It is a summer morning in 1962 when Surish Patel arrives in London via a British Overseas Airways' shiny VC10. Wrested from the only life he has ever known in British Kenya by the Mau Mau riots, he steps off the aircraft with only one hope: finding happiness in his new home. Freshly arrived in the mother country, he, a young British Kenyan man of Indian origin, is about to begin an unforgettable odyssey of self-discovery.
It is not long before Surish settles in the small, seaside town of Blackpool, Lancashire. But even as he seeks to make a name for himself in London with the hope of passing as an English gentleman, Surish still struggles with heart-wrenching grief of having to leave his family and customs behind. When asked, he reminisces and explains to new and curious Anglo-Saxon friends in London his stories of Colonial East Africa, the Wahindi culture, and the religions affecting his way of life. Eventually, loyalty to his beloved family pulls him back to a different, recently Africanized Kenya. Now, as he cares for his widowed mother, he is torn between his obligation to fulfill an arranged marriage and pursue his English rose, the love of his life. He is lost.
In this compelling tale based on true events, Surish explores a new way of life and cultures in an uncertain world where he soon learns more about himself than he ever imagined.
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LOST AND FOUNDA Wahindi Story
By Bip In Chandra
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Bip In Chandra
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLeaving home, 1962
I arrived in London when purple lilacs bloomed at Kew Gardens.
The British Overseas Airways' shiny VC10 made its cameo appearance in the exotic equatorial skies over East Africa leaving Nairobi as nothing more than a pin dot on the map until it vanished from sight. Designed to handle long distance routes with subsonic speed capable of operating from the shorter runways of African airports, the pride of Vickers-Armstrong landed at Heathrow Airport on an unusual summer morning. The weather took most passengers by surprise. In fact, a couple of old colonials point-blank refused to get off the plane. My naïve enthusiasm for the mother country shriveled in the cold and drizzling rain.
My V-neck sweater, the one I did not want to carry, shielded me from the summer chill. When the complimentary bus rides ended, effervescent British ground hostesses congenially ushered us into the terminal buildings. I was unsure of my next move. With eagerness, I followed recognizable faces from the Nairobi flight. Today, my turn to arrive as a hopeful in Britain just the way the English did in 1600's India. I would conjure up a new life—a life of knowledge, intelligence, financial success and happiness.
The thought of moving to a European city filled me with apprehension. Regardless of my complete unfamiliarity with London, I walked towards the immigration and customs hall. It occurred to me leaving home with all in perfect harmony virtually impossible, even in dreams. Shadows of doubt continued to linger within me. Would I be able to support myself in Blackpool? Could I assimilate into a small, British seaside town? My goal was to become a famous filmmaker and to do so, it was important that I succeed at both.
My caring father had reservations about my career choice. Many factors influenced his decision and he admits, "Surish, most artists never make it to limelight."
I never wished to be a stranger to the world, wanted people to call me by my right name, that's all. He gave up influencing his thoughts on me, at first perhaps, taking me for a dancing fool. I imagined he thought I wanted to live an insecure life, but wanted to make it clear no one in my times of troubles will be sorry for me. I may have looked careless and content to him. It was Baa, my dear mother, who quickly intervened and scorned to reply to his charge. I thought if I were a fool, I must be a graceful fool or perhaps a lover of beauty and someday have my accomplishments in print.
When Bapuji (a loving term for father in Gujarati), disagreed no more with Baa, his loving wife, he serviced and sought university schooling for me in India.
I had not quite thought of hurdles come my way. My parents, although apprehensive of my career choice, treated me with respect and not curtail enthusiasm or break my spirit. Surely, I crushed their hearts for not following Indian traditions choosing non-professional career. Like most teenagers, lack of understanding, I failed to appreciate their loving effort to raise children. Closer to adulthood, I wanted to find myself, play life with increasing agility and experience it with marathon runner's endurance. Oh, what a dream!
Suryaben, my elder sister's courtesy telegram from England made the difference. At the time, I was in India and not know life had in store from one day to the other. Next, convoked to a family reunion in Nairobi, I was given a passage to London by aeroplane. I had known my dream poetry driven at expense and generosity of family members. The Patel relations stuck together, saying 'safety in numbers.' Such umbrella hardly stretch 3,000 miles and shelter my loneliness and home sickness in London.
I was lost in reverie until I noticed people at the Heathrow Airport move briskly and often ostentatiously. My thoughts returned to interesting pit stop, four hours earlier, in Benghazi, Libya. From window seat I witnessed a vast contrast between desert contours and tropical savannah landscape we left behind. Soft light spread over the horizon, silhouetting Greek and Italian sponge fishermen earning meager living working the Mediterranean waters in small boats. The plane descended over shimmering waters reflecting bluish-brown tinted shadow of the aircraft. I remained secured in sense of fortune I was a British national and safe in experienced pilot's hands at the controls.
The newness of the harsh and intriguing Arabic landscape made me wonder if any pages from the 'Arabian Nights,' read times over, come to life magically and surprise me pleasantly. My inquisitive mind raised a myriad of questions. I looked at smooth sand dunes and multiple blue light dots lining a flat stretch. At 5:15 a.m. the Tropic of Cancer sun blistered the morning sky. The wake of the new dawn began to fade view of the stars.
The VC10 touched the ground with a bumpy landing, taxied slowly towards the airport lounge, and stopped within walking distance of a scarcely staffed building. The year was 1962, my first time in Benghazi en route to London. The Arabian landscape looked the same in every direction as I stepped down from the plane. The first wave of heat and humidity, similar to that of Mombassa, hit me. I aimlessly followed passengers. Saying "salaam," the Arabian staff expectant of the day's only flight, at ungodly hour, ushered us to the lounge where enormous barometer registered temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The airport came short of my imagination almost to an oppressive point. I already had good-bye on my mind and wondered if others felt the same. In a peculiar way, it resembled a Hollywood backdrop straight from Abbott and Costello comedy.
Our plane refueled in what little of the night remained, and some travel stress began to melt. The Libyan attendants could not hide happiness in anticipation to make a buck or two. Their sweet talk entices us to part with money. With time to burn I decided to wander from the crowd, stretch legs. "Can't imagine, so humid here," said an elderly lady, wiping her forehead. "There is no going back for us. Coffee farm sold for a song to an Indian," said well to do man in gabardine jacket and Tootal scarf. After 40 years in British Kenya, he felt life cheated him. On exit, I heard the passengers talk about relatives in Britain and anxious to meet them. Obviousness refined itself, almost to the point of mannerism; the traveller's kinship, survivors of the hideous World War II remained connected. "More going home for good," I said to myself. In a state of confusion the fellow passengers reaching UK most likely sought new careers. For these wazungu (meaning 'Europeans' in Swahili), the British Kenya Colony considered a charming place. They said, "We love it here just as the rose loves sunlight."
In Mau Mau riots aftermath, most of us convinced everything about land and rights of people became incomprehensively complicated in Kenya. And current politics taught worthwhile lessons to both wahindi and wazungu. In sad reality, a permanent departure for us from place called 'home.' Most Englishmen in British Kenya with fondness said, "Those were the days, my friend, wish it never ends." Some expressed belief 'a resignation to inevitable evils is duty of all.' Yesterday's morning paper, the East African Standard headlines read: 'Sir Patrick Renison, governor, replaced by a man with political experience of a wider character. Mr. Malcolm MacDonald accepts the appointment.'
As for me, I barely made it to the doors of manhood. Bollywood movies had far more influence on me than Sir Patrick Renison. Having lived a joyous school life, I found politics boring. I did not know much about colonial politicians except for previous governor, Sir Evelyn Baring the 1st Baron Howick of Glendale. Once I read a very humane article on him and saw his black and white picture with two Khoja girls. While on vacation, the governor risked his life and saved the teens from being swept away by currents on a Mombasa beach. Baring's swift action made him an instant local hero, most notably with Lady Baring and Khojas. House of Manji, a thriving Khoja establishment, capitalized on good chance for advancement. The owners without arousing suspicions of brownnosing honoured the governor by naming shortcake cookies 'Baring Biscuits.' To everyone's surprise and delight, buttery biscuits won multiple awards at European fairs, which made us all proud. The Europeans learned not only Indians in British Kenya were industrious, but also baked exceedingly good shortcake biscuits.
* * *
I walked on the tarmac and looked at the plane. It stood idle. No one was in a hurry to start the service. Whilst waiting I may as well tell you how the Mau Mau uprising and Kenya's independence dialogues affected our lives in the British colony. Let's start with my only brother Manmauji, aged 30. He cared little about biscuits or the governor. In wonted determination, he was outspoken in his general criticisms. And sometimes mistaken for being whimsical, which damaged more of his character and image than he realized. Interestingly, born in Baa's village, Karamsad, India, full of Indian nationalistic pride had patriot streak in him. In better moods, he shined during dinner conversations on Kenya's independence. With bashful smile, he bravely declares "the colonial spirit invades, makes claims of foreign countries and of personal properties. That's not right! I translate it as: 'what's mine is mine, and what's yours mine too.' No wonder, it gives consequential rise to socialism, power to laborers."
"Very interesting," I thought, affects a worldly manner. Manmauji engaged my attention when he followed dominant Indian traditions. I dare not oppose elder brother. It considered being impolite. Our mother, a loveable blithe spirit, disapproved political discussion at dinnertime. She assertively said "open ended politics has general tendency towards curtailing decent dinner conversations."
In Kenya's independence talks, 'wahindi' (Indians in Swahili) were compromised; a sacrificial lamb. The Colonial Office pledged to make everything easy, but unanswered by what means Kenya's new government be formed?' With the British colonial rule ending, no one was exuberant about the news of independence except for the black natives. The whites and browns with birthrights unsure as to where they stood. The two societies in fear of becoming displaced persons spoke volumes, but in vain. Now the old rug pulled under their feet. They not know another country to call home. With tear-filled eyes, even running down cheeks, many sat in despair of their rights. The British government did not desire, nor dare to interfere in matters of no consequence, unless one produced violence. And Mau Mau delivered.
In early fifties, the first tribal uprising began. Since then, we never needed to worry about leading a tedious, uneventful life. Drama shadowed our footsteps. The native insurgents struck the first blow and below the belt it was. The country received a full play in the press. The East African Standard headline read: 'The First European Farmers Brutally Murdered.' The gory story detailed the Ruck family slaying. The husband, wife, and six-year-old son mutilated with machetes on highland farm. Such violence never happened before. No arrests were made for the murders. Fear struck our African Camelot. The rioters said, "That's just the beginning."
The newly arrived governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, imposed restrictions citing 'Mau Mau emergency.' The British government kept violence under control. The parliamentary ministers representing us 3000 miles away in UK over the next eight years unwittly doomed the future of our Colony. Some said, "The country is changing, change with it." And others said, "The black man will have the whip hand over the white man. It's time to leave." We, non-blacks, trapped in political situation full of hole-and-corner intrigue left 24 months to decide our fate. As for me, I ran barefooted with friends in maize fields behind our home, until enrolled in the high school. I played cricket matches, managed schoolwork and tests. I shirked lessons in both English and mathematics. All of a sudden politics in Kenya became focused for me.
My mischievous brother, as opportunity arose, stood on his soapbox ranting and even criticizing the British rule of India. It was no secret that we two brothers were opposite leaves on the tree and our opinions so far apart as to be irreconcilable. But I must say there were others who shared my brother's views, no one in our family or relations dared to challenge Manmauji's arguments. Since having no information on the subject, I let him have the benefit of the doubt.
* * *
I walked around the small airport building, and wondered who was to blame for our misfortune. "A great British disaster!" said wazungu colonialists. Wahindi were left speechless. Our parents, good people, wished to see children become everything they ought to be in 'Home Sweet Home.' We belonged here, British Kenya. It was a good thing encouraged to grow up as middleclass Brit; exert positive influence, confidence, leadership and manifest in practical skills. The British aristocrats had mastery over everything as owners and providers, the Asians ran commercial organizations, and the Africans took care of labor services. It seemed to us these elements created a unified country fused from diverse groups bound to aristocratic colonialism. Manmauji was quick to point out "one only needs to look carefully to find holes in the fabric and draw questions that defied simple answers."
I felt our valley was green. Baa, our mother, leader at heart cheerfully announced on more than one occasion, "British Kenya is paradise on earth," In the late 1920's she took residency in the British Crown Colony. On arrival, she had affection for the country and its natives. Once settled, she coined patent phrase to describe the near perfect weather conditions and the life she imagined in East Africa as a young woman just turned 21. After moving around half a dozen towns in the countryside, it was in Nairobi she conjured up dreams for herself with her husband, Chandu, like Baa him native of Gujarat, India. They were eager to go abroad. Continue to express themselves, particularly, feel the world; explore. Take things far; take risks, love and enjoy people. They just wanted to know more and see more. On arrival from India, Baa lived a contented life under the British rule, in spite of challenges. With fair court system, she considered the British administration second to none. We felt the joy of her spirit. Born in Nairobi in 1944, I grew up believing the colony remains our home always. We were British, and therefore had hereditary monarchy, a privileged mode of discourse over other nations. The talks, 'the British surrenders the colony to Africans in mid-60's saddened me.' All we loved and cherished soon to be gone.
* * *
I could hardly forget only a few hours ago, a joyous crowd of well-wishers bid me farewell at the Embakasi Airport. Leaving behind a lovely home and orchard with all the circumstances surrounding them, I was appreciative of all the extraordinary pursuits my parents and others contributed to my London trip. During departure minutes, Baa hid her maternal anxiety with a stern manner. Our separation oppressed her with sadness. She tried not to let her eyes fill with tears, put on a broad smile instead and caution, "Surish, you will look after yourself and promise you will write to us." Among other last minute advice, one of the elders say, "The accent's on the youth, but the stress is on the parents." My father briefly said "son, be frugal with money." I boarded London bound plane replete with felicity and settled in designated seat. I, full of excitement, would have considered myself fortunate had I been able to sleep at all after take-off from Nairobi.
I could not imagine I landed in Arabic region of Benghazi, Arabic lands, the foundation of pure Islam, almost 15 years after disputed Jewish-Arab argument. And Britain to secure oil rights, dabbled in the region. Even a novice figures out military strength inspires self-respect. In 1948, one dared not be optimistic or presumptuous about Arab mindset since Palestinian land carved up for new state—Israel. That bothered Arabs immensely. For Israelis, 'Little Arab-Israeli War' marked establishment of an Israeli state, but Arabs calls 'al Nakba' ('the Catastrophe'), a term of displacement of hundreds and thousands of Palestinians. We did not understand that kind of politics, but accepted the world events pertaining Britain.
At this time, you might say, a lot of information is dumped on you. Don't be a weenie. Read on, you'll learn more about the world you live in. The seeds rooted in 1944.
Excerpted from LOST AND FOUND by Bip In Chandra Copyright © 2012 by Bip In Chandra. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Leaving home, 1962....................1
Chapter 2 Our family and Nairobi Lifestyle....................14
Chapter 3 Surish C. Patel School Days....................25
Chapter 4 The Duke of Gloucester connection....................41
Chapter 5 The Headmasters....................50
Chapter 6 Meet sister....................56
Chapter 7 Graduation, what next?....................64
Chapter 8 Early pioneers....................69
Chapter 9 Our house, a very very nice house....................76
Chapter 10 Close encounters of the first kind....................87
Chapter 11 Kunta's benevolence....................89
Chapter 12 Nagara, shopping of convenience....................96
Chapter 13 Uhuru is coming....................102
Chapter 14 The sour apples....................106
Chapter 15 Sister's nightmare....................114
Chapter 16 Around Indian cultures in East Africa....................123
Chapter 17 Nairobi City streets, 1950's....................128
Chapter 18 Khoja Findings....................133
Chapter 19 The Islam connection....................139
Chapter 20 Mohammed marries child bride, Aisha; Abu Sufyan opposes....................151
Chapter 21 Bubble, bubble, boils the trouble....................164
Chapter 22 Mohammed fled to Medina, saves his life....................176
Chapter 23 Face to face with the Jews....................185
Chapter 24 Enter John Piercy staff....................198
Chapter 25 Christine Keeler, demoiselle of my age, in distress....................209
Chapter 26 I miss home....................216
Chapter 27 University Plan....................239
Chapter 28 Enter Alfie McWan....................245
Chapter 29 Loins of Tsavo and Indian Railway workers....................253
Chapter 30 The Portuguese connection and Christian Muslim Feud....................261
Chapter 31 I am sailing, I am sailing to University....................271
Chapter 32 The Scots in India....................291
Chapter 33 Advantage to Devi....................308
Chapter 34 Bombay calling, hello Ritesh....................324
Chapter 35 Desi Connection....................344
Chapter 36 Lovely North Indian Tour....................358
Chapter 37 Devi's misery....................384
Chapter 38 New life goes on....................401
Chapter 39 Characters at John Piercy....................418
Chapter 40 Wahindi Set Up....................435
Chapter 41 Ghosts from the past....................444
Chapter 42 Columbus sails to India and thanks Isabella....................455
Chapter 43 Lost India, the Queen measures damage control....................469
Chapter 44 Enter Leonardo Da Vinci....................484
Chapter 45 Mona Lisa alias Lisa Del Gioconda....................490
Chapter 46 I am going to be a fashion photographer....................501
Chapter 47 Good Bye, Bapuji....................512
Chapter 48 Life changing experiences continues....................521
Chapter 49 The English Rose and I....................534