- Book: Kololo Hill
- Location: London
- Author: Neema Shah
I remember Idi Amin from the news. I was just old enough to observe his corpulent face on the TV bulletins and comprehend the kind of man he was, namely a vile and cruel despot. His moniker was “The Butcher of Uganda”. I also understood the implications of his diktat that Ugandan Asians should leave the country within 90 days.
This may be the story of one fictional family but it represents the universal experience of those who are forced to relocate and make their homes elsewhere. The author explore the notion of home and roots and how a fundamental uprooting can have a devastating ripple effect, well, across generations. She also looks at racism, part of Ugandan society and of course an inevitable facet in England.
The family had a good business in Kololo Hill in Kampala, run by the younger members. Motichan and Jaya originally hailed from India and now, together with their sons Pran and Vijay – and Pran’s wife Asha – they are subject to the whims of a megalomaniac. As the book opens, Asha stumbles across bloody of evidence of the lengths Amin’s forces to which they would go. Shock can often render people literally speechless and thus she keeps the vision of death and butchery to herself.Their future is now, however, sealed, the future is in London, which of course is so different (think Arnos Grove and a Ford Cortina) to Uganda.
As with every family, there are secrets and stresses that are just waiting to be revealed. The author explores what it takes to find a new foothold and ultimately love and connection within the broader family unit.
Uganda comes alive in the capable hands of the author, the smells, the feel and the food, and in England their experience is, of course, discombobulatingly different. This is a soul searching exploration of cultural dislocation. A well crafted and thoughtful debut.