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Monday, April 14, 2008

A Review of Far From Home: Confessions of a Foreign Student by Douglas Waudo

Following is the review of the book Far From Home: Confessions of a Foreign Student by Douglas Waudo. Dauglas was my student for two years. In his first year of BA i had come to know that he wanted to write a novel and i remember asking him to read Things Fall Apart which was written by Chinua Achebe as a BA student. I also vaguely remeber the inspiration to write was his sister who had passed away in Bombay after suffering of cancer for a long time, if my memory serves me right. By the time he reached the third year I had left the college. But he had managed to complete the novel by then. Prof Lourdusamy, the publisher of the book had sent a copy for review. It was later published in two websites from Africa. Thought should archive it in my blog. I have taken it form the website - Here it goes.....

Far From Home: Confessions of a Foreign Student by Douglas Waudo

A Review by Anil Pinto, Lecturer, Department of Media Studies, Christ College, Bangalore University, India.

Far from Home is a tale of ‘the lives, hopes, worries, fears, experiences, guilty pleasures, mistakes and lessons learnt’ of the Kenyan students studying in India. Through its protagonist, Raymond Wasike, it brings out multiple facets of the lives of foreign students, especially the African students in India. Ray who comes from Nairobi full of dreams and ambitions gets drawn into the complex life that almost all the overseas students perhaps get introduced to. Despite his strong will and determination to fulfill his purpose of coming to India, Ray becomes a prodigal son, drops out of college, becomes a drug trafficker and even gets arrested for rape. The novel ends in Ray longing for a new life, without of course trying to reject the past although he thinks ‘that chapter in his life had nothing good or worthy written on it’.

The title Far from Home is polyphonic with pun in it. Although the ‘land of dreams and aspirations’ tries to reassure, it can never be another home or a home-away-from-home as there is no lasting concern beyond the need for recognition. In the absence of a caring family the system that tries to fill the void only destroys the individual. It is also a place that is far away from the homeland, Kenya. The subtitle of the novel Confessions of a Foreign Student indicates the theme, which at one level is very Christian in nature. It is a confession and therefore demands forgiveness and understanding. The last is one of the important objectives of the novelist himself. Although the word ‘foreign’ could have been replaced by the politically correct term ‘overseas’, the retention of the word makes the title ironic. The students are perhaps treated as foreign, despite their stay for as long as five years. The novel portrays a complex insight into the world of Kenyans in India and the west coast of India in particular.

The life that is projected in the novel is very fragile. In the absence of the traditional family control, the life gets easily controlled by forces outside oneself. However, the novel is one of hope. Ray can always think of going back to his family and beginning life afresh. The world view of the novel is traditional Christian. Family is the ultimate institution an individual can confide in.

Unlike most Eurocentric narratives this novel is as much about the struggle of a family as of an individual. The novel also offers interesting insights into how African constructs and views India. We have been by and large concerned with the image in the West of India. Whereas this novel offers a vital point of view of Africa, which the Indian intelligentsia has by and large refused to take note of.

The writing of the novel is driven by a vision for the future of the African students studying in India, and a passion to tell the tale in a convincing manner to initiate change. Keeping with its purpose, the novel calls for a change in the way educational institutions have seen the ‘foreign’ students. One perhaps requires to take recourse to more accountable systems on the part of the educational institutions towards the parents of these ‘foreign’ students.

In author’s own words the novel makes ‘an interestingly informative, educative and entertaining reading’ with its modern-day tale of prodigal sons and daughters of Africa in India. It is a voice from the margins of Mangalore.

One needs to appreciate the efforts of Prof Lourdusamy who has consistently and many a time alone tried to foster the creativity of students through many such publications such as Al-Buds and Blooms which were anthologies and now a novel, a first time in the 125 year history of St. Aloysius College.


Toner said...

Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the Toner, I hope you enjoy. The address is A hug.

Anil Pinto said...

Thank you toner. Tried reading your blog but because of the language gap could not. sorry.