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Novelist and travel writer Shiva Naipaul was a Trinidadian of Indian descent. In this essay written sometime after his arrival in Britain in 1964, he describes the ritual of leave-taking. Assembling at the docks time and again to wave off family members bound for England, Naipaul’s image of the ‘mother country’ became imbued with magic and fantasy. One ‘source of fantasy’ was his father’s bookcase. Although he only read a few pages from the ‘dusty volumes’ by British authors, ‘I returned to that bookcase again and again. It was a corner under the steps in which to dream in a vague, ill-defined way about England – the place from which those blue air-letters were posted; the place to which my brother – whom I hardly remembered – had gone’ (p. 2).
When Shiva departed to study at Oxford University at the age of 19 he was following in the footsteps of elder brother and fellow writer, VS Naipaul. Both men struggled to fit in in England, not ‘being straight-forwardly Indian or straight-forwardly West Indian’.