There was this tolerant African way of life prevalent in Liberia and other West African nations where Vamba Sherif’s large extended family was spread over. But then people began to travel to Saudi Arabia and when they came back, they would refuse to hold the hands of even their mothers. This new practice was neither African nor Islamic, says Mr. Sherif, noted Liberian writer from the Netherlands.

“This led to a clash and a falsified interpretation of history. Any time a society begins to think of someone as a foreigner, it is heading down a tragic path. I’m a victim of hatred. So I know what it means to hate someone. I lost my mother to hatred. Therefore, a great society like India cannot afford to succumb to hatred as it will spell the end of India,” the writer responded to a query at a ‘meet the author’ programme organised by the Ernakulam Public Library.

Mr. Sherif, whose first novel ‘The Land of the Fathers’ was released in Malayalam by Saikatham Books, considers himself a universal citizen. Having spent his childhood across nations in West Africa and then in Kuwait, Syria and the Netherlands (he fondly recalls a Malayali classmate in Kuwait), Mr. Sherif says writers are outsiders who help society view itself better.

“I’m married to a white woman from a different faith, but our commonalities are much more,” he says, recalling how love flowered in the couple 19 years ago. They now have three children. “The world heritage belongs to me and that’s why I don’t feel that I’m a stranger here. I belong to Kerala,” he said.

His father’s household was big with some 150 members, and a room was there for books, but it was tabooed for children. When the young Sherif managed to break into the room to read the unbelievable history of his forebears, the family thought of punishing him. “They tried to punish my mother, too. But she was no ordinary housewife. She was ambitious. A businesswoman, she was rich and influential,” he recalled.

Subsequently, when the library containing rare manuscripts got burned down in the civil war, he decided to resurrect the ancestral history. Thus was born ‘The Land of the Fathers’. He was unsure of himself as a writer initially, but after he wrote a story titled, ‘Face’, he realised he had it in him to make the cut.

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