Downtown resident Braz Menezes, a retired architect and urban planner, has tried his hand at depicting the Canadian immigrant experience with “Just Matata.” The book is the first of a trilogy based on his native Goa and its diaspora, over 20,000 of whom have landed in the GTA.
Like so many immigrants, members of his community went in search of adventure and better lives—journeys from the Portuguese and Catholic province of Goa on India’s west coast to every continent in the world. Africa was the first step for his family, with the author’s parents moving to Kenya in 1928.
The names in the book have been altered (Menezes is the boy Lando) and the story is largely autobiographical. The charm and strength of this book are the detailed descriptions of the rough-and-tumble world of Nairobi under British colonial rule, observed with a keen sense of humour. Careful research gives an accurate social and political picture, all coming to life through the unique observations of a child. The coincidence of an 11-year old crossing the Indian Ocean in 1950 mirrors Michael Ondaatje’s recently released “The Cat’s Table.”
The pull of Goa remained constant. Like others in the community, Lando’s family sent their boy away to a Goan boarding school. Readers will be amused by how the crafty Lando gets out of his predicament and returns to his home in Kenya.
The smells, sounds and intense emotions from adventures gone wrong, family crisis and the stings of racism are clearly authentic.
Menezes is a sensitive writer with a great memory. He is at work on the next book in the trilogy.