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A Place Within: Rediscovering India    by M. J. Vassanji order for
Place Within
by M. J. Vassanji
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Michael Graves

This work is a personal journal of M. J. Vassanji and his travels to India. Through his eyes and experiences we are privy to a view of India that is richly exposed. The book wondrously reveals the strange mysteries, the pungent smells, the bright colours as well as the rich tastes of this former British colony.

The book is based on a number of trips, starting in 1993, which the author initially made to gain understanding of his roots. Neither he nor his parents were born in India as his grandparents immigrated to East Africa. His later travels seem to be for the greater quest of understanding the history and people of the nation.

The book goes to some length to describe the medieval history of Northern India but the writing is peppered with personal anecdotes about the people he meets and the delightful humour of the different situations he experiences during his travel. Some of the more humourous incidents occur during train travel through this vast country.

Unfortunately a memoir of India has to reflect on the violence that is prevalent in the northern part of India. In this version it has the local label of communal violence which describes the unfortunate circumstances that often follow Hindus and Muslims living in the same area. Religion plays a major part in the account and Vassanji, a Muslim, moves between the two forces with skill and ease with full and fair disclosure of both religions and history.

After reading this well written book one becomes intrigued with the mystic spiritualism of India. A Place Within beckons one to travel to India and begin one's own personal journey.

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