Friday, May 14, 2010

Another Time........... Another Journey

As I was writing on my experiences on the recent trip to my native place, I remembered my conversation with Rajesh and Laxmi, a couple from South Africa.

We were together on the trip to Kailash - Mansarovar. As we got to know each other, we began discussing about the Indian diaspora in South Africa. These were the descendants of those who were carted out in overcrowded ships to a unknown places across "Kala Paani" to serve new masters.

I am referring to the indentured labour that were taken to South Africa, specifically and in general to other places like Mauritius, Fiji, West Indies, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The white man seems to have made a habit of this. Africans were carted to Southern and EasterAmerica. The Chinese were slave labour in California.

This story of Indians being taken as slaves to serve business interests of the British businessmen is that part of our history we seem to have missed out completely and erased from our collective consciousness. We seem to have forgotten all about them and abandoned our long lost brethren. 

Modern day life seems to have brought them back in focus. Are we doing anything at all? Is it enough and is it helping? These and many others questions will be examined in the coming posts. I will also attempt to re-create the life of these "slaves" and their gritty and now prosperous descendants who are the proud citizens of South Africa. Yet, they long for India as their roots are here.

I thank Rajesh and Lakshmi for giving me plenty of background material and an insight into their life and the social structure they grew up in. I hope that I will be able to do justice to these poor souls, who went through terrible trials and tribulations in the hope of a better tomorrow for their children.



LAKSHMI said...

2010 we mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of indians in South Africa. Which signifies to the surviving descendants of indentured indian labourers, who worked in sugar cane planations. coal mines and railways.

Kala Prabu a Saraswat brahim was the first indian to settle in south africa he was from Cochin

The fisrt ship arrived in durban The Turo in 1860 With the Singh and Lalaram familes. Rajeshs nana was Singh family from Patna

Anil thank you for remembering Rajesh and I.

Our heart we still love our roots in india

Gopinath said...

Yes, these incidents dont seem to figure in many of the writings usually. But recently i did come across some articles which talk about Indians' plight and journey to Fiji and their struggle for a better life there in the Indian Weekender website.

Mavin said...


Very interesting to know.

As i read thru some material, it is very clear that they were taken to SA and other colonies as "slaves" and then all rules were ignored. Our brethren have suffered immensely.

Mavin said...


In Fiji, they constitute almost 50% of population and controlling economic power.

The ethnic Fijians sensing a threat have tried to marginalise Indians. Many younger Fijians have started migrating to Australia, NZ and USA.