Category Archives: Viewpoint

Comments on key issues of the day

The Loneliness of the Sikh Walker on BBC’s EastEnders

He appeared a few years ago and has been often seen on EastEnders- walking purposefully in the streets and demonstrating either self-imposed silence or a specially prescribed form of ‘nil out by mouth’ regime ever since. No one has had anything to say to him and Mr Singh as a character in the soap does not seem to have anything to say to anyone else either. His sole purpose in life is to walk around at variable speeds at precisely timed intervals but with his mouth mostly tightly shut. He is generally in a great hurry with his eyes focussed on the ground in front of him. Other EastEnders characters always surround him. The costume people seem to like his colourful turbans, loose shirts and occasional display of very thick gold rings on his right hand and also the bangle that he wears.

Mr Singh is good for cultural diversity but no one knows who he is and why has chosen to remain silent for so long on EastEnders. The presumption is that Mr Singh is happy with his life in the soap. No one has ever asked him. So, why has this become a concern? It appears that he has never spoken to Phil, Dot, Ian, Shirley and even Patrick who are all of the older characters on the soap. It can be imagined that Bianca would not have anything positive to discuss with him either. Of course, Mr Singh may try talking to Masood when the latter is not running around delivering the post. Has Masood ever delivered registered letters and parcels at Mr Singh’s address? They might actually know each other but on the set they are silent friends. Dennis may have learnt a few things about Mr Singh’s community, culture and religion in the diversity lessons in school but no one seems to have the courage to walk up to him and greet him.

Where does Mr Singh live? He is also never seen in the café but he did once turn up in the Old Vic where he had orange juice. That was the highlight of his week. Mr Singh was recently seen with a female but given the absence of pertinent information it would be unfair to deduce that there is a relationship between the two or indeed was this yet another instance of impeccable timing when two culturally diverse people were seen next to each other for no real benefit?

Masood and his family have played a major role on the soap, perhaps because there is an urge to explain that he is actually quite normal and that he does not go around threatening anyone. He is also cast in a most trustworthy role as a postie where his dedication to duty must be exemplary. Masood is a role model.

On the other hand, how would Max treat Mr Singh as a customer at Brannings’ Car Sales? Mr Singh desperately needs a motor car. Would Max give him personal service? While post sale warranties are not really an issue because Mr Singh prefers to walk everywhere anyway, a car would offer Mr Singh a form of job extension. He could drive the cast on out of town trips. A picnic would be an even better idea as Mr Singh could provide parathas, samosas, chicken curry and daal, followed by ladoos, barfi and pendas and glasses of lassi to down everything. However, would Dot eat Mr Singh’s samosas? Would the Carters serve lassi at the Old Vic? Besides, Carol probably makes better chicken curry than Mr Singh’s new female friend. However, Mr Singh could be a vegetarian and there hardly any point in showing him entering the local burger bar.
If Mr Singh was suddenly to be given a voice and was to incomprehensively become a witness to the murder trial of Lucy Beale, wouldn’t Mr Patel, Miss Bagchi, Mr and Mrs Mubende and their African friends also expect to be cast into future programmes? Did they see anything when Phil’s rough friends ran out of Sharon’s bar after attacking her? Ah but Phil is not having the police looking into his stage managed affray in Sharon’s bar. However, people like Mr Singh who know a great deal about the streets of Walford should be able to help, surely.
EastEnders would indeed reflect the local diversity but the programme’s makers would have to learn a few tricks. How would they create the story-lines in which the local Hindu trader would have a distinctive role in taking over Denise’s shop? How would she earn her living after that takeover? African people in the East End could have competed against the Brazilians to portray their footballing skills in the flavour of the month that even the makers of EastEnders have just missed out on. No worries. The next football World Cup is only four years away.

Does Mr Singh have a son or a daughter? Would Mr Singh Junior want to take Whitney out? Would Whitney like to go with him anyway? There is a small problem though. Would Mr Singh even allow his son to have an affair with Whitney? There is only one way to find out. Create a son for Mr Singh and let him courteously pursue Whitney.
Returning to the question of depicting integration on the television screen, it is not just about marriage or relationships. Will Mr Singh visit Patrick in hospital? Will he go to Lucy’s funeral? Will he provide the vocal accompaniment to the loud Bhangra music often heard in the open market? Mr Singh is probably very well read and highly informed but it is not his knowledge and potential for becoming a social agent and community leader that EastEnders is interested in. No? It is his visual appearance and unique propensity to turn up at low profile events wearing lovely colourful turbans and shirts.

More recently another Sikh character has been seen on EastEnders. This is good news but no one knows what he has in store for him. Will he be allowed to talk? Will be even allowed to talk to the original Mr Singh?

On a serious note there has been some talk about addressing diversity in EastEnders. Should the programme really reflect the true representation of the community in Walford? Should EastEnders be recast to reflect the changing demography of viewers? Or indeed, should the majority of viewers be allowed to see the content of their favourite soap as they always have? Why would anyone want to change EastEnders now? Has the BBC done any research to find out whether potential target audiences in the ethnic minority communities would really want to watch EastEnders anyway? Besides, if we start changing EastEnders by applying these criteria, the lonely Mr Singh must find new roles in Holby City, Glasgow Girls, The Honourable Woman and New Tricks. There will be no challenge of learning the scripts. Mr Singh does not talk. That could be a problem on New Tricks as his silence may be misconstrued.

As far as Mr Singh of EastEnders is concerned, it pays to be silent. Will he ever speak or be spoken to? How would Mr Singh ever perform on ‘The Archers’ on Radio 4? How do producers of radio plays involve silent men and women?

(Great care has been taken to refer only to the two Mr Singhs, the characters on EastEnders).


Falling under the wheels of the juggernaut

The ‘Caste-aways ‘ who nearly won.

Looking back at the zenith of the East African Asians’ lives in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in the early 1960s, all was well when the bounty was plentiful, at least for most of them. The rich and powerful were driven by various forms of propulsion as long as they could successfully divide and capture their followers. However, the Asians repeatedly made charges of ‘divide and rule’ against their British rulers during the colonial times. These charges gained greater currency when monumental splits of territory took place in 1947 in the Indian Sub-Continent.  Many had sternly believed that Hindus and Muslims had been inseparable for ages but it was outgoing colonialist who stoked the fires which followed independence of India and Pakistan. Charges of divide and rule were often made by the new wahindi whenever local or national governments in the UK and Canada have made policy decisions. There has been a spectacular dynamic at work whenever allocations of land, grants and public favour have been challenged by British Asians.

But no one, until very recently, appears to have exposed the propeller in the underbelly of British Asian cruise ship. It is known as the caste system. Allegations of religious and denominational divisions based on sociology and heritage may well be accommodated or at best be explained away without rancour. The law is thankfully well resourced to address all aspects of evidence based racism. However when landmarks of progress are examined with a different lens, the most visible reflection of Sikh and Hindu infrastructure in the form of temples, sports clubs, schools and community clubs are often defined by caste based investment criteria. No one seemed to mind as long as the caste based discrimination was operated under the table.

Local politicians and visiting government ministers from all political persuasions have applauded the immense contribution that the Asians have made to Britain’s cities and in most cases, rightly so. They have upgraded the most derelict areas of the inner city and re-introduced commerce. Old and disused churches have given way to busy temples. Decaying and low value housing stock has been purchased by community organisations. Creative Asian architects and building firms have established new places of worship in almost every major city of the United Kingdom. The success was celebrated for many good reasons.  In addition, local councils have keenly accommodated new building proposals for community infrastructure by tugging at the rubber bands of planning laws. Apart from possible appeals by local people on the basis of noise, many areas have suffered traffic congestion which has not been helped by poor parking enforcement. However, there are also excellent examples of ingenious traffic solutions.

The writer estimates that the Sikhs alone have built over 400 temples in the UK with a potential land and property valuation of £4 billion. The temples have been serving the communities’ needs reasonably well. Some temples  offer almost 24 hour access and the most significant beneficiaries are the Sikh elderly who can access spiritual and communal welfare programmes almost every day of the week.  Whether the community organisations operate within the ambit of charity law remains another area of concern but as long as the net gains of social investment exceeds any discernible costs to individuals, these charities have also brought distinct benefits. However, unexpected visits by the police during elections when leaders are deposed or re-elected may also be due to the ugly face of caste-led allegiances.

But the British Asian juggernaut seems to have been blocked. A few months ago, reports began to emerge of alleged caste-led discrimination in Britain’s public institutions, with more specific allegations that decisions on career progression and promotion were likely to be based on caste-based criteria rather than seniority or merit in some parts of the NHS, local authorities and other agencies of government.

Have forces of discrimination gone a full circle? British Asians who arrived on the UK in the early 1970s bitterly complained of racial discrimination by African leaders who blocked work permits or simply expelled them. Now, have British Asian community leaders turned on their own communities in pursuit of caste-based discrimination?

This blog hopes to examine these issues in more detail but always with due respect for the law and a recognition that not all British Asian institutions have fallen under the wheels of the caste based juggernaut. History seems to explain that falling under the wheels of the religious juggernaut was a traditional form of sacrifice. British Asian Sikhs and Hindus who were cast out of African countries are alleged to have embraced caste as a means of reinvigorating political consolidation.  It did not work in Africa where intra-Asian divisions weakened the departing Asians.

Will the castaways succeed in Britain? No. Not if the lawmakers understand the perils of the Asian caste system and take firm action which appears to be on the cards.

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.



When in Uganda in October please dont forget the children

When in Uganda in October please do not forget the children in need

Thank you to over a dozen readers who have contacted me since my first post in January this year. Many more have read it and forwarded it to others.  Many of you have subscribed since then. To all of you my sincere thanks, Asante, shukariya and meharbani. I promise to be more active in the next few months. I also have a proposal.

No one responds more to charitable giving like the British people.   Those of us who follow the massive British public appeals at Christmas and other times, such as the Sport Relief Appeal, Comic  Relief and Children in Need appeals on BBC television also know that each appeal breaks records. Is it because the BBC has discovered a formula for adding fun to charitable giving? It is more than that. It is about engaging people who then feel not only to take part but also to attract others like minded individuals to participate actively in fund-raising. Proceeds go to local and overseas charities and good causes. Let us try to take concerted action to benefit Uganda’s growing number of children in need.

The Asian expulsion from Uganda took place nearly 40 years ago. Many former Ugandan Asians are planning to go there for a reunion and to meet old friends. Others will be going there for rediscovering the country that they left behind and to marvel in its growth and hopefully, its prosperity. A few may also have an interest in exploring opportunities for returning… Uganda’s economic growth at around 5% per year compares extremely well with the prolonged aftermath of the economic recession and slow growth if not the static economies in Europe.

‘Uganda is booming’ declared a visiting Asian from Uganda at a recent get together in London. He and his friends are enjoying barbecues every day of the week while the money machine continues to spill out new contracts and attractive opportunities, he insisted. However it was his concluding remarks that spun a few heads. He finished his highly motivational speech with ‘Do you know that you guys are wasting your time in the UK?’ Thankfully the reaction to his taunt was highly variable and no one was willing to share his invitation to go back to Uganda to gain the riches that he was promising…… What has changed?

Many former Ugandan Asians in the gathering left in 1972 and are now too old to consider going back to participate and even rejoice in Uganda’s economic boom. How does one define Uganda’s prosperity anyway? Everything is relative; who is prosperous and who is poor? Others felt that they did not wish to give up their personal and professional gains in the UK and elsewhere to start a new life in Uganda. Several people felt that they could offer more support to Uganda from their relatively comfortable and prosperous life from the UK.

However, the options for supporting worthwhile causes in Uganda have not been promoted by official agencies or NGOs who could tap British Asian goodwill at an important time such as the 40th anniversary of the Asian expulsion.

In the early sixties, as a ten year old I used to take bottles of milk and cakes for my mum to Sanyo Babies Home on Namirembe Hill. The charity was located very close to the famous cathedral. Is the Sanyo Babies Home still operating on the hill? Could we consider talking to a major national UK based charity which looks after abandoned children and orphans to support a major UK-wide appeal? That would be my preference.  Over fifty years later, I still remember the clean rooms and well managed Sanyo Babies institution and my vote would be for donating money to needy children or any worthwhile Ugandan causes.

This is for Ugandan children who may be in similar need today. They are still a part of us:

Tumhare Hain Tumse Daya Mangte[i]

I will donate my entire airfare to Uganda and back in the forthcoming months provided a worthwhile programme of action is set up by people going to the Reunion. And yes, would it be a good idea to adopt a Ugandan charity or to work with a major UK charity to support programmes in Uganda?

Let us discuss the options and opportunities.


The Asian weltanschauung 2:

How did the Africans see the Asian émigrés?


My thoughts are turning to the forthcoming 40th anniversary of the Asian expulsion from Uganda. September 2012 will see the completion of four decades of life after Amin, an initial period of adjustment, but then onwards as hard work, reward and reflection for many Asians like me who arrived in the UK, and others in US and Canada as young graduates.

My title reflects on how the East African Africans saw the predicament of the departing Asians. The popular view was that the Africans were delighted beyond their wildest beliefs. It was a windfall, a lottery and a goldmine for people who always envied the Asian for their prosperity and accumulated wealth which came from ‘two centuries’ of hard work. There was also a great deal of sadness in the minds of the departing Asians. The vast majority of working class Asians had never planned to leave and had always seen their future in Uganda even though their plans did not reflect a real stakeholder status as citizens and nationals with a long-term commitment. Many took the world for granted in which the bus would wait for them at the bus stop until they were ready to climb in. However, the vast majority had no choices to make; they were working class Asians disguised as shopkeepers and artisans. What the African saw in the well stocked Asian shops was the affluent shopkeeper who often practiced unfair trade practices such as price discrimination. Did they know that the people who fronted the rich shops were actually poor people like themselves who were also being exploited by their richer relations?

There is a view that a vast majority of retailers used family members to subsidise labour costs; a practice which also earned the Asian shopkeeper extensive competitive advantage in the corner stores of United Kingdom, the US and Canada! Rich Asian ‘magnates’ have been accused of using labour from the extended family as a ‘competitive weapon’ but also sometimes as a device for  dodging taxes. Most importantly, they used family labour as a protection against industrial action and loss of stock through pilferage. These views actually distract the debate even if there was some truth behind these assertions. The vast majority of under qualified shop assistants would not have been able to compete in the real market place. It is arguable whether they had any more to offer than the ordinary African customers that they served in the shops. The practice of employing the family clan and the extended family to support the Asian entrepreneurs has also been responsible for their success in the countries to which they migrated. There is nothing wrong with this practice; only that it created an artificial labour market that subsidised potentially unprofitable Asian businesses which could not survive in a free market. The same has been attributed to Asian success in retailing in the UK’s high streets. Why does a shopkeeper have to employ staff if his wife, her mother and her sister as well his mother and his sister were able to offer help at a rate below the market rate? Besides, many hundreds of young women have been able to start families and look after their children in the ‘back room’ while the husband and father was working in the shop front?

After the Asians left and large retailing outlets were taken over by enterprising Ugandans, they also recruited family and clan connections to run their businesses and to subsidise costs. This is the nature of successful retailing all over the world; only that the Asians in East Africa were singled out for their success and for not offering jobs in retailing to African labour.


Then there was also the African houseboy, the cleaner, driver, and the gardener and in some families also the cook where religious beliefs about ‘purity of touch’ were disregarded and African chefs were allowed to cook. The concern about purity of touch worked something like this. Such was the concern of old Asian women in the Asian household that the African cook was either unclean or unsafe because he was a meat eater and a drunkard, or both rolled into one. Worse still the African cook could cough or spit into the clean food and render the entire cuisine unsuitable for human consumption.

Such worries about the unsuitability of the African labour in the vicinity of the Asian kitchen or even where they could touch their utensils also worked their way into how the Africans were sometimes offered food or drink. In many households in the compounds or ‘sakati’ where I grew up, the African ‘houseboy’ had been allocated an old tomato tin can to be used as a ‘cup’ for their water or tea. It was a multiuse cup; regardless of the contents and the temperature of the contents. The African staff  were offered old plates to eat leftovers of food. The African labourer had to wash their utensils away from the main Asian kitchen sink by using the tap which normally used for attaching the garden hose. Both sides, that is, the Asian family and their workers were pleased that the African was not hungry when they went to bed in a shack at the back of the affluent Asian household. Of course these practices were stemmed as the Africans asserted themselves through the power of their governments.

In other Asian households the long term African employee had won their respect and trust and they were even allowed to eat and drink from the same crockery as that used by the Asian family. I have to tell you this! Aloizio[1], our long-term African house worker became an ‘enemy’ of our mum when dad promoted him beyond her levels of tolerance and they often decided to have a beer or two to celebrate Uganda’s Independence Day on 9th October each year. Worse still, mum had to cook pakoras and bhaji which dad knew that both he and Aloizio really loved. Aloizio had come to our house as a young teenager and stayed for 60 years. However, he worked with our father on building sites for over 50 years and then was promoted to easier jobs in the house.

By the time we left Uganda, he had the freedom to ‘raid’ the kitchen (as his critics claimed) and to help himself with sugar, milk and tea leaves which he took to his purpose built home that our father had built for him at the back of our house. When we were expelled from Uganda, Aloizio was heartbroken and went back to his village. He knew that no one was going to offer him a job at his age. We never heard from Aloizio again. I do hope that he did not suffer too much.

[1] My spellchecker suggests Aloysius

The Wahindi Weltansschauung

How the Africans saw us: The Wahindi Weltanschauung

There were at least three predominant scenarios in the world of the wahindi or the perception of East the African Asians’ weltanschauung[1]at the time of the prime and decline of the wahindi fortunes in East Africa. The scenarios were:

  • ·       How the Asian saw the African
  • ·       How the African saw the Asian or the wahindi
  • ·       How the wahindi saw the wahindi
  • ·       How the world saw the East African Asian. This was never a consideration.

All of the above worldviews have interesting and inspirational properties. I intend to develop them in the next few posts.

How did the Asian weltanschauung manifest itself? An assessment of Asian worldview is itself beset with many difficulties. These scenarios are interesting, ranging from heart warming to stupid according some Asian perceptions. The Asians were such a diversified group that what was ‘good’ for one community was probably ‘dire’ for another section of the community. There was no single common denominator which could be used to assess the wahindis’ accommodation for other people in an alien African environment. We were all wahindis but each community was different.

For the majority of Asians, ‘wellness’ could well have been equated to sound working opportunities and beneficial conditions in an economically and politically safe environment. The majority of Asians had little or no stake in the political process. Where the ogre of intra-African tribalism reared its ugly head in the towns and cities, the Asian was not too perturbed; it was ‘their’ problem, meaning, that it was the Africans’ millstone around their necks. Life in Kampala or Kitgum was fine as long as the wahindi did not feel threatened by outbursts of ‘the African problem’; a term sometimes used, even sympathetically, to refer to African tribalism. Ironically, it was easy to condemn African tribalism when the majority of Asian populations could not come to terms with their own differences. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims worked in competition to build their own separatist infrastructure such as schools, sports clubs and community centres until the onset of independence. Then, by one universal decree, the owners of community institutions had to open their doors to ‘the Africans’. The arrival of African children in Asian controlled schools was reasonably well managed. It is not known whether any of the management boards in Asian controlled schools actually developed proactive diversity policies to welcome African students… aspect that Asian parents declared to be their human right when they migrated to the UK…. That is another story for another day. There were tensions in some Asian households. How were they going to allow their daughters to go to school where African ‘boys’ (then suddenly perceived as men) were also going to study in the same schools? It is not possible to provide the evidence but it is safe to claim that a few Asian families found that this was a sufficient reason to move to safer schools in India or Pakistan. A number of families withdrew their older teenage girls from secondary school and the search for husbands was prioritised.

Another factor came into play. What was the point of educating Asian girls when they were only going to be married off? For the heads of many families, which had suddenly provided eligible young men to rescue the teenage Asian girls from mixed race co-education, it was unthinkable for them to send their young daughter-in-laws to ‘work for money’. Forcing newly married girls to enter the job market was below their ‘status’ in life. ‘We do not do such things in our family’ my best friend’s father told me. ‘It is a reflection on us, you understand? The society would think that we are unable to sustain them in a household where we, the men, do not earn enough money that we have to send our daughters and daughter-in-laws to work? Noh! That is not for us’.  Consequently a few emissaries were also sent to Nairobi to find eligible young men in the Asian community in Kenya. Some young girls were despatched to India and Pakistan to find suitable husbands to protect family honours in East Africa.

Thirty years later I met a middle aged Asian parent in Southall, West London. We had a long chat at ‘Sagoo and Takhar’ and I decided to agree with most of what he had to say in order to lead him on with his thesis. ‘The day when you send your daughters to university you lose them’ he concluded. ‘They will not be able to marry anyone you choose for them’. There is a variant to this view. What was the point of educating young girls when they were only going to marry’?



[1] A comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics. It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it. See the details in wikipedia at for further illumination.


The Commwealth Games were a success!

Despite all the concerns and the barrage of criticism by various prophets of doom, the Games were a success by all accounts. Good for India but also good for other developing countries with similar aspirations. Some records were set and others were broken.

There was also a considerable amount of short-termism combined with narrow tunnel vision. One example refers to a prominent Indian who has a following in conservation and environmental matters. Another person who spoke out against the basic premise of hosting the Commonwealth Games referred to the cost. I am sorry I did not note their names. This is bad blogging I agree!

What the second critic said was that India had committed itself to spending around £2 billion of public money. That money, he argued, could have been used for a host of alternative purposes. The Games were a waste of time, money and human energy… Many projects in rural development and education would have found ready takers. Of course any number of organisations would have found alternative uses of the funds! However what is not known is the cost benefit analysis of the Games. It should be remembered that sides of the equation consisted of tangible as well as intangible costs and benefits. However, if one was to focus on tangibles for the moment there must be a benefit equation which would suggest how every rupee spent on the Games would have translated into direct tangible outcomes. Did the proposers of the Games publish such data? It would be very helpful to examine any analysis of cost and benefits and to engage in positively critical analysis. Readers’ contributions are invited. Did the Games generate a factor of 2 or 3 in terms of their returns, that is, did every one rupee invested in the Games provide a suitable return of over 1 rupee? Again it would be very good to see the analysis.

Another recent scenario relating to the hosting of large sporting events was the FIFA World Cup. The Russians beat us and many howls of despair were heard across the UK. Was it a fair decision or did the FIFA Executive Board Members punish the English media and therefore England for exposing alleged backhanders and bribes? Who knows? Secondly was the award of the 2022 World Cup also similarly tainted? The fact remains that subject to expert management of both World Cup bids the hosts, namely Russia and Qatar should do very well out of the Cup. Only time will tell! In th meantime it is best to rely on expert evidence.

Crime in Nairobi: Is it time to keep things in perspective…?

Many people have sent me the report which I reproduce below. I do not know the source of the publication and could not ask for permission to reproduce it. I take it that the article is taken from one of the English language dailies in Nairobi or perhaps an online version of a local paper.

 The report makes serious reading. I have not been in touch with the situation in Nairobi and have no idea what is happening at the street level as far as law and order is concerned. However, many people will be quick to generalise that things are falling apart and that the authorities have lost their grip on crime prevention or containment. Others may even assert that the forces of law and order had been colluding in the crime and that they also stood to gain. This assertion will need substantial evidence if it is going to win my interest; in the main the rumour factory goes into overdrive and people churn out stories to destabilise the situation and cause unrest.

 When I lived in Zambia during the late 1970s, there were reports of similar events and in one case the Asian family had to hide under their beds for several hours before they could summon help. The story in Nairobi will have been a most traumatic situation for the family concerned and one hopes that they will soon recover. What can any police force do to enforce law and order? In Nairobi, the authorities are probably doing their best and the gang which was responsible for the reported attack may have slipped through the security net or had been watching the trading patterns at the liquor store. It is likely that  popular ‘lambasting’ of Kenyan authorities will follow and many assertions will be made on how they may have failed to address the crime. No police force wants such an embarrassing crime story at their doorstep. It would be well to maintain a responsible approach and to understand these unfortunate developments in their proper context.

 Critics may argue that it is easy for outsiders to comment when they may be enjoying the relative safety of London, New York or Toronto. The fact is that dangerous criminals can spring up anywhere and create serious problems for everyone when they resort to violence.  An Asian family has been robbed of all of their expensive belongings, cash and credit cards, i-pods, cameras, laptops and other high value items; they live in the heart of  ‘stockbroker belt’ in Surrey, south of London. It is possible that the criminals did not even know that the house belonged to Asians but it has been argued that occurence of similar robberies suggest that Asian families may have been targeted. Luckily the family was away at the time of the robbery.

 It is essential that such incidents in Nairobi or Kampala are not used to politicise public opinion and to pass judgement on the entire system of law and order. Prevention must remain a priority for everyone and to adopt an anti-African sentiment is unfair.

 There is a final point. People always look back to the days when one could leave one’s front door unlocked and have cars without alarms. Windows were left open on warm and muggy nights and no one ‘dared’ to lift an item form the vehicles. In London, the milkman left your supplies at the doorstep and parcels delivered during the day when the owner was absent were always left in a hatch. No one took them. Then one day, I discovered that our milk bottles had been pierced, leaving a number of small holes in the lid made out of silver foil .  The birds had struck when they had found the shiny lids too much of an attraction.  I have to yet to figure out whether the birds knew that there was milk in those bottles and that they belonged to Ugandan Asians…..

One wishes the family in Nairobi well and hopes that they will have the courage and capacity to cope and recover from their ordeal. This is a difficult time for Asians in Nairobi but they must maintain a sense of balance and perspective….

 Gangsters Hack To Death Nairobi’s Wine Seller In West Lands

Date: Tue 02nd February 2010


 A city businessman was on Sunday night hacked to death by gangsters who raided his home in Westlands. Vinod Ruparel, who owns Slates and Whitaker Wines and Spirits shop. in the city centre, bled to death after the four men cut him up with a panga during the 10pm robbery.

 His 28-year-old son Roop was seriously injured and was admitted to the MP Shah Hospital where doctors operated on him late yesterday. He sustained a deep cut on the right side of his face. The panga missed his eyes with an inch, doctors said. Ruparel’s wife was also slightly injured and was too traumatised to talk to the press at the MP Shah Hospital.

 According to Gigiri police, the father and his son were accosted by the gangsters as they drove into their compound next to Graffins College on Westlands Road. The pair had driven in from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at about 10 at night. The gangsters took the whole family hostage for about an hour as they ransacked the house for valuables.

They stole electronic equipment, cash and other valuables before leaving. their victims half dead. Relatives and friends who visited the young Roop at the hospital said only Ruparel, his wife and their son were at home when the attack happened. The family’s other son and two daughters were away.

 “It is not the first time gangsters are trailing people in this area. We wonder what the police are doing to safeguard our lives,” one of Roop’s friends said.

New publication: ‘The Rise of Idi Amin 1971-72’

The Rise of Idi Amin 1971-72

Mark Curtis, the historian and journalist provides and interesting view of the rise of Idi Amin based on the release of official papers. This is one of the most interesting features of his blog, which can be accessed by using this link:

Idi Amin remains a central interest in the lives of Uganda Asians. They have always been attracted by the depiction of him as a rogue, moron, comedian and dictator; attributes which were confirmed by his actions and also the reactions to his style of management and the excesses that he heaped on Uganda. However, if he had not been a rogue dictator, would some of his ideals and aspirations met with support and even success? His arguments for divesting the control of the Ugandan economy away from the Asians was never supported by sustainable evidence based on economic data and analysis of Uganda’s real earnings or gross domestic product. But everyone knew what he seemed to have in mind – the dominance of trade and commerce by the Asian community and the visible impact it created as they drove around in their imported prestige cars and their much publicised lifestyles and often, their closed ceremonies and events which were dominated by Asian audiences.

Idi Amin certainly felt cut off from what he perceived as a ‘secret society’ and his speeches won support from his fellow Africans who shared the same quest for access and integration with the Asian community. But his methods were as brutal and horrendous as the results that he ‘achieved’ in his mission to make a name for himself and to win popular appeal.

However, most of the Ugandan Asians have recognised that he treated Ugandans with utmost brutality and left huge scars on their minds and communities. But very few have really understood or even cared for the intensity of Amin’s horrific campaign and the extensive damage that he delivered to races that he hated because he saw them as a threat to his grip on power. There is a need to understand the story of the other side of Amin’s regime, which, when compared with the lessons that have been learnt in recent histories of conflict caused by ‘ethnic cleansing’ puts Amin in the top five of dictators who punished their own people.

The Ugandan Asian exodus appeared to take the focus away from death and destruction in Uganda as emigrating Asians embarked on rebuilding their lives and healing the wounds caused by Idi Amin. But the people who suffered the PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder were the native Ugandans. It is almost certain that most of them may have been able to verbalise their emotional injuries which were easily accessible in their recall of Idi Amin’s horrors, but has any work been carried out to assist hundreds of people who may still be struggling with the deep feelings of trauma which may be only accessible in their unconscious minds?

Returning to Mark Curtis, readers with wider interest in Africa and how historians will reflect on these issues and their parallels in other parts of the world will find Mark Curtis’s list of documents which were originally secret but now declassified.  Please see

Approaching the New Year with East African Asian news and updates

Here is some more news and my views about Vali Jamal’s forthcoming book. For those who are new to this a visit to Vali Jamal’s blog will provide a useful background.  Also see Vali Jamal’s Opus, in the links provided above.

Vali Jamal ‘Ugandan Asians: Then and Now, Here and There. We Contributed, We Contribute’ (forthcoming Jul 2010). Visit

It is much awaited by many supporters, fans and ‘converts’ and the likely date of publication is mid-2010.  The book will not be an end of a mission but a start of a major collective programme of ‘reawakening’ by many an East African Asian who is not always too proud their history and protective of their legacy.  Vali Jamal’s work and its updates through his blog have shown how so many silent people have felt empowered and recognised to the extent that they have been submitting vast amounts of information and historical records to Vali Jamal for publication. This ‘movement’ amongst the Asian communities to be recognised, be counted and to be recorded is a major step forward… the book will only mark the starting pistol and not the end of the ‘race’ to be included in Vali’s monumental ‘stab’ at writing East African Asian reminiscences.

Recent work by Vali Jamal and more modest if not the meagre contribution by this blog has shown how the first wahindi, the former people of the ‘Hindi’ or Hindustani origin as the African people originally perceived them to be actually turned out to be vastly different.   They thought that the Asians were a homogenous group of migrants who came from the same place with very little diversity between them. They were so wrong- the wahindi proved to be multi-cultural, cross-cultural and culturally diverse to the extent that different Asian ‘groups’ made progress in so many ways that were welcome and deserving of celebration. There were also a few ‘bad’ moves and unwanted developments but as we look forward to the future, our focus should be on the positive legacy as well as the search for new meaning in a past which can only inform us more about the future of the East African Asians, regardless of where they choose to settle down. 

The Asian exodus from Kenya in 1968 and the expulsion of more Asians from Uganda in 1972 did not mark the end of the wahindi migration … some of it is still continuing …the Asian tends to be restless and persistently entrepreneurial. Many, but still a minority, found the experience of living in the United Kingdom not too pleasant and rewarding that they decided that they must bring up their children in different environments and left for North America, Australia and even returned to the ancestral home countries in the Indian Sub-Continent. What was it that they were not enamoured with? Why did they decide to leave their first choice of a new home after they were uprooted in their African ‘phase’?  There is also some confirmation that another small minority of East African Asians did not find the vast open spaces and culturally free environments, not to mention the entrepreneurial bonanza of the US and Canada too appealing either. Many returned to the UK or went elsewhere.

The absence of data and research leaves one to present an anecdotal picture but we all know from our experience that the East African Asian continues to be a transient lot and confirms to my definition of the new wahindi.

Dhiraj Kataria has also been working on recording an East African Asian experience as he and his team sees it. In addition to his extensive support for Vali Jamal’s work, 2010 should see the first results of his relentless efforts to put his perceptions of the East African ‘mela’ on the map.  The mela in general terms is a gathering and a celebration but here the term is used to depict an East African Asian saga with no finite properties; it is a constantly evolving storyline. I expect to bring regular updates from the Kataria ‘engine-room’.

Three  new sources deserve initial mention in this post with more to follow in the next few days as I reflect on my experience during the last 12 months:

‘Bat Valley Dialogues’ is a new networking site which celebrates the work of Professor Bahadur Tejani, or Ba Tejani as known to many. Little does Bahadur realise that the term ‘Ba’ in the Central African countries means ‘sir’ ‘Master’ or ‘big man’. It is used when addressing someone of higher status. Bahadur’s work will be discussed in greater detail and through a network of readers and friends. Please see and become a member if you wish.

‘Chachi’s Kitchen’ which is new to me,  is a collection of mouth watering dishes, mostly from an Ismaili culinary background but every description of Sajeda Meghji’s enticing dishes will make you feel hungry. More on this shortly but if you cannot await your starter then please visit

Kersi Rustomji’s rich Parsi recollections make the last, but not the least important developments for me during 2009. Kersi has been writing for many years and brings rich stories from his East African background. Now settled in Australia and adding new perspectives at an age of 75, Kersi has for me, helped to connect with a new interest in Parsi society through Indian films such as Sanjay Dutt’s “MBBS” or fully known as Muna Bhai MBBS.

 So, for a pukka Parsi perception of life in East Africa please visit  and for a taste of Kersi’s welcome, here is his greeting: Love, peace, kindness…prema, shanti, ahinsa…upendo, raha, latifu…Only One Human Race...Kersi Rustomji.Planet Earth.ex-Kenya. Australia.