M.G. Vassanji and his parents and grandparents lived and worked in East Africa. He now lives in Canada but welcomed an opportunity to travel in India, the land of his ancestors. A Place Within: Rediscovering India talks about his sense of coming home but still observes the country as an outsider. He is neither Hindu nor Muslim, and he’s horrified by the religious violence that can erupt in India. But unlike North Americans, he’s at home in a poor, crowded country. He looks back at the country’s long, long history of being invaded again and again and the diverse mix of people and religions and cultures this has created in India. It’s a fascinating look at a very complex country.
I also feel very much at home with his perspective. I was born in Africa of British parents. I have spent roughly half my life in Saskatoon, but the rest of my life has been spent wandering. I’ve lived in four Canadian provinces and spent 2 ½ years in France. Sometimes I envy people who have lived their whole lives in one place. They are so rooted and appear to have such a strong sense of belonging. And yet sometimes they have a very narrow outlook on life. My hairdresser in Slocan had a husband who worked at the local saw mill. The only future she could envisage for her sons was to also work at the mill. The girls in my Slocan Brownie group all wanted to be hairdressers because that was the only career option for women that they were familiar with. I’m sure the auto workers and their families in Detroit and Windsor have a similarly narrow perspective.
I was astonished to read that 60% of Canadians opposed the NDP/Liberal coalition. Why? Was it just too different, too unexpected? So many other countries have coalition governments, but how many Canadians are aware of European or New Zealand politics?
I’ve also been a vegetarian for 25 years and was gardening organically and reading books about the environment long before it was popular.
It can be lonely living outside the mainstream of society, and it’s often confusing because there are no clear cut blacks and whites. But it’s also very exciting because I can think for myself and make my own decisions without being limited by society’s mandates.