A map and a brief introduction set the scene by connecting the dots of history. The forceful transformation of the people of Goa by the Portuguese; the enslavement of Africans, followed by the parceling of 11.6 million square miles of Africa to seven European colonial powers in 1884, and on to the twentieth century.
Precocious Lando is born in British-ruled Kenya to Goan parents just as WWII breaks out in Europe. His parents are among those who flocked to East Africa from their native Portuguese India, lured by promises of a bright future by British colonialists, who found that the “Westernized Christian Indians” suited their needs perfectly. Lando’s family and community struggle to keep their Indo-Portuguese heritage and Catholic faith alive in a Kenya dominated by the ugly reality of racial segregation.
But Lando’s world is also filled with adventure, and readers are transported in dhows and steamships across the Indian Ocean, and travel by ox-drawn carts, carriages, steam locomotives, and bicycles right along with the characters. Ultimately, to fulfill his father’s dreams, the eleven-year-old must embark on the biggest adventure of his life: journey to distant Goa to attend a Jesuit-run boarding school — and then engineer his escape.
Beyond the Cape brings vividly to life the alluring sights, sounds, and smells of mid-twentieth century East Africa. The book is filled to the brim with evocative, multi-layered stories steeped in history — stories that are alternately funny, sad, and touching as Lando grapples with the complexities of straddling two distinctly different worlds.
Matata means trouble in Swahili, and falling in love across racial barriers is big matata, especially in Kenya, a country seething with racial tensions after the Second World War. Lando, whisked out of Goa and back to Kenya, finds himself enrolled in a non-Catholic Asian school on the edge of an African residential area just as the Mau Mau, a secret organisation determined to overthrow the colonial government, is slowly spreading its grip of terror from the far-off white-settler occupied Highlands, into urban areas, Lando’s school and even his home.
In a few years the Portuguese and British are forced to give up their colonies in India and East Africa respectively, and just as the racial barriers fall, the Goans who have lived under colonial rulers for 450 years are left rudderless and stateless, and have to make hard choices.
In spite of all this matata, Lando and the beautiful Saboti meet again under extraordinary circumstances, and that is the biggest matata of them all.
“Our Goan boys are leaving their diplomas behind and bringing back English brides,” a mother laments.
Lando narrates another captivating period, this time in post-Independence Kenya. It’s the 60s. The winds of change have blown across the Empire and mass coloured immigration into the UK has begun. Stephen, the son of a Kikuyu house servant snatched during Operation Anvil (1954) at age seven, and imprisoned by the British in a Mau Mau Detention Village, suddenly and mysteriously reappears at Lando’s doorstep ten years later. The beautiful idealist, Eleanor, enters the picture and soon discovers the ruthless legacy of the colonial system as she faces difficult new challenges.
Among the Jacaranda is the third fascinating book in the Braz Menezes’ Matata Series.