About Rave Out

Rave Out is about books, films and music that we like. No time-wasting, just the good stuff!

Browse Archives

By Date

Recent entries

This Video Hurts the Sentiments of Hindu’s [sic] Across the World

The Hard Edges of Modern Lives

New York Cricket Club

The Desperate Passion of Ben Foster

One Chai and a Wills Navy Cut

09 July, 2007

On the periphery of Indian history

By Salil Tripathi


Title: Burma Boy

By: Biyi Bandele

There is a Nigerian renaissance in writing, it seems. Helon Habila won the Caine Prize last year, and Helen Oyeyemi, 22, has written two novels about ghosts and spirits of the kind Wole Soyinka alludes to in “Ake”. But to see how global African writing is, try Biyi Bandele‘s “Burma Boy.”

Growing up in Bombay, I learnt how Subhas Chandra Bose reached Hitler’s Berlin, seeking his support to overthrow the British from India. Hitler was preoccupied - he had millions of Jews to kill, Britain to bomb, and Russia to swallow, so he asked Bose to try Japan. Bose went east, and in Singapore he took over the Indian National Army, formed earlier by Mohan Singh. The Japanese offered words, and not much else, to the INA, and its march towards India began late - by then the Japanese were stretched, and Wingate’s Chindits succeeded in halting the INA: its sole incursions in India restricted to a few surreptitious flag-hoisting ceremonies on Indian soil.

Burma excites novelists: Melvyn Bragg, in “The Soldier’s Return”, told a nice story about the British soldier in Burma. Amitava Ghosh, in “The Glass Palace,” brought to life the men who joined the INA. But what we don’t learn in either is the role of Africans - boys like Ali Banana, who was 14, and modeled on Bandeye’s father.

These soldiers, yanked from tropical Africa, suffered humiliation, racism, and were scarred for life. Their stories have remained hidden. Bandele’s writing is important precisely for casting light on that periphery of Indian history, to show how complex and global the world already was in the 1940s.

Copyright (C) India Uncut - http://indiauncut.com
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. Email: amitblogs@gmail.com
This article is permanently archived at:

Skip to comments

Previous article: Timeless satire

Next article: All about Deep Throat


Point of correction, Salil. Yes, there’s a renaissance in Nigerian writing when you take in cognizance the recent achievements of Chimamanda, Helon, Helen Oyeyemi, etc, but Helon Habila won the Caine Prize in 2001. Last year’s winner was the South African Mary Watson.

Posted by Eniola A. Ladapo on Tue, July 17, 2007 at 6:51:10

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.