ZP-Indomitable Spirit Talk
Speech given by Zarina Patel on Saturday 29 November, 2014 at the Book Laucnh of Zarina Patel – An Indomitable Spirit.
George – Having Laid My Life Bare – I Have Real Difficulty Knowing What To Say. I Feel Nervous. It Is Too Late To Think: I Wish I Had Never Told Him That!
But The Questions Were So……… Enticing And The Conversations Were So Challenging.
Comrades, Friends And Colleagues, And To Mama Sidi Kuna Otu?:
Thank You All So Much For Being With Us Today. The Writing Of This Biography Has Been For Me A Journey Of Self-Discovery As We Delved Into My Past. George Patiently Prodded My Memory With His Precise And Repeated Questioning, The Connections And Conclusions He Came Up With Were Fascinating And Revealing Even To Me.
And He Has Placed My Life Against The Backdrop Of A Well-Informed Context Which Faithfully Captures Those Moments In Our History.
It Was An Exercise In Dialectical Materialism As We Linked Cause To Effect And Action. And It Was Historical Too.
In 1917, My Grandfather, Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee Went To Court In Then Bombay, With Others, To Protest Against The Corrupt Bohra Priesthood. It Is A Concern I Am Still Engaged In.
In 1989, I Was Protesting Against The War Memorials In Kenya. In August This Year I Was At It Again – Some Things Take Really Long To Change. There Are Other Examples But For That You Have To Read The Book.
My Story Includes A Glimpse Into My Life In The Underground, The Work We Did, The Challenges We Faced, The Risks We Took And The Strong Bonds We Forged. There Are So Many, Many Of These Stories Which Need To Be Told And To Be Recorded, I Am Glad For This Opportunity To Put In Writing Some Of My Own Experiences.
I Would Like To Pay Tribute To The Comrades, My Partner Zahid And I Worked With, And To All Those Other Comrades Who Were With Us In Spirit. And My Warm Thanks To The Comrades Who Are With Us Here Today.
I Would Like To Express Some Special Thanks – First Of All To George. I Mean Every Word When I Say, ‘I Could Not Have Wished For A Better Biographer’. And It Was More Than Just The Writing Of The Book. We Held About Ten Very Intensive Interview Sessions. After Each One Was Over, Zahid Would Join Us And A Most Animated And Opinionated Conversation Would Follow.
February, March And April 2013 – You All Know How Alive The Political Situation Was! Fortunately We Were All On The Same Side So We Did Not Come To Blows, But Kenya’s Fate Seemed To Be In Our Hands!
And Then Of Course Zahid Went To Court To Challenge The Election Results – It Was The Stuff Of Dreams! And Our Ever-So-Patient Cameraman, Mwangi, Would Occasionally Chip In To Put The Record Straight. Mwangi Thank You For Your Indulgence.
My Gratitude Goes To Barrack Muluka Of Mvule Publishers And To The Ford Foundation, Maurice Makaloo And Rosemary Okello For Making All This A Reality. And If I May Say So: Thank You Both Too For The Support You Are Giving To My Forthcoming Book On South Asian Journalism In Kenya. I Hope We Can Launch It Early Next Year, And So Then We Can All Meet Again.
To My Two Comrades Who Are Here To Launch The Biography – Many Thanks. In The Terrible 80s, I Would Travel Up From Mombasa Feeling Politically Starved And Njeri Would Rejuvenate My Spirits. This Remarkable Woman Seemed To Be In Touch (It Was All So Secret You Could Not Ask) – She Was In Touch With And Helped Every Comrade In The Movement – Here In Nairobi, There In Dar Es Salaam And Even Those On The Way To Dar.
She Introduced Me To Another Amazing Woman, Wahu Kaara, Who I Am Glad To See Is Here With Us. Welcome Wahu. Together We Shared So Much, Including The Pain Of Losing A Family And The Joy Of Finding A New One.
As For Willy Who Could Not Be Here In Person – Duncan Please Convey To Him My Sincerest Thanks For All His Understanding, Support And Encouragement To Me, Over The Decades That We Have Worked Together. In 2007, It Was Willy Who Facilitated, And Later Presented Me With, The Life Time Jaramogi Odinga Foundation Award. And You Have All Heard The Role He Has Played In The Genesis Of This Biography.
I Cannot End Without Appreciating The Two Persons Who Are The Joy Of My Life, My Anchor And Raison D’etre. My Partner Zahid, And Our Son Raahat – Thank You Both. And Thank You All. I Have Often Said That Any Occasion Which Brings Together The Left And The Near Left (I Did Not Say Neo-Left) Is To Be Celebrated – So Thank You All For Being Here And So Honouring Me. Another World Is Possible!
A special thanks to Yusuf Hassan MP for Kamakunji who Zarina first met in London in 1989 when he was head of UKenya. And to Baba Aye who arrived two days ago from Nigeria to give the key note address in the Makhan Singh Memorial Lecture III.