FreedomThis book was written in the middle to late twentieth century. Generally, this book dealt with Indians living in East Africa. The book is set in native Tanzania where Vassanji was raised after his family moved from his birthplace Nairobi. This book is a collection of short stories that chronically move from the narrator’s early childhood until he returns to his homeland years later to find that much has changed from his childhood.
There are many issues that are intertwined into the text that Vassanji incorporates to relay his stories. Being a part of the lower class Indian community in Tanzania during the 1950’s, there is much class struggle. There is an instance early in the book where massive discrimination is evident in the book.
?Schools went through preparation and drill for the royal visit.? ?But to my great disappointment only the higher forms were allowed to welcome the princess.?
The narrator overcame this discrimination by working through the crowd and essentially got a glimpse of the young queen. This was one of the more symbolic scenes in the book. The narrator overcame oppression here on a small scale as he later will by leaving Africa and going to a University in North America.
The market place called the ?Mnuda? was a place of massive thievery and just not a good place to go. However, many members of the ?community? would go to the ?Mnuda? to pick up odds and ends. The point is that this is a low class society we are dealing with.
Later on there is a mention of green government trucks that randomly show up in the streets of Tanzania during the night. Green government trucks just give the impression that the government has something to fear if they are sending out ?watchdog? trucks to keep an eye on the demos or population. This example just shows the kind of totalitarian government that was in place during the mid-twentieth century in this part of Africa. Just a reminiscent of 1984 and the concept of ?big brother ? mentioned in that novel. It seems this type of ruling is in place around the narrator at this time.
The family of the narrator would go on to have their own lives. When the narrator prepares for going to the University, he talks about his sisters already married. Typical for the girls to get married and run a family. That was the females’ ?job? here. Mamma was always interested in getting her daughters into marriage.
?Don’t be choosy.? ?It will be too late then.? ?There is nothing like having a men of your own??
The idea of the female of the family getting out, having a man, and having kids just was the idea. Never any idea of a career or higher level education was consider throughout the novel for these girls.
As for the narrator, he does go on to higher education. There is another case of discrimination in the hands of the government. The narrator whom did have very respectable grades in the local systems applies to the local university. He has aspirations to go into Medicine. However, the government recommends him to go into Agriculture, [not what we would call higher education] even though the narrator had ?never left the city except to go to a national park on a field trip.?
This is an attempt for the government to keep the Indian class down. Take the ones who show promise and bright futures and use your governmental power to keep them down. Agriculture is a ?low? level form of making a living, especially compared to medicine. This was more example of the belligerent’s discrimination that occurred in this area at this time.
The narrator’s mother finally allows him to go to the States and into the California Institute of Technology. Both a financial and emotion risk is taken by mother. She has to come up with a thousand shillings for him to go and she is losing a son to a distant place. Her faith in her son gives hope to not just the family, but also the reader. The decision was pivotal to the life of the narrator. If this opportunity were wasted, then the narrator’s potential would be deflated in two ways. One by missing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Regret haunts a person for the rest of your life. Also, the locals wanted him to go into agriculture. He would be doing farming and be using his body all-day and well it would be a waste of a mind that could do some much.
Essentially the narrator meets the girl call Amina. The relationship kicks off to a great start. The narrator courts this girl in London. There is a general interest in literature and common themes. The relationship doesn’t seem to work because of this commonness wears on the relationship and later breaks apart after eighteen years ago.
?An intimacy that turned insipid, dried up.? ?Not for us the dregs of relationships, the last days of alternating care and hatred.? ?I need a life on my own,?’ she said.?
These words show the last reminisces of what a relationship should not become and the evidence a lack of love that has come between two people, as these two have become distant and had no reason to be together.
The last parts of the book involve the man trying to get into the country, saying that he is a refugee. The secrecy and other espionage that occurs in this section show how the world of Tanzania has changed in the postcolonial period. A new, more suspicious nation has replaced the old one. The one group that catches the refugee does help him find his way to Canada in a confusing series of events.
When the narrator returns to Tanzania [Uhuru Street} as it was affectionately called. He has found some changes to the area and some surprises, also. He sees stores and music that were once familiar, but now a distant memory as he has left and the world that he once knew was gone. When he does walk down the Uhuru Street, it is just a walk down memory lane for the narrator. The narrator also pays a visit to the schools. They have now implimented some books that would make an educator cringe. The officials tell the narrator that the educational books have been replaced with thrillers because the ?boys and girls need entertainment.?
The narrator comes full circle when he sees his ex-wife while taking the stroll down memory lane as I refer to it when he is walking down Uhuru Street. This sighting best describes his relationship with Uhuru Street and his former hometown as a parallel with his relationship to his ex-wife.
?Past Mnazi Moja grounds, and with beating heart to the street, the building, where I lived as a boy for so many years from whose second-storey balcony I saw her, Amina, that day ? the mother of my daughter as they say here ? but then simply a remarkable girl who came to borrow Tranter’s Pure Mathematics from me.?