Forty years of nostalgia

The reunion that never materialised

‘Sad through it was, it was doomed to fail’ said Budhuu. He was expressing his anger at what he perceived had gone wrong with the reunion of Uganda Asians which was planned last year. Budhuu, not his real name, had spent the whole evening at a gathering of the new wahindi in London agitating about the way the wahindi, as he put it ‘have turned their backs on Uganda’.

But Budhuu had another gripe. ‘Look at the way they had planned to overcharge and make money out of the reunion’ he said with increasing sense of irritation. Another man in the dinner party said that Asian enterprise was ‘live and kicking. Long live the new wahindi’.  So what is wrong if some people thought that it was time to put considerable effort into an event and to celebrate 40 years of emigration from Uganda? By the end of the evening there were three areas of consensus.

It is possible that the organisers of the reunion had miscalculated the demand for the event. This is not difficult to understand. Passion for Uganda is on the wane as the émigrés from 1972 approach retirement. They have other priorities and life in austerity-led Britain had put the Ugandan Asian reunion at the bottom of their shopping list.

Secondly, was it also not possible that the organisers had miscalculated responsiveness of the potential visitors to the price tag? Were rates of hotel rooms and excursions ‘jacked up to the hilt’ as Budhuu claimed? Possibly not but no one at the dinner party really knew the real facts. No one seemed to care either.

The internet and low cost air travel has opened up the world for the former Ugandan Asians. Other destinations beckon. The Ugandan Asian label is a historical convenience. The wahindi travel extensively and thousands have gone to visit their ancestral homes in the Indian Sub-continent. Hundreds have taken their children to see their parents’ villages in India. Very few have gone back to Uganda but the numbers are probably not insignificant. The new wahindi is very mobile. They visit their families and friends that they were separated from after the expulsion.

Finally, much to Budhuu’s dislike the consensus was that the wahindi will always be entrepreneurial. Hosting the reunion offered opportunities. What was so wrong in trying to provide a good service at a good price? Don’t the new wahindi pay for conferences, group and family excursions when they go to other parts of the world? Of course they do. But perhaps in this case there were a couple of matters to be noted. Either the wahindi did not want other Asians to benefit from the organisation of reunion or they forgot that high costs had to be met, even in a new Uganda.  Only Budhuu thinks he knows the real reasons.

Moving from the specific to the general, the next area of concern is how the Chinese are reportedly doing very well in emerging Uganda and the whole of Africa indeed. More on this next time but on this matter, Budhuu will not be consulted.



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