Book Review: 'Independence to Freedom'

Wednesday 26th July 2023 07:49 EDT

'Independence to Freedom' is an autobiography based on the story of migration from rural Gujarat to Nairobi, Kenya, and the impact of the struggles for independence from British rule on a traditional Hindu Gujarati family that migrated to London in 1949. The author, Viram Jasani, was born in Kenya in 1945 and shifted to England with his family in 1949. He became a leading authority on Indian music through his work as a performer, a powerful advocate, and as the major producer of Indian music in the UK. The author was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA) in 1993, winner of the Asian Voice Asian Achievers Award in 2003, winner of the HSBC Indo-British Award in 2003 for promoting good relations between India and the UK, and awarded an Honorary doctorate from the University of York in 2007.

The family navigated a life in between two cultures, maintaining and imbibing the best of both. Jasani from a very early age, fell in love with Indian classical music. His abilities and interests were varied, though, so he did not mind playing his sitar with jazz, playing with Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin, or composing for films, TV and radio, while also developing a successful career in business. His desire to create awareness for one of the most sophisticated music systems in the world led him to become an authority as a performer, advocate, and producer of Indian music throughout the UK and Europe.

The book is divided into 18 chapters, and each chapter gives us an insight into the lives of Jasani and his family. It starts with the Karsan Baroth, who took refuge in Viram Jasani’s grandparents' home in Aktot (Gujarat), India, during the rule of the British. The author also devoted a chapter to his parents, Hemkunver and Manilal, detailing their journey from East Africa to London and how their traits influenced his interest in Indian music and culture. He mentioned The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Indian music department and how he got to meet prominent musicians like Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, Pt. Nikhil Banerjee, etc. He even got a chance to lecture in Indian music at Kingston Polytechnic - at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama - at the Music Faculty of King’s College London. The book includes the detailed experience of Jasani, who served on the music advisory panels for the Arts Council of Great Britain. Jasani spoke about his encounters with the "arts establishment and elite" and their prejudices, ignorance, and policies of repression in the UK's funding system.

Overall, the book is intriguing and describes how immigrants adjust to life in a new country. The book covered a wide range of issues, including cultural identity, discrimination, language barriers, family dynamics, etc. The author has addressed these situations in numerous chapters. The narration is very simple, and there is no use of complicated words, which is quite understandable for every reader. The cultural representation in the book is authentic, respectful, and well portrayed. Many themes and messages in the book connect with today's socio political climate, such as disparity between power and wealth, losing identity, multiculturalism, racism etc. This book binds the histories of India, East Africa and UK and talks about the ongoing fight for democratic values, whether it is for freedom or the exchange of cultural ideas.

"Independence to Freedom", captures the successes and struggles of an immigrant family. This book is a must read for those who have a keen interest in the history of India, East Africa and the UK from a South Asian perspective. The author overcame the discrimination he encountered from the British artistic elite and envious Indians by pursuing a voyage into Vedic philosophy to find his freedom.

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