GLIMPSE OF EARLY ASIAn
PIONEERING DAYS IN KENYA
Indian Travellers' - East Africa
1902-5 [edited by Cynthia Salvadori]
look at Contemporary History through different Eyes
- - For those
who feel that the teaching of Colonial history in Kenya relies too
much on a European outlook, here is a book to redress the bias, writes
recent publication of 'Two Indian
Travellers - East Africa 1902-5' provides a glimpse of
the early pioneering days in Kenya as seen through different eyes.
are shelves and shelves of books about the early Colonial period in
Kenya, written by Europeans - but very few by Indians.
few Indians subsequently wrote or had written accounts of their lives,
with passages about the early days, but their retrospective accounts
were clouded by time - and more significantly distorted by political
travel books and memoirs did not seem to be part of Indian culture and
consequently a whole facet of East Africa's history was missing.
was indeed until these two accounts came to light.
are first hand descriptions of trips made by Indians from Mombasa to
Uganda at the beginning of the century, and were originally written in
first was a hand-written manuscript by a young Bohora businessman,
Ebrahimji Noorbhai Adamji, who recorded the account of his travels in
family based in Mombasa were in the ivory trade and had gone into
partnership with two 'Baluchis' (emigrants, originally from
the business arrangement did not flourish and the ivory exchanged for
piece goods bought on credit was not forthcoming as expected.
family firm experienced severe financial difficulties and in a last
ditch attempt to save their reputation the youngest brother Ebrahimji,
aged just 17, decided to chase up the Baluchis and collect the ivory
owing to his family.
description of the various journeys he made and his efforts to recoup
the family losses makes fascinating reading.
provides an insight into how the ivory trade worked in those days and
how indeed Indian business men conducted their affairs and made good
use of their community network.
writes in a delightfully direct and unselfconscious manner, which is
very revealing of the man and the age into which he was born.
he is not primarily interested in reporting on the people and places
he visits, nevertheless a picture emerges.
translated and edited, nothing was altered or omitted from his account
and the flavour of the original was kept as far as possible.
extensively researched footnotes also add greatly to the value of this
exercise in historical documentation for serious students of the
second account was written by a middle aged Parsee, Sorabji Manekji
Darookhanawala, who was an engineer who worked for the Ministry of
Health in Zanzibar.
is a more sophisticated document intended to encourage Indian
settlement in East Africa and was originally printed as a 'Limited
Edition' in Bombay.
translation needed considerable reorganisation and editing in order to
make it easily readable and certainly the editor is to be praised for
the job she has done.
gives lively descriptions of the people he sees and the places he
visits and grumbles about the trials and tribulations of travel, which
in the early 1900s seem to have been not dissimilar to those hazards
experienced by the modern day traveller.
to his annoyance his luggage was lost at one point and on Lake
Victoria he quarrelled with the ferry boat captain, who he suspected
of deliberately delaying the crossing.
had trouble with his transport in Uganda as the sedan chair in which
he was carried to Kampala by porters, was assembled incorrectly.
the end he had to walk most of the way as it was so unsteady he was
afraid of falling out.
the most interesting part is the criticism he makes of the British
Colonial officials he meets and British Colonial policies.
also comments pertinently on the subject of Racism and Slavery as seen
from an Indian standpoint.
footnotes for the names, many of them former Parsee residents of
Zanzibar, are an added bonus to the account.
two travellers are perfectly paired as they describe almost identical
journeys but taken for very different reasons.
also incidentally pay homage to the two great Indian merchant princes
of the area, A. M. Jeevanjee and Alidina Visram.
dedicates his book to Alidina Visram who he says gave helpful advice,
was clever, modern and supported education wholeheartedly.
was on several occasions grateful for the assistance he was given by
the firm of A. M. Jeevanjee, a fellow Bohora.
is not just a book for East African Asians who wish to trace their
family history, nor is it only for the narrow academic or travel buff,
it is for anyone who likes to read a first hand account of history and
learn how others thought and behaved in a bygone age.
is a wealth of interesting general information.
the back is a 'gazetteer' of place names in Kenya, a glossary of local
terminology and a bibliography; while after each account there is a
separate index of names.
is contemporary records such as these which add new dimensions to our
understanding of the personalities and events that shaped the history
of East Africa and help dispel the mistaken opinion held until
recently that the Asians of East Africa have a history which as never
been explored and would be hard to trace.
families who allowed these two invaluable accounts to be brought to
the general readership deserve praise, also thanks must be given to
the individuals and foundations whose generous sponsorship enabled
translation and printing.
is tempting to think that more documents of this nature may be hiding
somewhere in East Africa, perhaps belonging to other communities which
would give further perspective and balance to our knowledge of East
Indian Travellers', edited by Cynthia Salvadori and
published by Friends of Fort Jesus, retails at K. shs. 1,200/= and can
be bought from Fort Jesus Museum or most book shops in Mombasa and