1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2001
The author was nurtured on stories of his grandfather’s trials and tribulations as a young immigrant to Africa and his subsequent rise to political fame. His curiosity led him to painstaking research of his grandfather's journals as well as the research notes left by his father. This resulted in the riveting African historical saga , a homage to the resilient spirit of his grandfather, Mehar Singh Dhillon.
Kijabe is a small village just off the road from Nairobi to Nakuru, in Kenya, one of the countries in East Africa.
Mehar Singh arrived in Mombasa in a dhow in March 1916. He was instantly awed by the raw beauty of Africa as he inhaled the intoxicating scents of the vast scenic African landscape. But he soon learnt that beauty exacts its price. He experienced the harsh realities as he began his journey in the hinterland- the hot sweltering African sun, the scorching red dust, anthills, thorny bushes, wild animals, the killer tse-tse flies, swarming malarious mosquitoes, tropical diseases and death.
Mehar Singh was persuaded by his friend, a British District Commissioner to jump into politics as by now he was very popular among Africans and also articulate in African dialects. He got elected as a Member of Parliament and later as a Secretary of the powerful political party, Kenya African National Union, reporting directly to the President of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
The computer savvy author invites interested readers to visit his fascinating website, [...]
on April 23, 2003
I read Kijabe and by this email I wanted to tell you what I thought of it... I liked the book very much!
I did not know anything about history of Indians in Kenya, so I learnt a lot from it. It was very interesting to read how a certain group can come to a country so far away, settle down and build up a whole community. Amazing how someone can start as a railway-worker and finally have his own flourishing trading-business! Rob told me that that part of the book had really happened in the past, but not the political part of your grandfather's life, although it is imagineable (I think?) that it could have happened that way. Interesting as well to read about the relationship between the Indians and the Maasai. Although I don't know a lot about it, somehow I have always been intrigued by the Maasai-people, who are very beautiful I think. The book made me only more curious (I would really like to go there sometime) and it was encouraging to hear about the peaceful way many Indians and Maasai could live together.
Besides the historical part of the book, there were other things which I liked about it. The story about the trial was exciting, not knowing what had happened until the end of the book. I do not often read detectives or 'trial'-books, so I can not compare it with anything, but it was nice to read. I felt like keeping on reading to find out what was going on. The love story of Akash and Anar was beautiful. I really liked it (possibly influenced by me being a girl....). And I don't want to be too sentimental, but the love letters were wonderful!
The language of the book was not too difficult, which made it enjoyable and relaxing to read. I don't know if that was on purpose, but to me, as a non-english girl, it was another positive thing.
I understand that your father had started to write the book, which he has not been able to finish unfortunately. How did that exactly work, did you just go on where he had stopped? And was that very difficult? I was wondering as well what in the book were facts and what was fiction. I assume that the part of the settlement in Kenya was real (the diaries as well?), and that the story of the trial was fiction and there was some mystery about your grandfather's death) just as the things about Akash and Anar, is that right? And have you written anything else, or are you planning to write more?
Anyway, I hope that it is alright that I told you my opinion about your book. Hopefully you will understand that it is very positive! I am glad that I could read it.
Nijmegen, the Netherlands
on November 15, 2000
To portray the issues and crises of a Diaspora culture in East Africa is one thing, but to write about them using the tools of various genres is quite another. Pally Dhillon has written a story about the clash of divergent cultures, of diametrically opposed religious beliefs, of the political and social struggles of a man who journeyed across the Indian Ocean to help build a life, a family, and a society. Kijabe is an impressive effort.
Borrowing devices from popular genres--from murder mysteries and love stories, from political thrillers and the well-known rags-to-riches motif--Dhillon tells the story of his grandfather, a poor Sikh emigrant who went to Kenya to work for the railroad industry, operated by the British at the beginning of the twentieth century. This is the same man who became one of Kenya¹s most powerful political figures, and whose mysterious death serves as the beginning of the book.
Kijabe is the fictional account of Dhillon¹s life-long research into the life of his ancestor. The history and culture underscoring the narrative greatly enrich the reader¹s experience and keep the story from falling into the trappings of genre fiction. But at the same time, the aspects of genre writing keep the story from becoming mired in its own attempt at historical accuracy.
Though this is Dhillon's first novel, it would be difficult to discern from the text. He writes with clarity and ease, with strength and power. Substantial portions of the book are devoted to the journals of his family's patriarch, but not to the extent that one voice dominates the tale. The complexity of the story requires a glossary of terms and an Appendix of Characters at the end to assist the reader¹s enjoyment. A small explanation of the nature of Sikhism and a concise history of Kenya reside at the end as well. For those who enjoy reading about the histories of far-away places, genealogy, sex, murder, and corruption, Kijabe is a book worth reading.
on June 11, 2000
But when love is the source of these feelings, those moments are carved much deeper in the mind. Feelings of transcendence, the desire to share this feeling with everyone around you, that connectedness to the one you love-these feelings are stronger, and the degree of emotional satisfaction or physical happiness is at a higher level. In a situation where two individuals are in love, there are bound to be moments of joy and fulfillment. There are times when we wish we had a crystal ball and could gaze into the future, so we could see the friendships that might develop or know how long they might last. From afar, I recognize and can distinguish a change in you, although I'm sure you don't perceive that. This could stem from the fact that I am getting to know you as only a soul mate knows its true other self. I confide in you, which I have never done with another person. This trust is based on knowing that you and I respect our unique bond and relish our private mutual intimacies. I wish you could open up to the level that I do, and this might happen with time. As I often remind you, "let it out," whatever is on your mind say it? Otherwise the thoughts or words that are within you will stay within you. If you can express them and not hurt anyone, they should be let out. The level of communication we have is incredible. Is it because I love you so much or is it because you are a good listener? You smile when I'm mad and say things to you that I shouldn't be. You understand me completely-and maybe love me a little bit-or perhaps you love me too much, and thus ignore all my faults. Is love blind? My love for you is so strong and deep that I find it difficult to believe that I, or anyone else, could love another human being so much. As I always say, wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, or whoever I'm with . . .if you ever need me . . . I am there for you, my love. I love loving you. You are my own special miracle. The time and days we share are my blessings. The memories we make are my treasures. Every time I see you, you take my breath away and make my heart skip a few beats. The laughter, the silly jokes, and the gentle moments we share, are exquisite and make me smile when I am blue. The togetherness we have is my "dream come true" and the understanding we feel for each other is something I have never had with anyone. If anyone ever asked me what part of my life you are . . . I would have to look at them, smile, and unhesitatingly say -- the best part. The happiness you give is something I will never be able to get enough of. I love having you in my private world and having you to love. I will never stop loving you in this lifetime and if there are other lives to follow, then I will love in each of those lives, too.
on June 29, 2004
I would like to congratulate you to your extremely well written, historically fascinating and highly suspensful book Kijabe. One of the outstanding attributes of this book is the variety of genres it comprises. The historic part of Kijabe introduced me to a country's history which so often becomes overlooked by western societies. Reading your book brought a mostly unknown part of the world to my attention, historically, politically and spiritually. Kijabe is doing an exceptional job of stirring the reader's interest in a foreign country and the people who built it up. Kijabe - above all - is also a story about love. There is the deep and true love between Akash and Anar that helps the couple overcome the violence, lies and intrigues that the family has to suffer from. It is the strong bond between these two that help them solve the case so that justice can be done. Kijabe also proves that hard work will pay off and good will prevail, without making the mistake of portraying the hollywood cliché of good versus evil. The book ends by raising a fundamental question of human nature. Can we forgive each other for our mistakes and wrong doings? Although there is no apparent answer to this question I think that the inherent answer is yes. The dominating theme of Kijabe is love. Isn't forgiveness part of love?
Being an immigrant myself makes me relate to your book even more so. I am extremely grateful to you for sharing your book with me!
on March 28, 2001
I recently spent a year traveling in Africa, and found this book an absorbing picture of the courageous beginnings of what I saw there. It's a wonderful story of the building of Kenya in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, seen through the eyes of Indian immigrants. The author's grandfather immigrated from India with a dream to build a life in this new land. The book sees Africa with the eyes of the new immigrant, and includes colorful excerpts from the grandfather's diary. It tells vibrant stories of his work laying the rail for the British railroad across Kenya, where the men were often killed by marauding lions, of driving wagons to trade with the remote and sometimes dangerous Masai tribe, and building a successful merchant business. His grandfather's foray into Kenyan politics paints an insightful picture of politics in much of Africa. It tells of life among the Indian immigrants who operated as a hard-working, proud, educated minority in Kenya and Tanzania and helped develop those countries. Americans should read this to get a clearer picture of the Africa they are so quick to criticize and sanction.
on August 19, 2002
I just finished reading your book KIJABE, and wanted to applaud you for your honest and intriguing novel on the history of your family in Africa. I really liked how you juxtaposed the court story, your romance, the journals of your grandfather, and the local histories. I am an avid reader (and actually picked up your book from the Westlake Library) and I am always curious for unique books that give new perspectives to life and peoples relationships. I think Kijabe was just that. I know it was your first attempt at writing, and I hope you continue to grace the paper with your pen, as I think your style will continue to improve through the years.
ps. I would love to hear more about your story if you wouldn't mind sharing what parts were true, and where things stand now.
I'm fascinated by that kind of stuff. I'm actually a student and I study international relations ( I was in Switzerland for school last year) so real life antidotes are always helpful. thanks.
on May 3, 2001
I enjoyed your book immensely. I especially liked that your grandfather kept Journals. How else could we learn about our ancestors. We are so closely together as a people when we can pass on our experiences and knowledge to others.
I liked Akash's letters as he wrote them. How wonderful his eloquence to Anar. Political unrest has been with us as long as I can remember. Do you think, as your grandfather did, that we will still see peace in our lifetime ? It is hard to comprehend the struggle for land between nations. I think your grandfather knew all things are gods. I too love people and I hope my prayers for a united world will surface before my demise.
Thanks you again for your book. It was very hard to put down when I had to. I hope there is another book in you and that it will continue to enlighten us to your Africa, India or England as you know it and live it.
Betty Boyce-Anderson, Laramie, Wyoming
on February 5, 2001
Thank you for sending us a copy of your wonderful book, "Kijabe". I have just finished it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a beautiful saga of your most fascinating family and enabled me to learn about Kenya and it's varied people and places. These are people that so few of us know much about. I was truly absorbed!
My question, however, is how much is fact and how much fiction? I am sure Mehar was real and he was your grandfather. Africa is quite a fascinating continent, as much today as yesterday and the story of your family's migration, integration and success is a remarkable one. Mehar was an incredible man whose death prematurely was so unfortunate. He nevertheless left an important legacy in you and your family. Was he really murdered under these circumstances? Well, once again thanks for sharing your important and enjoyable book with is.
on February 27, 2001
KIJABE is a tribute of a progeny for his forefathers "whose tall black boots ended just above his knees." Once you open the book you are in a fascinating world of East Africa, sun and sand, flora and fauna, tribes and their interaction with Sikhs, births and deaths, successes and failures, nothing is left untouched. It is history.
Climax is the fate of all outsiders including Sikhs. They gave their lives to the country they lived in, loyally served it, severed all connections back home; language, customs, appearances. And, if ever they dare to be near the seat of power they are finished.
"I was only trying to protect Kenyans. I did not want an Asian leading our country. This had to be done. I did order the killing", says one of the top educated ministers.
The style and structure is charming. You read the book to the finish.