That V S Naipaul was a literary giant whose name will go down in the annals of English literature as an iconic, even controversial, figure is not in doubt. Born in Trinidad of Indian ancestry as a child of the British Empire, he received an English form of education there and then at Oxford University. After graduation, he moved to London in 1954 to embark on a writing career that became firmly established with the publication of his novel, `A House for Mr Biswas`, in 1961.
As a student in London at the time, and as a colonial subject of Indian descent, one became aware of him making waves in metropolitan Britain. But it was only after I returned to Kenya, on the cusp of independence, when his `Area of Darkness` (Area) was published that his real impact was felt by me and others of my generation of Kenya Asian literati, also children of the empire schooled in the British tradition, who were struggling to come to terms with who we were in the wider scheme of things.
It is my privilege to pen this tribute to my friend Swarn Sodi.
Swarn Sodi was a very successful business man who dealt in belting for industrial machinery through his companies, Trackspar, Interspar and Beltpro. He was highly focussed in his business and yet made time for numerous community activities and participation in national issues. He was an asset to every organisation in which he was involved and never failed to make an impact in whichever of the numerous activities he participated.
I first met Swarn through Salim Talib when we got together before the December 1992 elections to explore the status of the Asian community in Kenya. We felt at the time that while providing excellent leadership and organisational structure for the promotion of cultural and social activities; the community organisations were nevertheless constrained by their mandates and were unable to delve into political issues.
We decided that matters should not be allowed to continue thus; and serious action was required to remedy the situation, hence the formation of the EASTERN ACTION CLUB FOR AFRICA (EACA) which we established in 1995 with the motto ‘Equity and Equality for All’. Although we all contributed to the move, it was Swarn who turned out to be the prime mover in so much as both having a keen interest in social and political issues and whenever bold decisions and energetic action was needed; he was there. He was the one with the courage to move matters and mobilise people to overcome the timidity the Asian community showed on the national scene at the time.
Author: Iloti Mutoka
Title: Goodnight, Queen Aretha
I grew up surrounded by strong spirits. Spirits of resilience, of light. Spirits of force, of strength, utter, sheer, unvarnished, iron will.
Spirits of love, spirits of passion, spirits that defied hurting and tragedy to shine, to rise, to love, again.
These spirits, of such pure devotion to those they knew, of utter kindness to those whom they did not.
These women, my aunts, my grandmother. My cousins, my sisters, My Mother. Women of power and of heart. Of laughter that shakes the ground. Of divinity that moves the earth. Of convictions that colour the sky.
These women. These women that will shield me from harm, shield me and save me, who will sacrifice and suffer for me.
Rhyming along the sound of guitar
Cascades my ode to Comrade Samir
You have left us, Dear Samir, but your spirit remains
Whilst I do my yogic meditation to ancient gods
Next to me I see you musing in revolutionary study
You appear to me in my heavenly trance
Can you hear me Samir, from my earthly stance?
Born in Kumasi, Gold Coast, Kofi Annan was a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, from January 1997 to December 2006. He and the United Nations were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 2001 ‘for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world’. Annan has described himself as being ‘atribal in a tribal world’.
He was the first to rise through the UN’s own ranks to its highest position and its most consequential secretary-general since the second, Dag Hammarskjold. He was also the first UN secretary-general from sub-Saharan Africa and his insight that ‘security, development, and human rights are inseparable’ is highly valued.
Not one to raise his voice in anger, Annan favoured diplomacy. In a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1998, Annan noted, ‘You can do a lot with diplomacy, but of course you can do a lot more with diplomacy backed up by fairness and force’.
In an address to the National Press Club, Annan declared, ‘If war is the failure of diplomacy, then … diplomacy … is our first line of defense. The world today spends billions preparing for war; shouldn't we spend a billion or two preparing for peace?’
Annan is also well-known for his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and to Iran's nuclear program.