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books Updated: Jan 14, 2011 22:52 IST
Hartman de Souza
Hartman de Souza
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

A Rainbow in the Night
Dominique Lapierre
full circle
Rs 275 n pp 320

Now that Indians can fly to South Africa to enjoy a multicultural, multilingual, multicoloured vacation, one can think of at least two good reasons why they should pick up a copy of Dominique Lapierre’s new book.

The first and most important of course, is that most literate Indians are either uneducated or uninformed about matters African. Indians now travel from one African resort to the other, assessing the continent on the strength of its game parks, but that doesn’t mean they will want to know the real Africa.

The second reason Indians must run out and buy this book is because even while claiming to be morally upright, secular, casteless, equal, democratic, most are actually racist at heart.

The racism that Africans living and studying in India face is real, and some of us may wish further introspection after reading Lapierre’s rendering of three centuries of racist and violent rule. He brings to life the rise of a white minority of Dutch origin till when the trade in black human beings ended in the 19th century, spurred by Victorian evangelism, though the British conscience ironically, did not see it fit to return the fledgling white colony at the Cape back to its indigenous peoples.

There is some patchiness in the history nearing the last four decades, when world-wide political pressure was building up against the apartheid regime. There is too little of the actual foot-soldiers of the African National Congress and the role of its cultural wing that kept the flag flying. There is way too little about Steve Biko who galvanised the new political consciousness.

There is too little on Mandela but a moving account of the role played by Bishop Desmond Tutu which is only fitting, given that progressive elements in the Anglican Church railed against the fascist apartheid policies since 1948.

Hartman de Souza is a Pune-based theatre person.