The full title is
Ugandan Asians: Then and Now, Here and There, We Contributed, We Contribute
Being a collaborative effort to thank President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for welcoming us back to Uganda and for his untiring efforts to grow the economy
To Pierre Elliott Trudeau for giving us shelter
And to Edward Heath for honouring an historic pledge.
We Contributed, We Contribute
In author’s own words:
It’s like the “autobiography” of our expulsion from Uganda, in 1972, of our life until then and our life in the two major diaspora countries. The expulsion was our WWYW (where were you when) moment, our place in history. We do get a mention in most history books but just a paragraph. I think we deserve more – like this 400 pages/200,000 words book.
It uncovers lots of new facts. Around 80 people never left Uganda for even a day, braving daily phone-in threats of rustication to Karamoja (one got to replying “do it mara moja,” Swahili for straightaway). They were witnesses to mass car auctions where the abandoned cars were sold off to the highest bidder and prices never went beyond three-figures US dollars. They watched the chaotic process of distributing the shops (their own even!). Almost with the fall of Amin, people started trickling in to “look up how things were.” On the diaspora side care is taken to acknowledge the early migrants to Canada and the 100 or so people in the UK in 1957 that the Aga Khan spoke about at his Golden Jubilee banquet in London. Some of their stories are there even. The 3Gs write about their ancestors and their own childhood in the 1940s and 1950s, when almost three-quarters of the Asian population lived within a mile-circle of the Museum Hill. The Canadian refugee mission of 1972 is summarised, based on the diary of the chief of the mission, including how the office was furnished in a record five days. Almost a first are also accounts of the British and Israeli role in Amin’s coup and the often-outrageous telegrams he wrote to world leaders. Towards the end is a light-hearted “socio-economic history” of East African Asians on how our cooking and dressing up changed. There’s a movie going on My Big Fat Desi Wedding, so it’s an entertaining book – otherwise why bother? Long, 400 pages, meant to be read slowly. Those 50 and above will shed a few tears at places. The younger generation will learn why their grampa keeps talking about “Wobulenzi” in every sentence. They will learn how in Gujarati almost all the numbers are distinct upto 100. They may even learn not to mispronounce the various Ns that we substitute for four different Gujarati consonants.
It should be out in “six months time” – about September, Inshallah. I should hasten to add that it’s pan-Asian, covering all the Asian communities in Uganda. It even has a background on the paan!
Vali Jamal was the Senior Economist for the UN-International Labour Organization from 1976 to 2001. He is an original Ugandan Asian. He has a BA from Cambridge University and a PhD from Stanford. He contributes often in the Uganda media. He is currently based at Kampala, Uganda, and can be reached at email@example.com for possible inputs into his book.