4 out of 4 stars
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"They left India at a young age with the specific aim of obtaining further qualifications and training--to complete a stage in their careers. Most immigrant aspirants were disappointed with their experience of working and studying in this country. They always hoped that they would break out of the cycle and in the end they did not but stayed on to make the most of it. They were indentured to the system." House of Lords, 1961
Indian Immigrant by Biku Ghosh is a collection of fiction stories based on historical evidence depicting the lives and reflections of various Indians settling in Britain spanning from 1710-2016.
The book is divided into two parts with Part One including five chapters ranging from the years 1710-1914 from the locations of Bengal, Telangana, Assam, Britain, and Punjab. The stories in these chapters deal with some of the issues the Indian immigrants faced such as being kidnapped as slaves, harsh beatings, being cheated wages and inheritances, indentured servitude, discrimination related to interracial marriages and against women of color, and the treatment of Indian soldiers who fought for Britain in WWI. Part Two includes eighteen chapters spanning 1921-2016. The first chapter resumes in East Bengal and explains the history of the tension between the Muslim population and Hindu communities. This chapter also lays the foundation for the rest of the book with the introduction to the Kanta family. Subsequent chapters follow the lives of their grandson, Jiten, and granddaughter, Geeta, as well as their extended families, including Geeta's husband, Ashok, and Jiten's wife, Mita. The intertwined stories highlight both daily and significant events in the lives of the families and their friends while shedding light on the political and racial discrimination they faced as immigrants.
I found this historical fiction collection to be well-written and educational. The author did an excellent job of using well-developed characters to show the story versus telling it. Despite the intensity related to the subject matter, the author managed to keep the reader engaged while shedding light on harsh injustices. Additionally, he maintained a sense of balance through the close family relationships conveyed through the stories.
What I liked most about this historical collection was the author's skillful intertwining of the characters' lives in the various stories spanning the years. Each chapter began with the date and the names of the characters involved or the location of the story. Whether related as an extended family member or one of their acquaintances, the author used the intertwined relationships between characters to establish continuity and propel the plot. I'm not sure if it was the author's intention, but I found myself anticipating how the characters in one story might be related to another. Since I'm not really a history buff, this added more of a personal connection to the historical content which kept my interest piqued. I also appreciated the glossary of Indian words at the end of the book that included many familial terms of endearment. I would suggest readers start there before reading the book to clarify words that appear similar to English but have quite different meanings. For instance, "Dada" is a reference to an elder brother.
I'm pleased to rate this informative book 4 out of 4 stars. I believe it was professionally edited, as I noted a single error. I honestly can’t highlight any areas for improvement. As evidenced by my personal enjoyment of the book, one doesn't need to be partial to history to appreciate this collection. I recommend it to readers who enjoy stories about different countries, cultures, and politics. Though not graphic in nature, please note there are references to beatings, suicides, and some content-related profanity.
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