barriers of that era. They want to marry. But neither community approves of the relationship between them. Njoroge who deeply loves Deepa, finds her family as obstinately against their relationship as Vikram finds his girl friend’s family to be against him – her family is Muslim from Gujarat, while his is Hindu from Punjab.

                    In The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, Vassanji returns to the theme that preoccupied him in earlier works. It deals with the strange position of Asian Africans in East Africa. In the figure of Vikram Lall, Vassanji has created a character whose life reflects the myriad experiences of thousands of Asian Africans in latter half of 20th century, but also, more generally, a figure through whom he explores broader issues of the Indian diaspora.
          M.G. Vassanji is quite a wordsmith. His descriptions of Indian food, family life and community are both rich and delicious. Vikram remembers:

On Saturday mornings, with the schools closed, my sister and I went down to the shop with our parents. Sun-drenched Saturdays is how I think of those days, what memories trapped for me days of play. Though it could get cold at times, and in the morning the ground might be covered in frost. At the other end of the mall from us, Lakshmi Sweets was always bustling at midmorning, Indian families having stopped over in their cars for bhajias, samosas, dhokras, bhel-puri and tea, which they consumed noisily and with gusto.48

          Like many other writers of Indian diaspora, Vassanji uses the names of Indian cuisines deliberately. With the help of this use the author wants to affirm the existence and identity of the Indian immigrants in Kenya. As we know that the cultural identity that comes up through food is very energetic because it highlights the everyday modes of life. This is reason why Vassanji mentions the names of Indian foods in his novels. In No New Land Sheru Mama and her husband tend to serve chappati that way:

Sheru Mama makes hundreds of chappatis everyday and baby-sits to toddlers at the same time, while husband Ramju helps with the dishes and puts the required dollop of margarine over every chappati. Her customers tend to be single men who will eat a chappati with a pickle, or butter and jam, or curry canned in the U.S.49
          ‘Samosas’ are the favourite snacks of people of northern part India. They like to take them with tea. Even in The In-Between World of Vikram Lall we find great fascination of Indians for samosa and tea. Remembering his idyllic childhood Vikram says:

…Indians families having stopped over in their cars for bhajias, samosas, dhokras, bhel-puri and tea….my father and mother always ordered tea and snacks from Lakshmi…50
          It is not only description of about food, but also of enumerating the traditions, customs and typical Indian characteristics that prove the fact that maintenance of culture is an innate trait of immigrants. Vikram and his family, and all the other inhabitants of Nakuru try to maintain their culture.

Esman regards that a diaspora is a minority ethnic group of migrant origin, which maintains sentimental or material links with its land of origin. It is true to this novel. We see that Vikram’s father Ashok, an Indian diaspora, finds references to Indian politicians, such as the pro-axis figure Subhash Chandra Bose and even Gandhi himself, to be ‘quite alien.’51
          In the first section of the novel Vassanji creates a world of immigrants that is a classic, with all the tensions between the generations and the desire to become part of new land without losing the old culture. Vic’s world has an added complication: The Indians, brought in as cheap, reliable, if despised, labour by the British, and are regarded as the outsiders by the Africans. Among the Indians themselves age-old animosities from home continue, exacerbated by the savagely murderous partition of India. The Lalls, Hindus from Peshawar in what is now Muslim Pakistan, no longer have ‘a home’, even if they wanted to return.

          The novel unfolds ‘as a remembrance told by Lall as he looks back on his years in East Africa from the safe distance of Southern Ontario. He has earned this exile from his beloved Kenya.’52 Throughout the novel, the author brings us back to Vikram’s present location, Canada, from where he is recalling his past life and decline – which mirrors that of his beloved country. In short, as an immigrant Vikram ‘retains a collective memory, vision, or myth about his original homeland – its physical location, history and achievement.’53      

Exile, dislocation and displacement have been inevitable motives in Vassanji’s writing. They try to encompass Indians living in East Africa. Some members of this immigrant community have to leave East Africa under pressure. They have to migrate to Europe, Canada, or the United States. Vassanji attempts to show how these migrations affect the lives and identities of his characters. This vital issue is personal to him. That’s why he says:

[The Indian diaspora] is very important…..Once I went to the US, suddenly the Indian connection became very important: the sense of origin, trying to understand the roots of India that we had inside us.54
                    Vikram is a man displaced from history and politics. Caught between several worlds Vic and other Indians are in effect homeless, many of them doubly so, owing to exile that the division of India forced upon many Indians. Kenya and Tanzania and Uganda, cruelly purged its Indian population by the early 1970s simply to assuage and to fortify nationalist or tribal ideologies that at least threatened to become as repressive as the imperialism they replaced. When the Kenyans eventually gain their independence, the Indian community finds itself caught in the middle, as Africans try to take over not just the properties of the British, but also the properties of Kenyan Indians, even those who have lived, as Vic has, all his life in Kenya.

          Vic’s grandfather had arrived in Kenya as an indenture. His exile had taken place due to poverty and repression of the British. Vic’s father has to leave Nakuru due to insecurity and Vic has to leave Nairobi due to racialist ideologies of Kenya. Vassanji superbly limns the pathos of this condition of a perpetual exile.

                    One of the most impressive thing about this fine novel is that it gives voice to a people, some of whose forebears were in Africa before Portuguese, who have tended to keep their heads down and their mouths shut – and were not infrequently booted out – Vikram Lall says proudly that he is the third generation African; a boast from the time when people said such things, and believed them. He is the son of a grocer, who was himself the son of a Punjabi labourer, an indentured ‘coolie’, brought to East Africa to build the railway line from Mombassa to Kampala, through 600 miles of the loveliest terrain in Africa.

     REFERENCES:
01.     M.G. Vassanji, The Gunny Sack (London: Heinemann, 1989), pp. 42-3.
02.     Ibid., pp. 268-9.

03.     Arun P. Mukherjee, “Introduction”, in Oppositional Aesthetics: Reading from a Hyphenated Space (Toronto: TSAR Publications, 1994), p. Vii.
04.     Peter G. Mandeville, “Territory and Translocating: Discrepant Idioms of Political Locality”, Columbia International Affairs On Line July2000, 21October 2002 < http: // www.cionet.org/htm>. 

05.     Ibid.
06.     Ibid.
07.     Sayantan Dasgupta, “Coming Home”, The Statesman Review 30 May 2000. ts. Jadavpur U., Kolkata.

08.     Gene Carey, “Ramji’s Amrika”, Rediff on the Net 5 May 1999, 5 July 2002 < http: //www.rediff.com/news/1999/dec/ 08us.htm >.
09.     M.G. Vassanji, The Gunny Sack (London: Heinemann, 1989), p. 52.
10.     M.F. Salat, “The Need to discover: M.G. Vassanji’s Writings”, in Jameela Begum, and Maya Dutta, eds. South Asian Canadian (Madras: Anu Chitra Publications, 1996), p.71.

11.     Chelva Kanaganayakam, “‘Broadening the Substrata’: An Interview with M.G. Vassanji”, World Literature Written in English 31.2 (1991), p. 21.
12.     M.G. Vassanji, The Gunny Sack (London: Heinemann, 1989), p. 112.
13.     Ibid., p. 10.

14.     Ibid., p. 135.
15.     M.G. Vassanji, No New Land (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1992), p. 103.
16.     Ibid., p. 3.

17.     Ibid., p. 6.
18.     Yasmin Ladha, “Beena”, in Lion’s Granddaughter and Other Stories (Edmonton: New West Publishers Ltd., 1992), p. 1.

19.     M.G. Vassanji, No New Land (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1992), p. 160.
20.     Ibid., p. 185.
21.     Ibid., p. 61.

22.     Ibid., p. 78.
23.     Ibid., p. 78.
24.     M.G. Vassanji, “In the Quiet of a Sunday Afternoon”, in Uhuru Street (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1992), p. 2.

25.     M.G. Vassanji, No New Land (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1992), p. 121.
26.     Uma Parameswaran, Rootless But Green are the Boulevard Trees (Toronto: TSAR Publications, 1987), p. 20
27.     Amin Malak, “Ambivalent Affiliations and the Post-Colonial Condition: The Fiction of M.G. Vassanji”, World Literature Today 67.2. (Spring 1993), p. 279.
28.     M.G. Vassanji, The Book of Secrets (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1994), p. 39.

29.     Ibid., p. 127.
30.     Ibid., p. 200.
31.     M.G. Vassanji, “Amriika”. < http: // www.mgvassanji.com /personalNotes2.htm >.

32.     Makarand Paranjape, “Looking Back”, Online Edition of the Hindu, Sunday, August 20, 2000. <http: // www.hindu.com / the hindu/ 2000/ 08 /20 / stories / htm>.
33.     Gene Carey, “Ramji’s Amrika”. Rediff on the Net. 5 May 1999. 5 July 2002. < http: // www.rediff.com / news/ 1999/ dec/ 08us.htm >.

34.     Makarand Paranjape, “Looking Back”, Online Edition of the Hindu, Sunday, August 20, 2000. <http: // www.hindu.com / the hindu/ 2000/ 08 /20 / stories / htm>.
35.     Clay Dyre, Review of Amriika. <http:// www. Canadian encyclopedia.com/ index.cfm.
36.     Sayantan Dasgupta, “Coming Home”, The Statesman Review. 30May 2000. ts. Jadavpur U., Kolkata.

37.     Gene Carey, “Ramji’s Amrika”. Rediff on the Net. 5 May 1999. 5 July 2002. < http: // www.rediff.com / news/ 1999/ dec/ 08us.htm >.
38.     Ibid.
39.     Ibid.
40.     Ibid.

41.     Makarand Paranjape, “Looking Back”, Online Edition of the Hindu, Sunday, August 20, 2000. <http: // www.hindu.com / the hindu/ 2000/ 08 /20 / stories / htm>
42.     Amin Malak, “Ambivalent Affiliations and the Postcolonial Condition: The Fiction of M.G. Vassanji”, World Literature Today 76.2 (Spring1993), p. 279.
43.     Chelva Kanaganayakam, “‘Broadening the Substrata': An Interview with M.G. Vassanji”, World Literature Written in English 31.2 (1991), p. 21.
44.     Ray Deonandan, Eletronic Magazine,www.deonandan.com/ < accessed 12th Feb. 2004. >

45.     Smaro Kamboureli, ed. Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature (Ontario: OU Press, 1996), p. 335.
46.     M.G. Vassanji, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (Toronto: Doubleday, 2003), p. ix.
47.     Ibid., p. 3.

48.     Ibid., pp. 2-3.
49.     M.G. Vassanji, No New Land (New Delhi: Penguin, 1962), p. 61.
50.     M.G. Vassanji, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (Toronto: Doubleday, 2003), pp. 2-3.
51.     Ibid., p. 51.
52.     Craig Taylor, Reviews, Canada’s Magazine of Book News and Reviews, <http: // www.quillandquire.com /reviews /review /.cfm? review_id =36127.

53.     Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction (London: UCL Press), p. 26.
54.     Chelva Kanaganayakam, “‘Broadening the Substrata’: An Interview with M.G. Vassanji”, World Literature Written in English 31.2 (1999), P. 34.
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