Uganda, a place my family once called home, turned hostile in 1972 when Idi Amin, the then dictator, declared the entire South Asian population persona non grata. Accusing them of undermining the economy, he set a chilling ultimatum: they had just 90 days to leave everything behind or face violence. My grandparents, Rachel and Philip, were among those thrust into this tumult. They had come to Uganda from India, hoping for new opportunities, only to be expelled years later. Like many others, they sought refuge in Britain due to their British passports, a remnant of the colonial past. From there, our family’s journey took us to Australia.
Identifying myself in Cambridge or Sydney was not straightforward. To some, I was a blend of four countries, each contributing a piece to my identity puzzle. But inside, I often grappled with feelings of belonging. Did I have a legitimate claim to any of these places, given the cocktail of cultures, histories, and migrations that defined my ancestry?
My journey to Uganda was an attempt to confront and reconcile with that past. But deep-seated fears held me back. What if the land of my family’s fond memories rejected me? What if the visit to my grandparents’ former home became a bitter pill of disappointment?
Yet, 15 years later, there I was, behind the wheel of a Toyota Hilux, on a street in Kampala, trying to trace back the footprints of my family’s history. It was a culmination of both longing and courage. I was not just in search of a physical home but also an emotional connection, a deeper understanding of the series of events that shaped my family’s story, and in turn, my own identity.
As the houses rolled past, each one a testament to memories, dreams, and struggles of those before me, I was not just on a street in Kampala; I was on a path of self-discovery, hoping to find a piece of myself in the echoes of the past.