The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
The prose, “The In-Between World of Vikram Lall” by Moyez Vassanji explores a society challenged by racism and sexism through a targeted “Nairobi Punjabi Hindu”. Moyez Vassanji writes to highlight the objectification of women in Tanzanian society, which is dominated by masculinity. The title suggests a confliction of ideologies which creates, for the reader, a sense of ambiguity prior to the body of the text. The narrator familiarises the audience with contrasts of emotion, colour and fortune which link to powerful themes of retribution and cultural discordance. The protagonist and his sister are introduced as they are railroaded by six youths in an adrenalin charged encounter. The fear is tacitly represented by way of ‘a tremor in his sister’s arm.’ Their exposure and vulnerability is épalpable, as their plight seems unavoidably doomed. The writer emphasises the intensity of the situation and highlights the impending “intersection” through the use of power imagery.
A Tanzanian town is revealed as the setting for the prose, and its imposing religious heritage is demonstrated as the reader is informed that a “mosque stood towering in all its grandeur.” Although the author describes the mosque, the nature of what is going on inside, is described as a “some celebration.” This subtle disconnection from the town, shows the reader that the narrator has insufficient knowledge of the celebration observed. This was done to signify the power of understanding all religions and their culture. Immediately, Vassanji mentions to the audience of a religious division that plagues the people of the town. Religion is the first major theme introduced to the audience as though to allude to its significance and its tense effect it has on the town. This paired with sharp sounds of “a dog barking” and “a bicycle bell”, creates a scenario filled with adrenaline and cautiousness. The writer then lifts the tone from a tense tone, to a sudden and fast paced tone to symbolise a change in the environment. Vassanji now contrasts light versus dark for the first time with the introduction of a “terrifying, unearthly squeal [that came] from the shadows”. This is the first scene where darkness swarms the light. The intersection has now been amended to suit the evolving situation. The “six youths” are described as “wild dogs” to create the perception that they are illiterate as though to justify their barbaric nature. The description of the “leering Elvis face, shirt open, pants crotch-tight” amplifies the ruthless connotations by introducing the thought of a society dominated by masculinity. Their presence causes Deepa to start “digging her fingers into [the boys] arm” which signifies the insecurity felt particularly by the sister. The hopelessness of the situation takes an immediate change with the introduction to the “white Mercedes”.