Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla of Vancouver, British Columbia

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Canadian writer Nazlin Rahemtulla’s book “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” (carrying the subtitle “The Story of an Ismaili Girl’s Expulsion from Uganda and Acceptance in Canada”). We follow the same Q/A format as our recent presentations of books written by Azmina Suleman, Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We invite Ismaili authors around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at Simerg@aol.com.

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Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Nazlin Rahemtulla: Our family often received invitations from African friends to attend village celebrations. They were written on bark cloth and included the acronym “RSVP” standing for “Rice and Stew Very Plenty”. At the end of the book, I liken my blessings to that invitation – Rice and Stew Very Plenty.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Nazlin: Many people from Uganda shared my experiences, and my stories may unfold memories for them. Also, after publication, I heard from many young adults who were grateful to read about their families’ lives in Uganda. Especially as some claimed that their families had been reluctant to recount their experiences.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Nazlin: The notion of documenting my family’s history had been at the back of my mind for many years. Once I started a draft, friends convinced me to consider writing/publishing it in an autobiographical format for others to read.

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Front and back covers of Nazlin Rahemtulla's autobiography "RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty, Simerg Ismaili Author Series
Front and back cover pages of Nazlin Rahemtulla’s autobiography “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty.” 320 pp. Friesen Press, June 2012. Please click on image for enlargement.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Nazlin: The book is available in paperback on Amazon and through my publisher, Friesen Press in paperback and eBook. [To access Nazlin’s book page at Friesen, please click RSVP — Ed.]

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Nazlin: I was looking for a locally based publisher and came across Friesen Press through a web search.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Nazlin: My good friend, Margaret Fairweather, helped me research, proofread and edit the book.  My niece, Narmin Kassam, painted the elephant on the cover for her son, Aleem. Narmin writes, “the elephant pays tribute to Aleem’s African roots and represents strength, honour, stability, patience, luck, fortune, and protection”.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Nazlin: This is my first and only book to date.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write RSVP — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Nazlin: It took approximately two years from start to publishing. I must admit I did not spend a great deal of time marketing the book, however, friends and family were my marketing team.

Simerg: Tell us something more about the book and its main character.

Nazlin: RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty is an autobiography that chronicles my life. I was born in Jinja, Uganda, and RSVP traces my family’s ancestry to Gujarat, India, and I tell of my parents and grand-parents settling in Uganda. The book also describes my experiences of growing up in Jinja; the Asian expulsion in 1972 by Idi Amin within a 90 day deadline; and the resettlement of many Ismailis in Canada and around the world. I may also note that my brother, Bahadur, and I were a handful of Ismailis who initially participated in the reclamation of our family’s assets in Uganda. In the final section of the book, I reflect on my and my family’s lives in Canada.

Date posted: May 28, 2021.

(In 2012, Nazlin Rahemtulla had graciously permitted Simerg to publish an excerpt from her book RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty; please read the excerpt HERE — Ed.)

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Nazlin Rahemtulla, RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty, Simerg Ismaili author series, Story of an Ismaili Girl's Expulsion from Uganda and Acceptance in Canada
Nazlin Rahemtulla

Nazlin Rahemtulla who presently lives in Burnaby, BC was born in Jinja, Uganda of Indian ancestry. Her long-awaited dream of telling her family’s story of migration to Uganda from India, and her own settlement in Canada, as a result of  Idi Amin’s disastrous rule in the East African, is achieved with the publication of her autobiographical work RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty, which she has co-authored with Margaret Fairweather. Her story is told from the perspective of her and her family’s deep attachment to the Ismaili Muslim faith, and its ever-present significance in their lives. This strong affinity with her faith also leads her to describe the infinite good works of the late 48th Ismaili Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, and his successor, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV.

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CALLING ALL ISMAILI AUTHORS

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)

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Memories of Growing Up in Jinja – An Excerpt from ‘RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty’ by Nazlin Rahemtulla @Simerg

RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty – Memories of Growing Up in Jinja

Please click for “Memories of Growing up in Jinja”

“….I remember vividly my trips, on Friday or Saturday mornings, to the sokoni with Ma and various of my brothers and sisters. The market…sat on a square consisting of several acres. Decrepit wooden stalls pinched against one another higgledy-piggledy. Narrow, dirt lanes meandered around and through the grounds…The bazaar-like atmosphere was intoxicating, a pulsing cacophony of sights and sounds. The air was redolent with a muddle of delectable, pungent, and sometimes revolting odours….”

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