‘Love in the Empire’ summary of the story, by Jay Chauhan
This novel is set in the nineteen sixties, a period of East Africa when the second and third generations of Indians, migrating from India to Africa, aspired to become professionals in the Britain and were adjusting to the British way of life. It was the time when United Kingdom was granting independence to African colonies in the nineteen sixties. It was the time when Indian Diaspora settled under the umbrella of the British Empire in Africa had to make wrenching decisions to return to homeland India or live in the West.
The characters of the story are entirely fictional, and any resemblance of a character living or deceased is coincidental. Many of the historical aspects of the countries, including Tanzania, England, Germany, India and Canada are true to the best of the knowledge of the writer. Real history as perceived from the Indian perspective, is put in short paragraphs at the end of the book for discussion and debate. I have told this story in first person to express my deep experiences and emotions in this challenging historical period of the nineteen sixties when Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar gained independence from England.
Arun in this novel is a Hindu Gujarati, born in Dar es Salaam, of Indian parents but was born a British Subject because his parents had become naturalized British in the East African colony of Tanganyika. Arun aspires to be a lawyer and a Judge after seeing a British Magistrate in Dar es Salaam who wore a dark robe and showed immense confidence and judgment. Arun wanted the education of the West but also the bonds, culture and warm of the large Indian family.
At a tender age of 17 Arun meets a beautiful 16 year old girl called Deepa who was visiting Dar es Salaam on her holiday from her studies at a Gurukul in India. Arun had completed his high school education and was waiting to travel to England for studies. He was infatuated by her looks with dark eyes and long plaid hair and demeanor and she was impressed by Arun’s ambition to be a lawyer.
During her visit to Dar es Salaam, Arun takes Deepa to visit Koinet, a Masai, in Kariako area of Dar es Salam where Koi narrates his Masai family history at the end of German occupation of Tanganyika when the British fought the Germans on East African soil and lost his father who fought for the Germans. He became an orphan and was brought from the Serengeti area to Dar es Salaam and was educated in German.
Later Arun takes Deepa to visit his British teacher Mr. Gareth Jones who lived in Oysterbay. He was a Welshman from Cardiff who had settled in Dar es Salaam with his family and taught English Literature at the Indian Secondary School where Arun studied.
Deepa came to know Arun during her visit and felt that since she and Arun were of the same case he ought to visit her family in Zanzibar were her family lived in a large sprawling bungalow near the beach. During the visit to Zanzibar her father approved of the marriage and offered to underwrite the cost of Arun’s expensive legal education in England at Lincoln’s Inn if he promised to marry Deepa and returned to live in East Africa.
Arun visited Zanzibar before leaving for England and met Deepa’s parents and stays at their lavish bungalow at sea front. One evening Deepa asked him to jum out of the window to walk the white sandy beach holding hands with Arun in the moonlight. Arun promises to come back from studies to marry her.
During the visit to Zanzibar Deepa, her father and family visit the Sultan of Zanzibar who knew the family and Arun was dazzled by the opulent lie style of the Arab ruler. During the visit Sultan proudly describes the accomplishments of his ancestors who came from Muscat, Oman, and took over the island from the Portuguese for the slave trade. He expressed in pride in speaking pure Swahili which became the language of East African countries.
During the visit to Zanzibar, Arun and the family of Deepa visit the Slave Island for a Indian style picnic with many friends and relatives from the island. Deepa and Arun find a moment to explore the the fortress like building which housed the slaves brought from the mainland area of Bagamoyo at the Eastern Strip of land of East Africa, and where the rebellious slaves were drowned tied to the pillar in rising tides and their dead bodies were displayed to the remaining captured slaves to show to them what happens if they attempt to escape.
After returning to Dar es Salaam from Zanzibar, Arun meets through British Council office at the harbour of the city, to seek admission at Lincoln’s Inn, a prestigious Law School for Barristers in England. He asked a Scottish man for admission, but he was denied admission because of lack of Latin in Arun’s studies in Dar es Salaam. The officer encouraged him to study Economics which he felt was more important for the economic development of Tanganyika than law, and grants him admission to study A levels at Kingston upon Thames Technical College which would lead to admission at London School of Economics, a famous school of Economics in the central London.
Arun departs for Europe, at a tender age of 17, deeply apprehensive and with a limited knowledge of English and with an Indian accent. Leaving the family at that age was difficult and Arun cried as he boarded the French Ship Pierre Loti which went through the Suez Canal in 1958 when it had just been repaired and opened after being bombed by England, France and Israel who fought against President Gamal Nasser of Egypt, who opposed the ownership of the canal in the post colonial period. This partially constructed rebuilt Canal delayed the passage of Pierre Loti through the Canal, but give Arun a chance to travel to Luxor where he sees the rise of the civilization of Egypt and fall in the time of Cleaopatra who would rather commit suicide than be conquered by Rome. Arun thought of how different the civilizations rose and then died and contemplated the English civilization which he was becoming a part of.
The ship journey ended in Marseilles, France, from where Arun and his friends took a train to Paris where he could not order breakfast without knowing French. An Indian passing by helps with the ordering of the breakfast and sits with him over a bowl of coffee in a bowl and croissant, and later invites him to his home to meet his French wife for dinner. At dinner the couple explain to Arun the conflicts of England and France as major powers of the twentieth century and their history from the time of Joan of Arc until the naval battle of Trafalgar where England defeated France and Spain and England gained hegemony over the culture of the world through English and its institutions. Until then it was France that was on the forefront of the European culture for centuries.
As Arun reach England he saw the shops and houses and was impressed by the accomplishments of the British Empire including the legal system. However, the life for Arun became isolated and lonely. He wrote long letters to his family and Deepa who was now in Bombay at University still anxiously waiting for Arun to come back home.
In Kingston where Arun studied for A Levels, he befriended his Polish landlord, Zigbiew, who had settled in Kingston after the Second World War. His family had grown up in Cracow in Poland from where he was shipped to Thuringen in a cattle train by the Nazis near Mueldorf on the South East part of Germany. Poles and others captured by the Nazis worked 16hour days in the deep underground factory in slave like conditions. It was here that Hitler’s government had successfully developed the Me 262, a Jet Plane, in the bunker factory underground, at the end of the war. After the second European War he had escaped to England and joined the Polish Resistance Army and settled in Kingston. He had learnt that all his family and Jewish neighbours had been lost or killed in the concentration camps during the Second War.
In Kingston, England, Arun studied long days and nights worrying about the cost of education which was paid by his two working parents as teachers. He had little time to socialize. He had promised his father that he would not marry any European and kept his distance with women in England.
Janet who often sat next to him in class room in Kingston confronted him once at the cafeteria asking him why he never talked to girls in the class room and avoided them which was very unlike other English boys in the college. He was embarrassed but explained that in Indian society where you talked to the wife only after marriage and he was not used to mixing with women in Dar es Salaam.
Arun completed two year A lvel studies in one year but still was admitted to the London School of Economics with the grades he obtained. At the University he learnt from his friend Richard over a chat in the Shaw Library that LSE was founded by George Bernard Shaw, and the Fabian Society.
Looking for some social contacts, Arun found an invitation at the notice board of the LSE inviting all students for tea on Sunday. At the gathering at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Crittenden for tea he met Ingrid, a girl with a Polish father and German mother. She spoke with a German accent and explained to Arun that her accent came from the sad background in which she was brought up in a self governing town of Danzig located near Baltic Sea where Germans and Polish lived in harmony until 1939 when Germany invaded the city and annexed it to Germany and discriminated against the people of Polish origin. The family forbade anyone in the family to speak Polish and pretending to be all German, settled in the west part of Berlin. That is where she got her German accent.
Ingrid was a very beautiful girl but she was also lonely in England because of her German accent and the friendship of Ingrid with Arun grew but remained platonic as Arun had promised to marry Deepa. Ingrid became frustrated with Arun’s rigidity in keeping his Indian culture.
During the stay of Ingrid in England her sister, Heidi, visited London from Germany and Ingrid, Arun and Heidi visited the Tower of London and being interested in history saw the Crown Jewels including Kohinoor which was brought to England from India during the British Raj in India. They also saw the place where Ann Boyelin was beheaded on the grounds of the Tower after being accused of adultery by Henry VIII.
Arun, continued to be a vegetarian when he lived in Bayswater area of London but Richard, a friend he made at LSE, encouraged him to take residence at the Passfileld Hall which is one of the residences of the School. The vegetarian food was unknown at the time in England and Arun learnt to eat meet. One afternoon he walked with Ingrid to Gordon Square where they saw the statute of Noor Inayat Khan, and Indian Princess, who had spied for Chuchill’s war government, and was captured by Germans and brutally tortured at Dacau concentration camp by the Germans during the Second European War. Arun and Ingrid talked about how the British Empire was built with vast number of soldiers from the colonies who like Noon Inayat Khan gave their lives for England but were never appreciated.
Ingrid fell in love with Arun but he refused to change and Ingrid decided to leave London without telling Arun. Arun was distraught at the thought of her leaving and decided to trace her in Germany. He set out to learn German and succeeded getting a British Council Scholarship to study in Berlin where he accidently met Ingrid. Both were delighted to meet each other and confessed their love for each other.
Ingrid studied Nazi foreign policy and one day took Arun to Kurfurstendam where she showed the place where Subhashchandra Bose had his Azad Hind Radio and where he trained Indian soldiers to fight the British in India. As they walked Ingrid insisted that Arun hold her hand which he reluctantly did.
Ingrid invited Arun to the family cottage in Fuessen, at the Southern border of Germany, where they swam, rode horses and scuba dived and even celebrated Oktoberfest over beer. Arun learnt to dress in Lederhosen where were leather shorts which German boys wore and She dressed in drindl, which women wore in Germany. Arun refused to sleep with Ingrid because of his commitment to Deepa.
From Berlin Arun travelled to Uganda to do his research on African agriculture in Uganda and from there goes to Dar es Salaam where he met Deepa again at the Kilimanjaro hotel located at the harbour of the town. Both had long talks on what happened in the intervening years and they discovered that each had changed and decided that each must follow their own path in life as their cultures had become different.
After returning from Dar es Salaam, a love affair of Ingrid and Arun grew and he met her family and planned their married life in Africa. But tragically, Ingird developed breast cancer. With no prospect of living, Ingird encouraged Arun to marry Ursula, her cousin in East Berlin. Arun visited East Berlin and met Ursula who wanted to leave East Berlin because of Stasi and persecution of the communist government and asked Arun to marry her.
Arun returns to London after his studies in West Berlin where he completes his master’s degree in Economic Development. He wanted to complete his call to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn. There he learnt through a letter that Ingrid’s cancer had spread and she was dying and eventually she died. Arun was heart broken.
Love of Ingrid and her memory remained strong in Arun’s mind for many months, but there at one conference he saw an English girl, called Lisa, who looked very much like Ingrid with her rosy cheeks and blond hair. Arun told Lisa of his love for Ingrid and explained how similar both looked, and Lisa told Arun that her ancestors came from Angels, Saxony and Jutland part of north Germany a few centuries ago.
Arun continued to meet Lisa and one day invited Lisa to attend the dinner at Lincoln’s Inn where Barristers of England, Wales and the colonies of England studied to be lawyers. It was a Domus dinner meeting and Lord Denning, Treasurer of the Inn, spoke about the common law traditions and how they spread to the colonies which were becoming independent and becoming part of the Commonwealth.
The students of Lincoln’s Inn met at Cumberland Lodge for weekends and Arun invited Lisa to attend where they met Lord Denning and he explained that it would be impossible for Arun to practice law as a Barrister in England as the briefs must come from Solicitors and in the class conscious Britain it would be impossible for Arun to find briefs.
Arun was disheartened at not being able to practice as a Barrister in England, and he took up a job as a legal aid officer in Brighton where Lisa and Arun lived for a while still deciding whether or not to go to live in East Africa which was becoming independent, one country at a time. There they mat a priest called Rev. Barnes, who encouraged them to go to Canada instead of East Africa because of the political turmoil.
At the Brighton Royal Pavilion, the couple talk to Reverend Barnes, an Anglican priest, about marriage between races and finding a country to live and he encourages the couple to live in Canada.
Arun met Lisa’s parents at a posh coffee house at Regent’s street in London where her father describes his two year stay in India as a Brigadier General who commanded a Gurkha regimen during the Second World War. Arun discussed living in Africa or Canada with the parents of Lisa at the restaurant and also the visit her father had made to India during the war and how he saw the Indian soldiers, particularly Gurkhas and Sikhs who had contributed to the Empire history.
Arun decided to get married at the City Hall in Brighton without any ceremony and without guests except for two friends from London at LSE who witness the marriage. Arun refused to have children until he became a Barrister and fulfilled his professional goals which England did not permit, and with the encouragement of Lisa, he decided to give it a try in Canada where lands a job at the University of Guelph as an assistant professor of development economics.
When Arun arrives in Guelph he meets a Sikh driving a taxi with a turban who explained how difficult it was for qualified people from other countries to get jobs in Canada and that he himself was an Engineer driving a taxi. He found an Indian landlady who cooked Indian meals and was ready to take Arun as a paying guest. The Indian Taxi Driver also took Arun to the manpower office where he showed his degrees in Economics and Law but was offered a job to deliver Bell Canada telephone books from door to door.
Still burning with the ambition to do law, Arun left his teaching position at the University of Guelph to work at a legal office in Guelph and sought admission at Osgoode Hall.
Lisa and Arun who were married in Brighton at a civil ceremony and were separated from each other so Arun could settle down in Canada. Arun found a job at a lawyer’s office in Guleph as a paralegal. At this legal office he met Heinrich who told him of his story of how his family left Germany and settled in Waterloo.
At the legal office before Lisa could come, Arun met Barbara, who was a native Indian from the Indian reserve, and who emotionally explained the plight of native Indians in Canada. Her sister who looked very Indian had committed suicide as she saw no reason for living the life of a native Indian on reserve where the conditions of living were worse than third world countries and there was no future for the young people. Before Lisa came to Canada, Barbara, said that in Canada races lived separate lives and she as a woman of mixed French and Native Indian ancestry was more comfortable marrying some like Arun who looked like her. Arun explained that he was married to Lisa and that she was coming to Canada.
Arun decided to fulfill his dream of Dar es Salaam to be a lawyer and studied for 4 years to obtain the law degree from Canada. A son was born during this time but he did not attend the hospital so he could complete his lectures. Lisa cried learning that Arun would show no sympathy for the birth of the child as a father because of his ambitions. Eventually, Arun became a lawyer in Brampton and even a Deputy Judge after many years of struggle.
Twenty years later, parents of Arun come to Canada and met Lisa and the two children. They came to the court where Arun was presiding and stood up as he entered the court and later met in Judge’s chambers where they talked about the migration back of parents to India and Arun settling with Lisa and having a family in Canada and how the life after the end of the Empire had changed their lives so much in the twenty years.