Vassanji's Disquiet with History in a Place Within
Moyez Vassanji's A Place Within: Rediscovering India (Anchor, 2009) came quite late in Vassanji's career, when his standing in minority literatures was already secure. Yet, it marked his reconnection with India, a place that overshadows most of his creative writing. As he encounters his deeply layered personal and communal history, he realizes it has withheld some information in some instances, and misled him in others, calling for his scrutiny of the place (India) and discipline (history) from which he draws inspiration for earlier writings. All these dynamics are concentrated on East Africa, where he received his initial idea of India, and which acts as the testing ground for ideas and the realities of India that he encounters. In this article, I examine Vassanji's struggles with the histories and geographies of India as captured in A Place Within, and examine his presumptions and generalizations. I propose that his discoveries of the place and people of the India that he narrates are based on a tenuous grasp of the historical dynamics whose consequences are the current challenges that defy his comprehension. The slippery grasp possibly emanates from a nostalgia handed down to the narrator from his forebears.