We’ve talked about it here before: In 1972, Idi Amin gave all 80,000 Asian Indians living in the Uganda 90 days to pack up and leave. As the BBC reported on August 7, 1972, â€œAsians, who are the backbone of the Ugandan economy, have been living in the country for more than a century. But resentment against them has been building up within Uganda’s black majority. General Amin has called the Asians “bloodsuckers” and accused them of milking the economy of its wealth.â€
A new young adult novel Child of Dandelions by Canadian author Shenaaz Nanji sheds much needed light on the upheaval of Asian Indians in Uganda. Itâ€™s worth checking out, even if you donâ€™t have a young adult in your household, or don’t normally pick up books for younger readers.
The protagonist of Child of Dandelions is fifteen year old Sabine, a girl whose comfortable life is torn asunder on August 6, 1972, the day that Idi Amin issues his expulsion order for all Indians in Uganda. Shaken by the protests she walks into while window shopping in Little India, Sabine turns to her parents for protection.
Sabineâ€™s mother is afraid and eager to leave Uganda, but her father, a wealthy Ismaeli businessman and landowner, is determined to ignore Dada Aminâ€™s orders:
â€œNonsense!â€ Papa laughed his conch-shell laugh, and her little brother echoed it. â€¦ â€œWe are even more Ugandan than the ethnic Africans. Not only were we born here, but we chose to be Ugandan citizens when other Indians remained Britishâ€¦
Sabine agrees with her father. She is different after all. Her best friend Zena is African. Theyâ€™ve grown up together like â€œtwin beans of one coffee flowerâ€ and Zena is just like her sister, even if others (like her Indian friends) donâ€™t see it that way.
Narmin â€¦Nasrin â€¦ Sabineâ€™s hands clenched at the names of her classmates. They were prissy prunes. Sheâ€™d had a big fight with them after they called Zena goli. Mixing her African and Indian friends was like mixing oil with water.
As the 90 day countdown continues, Sabineâ€™s optimism is drowned out by the growing chants of â€œMuhindi, nenda nyumbani! Indian, go home.â€ Amidst reports of violent attacks against Indian families, the mysterious disappearance of her favorite uncle, and strained relations between her and Zena (whose uncle is a general and crony of Idi Amin), she is forced to reexamine her understandings of race and class.
The novel is what Nanji calls Faction, a mix of facts and fiction. Some of the characters are real, others fictional, but every event is based on history. Nanji grew up in Mombasa, and regularly visited family in Uganda throughout her childhood. â€œIn fact the very day Idi Amin took power, I was in Kampala and to my embarrassment cheered him at a rally waving the Uganda flag, not knowing what was to follow,â€ she told me in an e-mail interview. [read the full interview here]
The bookâ€™s title comes from a powerful scene halfway through the novel when Zena tells Sabine that she can no longer associate with her because of Dada Aminâ€™s orders.
Sabine folded her arms to steady herself. â€œYouâ€™ve joined them?â€
â€œThem? Them are us. Your people have clogged up our land as the British bwanas did before. Your people, your family included, are doing magendo.â€
â€œUncle and Papa help out of kindness.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t want kindness.â€ Zena gave a short, dry laugh. â€˜You took our land and made us look after it. Now we want it back.â€
Sabine stared at Zena. But Bapa had cleared that land and cleared it to grow coffee.
â€œWe have to clear our land. The weeds must be uprooted. What can I do? You are the child of dandelions.â€
Sabine reeled as if struck by lightning. How dare Zena accuse her of being a weed?
Though Sabine is furious at Zenaâ€™s rejection, she slowly starts to see discrepancies in how Indians treat the native Ugandans. For example, she realizes that though sheâ€™s known her driver Mzee (a term of respect for all elderly gentlemen) all her life, she has never touched him before or known anything about him.
She and her family were no different from the standoffish mzungus and other Indians who distanced themselves from their African employees. Mzee had worked for Bapa at his farm for many years before he moved to the city to get an easier job and became their driver. â€¦
â€œMzee, whatâ€™s your name?â€ She looked up at him. His eyes lifted in surprise, and she saw that they were gentle and crinkled like Bapaâ€™s.
â€œMzee Kabugo,â€ he said shyly, returning his gaze downward.
As someone who grew up in Ghana, I really appreciated Nanji’s nuanced take on the complex dynamics of race and class. The expulsion of Indians from Uganda was not a black and white issue, Nanjiâ€™s story shows us. â€œEarlier versions of the story showed the military regime was wholly responsible for the crises,” Nanji told me. “Later upon reflection, I learned that no one group of people is evil. There were many factors â€“ poverty and class distinction, legacy of the colonial powers who carved up Africa like a pie, some Indians engaged in magendo, corruption, and Indians living in close-knit communities, refusing to integrate with ethnic Africans.â€
Nanji started writing her book in order to find answers to the questions her children asked her while they were growing up. â€œMy mind began to spin with questions I struggled to understand: how could an entire community that had lived for three generations suddenly be uprooted like weeds and expelled just because they were brown. Why was the rest of the world silent?â€ she said.
When she searched for books in the library on such issues, she came back empty-handed. â€œThen came the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and the massacre in Rwanda and I knew the story had to be told,â€ she said. â€œYes, the story takes place thousands of miles away in Africa, but the emotional experience of Sabine may transfer to the American readers as part of their own reality.â€
To date, there are very few fictional works that examine the personal, social, and political turmoil caused within the Indian community by Aminâ€™s orders, so right off the bat, Child of Dandelions is a welcome addition. That it is gracefully executed and emotionally evocative makes it a book worth owning and sharing both with adults and young adults alike.
It seems like a must-buy for my 15 year-old daughter. Thanks for the post.
What does ‘goli’ mean?
Just replace the Asians in Uganda with Jews in New York City or with Koreans in LA. Just because you do better than us we’ll call you greedy, bloodsuckers and if it’s not enough we’ll physically punish you.
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isn’t there some Mira Nair film which deals with this? Missisippi Masala?
They should have the right to do that.
They should have the right to do that.
But is it advisable?
Call me shallow, but a beautiful cover like that makes me want to buy a book. The excerpts in Sandhya’s post seal the deal, especially the one regarding the ethnic Indians’ attitude towards black Africans.
It’s a derogatory gujarati term for black African females. For males it is ‘gola.’
My mom left Uganda just before this time i think. This post is really timely because I am leaving for Tanzania in a few hours. On Sunday I will be staying in Dar es Salaam. The city was historically divided into three districts apparently: Uzunguni for the rich white Europeans, Uhindini for the South Asian coolies, and Uswahilini for the native African who were often the poorest. In order to do field research for SM posts I will be staying in Uhindini 🙂
Sarcasm or trollery?
Why did the whites and other colonizers stay back in Africa, Americas and Australia, but not in India?
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I won’t speak to other countries, but this isn’t true of Guyana. First, the racially “mixed” category is the fastest growing ethncity in Guyana, increasing by 50% in the 90s and castly outpacing both the indian and african ethnic groups, which are proportionately both in decline.
Second, prosperity if cross-racialy distributed in Guyana. See here:
Generally, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s useful to review the scores at the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination(SSEE) … And among the top 108 students, 54 (50%) were Indians and 52 (48%) were Africans … both ethnic groups have comparable rates of attendance and graduation fromhigh school. Further, at the tertiary level, a larger number of African than Indian students graduate from the University of Guyana (UG)
From the same paper, African consumption expedicture is 50% higer than Indian expediture (table 4.1).
(I’ll try to get better stats to illustrate this parity)
Nipu, you “don’t hate me becuase I’m rich and superior” line is reminiscent of the comical attitude “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”.
I’d agree. They certainly do have the right to be as insular or as integrated as any other community. But insularity comes at a price, and sometimes integration is illusory. There’s just no end to the number of ways people can find to define communities as “other”…and with that designation, there comes the rationalization for all sorts of misdeeds, from discrimination to outright violence.
We make the jump to labelling others as varelse very easily, it turns out. Any Utlanning or Framling can become Varelse.
Sorry for the geekiness, but I think it applies here. It’s an interesting intellectual model, anyway.
3 Ã‚Â· Ping Ping said
IT seems like you are hinting that blacks have trouble with other races making money in their neighborhoods,I have to tell you not all blacks have that attitude,don’t generalize please I have seen Koreans get along fine with black folks in the store here in the D.C area hell back when I was a avid gamer the owner of the store who was Korean let me take home 250.00 worth of merchandise on the promise that I would give him the money the next day. I will say this respect runs a two way street you treat me like crap in your store you can bet I will not come back.
Integrate – that’s a word that’s thrown around with casual abandon.
A person may get up in the morning, eat breakfast at a joint operated by a person of race A, report to a boss from a religion B, work with colleagues from ethnicity C, eat lunch at a restaurant owned by a person speaking language D, and on the way home buy flowers from a person hailing from country E.
Yet, the same person may spend his personal life only with people from his race/religion/ethnicity/language/country. (Not to mention, frequently posts on a blog that closely aligns with his identity).
Is the person integrated with the surroundings? I think so.
Why not come up with parallels that are closer to home? Just replace Indians in Uganda with Gujarati banias in India who are also usually caricatured as greedy bloodsuckers? Note how the Shiv Sena in Mumbai is demonising the economically dominant gujjus.
BTW, the asian “bloodsuckers” of Idi Amin’s Uganda were mostly gujarati banias as well.
It is necessary to remember that the Ugandans acted far more humane and civilized towards their indian “bloodsuckers” than the Germans did to their jewish “bloodsuckers”, or the Ottoman Turks did towards their armenian “bloodsuckers”.
Similarly, the recent violence in Tibet was triggered by resentment of the tibetan buddhists towards the economically dominant Hui muslims.
17 Â· Valmiki said
maybe LA and NYC is home
18 Â· Valmiki said
I dunno, valmiki; “i’ll treat you better than ted bundy”…probably not an effectrive opening line.
Pure bullshit. Never in India has there been a pogrom directed at an economically prosperous minority like there have been against Indians by the less successful indigenous people in Uganda, South Africa or in Fiji and lately against the Chinese all over Africa particularly in Angola. You can also add to the list the discrimination and physical intimidation faced by the Chinese and Indians at the hands of less prosperous native Malays in Malaysia. And of course by the Jews all over the world.
Doug, I am happy to hear from you. Of course not all African Americans are like that. Not even many. But the problem is that in your community such ‘ greedy ‘ ‘ bloodsucker ‘ BS is regularly legitimized by your so-called leaders again and again. To his credit Obama has been chiding African Americans for their anti-semitism. A first by a powerful Black leader. And yes it’s a two way street. But you can’t deny that in all of the racial troubles it has always been members of African American community that have started the troublemaking against peaceful and hardworking immigrants and other minorities while basing their anger on invented grievances.
I think at the end of your statement ” But you can’t deny ALL…” Saying “ALL” leaves you open for much criticism. Maybe a lot or many but not all. You will probably bring up many examples and will be returned with just as many counter examples.
21 Â· Ping Ping said
where you specifically talking about in the U.S. when you said all racial troubles or ALL racial troubles everywhere. Regardless using the word “ALL” probably wasn’t the best.
So you are saying that in all racial troubles African Americans have started the trouble making. Wow…
When has there been a pogrom against the koreans or jews in America? Which is the parallel that you were making. Secondly, the indians in Uganda were forced to leave, they were not slaughtered in a genocide like the jews were under german nazi rule in Europe, the armenians in Ottoman Turkey etc. If you think it is “pure bullshit” to regard expulsion as more humane and civilized than genocide, then you need your head examined.
FYI, the indians in Malaysia constitute the socio-economic underclass. They are at the very bottom, below the malays and the chinese.
Whether grievances seem invented or not they stemmed from somewhere. To say that anytime an African American has a grievance that its invented is probably a little bit of your own invention.
I love that this author is attempting to show the negative issues from BOTH groups.
Problems like these don’t come about because of actions and ideas from one group.
Indian Army should have carved out a separate country for them. This gandhi(fraud) worshipping garbage by indian “leaders” allowed savages to act this way. If Indian army had acted, it would have knocked them out in no time flat.
Most places when immigrants or minority groups are more successful then the majority there will be alot of unhappy people. But for some reason this was not a problem for the Parsi community when it came from Iran to India.
If three or so indians killed under Idi Amin in Uganda constitutes a pogrom then what do you call the killings and kidnappings of a far greater number of economically prosperous marwari banias in the Indian state of Assam by indigenous assamese nativists?
Sandhya: In Gujarati language (in India) there is a word known as “Golan” for women who would come to your home during the Summer season and for a price crush dry red peppers into powder which one puts in huge jars for all year use. Golan’s husband is known as Gola. I do not know about Gujarati folks in East Africa. I just checked with my wife who was born in Kampala, Uganda to Indian Parents, grew up there until she was 8 years old, and came to India in mid fifties. She does not remember these so-called derogatory terms you are talking about. Must be relatively recent phenomena. Abhi: Have a safe climb to Mt. Kill-a-Man-Jaro. (Kill a fat man !) just kidding ;). Just make sure you do not pick up some modern derogatory terms used for natives, and do post some exotic blogs and pictures if you can.
Parsis became economically dominant only during British Rule. They owe their ascendency to the racism and colorism of the british conquerors of India. Similarly Baghdadi jews were favored over the native dark-skinned banias in British India.
23 Â· Raju on June 26, 2008 07:15 PM Â· Direct link Â· â€œQuoteâ€(?)
STOP! STOP! STOP!
I am pingpong, as the Intern can see from my IP address. Your comment was a response to “Ping Ping”, who is not pingpong.
Back to regularly scheduled programming.
My apologies pingpong. please forgive me.
Valmiki: When has there been a pogrom against the koreans or jews in America? Which is the parallel that you were making. Secondly, the indians in Uganda were forced to leave, they were not slaughtered in a genocide like the jews were under german nazi rule in Europe, the armenians in Ottoman Turkey etc. If you think it is “pure bullshit” to regard expulsion as more humane and civilized than genocide, then you need your head examined.
First off, I think you shouldn’t be offering medical advice just because someone disagrees with your viewpoint.
Second, consider this…Since your knowledge of history seems to be far-reaching,(and sometimes far-fetched like the theory of the Parsis, but I digress) you should know of the Japanese internment camps during WW-II. I can understand the reasons for them but what if the US had expelled all of those Japanese people. Or what about all the residents of the land that is now Israel’s who were simply moved during the early 1900s or late 1800s by buying their land, employing them at first and then giving the jobs to newer Jewish immigrants. What if India in the name of promoting homogeneity offered the Muslims to move out for $10,000 each with subsidized airfare to any Islamic nation of their choice.
So instead of telling you that you are wrong, I’m playing devil’s advocate and showing you a FEW of the scenarios that fit your theory. All the above points will fit comfortably within the realms of the point that you’ve wanted to make.
18 Â· Valmiki said
Most greivances can’t be traced back to a single source, splitting them on economic lines and connecting them with ethnicity is two sashays away from publishing a new version of the Protocols of the Elders. Besides, In my humble opinion I think that the big hulking Asian cheap goods warehouse’s occupancy of Tibet might also have something to do with the fact that the Tibetians aren’t of the opinion that everything is gravy.
On a TOTALLY different topic. Is the term “bania” condescending or patronizing? There used to be this D**CE N*ZLE of a Professor called Kancha Illiah, who would write about the Brahmin-Bania conspiracy, and wrote a weekly article filled with virulent hatred for the “bania”. Do Gujrati businessmen like being called “bania”? I’ve heard more of them referred to as “Saet”
27 Ã‚Â· Talwar said
Because these people made the decision to move/stay in Africa? What jurisdiction does the India have on the land there? You want Indian Soldiers to go to Africa, fight on terrain and a region that they don’t know about and die for a bunch of people who are probably Indian citizens going back 4-5 generations? Following your logic, shouldn’t we send Indian Troops to Indonesia and Malaysia to save the Tamilians of Indian origin there who are being persecuted including destroying their temples? To Dubai to ensure fair employment practices for the Keralites who voluntarily went there? Try thinking things through
And I’m sure Gandhi wasn’t a fraud, there were millions of Indians from every walk of life who left everything they had to follow him to make salt …why? Because he symbolized the values that are inherent and basic to Hinduism. Put down your VHP authorized books and start off with Narayan’s “Waiting for The Mahatma”
The persecuted individuals weren’t Indian. Why would the Indian Government/ Army bother about a bunch of foreigners?
â€œAsians, who are the backbone of the Ugandan economy, have been living in the country for more than a century. But resentment against them has been building up within Ugandaâ€™s black majority. General Amin has called the Asians â€œbloodsuckersâ€ and accused them of milking the economy of its wealth.â€
It’s not only the Black Ugandans who feel this way. I know that there are many Kenyans who are sick and tired of the Indians.
Not to mention their racism too. How are you going to live in a Black country and despise the people? If you hate them so much then go back to your own country.
I was kicked out of uganda for confusing Idi Amin.. with Idi appam..
“Why did the whites and other colonizers stay back in Africa, Americas and Australia, but not in India?” Interesting. I’ve thought about that quite a lot. Mainly numbers. Europe is the smallest continent, in case you haven’t noticed. but let’s look at other factors. What on earth would they have done in India? The population was much less than now, but still…India was full as far as population. It had its own literate culture, drastically different traditions and summers that could fry a bacon butty on the newly paved sidewalks. Europeans in India were never much more than a bully-business operation, the East India Company, supported by a military element. As we all know, the British were and are experts in divide and conquer, using already existing cultural weaknesses to drive wedges. They didn’t invent colorism. Why invent when the materials are aleady there? It was well in place in India and Asia for many years. In any case, the blonde look never caught on among Indians. Whatever else you can blame them for, “colorism” is not high on the list, but they sure had a nose for people who already thought of themselves as different and above the fray. Aside from Persian background, the Parsis did have a merchant past, had not meddled in power struggles, and certain of their habits, such as educating females, were those that the Brits could identify with. Naturally they used Parsis. They were ready made civil servants. Indians could have kicked Brit butts out if they had united, but many found it expeditious to work with the them. Cultural impositions came mostly from missionaries and officials with missionary-like inclinations. When some rural Indians were asked in the 1950s how they felt about the British being gone, they replied they’d never known they were there. Indians who come from educated backgrounds are obviously very aware of past Anglo presence in their country, but we have to be careful of according them more power than they actually had, or absconding responsibility for our self-perceptions. Anyway, for India “colonizers” always come and go. It was just a matter of time.
Africa was also mainly for business interests. Disease and climate made West and Central Africa death traps for the whites and few ventured there, however dark their hearts. The slave trade was carried on by a few Europeans and Arabs who stayed mostly at the periphery of the continent, and they depended on native blacks who had their own business niche in that market. Southern Africa in the 18th century was sparsely populated, the climate was temperate so it did draw the Dutch, of all people. I never figured that out–the Dutch were doing fine where they were. However, whites are leaving there. With the African population so increased in the past few decades, despite disease and famine, no “colonizers” are likely to come. Africa does have a tendency to spit non-blacks out.
Australia–it started as a prison colony. They had to stay or hang, and things just went on from there.
Anyway, all through the 19th and 20th century, a ready-colonized land of plenty for Europeans and anybody else who could scramble onto a ship heading that way. America.
To mellow yellow, So Asians explusionm from Uganda –> Their fault, racism Jews Being Massacred –> On account of Jews financial perfidy, therefore they deserved it Japanese Americans being interred –> their fault Chinese being mistreated in Philippines and Indonesia –> Chinese racism
Don’t forget Sieg Hiel Kamerad
Besides those Asians in Uganda are Ugandans, so they can’t go back to “their country”.
RahulD@35: I have no idea what you mean by “Consiparacy by Brahmin-Banya”. I am a Brahmin (by birth only)and have lots of so-called “baniya” friends. I do not recall (in concert with my baniya friend) I ever conspired against anyone. Typically in Gujarat and places where Gujarati “baniyas” have ventured in business they have been very successful. The most famous “baniya”, of course was Mahatma Gandhi. They are financially very well dispositioned and possess great wealth as compared to most and hence the term “Sheth”. I do not know who calls them “Saet”? Within “Vaniya” community, as they are known in Gujarat – there are Vaishnavs, and Jains. There are many more further subdivisions in each category. According to part legend and part historical records Lord Krishna himself came as “Shamarshah” Sheth to help Narsinh Mehta the poet from Junagadh, with all the expenses related to his daughter’s wedding. Getting back to the subject of the post, whether East Africans love or hate, in MHO for some of the best (and few worst) things ever happened to them over last 100 years the credit gos to these so-called Gujarati “baniyas”.
A person may get up in the morning, eat breakfast at a joint operated by a person of race A, report to a boss from a religion B, work with colleagues from ethnicity C, eat lunch at a restaurant owned by a person speaking language D, and on the way home buy flowers from a person hailing from country E …
Is the person integrated with the surroundings? I think so
I think not.
Each of those items is transactional. Pay money, get flowers. Work all day, get paid. Report to boss, get promoted.
None of them involve emotional integration — a committment from the heart, like love, friendship or charity. Doing a deal for money isn’t emotional integration, any more than buying made in China blender at Wal-art makes me more Chinese. What’s more, cash-only integration leads to resentment.
If you added that this man spent the morning volounteering at a soup kitchen, had a heart-to-heart chat with a co-worker at lunch about some problems he was having with his daughter, and spent that evening coaching a kids soccer team, then I’d agree he was integrated.
I was saying that HE uses that term, I’m sorry if my punctuation indicated otherwise. In case I didn’t indicate, I have very little respect for Mr. Illiah and his conspiracies. I’m a Brahmin myself so I can tell you assuredly that I’m not in a conspiracy, but maybe according to Mr. Illiah the Indiaminati will wait until a certain age to initiate me into the Brahmin-Bania conspiracy.
I also know how to say à¤¸à¥‡à¤à¤¥à¥à¥ I was just trying to make it sound more phonetically accurate and was too lazy to find the way to type it in Hindi. Thanks for your explanation though
21 Â· Ping Ping said
I can agree with you on that we have a few ignorant ones out there who would even hate if another African American owned a business, I have seen that with my own eyes. I will also say that I have been in some places and have been treated like crap as soon as I walk in the door, The black leader thing is a term I use loosely because most of them folks are not leaders but blabbermouths who claim to speak for all blacks of whom shall remain nameless.I will say that I don’t here of too much static between blacks and immigrant store owners here in D.C. that is.
A society that’s resentful of monetary-only integration will collapse in violence – like Uganda or Nazi Germany. The hallmark of a mature society is when it’s individuals are free to discriminate in personal choices, but treat everyone equally in transactional choices.
Someone mentioned Parsis in India earlier on. The then king of Gujarat told the Parsis that they are free to engage in any occupation, as long as they don’t try to convert or inter-mingle in any other non-transactional way. A very Hindu and Libertarian response, that’s worked well for both Parsis (who are easily among the most wealthiest and respected) and Hindus.
PS: Sam Maneckshaw, another famous Parsi, passed away yesterday.
The bump up in brand value would have been worth it for India, but I agree that the Govt. of India has no obligation to help ethnic Indians who are not citizens. As I have stated before I want my hypothetical kids to earn the guilt they are expected to feel as Indians/Hindus. An occupation of Uganda/Malaysia means my Che beanie wearing kids will be able to glare at me from across the dinner table with genuine spite when they are on leave from Pomona. All while my Malaysian rubber plantation/beach resort and Ugandan safari outfit pay for a new library and Rage Against the Machine reunion tour tickets. This type of guilt should not be the exclusive domain of white people
47 Ã‚Â· louiecypher said
You should throw in South African diamond mines too, I think its not long before Mbeki switches from a hands-off approach to Zimbabwe to a hands-on approach by shaking hands with Mugambe.
24 Â· Valmiki said
Who do you think owned all those stores that you watched people loot on TV during the Rodney King riots? Sure, the National Guard showed up and put an end to it before it could become a full-fledged “pogrom,” but perhaps it’s time to re-watch Do The Right Thing.
Moornam wrote: A society that’s resentful of monetary-only integration will collapse in violence – like Uganda or Nazi Germany.
All very well, Moornam, but that is small consolation to the many desis forced out of Uganda by the resentful leader of the majority group. And, to use your example, the murdered jews of Germany don’t come back to life because it turned out that Nazi Germany was a failed state that chose a stupid, dead-end policy
As the RSS said in a resolution it passed in 2002, the safety of the minority depends on the goodwill of the majority. (Its an awful thing to say, and the RSS I’m sure meant nothing good by it, but I can’t think of a response).
Transactional integration is not enough. Even emotional integration isn’t necessarily enough, but it betters the odds for the minority.