In his second book, Matthew Thomas regales us with a diasporic odyssey, complete with the intrigues, guilt, machinations and expectations experienced by uprooted communities seeking to establish themselves in new and not always hospitable surroundings.
The past is another country, a necessary memory that is part of a sense of identity, re-invented as a rosy romantic myth, albeit distant in space and time. People begin their diasporic lives with a future of returning to their homeland in mind, while their children grow up in a different culture, spawning new hybridities and value systems.
In Anakara House, the author brilliantly depicts this diasporic feeling of rootlessness among so many families and communities, and how this condition of alienation, where the present in the foreign country continues to be unfamiliar or estranged, creates a sense of cognitive dissonance. The novel is about generations of people, particularly in Asia, uprooted from their homelands, dispersed by European colonial intrusion, who look back at the inauthenticity of their roots despite folklore and oral tradition romanticising the land of their forefathers. This canvas of sorrow and yearning is beautifully encapsulated in this story of one Indian family and their link to a piece of ancestral property in Malabar.
Anakara House reflects common human frailties: desire, guilt, envy, jealousy, vanity, hatred, deceit, infidelity and disloyalty. The author shows how these passions play out through a series of intrigues.
The story is about a dream to return to the country of origin, by those who left for one reason or another. There is constant yearning to re-establish deeply felt links with a past that no longer exists, except in memory. Like the past, Anakara House died when it came into being, except in the memories of the characters who imagined it. This book reflects the realities of millions of people who still cherish the hope of returning to their roots someday, without realizing that there is no such possibility.
Anakara House poignantly shows how our realities are socially constructed through different lenses that keep changing as we journey through life, and, unwittingly, undergo massive social, cultural and spiritual transformation.
Dr Mohammad M Keshavjee
Lawyer, Author and International Specialist on Cross Cultural Mediation in Diasporic Communities