My letter to my dad was published in Maclean’s online and appears in the June print issue.
I was born in Mombasa, Kenya in 1978. That’s where my story began. But until March of this year, I couldn’t really say that I had been there. My parents, grandmother and I immigrated to Canada before my first birthday and, while my upbringing certainly included East African flavours, I always knew I wanted to go back and experience it for myself.
East Africa was home to my paternal and maternal sides of the family since my great-grandparents’ generation. They arrived from India in the late 1800’s for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. In reality, this is just a blip of my history; since the beginning of time, my family called India home. (I actually took a DNA test and learned I am 100% South Asian. Without a doubt, India is my first home). But, East Africa is the most tangible for me because it’s so recent. I’m also enamoured by the fusion of Indian/East African food and the marriage of Cutchi and Kiswahili (in Zanzibar, where my maternal grandparents were born, the languages are so fused that the Ethnologue actually lists Cutchi-Swahili as one of the languages of Tanzania). Because I still have family in Kenya (and don’t in India), I figured I’d feel a special sense of home in my birthplace.
For much of my life, I envisioned returning as an adult. Finally, at the age of 40, I was able to make it happen! Not just on my own but with my dad who, it turns out, is a fabulous travel partner, and the best person to go ‘back in time’ with as his memory and nostalgia really brought our history to life for me.
It was a short but deep journey and I am already planning on taking my kids, husband and hopefully dad again in the next few years.
I wrote a thank-you letter to my dad for accompanying me to our birthplace. My heart still fills with joy when I think of our adventures and I am so grateful to him for connecting me to the land and people in Mombasa.
My letter was published in Maclean’s Before You Go column and I am proud to have my words in this iconic Canadian magazine.