1. What is the significance of the three epigraphs to the book
-- quoted from T.S. Eliot, the Upanishads, and a Swahili proverb?
Think about the epigraphs, but also the sources from which they are
2. "We remained that enigma, the Asians of Africa." How does
M.G. Vassanji explore the "in-between" status of Indians in Kenyan
society? Does it change over the course of the novel? How do its
effects play out in the lives of different members of the Lall
3. How does the novel handle the competing claims of the
personal and the political? How does it treat characters who favour
of political violence and those who are scarred by it? Do you feel
that it makes a judgment about violence?
4. Were you surprised that Njoroge gives up Deepa when her
mother insists? Why does he accede?
5. How does The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
compare with another novel you have read that grapples with
political issues (such as one by V. S. Naipaul, George Orwell,
Arthur Koestler, Graham Greene, Leo Tolstoy…)
6. What is the importance of the stories of people besides the
narrator in the novel? For example, the railway stories of Vic's
grandfather; the history of the couple in Jamieson, etc.
7. How does the subtle repetition of "third wheels" in the novel
connect to its deeper themes? Think of Vikram's
father excluded from the bond between his mother and Mahesh; Vikram
himself left outside the bond between Njoroge and Deepa.
8. What are the roles of fathers, real and symbolic, in
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall? Consider
Vikram's father, Inspector Verma, Jomo Kenyatta, etc.
9. How is colonialism experienced in The In-Between
World of Vikram Lall? And independence?
10. Look back at some of Vikram's descriptions of himself:
"There was a frozen core buried deep inside me that I could not
dislodge or melt, that held me back"; "I have said that I could not
engage morally in my world"; "I don't know what is happening to
me"; "I noticed a certain self-detachment in myself."
To what extent is this honest reflection? Defensive
11. What did you make of the "frame" of the small Ontario town
from which Vikram Lall tells much of what happens in the novel? Did
you find Seema Chatterjee and Joseph important characters? Is there
the beginning of a comparison between Kenyan society and Canadian
society at work here?
12. At various times the narrator pauses in his recollections to
explain the historical context of the times he is describing. How
did you feel about these passages?
13. "It was mother who still said, We have to think of the
samaj, the community, don't we; the world watches us…" How do the
claims of community and tradition pull at the principal
14. Choose one of the minor characters in the novel -- Sophia,
Mahesh, Khiakia, Inspector Soames, etc. -- and consider what he or
she contributes to the book as a whole.
15. Why does Vikram Lall decide to return home?
16. Discuss: servants / Jamieson / songs / the Masai in
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall.
17. Did you find Vikram Lall to be a sympathetic character in
his own story?
18. How did you feel about the ending of the novel?