Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar (ratheesh) wrote,
Ratheesh KrishnaVadhyar

Mama Africa

TD Ramakrishnan's latest novel, Mama Africa, is presented as a collection of writings by Thara Vishwanath, a writer from Uganda who was a pen-friend of the author during his college days. Thara's grandfather had migrated from Kerala to Uganda in 1898 when he was hired by the British for construction of railways. He married an African woman and settled in Uganda. Later he participated in various trade union activities, and founded an organization called Uhuru based on communist ideals. Their son and Thara's father, Doctor Panicker, supported Uhuru by developing pamphlets (though Thara later realizes that her father did much more in a secretive way), and was persecuted and murdered by Idi Amin. Thara was kidnapped by the dictator, and she writes about her life before and after the Idi Amin encounters in her autobiographical works named Mama Africa and Karuppinum Veluppinum Idayil, which are included in this book.

Like in his earlier works, TD Ramakrishnan takes a lot of liberty in presenting historical people as characters in his novel - Many of Africa's political leaders and dictators come as characters in this novel. In the style of narration, the book is very similar to Francis Ittykkora and Sugandhi Enna Andal Devanayaki - all of them have a mix of history, fantasy, "constructed" myths, elements of mystery and descriptive sections on exploitation and torture.

The author has been successful in providing a balanced outlook on various aspects, as presented from the perspective of Thara. Her transition to being a "lover" of Idi Amin would surprise us first despite the justifications she gives through her dream interactions with "Mama", though in hindsight we can see that she just matches other female characterizations by the author in his earlier works. Thara later gives some thoughts on validating the egoistic behavior of the dictator with references to the oppressed past of the African people. This approach of "looking at both the sides" is seen while discussing about the involvement of Soviet Union in African Politics as well. Though Mama Africa makes several subtle statements on various social and political aspects of the region, I would prefer to look at it as just a story book, and I enjoyed reading it.
Tags: books

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