India, a land of complexities and contrasts, has influenced many other nations and cultures. Kenya is one of those places that share a unique historical and cultural bond with India. Millions of Indians reached the shores of Eastern Africa as seafaring traders or as labourers during British rule for the Kenya-Uganda Railway. Many have made Kenya their permanent home and chosen to stay back even after India’s Independence. They also contributed significantly to Kenya’s freedom struggle. Their presence is visible in all walks of life even now. Here are a few influential Indians who put an indelible mark in Kenya’s political and social life with their contributions.
The current Deputy Governor of RBI, who will assume the post of RBI Governor on September 4, is one of the most popular Indians born and brought up in Kenya. He completed his primary education from Kenya and went on to pursue his higher education from Yale and Oxford universities later. Patel had joined the IMF in the US as a Kenyan citizen. Later he was deputed to the RBI. He played an important role in development of debt market, banking sector reforms, pension fund reforms, real exchange rate targeting and evolution of the foreign exchange market in India.
Gurinder Chadha is a popular Indian-origin Kenyan born to a Punjabi family. Growing up in Southall, London, Chadha started her career as a journalist of BBC radio and directed many award-winning documentaries for BBC. She later started her association with the British Film Institute (BFI) and Channel Four and earned fame as a popular film director. Most of her films explored the lives of Indians living in England. She is famous for her films like Bhaji on the Beach (1993), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Bride and Prejudice (2004) and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008). In 1990, Chadha launched her own production company named Umbi Films.
Veena Sood is another award-winning film personality of Indian descent born in Kenya. She belongs to a Punjabi family settled there. She won several awards for her acting career in Canada, which includes Jessie Richardson Award for Theater), Leo Award (Television). She is popular internationally for her versatility in both comedy and drama. She holds a theater degree in Drama and co-founded “The Loose Moose Theater Company” with Keith Johnstone.
This 1.26 metre-tall Kenyan-born actor of Indian origin is an internationally recognised actor and stunt man. He also holds a Guinness World Record as the “shortest professional stuntman currently working in films” since October 2003. He has appeared in films like Superman (1978), Superman II(1980), Return of Jedi (1983), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Legend (1985), Aliens (1986), etc. He writes extensively and has published many poems.
He is a prominent Kenya-born politician and an MP of Indian origin. He belongs to the Orange Democratic Movement and represents Parliament for Kisumu, one of the larges cities in Kenya. He won from the seat with the support of majority Kenyans, showing his immense popularity.
Manilal Premchand Chandaria is a successful Kenyan businessman of Indian origin. He has been awarded Pravasi Bharatiya Samman. He is currently the chairman and CEO of the Comcraft Group of Companies and also plays a major role in Kenya’s economy. He is also a prominent board member of many East African companies. He has won several awards internationally also.
Neal Chandaria is the son of Manilal Premchand Chandaria. Currently, he is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Kenya in Singapore since 2011. He graduated with a degree in economics from Stanford University. Heading the management team of Comcraft, he played a major role in spreading the group’s activities in Asia. He was earlier involved in the Group’s businesses in Africa and Europe.
Aachhroo Ram Kapila played a major role in Kenya’s freedom. He was a famous criminal lawyer who dared to represent leading African leaders. He is still remembered in Kenya for his role in fighting for the rights and compensations of Mau Mau freedom fighters during their independence struggle.
This fire-brand Punjabi activist had pioneered the trade union movement in Kenya. After moving to Nairobi from India at the tender age of 13 in 1935, he founded the first trade union in Kenya and was quite active in the Ghadr/Kirti Party which fought for Kenyan independence. In 1949, he along with Fred Kubai, a prominent Kenyan leader, formed the East African Trade Union.
Pio Gama Pinto was a Kenyan politician, MP and freedom fighter. His family hails from Goa and Maharashtra. He gave life to liberate Kenyan people from European dictatorship. Pinto was assassinated for his outspoken criticism of Kenyan politics. His death in 1965 is considered as the first martyrdom in free Kenya.