The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
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Vikram Lall comes of age in 1950s Kenya, at the same time that the colony is struggling towards independence. Against the unsettling backdrop of Mau Mau violence, Vic and his sister Deepa, the grandchildren of an Indian railroad worker, search for their place in a world sharply divided between Kenyans and the British. We follow Vic from a changing Africa in the fifties, to the hope of the sixties, and through the corruption and fear of the seventies and eighties. Hauntingly told in the voice of the now exiled Vic, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is an acute and bittersweet novel of identity and family, of lost love and abiding friendship, and of the insidious legacy of the British Empire.
me by name. My in-laws took to seeking my advice on coming political trends, and on such matters as the loyalty of the army and the health of the President. They had acquired interests in mining semi-precious minerals in both Kenya and Tanzania; there were rumours of gold finds in Tanzania. The power latent in my new status was brought home to me in the most amazing fashion. One day a young man, straight from university, it seemed, walked into my father’s office bearing a letter from a city
her calves, and apparently nothing under her robe. She looked shy. Meeting her eye, Juma Molabux made his decision, based upon his soul-searching of the previous, sleepless night. He was lonely, he had no family in the country and not much status, and he badly wanted a woman. Cohabiting with, or even marrying, an African woman was not entirely unheard of among Indians. And nothing in his upbringing forbade marrying someone from another community, or race, provided— I will marry her, but I must
a flask of coffee and a box of savouries in his hands, and she would hear out his long string of reminders—to keep an occasional eye on the lighted backyard, to keep within rapid access of the alarm switch and the gun by their bedside, when to use the telephone and always to be brief whether calling out or answering, to pay heed if neighbourhood dogs started barking, how to listen for the reassuring sounds of the two Dorobo watchmen who did the rounds of our development every night armed with
happened to him. We are old friends. Even you’re excited that he’s back in our lives! Rabba! I hope you are right. My sister’s situation was the first instance I noticed a certain detachment in myself. Whether she would finally marry Njoroge or not did not bother me. I personally did not favour circumstances—the possible outcome of the relationship—to turn out one way or another. I found myself waiting passively for the situation to resolve itself. I would watch my sister and Njoroge flirting
community in the whole of East Africa and be subjected to the contempt of other women, who will say she has a pukka kalu for a damad; suppose she wants to be able to hold her head up high in temple in front of these women, and to take her daughter and her family to Delhi to see her father and feel no shame… You talk to her, Bhaiya, my sister said to me. Take a stand in my favour, for God’s sake, Vic, she pleaded. I turned red under that look, those large black beseeching eyes with just a hint