My dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,
Did I ever tell you how old I was when I left Uganda? I was 15 when I left Jinja, my childhood town on the shores of Lake Victoria. Then, I did not know that I would never return! Seeing those words in black and white makes me sad.
Naynamasi and I flew from Entebbe on the 20th of December 1971. It had only been a week since I had been involved in a grand drama and dance event at our local cinema (called the Odeon!). I think it had been a charity event, though for what charity, I am not sure! I so enjoyed all that dancing on the stage. All Indian traditional folk dances and with majority of the participants being Gujaratis, you can imagine the vibrant colourful costumes. Kiranmasi and I had to go for practice everyday and that too dressed up in saris, so as to be decently dressed!
A week into the practice and I remember Neshmama coming home and making a big fuss as to how we were involved with the shady bunch of Jinja and that our parents’ shouldn’t allow it. Thank God, no-one listened to his advise for though there might have been some not-so-shiny examples of the community in our group, the whole programme was exhilarating, at least for me. Kiranmasi and I were the junior members of the group. Our dancing abilities promoted us to dance in four routines. As the year-end exams had just finished we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into this adventure. Just a week before the show, the talk of whisking young girls out of Uganda began. During our rehearsal breaks there were loads of discussions of the unsettled atmosphere developing in Uganda. The then president Idi Amin Dada started questioning the aloof status of the long settled Asians in the country. I had not come across any mixed marriages or liaisons in our local community. This resulted in 2 teenage Indian girls being kidnapped by some Ugandan boys. Naynamasi in her late teens, became the main subject of my extended family’s concern. I was chosen to accompany her. I was shocked as well as excited to be able to go to England. That distant dream of mystique. To avoid any kidnapping fiasco, Naynamasi and I moved from enjoying the warm December of Jinja, to enduring the cold winter of Surrey. It only seems like yesterday!
I am sure many questions come to your mind right now. Ask me some and I will answer in the coming letters. For now I am posting a recipe for Dhokri. A typical Gujarati all-in-one comfort meal. I call it the Indian pasta. As usual I will await your comments, always hoping that you will make it soon.
With all my love, hugs and kisses,