Journey to Find Home: For W5, CTV News’ Omar Sachedina Reconnects with Family Roots in Uganda on the Anniversary of the Asian Expulsion

We had no address and no clue as to whether the house my mother grew up in would still be there, but we were determined to find it, to return to a place that might spark a core memory by seeing the familiarity in the branches. of a tree or the sweet smell of mangoes in her small town in Uganda.

For me, it was a trip I wanted to take for a long time to reconnect with my roots. Although my great-grandparents were born in what is now India, they, like thousands of others, made the long and dangerous journey across the Indian Ocean to East Africa as laborers under the British Empire. They eventually settled in Uganda, where my grandparents and parents were born.

Not only did I benefit from an intercultural mix of cuisine (kadhi and khichdi (an Indian dish) were as common in my home as matoke (a Ugandan dish)), but also from the language. The particular Indian dialects I grew up speaking, Kutchi and Gujarathi, also had Ugandan words and phrases mixed in. A unique hybrid.

Those are connections that cannot be broken, even if you are forced to leave your country like my parents did in August 1972, when Idi Amin gave Asian Ugandans 90 days to leave. The only country most had ever known and called home.

Half a century later, my mother returned, the young woman who left as a teenager. This time with her two children, my sister and I, by her side. We talked about making the trip while my dad was still alive, but unlike my mom, he had little desire to go back, too many difficult memories.

It took 30 hours and four flights to reach Kampala. Toronto to Montreal, then to Brussels, a stopover in Kigali, Rwanda, and finally, the capital of Uganda.

We set out for Nabusanke, my mother’s village, shortly before dawn, relying almost exclusively on landmarks etched in the memory of my mother and our local driver. The trip is about 80 kilometers, but due to dirt roads, potholes, traffic, and boda bodas (motorcycle taxis described as “road mosquitoes”) it is a journey that takes more than an hour.

In small towns, landmarks become critical reference points and this one was no different. The gas station where my mom remembered turning right to get to her house was still there. But the mango and jambula (black plum) trees near where she lived had been cut down.

We drove.

We walk.

We made a video call with my grandmother in London, since this was also her house.

My sister and I searched desperately in hopes of giving my mother and us a sense of peace by finding something related to her past.

Soon, it became clear that the way my mother’s mind’s eye had preserved this city, a two-minute drive from the equator that separates the northern and southern hemispheres, was very different from reality.

Fifty years is a long time. Long enough for the urge of life to take over and for the familiar to fade into the strange.

It was a blur.

Until a man helped unlock the memories of the past.

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Sachedina’s journey to learn more about not only her family history, but also other Canadian immigrants expelled from Uganda, will be revealed in an exclusive W5 documentary this October for the 50th anniversary of the Asian expulsion from Uganda.

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