2018-09-16 11:01:21 UTC
01 SEP 201805:26AM IST
‘Among The Jacaranda’ by Braz Menezes is a novel based on true events.
Cyprian Fernandes, former Chief Reporter of the Nation and author of
‘Yesterday in Paradise’ ‘Stars Next Door’, reviews the book for Café
‘Among the Jacaranda’ is the third in the ‘Matata
series that already comprises ‘Just Matata’ (reissued as an expanded
edition as ‘Beyond the Cape’ 1920-1950) and ‘More Matata’ (1951-1963). The
books are written by Kenya born author Braz Menezes, a former award-winning
The first three books quickly established a large fan base for Menezes, who
quickly became recognised for imbuing the hero of the books, Lando, with
wit, humour, a sense of adventure, while paying homage to Kenya and
especially Nairobi. No doubt, ‘Among The Jacaranda’ is already assured of a
following; probably more in E-books than the printed variety, both easily
available on Amazon and most E-book platforms.
I am finding reviewing this exceptional trip down nostalgia road a tough
gig. Not only because I get a left-handed compliment but because, like
Menezes, I was born and raised in Kenya and I think the author is a couple
of years older than me. Hence it is easy for me to walk down familiar roads
to familiar suburbs, Goan social clubs, especially the Goan Gymkhana (where
I was a rare visitor) and many, many familiar faces.
Someone questioned the other day why East African Goans over-feast on their
past lives in the former British colonies. History. Just a shared history
and the unbreakable links that a community gives birth to. Even more,
authors like Menezes, Mervyn Maciel (the doyen author of ‘Bwana Karani’)
also act as low-level historians charting the lives and times of Goans and
prove to be invaluable in the absence of any recorded history or documented
almanacs. Even more importantly, fact or fiction based on true events,
serve to enlighten the non-Goans in our respective adopted countries about
everything Kenyan in historical terms.
More importantly, Lando mirrors, to a large degree, the lives of young Goan
men and women who began university life in the 1960s, got their first job,
excelled at sport, or towards the end of the 1950s or early 1960s faced the
heartbreak of being forced to leave the country with their parents on the
onset of independence. On the other hand, there were many young people who
achieved the move to university life overseas and committed themselves to a
future back in independent Kenya. Menezes’ hero, Lando (who, I am sure is
based largely on his own life) did just that.
So if you have the slightest connection (and even if you have no
connection) with Kenya, then hope along for a nostalgic safari.
For a young man who had not travelled much before, there is all the wonder
of a European holiday to explore. You will have to buy the book to enjoy
Lando, seeking fame and fortune as a future architect, heads for university
in Liverpool in 1964. Even though the UK is running a high fever, fighting
to “keep Asians out”, Lando is unphased. He is aware of it and is concerned
about the treatment and abuse being meted out to Indians who already
settled in the UK. However, Lando is just an observer.
It is not long before our intrepid hero meets a white girl and takes the
first steps towards falling in love over a period of many months. Menezes
takes us on a romantic journey that is rather seamless, without drama of
any kind and the two later head for Kenya to make bliss official at the
wedding ceremony in Nairobi. As I said, it is all very seamless.
On his return to Nairobi, Lando spends as much time as he can at the Goan
Gymkhana. To his delight, most of his friends are still there and club
continues to function in an independent Kenya with little change. These
days, in Sydney, Australia, I chew the nostalgia fat with one of the
friends he mentions in the book: Felix. With a bunch of other ex-Nairobi
friends who meet for bowling each Friday, come rain or shine or whatever,
we celebrate our collective past.
There is much, much more to this valuable contribution to the historical
record of the Goan community in Kenya, especially Nairobi.
I loved it. Because it is everything so familiar. Another winner for