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an Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC) 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC) 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

Indian Arrival Day indocaribbeanpublications.com
Indian Arrival Day
indocaribbeanpublications.com

2018 Trinidad and Tobago Volume 19, Number 1

Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920)

and Tobago Volume 19, Number 1 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship
and Tobago Volume 19, Number 1 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship
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Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad and Tobago

by Dr. Kumar Mahabir

On May 30 th 1845, the Fath al Razak docked near the lighthouse in the Port of Spain harbour in Trinidad and Tobago. There were 225 im- migrant passengers on board who had left India to come to the British colony to work on the sugarcane plantations after the abolition of African slavery. They had spent 103 days at sea, enduring a long and dan- gerous journey that spanned 14,000 miles (36,000 km). The immigrants were contracted to work for five to

half of the island’s multi-ethnic 1.3 million population, commemorate the arrival of their ancestors annu- ally. The commemoration occurs in the form of prayers, speeches, songs, music, dances and plays which are held in communal as well as public spaces. At various beaches, the spirit of history is invoked with the re- enactment of the landing of the first boat-load of pioneers who gave birth to the Indian community in Trinidad.

ten years mainly on the sugarcane estates in a system of indentureship that finally ended in 1917.

A total of 147,596 Indians came to Trinidad over this 72-year period. Although they were promised free return passage back to India, at least 75 per cent of them stayed and settled in the New World. In many ways, they brought India to the Caribbean through their religious traditions of Hinduism and Islam, and eventually transformed Trinidad and Tobago into a colourful, cosmo- politan society.

The historic day has been a national holiday since 1994.

The entire month of May has been deemed Indian Heritage Month, but May 30 th holds special historical significance. On this day, partici- pants gather to honour their ances- tors who had crossed three oceans and travelled halfway around the world to reach the Caribbean. The descendants gather to pray for the souls of their fore parents, and to seek guidance and blessings for the future. Scholars, teachers, elders and activists continue to share their knowledge of the past as well as increase public awareness on this important aspect of the nation’s history and heritage.

Descendants of these Indian im- migrants, who now comprise about

The 2005 edition of the ICC magazine on the theme “Temples and Tourism in Trinidad” won an Excellence-in-Journalism Award.

ISSN 1683-4143 Volume 19, Number 1

Publisher Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC) Editor-in-Chief & Chairman Dr. Kumar Mahabir Cover and page design Preddie Partap Cover photo Preddie Partap Artist Hayden Geeawan Proof-reader Amrita Mahabir Advertising Neisha Surujmal Promotions and marketing Ramona Harripersad References Dr Radica Mahase & Samaroo Siewah Letters courtesy Avril Belfon & The National Archives of T&T Typewriter on cover courtesy RB Singh & Vinod Bridgelalsingh Chief Financial Officer Mera Heeralal Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC) 10 Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road, San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Tel: (868) 674-6008 Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707 E-mail: dmahabir@gmail.com, indocaribbeanstaff@gmail.com Web:indocaribbeanpublications.com Copyright

© ICC 2018. All rights reserved. The writing, artwork and/or photography contained herein may be used or reproduced ONLY with written permission of the Chairman of ICC, or his agents.

Disclaimer

Although all efforts have been made to ensure accuracy of the contents of this publication, ICC cannot accept responsibility for errors, omissions or advice given. The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of ICC.

Editorial Personal letters between relatives in India & Trinidad during indentureship For the first time

Editorial

Personal letters between relatives in India & Trinidad during indentureship

For the first time in history, original, private correspondences are being shared with the general public. Few of these letters exist today. This sample consist of 18 letters: 9 from Trinidad and 9 from India. These letters have been sourced from the National Archives in Trinidad where they are housed, preserved and catalogued.

The letters were written from 1910 to 1922, just after the semi-slave system ended in 1920. The letters were not written by the workers themselves, but on their behalf by Government officials such as the Protector of Immigrants in Trinidad, the Government Emigration Agent in Calcutta, and one by the Deputy Inspector General of the Military Police in Burma. Perhaps the bonded labourers themselves could not write in English, or allowed to write their relatives personally, or possibly post correspondences overseas without the assistance and approval of colonial government officials.

Some of the letter writers in Trinidad were T. Boodram Singh of Diego Martin, Ashaq Hussain and Ram Singh of Picton Estate, Paluvhiamliah of Waterloo Estate, and Bhawanie Dial of Sangre Grande. The letter writers from India were Narain Singh, Abdullah Allahdin, the mother of Mohamed Ismail Khan, the relative of Lakhiya, the brothers of Pruth Ramasara (alias Ram Singh) - all of them sending their correspondences through the overseas colonial office at Garden Reach in Calcutta. Other letter writers were the parent of Kewal who lived in Narela, Thana [police station] Alipur in Delhi, and Kalicharan Singh of Rangoon in Burma.

The subject of the letters from Trinidad included the welfare and health of immigrants, requests (for money) to return to India, and inquires for a postal address in India. One letter indicated that Rajaram, formerly indentured at St Valentine Estate, was now free at Kernahan’s Estate in Plum Road.

The subject of the letters from India included a request for information on

a brother, money, property, posses-

sions of a deceased, return of a son, the

whereabouts of a relative, a desire to

go to Trinidad, cost to travel from India

to Trinidad and the return of a brother.

These letters represent an historic link and solemn reminder of a wretched past. They serve as witness to one of the British Empire’s darkest moments.

These documents of ordinary people in bondage, in sugar cane and cocoa plantations in Trinidad, are rare and priceless. They provide a glimpse of the lives of people who fought against odds and expressed themselves in writing. Like the slave letters at the Yale University Library in the USA, these manuscripts leave us with more questions than answers.

Did these letters truly reflect what these Indian folks wanted to say? Or were the contents of the letter mediated by the white, British colonial writers? Were there (more) issues that these folks wanted to tell their relatives abroad but were constrained to do so? Would these folks really reveal certain issues

to the colonial official? Were the letters dictated in Hindi or English? Would the recipient of the letter have to find

a translator to explain the contents that were written in English?

Dr Kumar Mahabir, Chairman Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd (ICC) Assistant Professor, University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Florida

and Tobago (UTT) Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Florida   There were letters written by these folks
and Tobago (UTT) Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Florida   There were letters written by these folks
and Tobago (UTT) Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Florida   There were letters written by these folks
 
 

There were letters written by these folks themselves and sent directly to their relatives abroad. The contents of these correspondences would not have had to pass through the hands of colonial immigration officials. It is difficult, almost impossible to find these rare documents.

V.S. Naipaul, the Indian Trinidadian Nobel Prize winner, made reference of the private letters exchanged between India and Trinidad. In his book An Area of Darkness (1964), he mentioned that his grandfather had returned to India in 1926. “On the train from Calcutta he fell ill, and he wrote to his family:

‘The sun is setting’” (page 278). That was all. Only one short sentence lin- gered. Naipaul himself never saw the actual letter.

These private letters form part of what is known as Subaltern Studies i.e. people’s history or “history from below” by folks in the lower class of society. The term “subaltern” is derived mainly from the work of the Italian Marxist philosopher and politician Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). It is a type of narrative that attempts to re- construct history from the perspective of common people, the non-elites, the non-leaders, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the poor, the voice-less, the invisible, and marginal groups in society. The theory was later devel- oped by writers such as Lucien Febvre, Albert Mathiez and E. P. Thompson.

Subaltern theory focuses on the views and voices of forgotten people. It is a revisionist approach to writing history in direct opposition to the method of focusing on great figures, referred to as the Great Man theory.

 
 
history in direct opposition to the method of focusing on great figures, referred to as the
history in direct opposition to the method of focusing on great figures, referred to as the
Message from the Minister of Community Development,Culture and the Arts, Dr.the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly This

Message from the Minister of Community Development,Culture and the Arts, Dr.the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly

and the Arts, Dr.the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly This year’s commemoration of Indian Arrival Day presents
and the Arts, Dr.the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly This year’s commemoration of Indian Arrival Day presents

This year’s commemoration of Indian Arrival Day presents us with yet another opportunity to reflect on the path traversed by our East Indian ancestors and their legacy; one that is proudly upheld by the diaspora at home and beyond our shores. I am indeed intrigued by the theme for this year’s magazine which takes us into the indentureship experience through the personal letters between labourers and their relatives in India.

These letters are thought-provoking on so many levels. We are provided with a direct connection to the voices of these ancestors as they coped with the realities of indentureship. We are given a glimpse into the communication system of the day, more so how our ancestors relied on Government officials to communicate their innermost sentiments to relatives in their homeland. These documents, as with many other relics across our diverse cultural heritage, help us to understand that our progression as a nation was founded on the humble dreams of all of our ancestors. We are somehow reminded of our collective obligation to serve Trinidad and Tobago selflessly, for it was on the backs of the disadvantaged that the dream of freedom was carried.

The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts congratulates the wider East Indian community for its noteworthy contribution to the advancement of Trinidad and Tobago. The Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre must be specially commended for documenting traditions and practices of the East Indian community that have been passed on orally across generations. For us to all find meaningfulness in our daily existence, we need to preserve our cultural inheritance which helps us to discover who we are and our purpose as a nation.

On the occasion of Indian Arrival Day, may the messages of resilience and hope resonate with all of us as we continue to build resilient and culturally rich communities across Trinidad and Tobago.

I am delighted to know that Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre is publishing an Indian Arrival Day
I am delighted to know that Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre is publishing an Indian Arrival Day
I am delighted to know that Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre is publishing an Indian Arrival Day
I am delighted to know that Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre is publishing an Indian Arrival Day
I am delighted to know that Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre is publishing an Indian Arrival Day

I am delighted to know that Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre is publishing an Indian Arrival Day commemorative magazine on the occasion of Indian Arrival in Trinidad and Tobago. On this occasion, I would like to congratulate all members of the Indo- Caribbean Cultural Centre for dedicating their time and efforts towards this special publication.

Relations between India and Trinidad and Tobago are deeply rooted in history and culture, though their initial history has been painful and brutal. During the colonial era, after abolition of slavery in 1833, the British faced extreme shortage of labour for sugar plantation in their sugar producing colonies in the Caribbean. To overcome this problem, over half a million Indians were transported to the region as indentured workers (often called as Indian Coolies) with false hope and promises. Most of these workers came from Eastern UP and Western Bihar, while a smaller number came from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Many of them even died on the way.

Despite the hardship, they were able to preserve their cultural traditions navigating with the support of devotional music and Ramlila traditions. Muslims followed their Koranic traditions. To preserve their culinary traditions, they were able to bring herbal and fruit plants from India. Therefore after the initial trauma, they took charge of their lives and made sure that their traditions are preserved and progeny is properly educated and trained. Today, the Indian Diaspora in the Caribbean is one of the most vibrant across the globe. They have produced some of the best writers, best intellectuals, best medical practitioners, best lawyers, best sportsmen, great musicians and so on. They are also active in the political arena.

On this occasion, I convey my best wishes to the people of Indian Diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago. I wish them all success in their endeavours for a fulfilled life.

Indian Diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago. I wish them all success in their endeavours for a
Indian Diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago. I wish them all success in their endeavours for a
Indian Diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago. I wish them all success in their endeavours for a

Bishwadip Dey

Letter from INDIA to Trinidad …

… requesting information on a brother

In 1908, Jai Narain Sing in India wrote to find out about the welfare of his brother in Trinidad. Naurang Singh had left India on the ship Indus in 1904.

8 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

Letter from INDIA to Trinidad …

requesting money

In 1908, the mother of Mohamad Ismail Khan requested that her son in Trinidad send money to her in India because she was in distress.

10 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

Letter from INDIA to Trinidad …

… requesting information on property

In 1908, there was an enquiry from India whether the deceased indentured immigrant, Mansa, had left any property in Trinidad. Mansa had left India on the ship Rhine in 1902.

12 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

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Letter from INDIA to Trinidad …

… requesting possessions of deceased

In 1908, the father of Kewal learnt of his son’s death in Trinidad. The father requested that his luggage and savings be sent to India as well as information on any debts.

14 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

Letter from INDIA to Trinidad …

… requesting return of son

In 1908, the father of Lakhiya requested that his son return to India on the next steamer. His father had paid the return fare of Rs. 210.

16 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

Letter from INDIA to Trinidad …

… requesting whereabouts of relative

In 1908, the relatives of Lakhiya wanted to know why he did not return on the steamer Sutlej . Lakhiya’s relatives had paid Rs. 210 for his return

18 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

Letter from INDIA to Trinidad …

… requesting to go to Trinidad

In 1908, Abdulla requested to go to Trinidad to meet his wife, Ulfat, who had paid for his passage. It was unclear whether a ticket should be granted to him.

20 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

Letter from TRINIDAD to India …

… requesting remittance from India

In 1918, T. Boodram Singh of Diego Martin requested legal advice on the possible transmittal of money sent by his/her deceased father to India.

22 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

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Letter from TRINIDAD to India …

…requesting money to return to India

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24 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

Letter from TRINIDAD to India …

… requesting to return to India

In 1919, the son of Paluvhiamliah in Waterloo Estate pleaded to return to India following his father’s death in India to manage the family’s property.

26 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

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Letter from TRINIDAD to India …

… requesting address in India

In 1914, Bhawanie Dial of Sangre Grande wrote the Parrays so that they can remit the money for the sold estate of Lutchmie Mahraj.

28 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

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Letter from TRINIDAD to India …

…declaring freedom from indenture.

In 1917, Ram Singh of Picton Estate was set free from indenture by a wealthy Ram Persad who paid for his freedom.

30 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

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Letter from TRINIDAD to India …

…about run-away indentured.

In 1917, a response to an inquiry stated that Bechoo of Caroni Estate could not be found to deliver to a letter to him.

32 Personal letters between relatives in India and Trinidad during indentureship (1845 -1920) Indian Arrival Day Magazine 2018 Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC)

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CHAKRA

10 Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road,

San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago Tel: (868) 674-6008, Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707, Mobile: (868) 756-4961

dmahabir@gmail.com, indocaribbeanstaff@gmail.com https://indocaribbeanpublications.com/our-books/Don Miguel Road, San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago Tel: (868) 674-6008, Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707, Mobile: (868)

Caribbean Indian Folktales

2005. xviii + 164 pp. 5¼ x 8¼ inches.

ISBN 976-95049-2-0. Paperback. TT$100. or US$30. (includes handling, registration and local/foreign postage) Please confirm prices and availability before placing an order.

CHAKRA

10 Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road,

San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago Tel: (868) 674-6008, Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707, Mobile: (868) 756-4961

dmahabir@gmail.com, indocaribbeanstaff@gmail.com https://indocaribbeanpublications.com/our-books/Don Miguel Road, San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago Tel: (868) 674-6008, Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707, Mobile: (868)

Caribbean East Indian Recipes

1992. Reprinted 2001, New edition 2009. xx + 120 pp.

5¼ x 8¼ inches. Paperback. ISBN 976-8012-75-7 TT$100. or US$25. (includes handling, registration and local/foreign postage) Please confirm prices and availability before placing an order.

For orders, contact

CHAKRA

10 Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road,

San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago Tel: (868) 674-6008, Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707, Mobile: (868) 756-4961

dmahabir@gmail.com, indocaribbeanstaff@gmail.com https://indocaribbeanpublications.com/our-books/Don Miguel Road, San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago Tel: (868) 674-6008, Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707, Mobile: (868)

A Dictionary of Common Trinidad Hindi compiled and edited by Kumar Mahabir additional entries contributed
A Dictionary of Common Trinidad Hindi
compiled and edited by Kumar Mahabir
additional entries contributed by Visham Bhimull & Rajan Seemungal
Illustrated
fourth edition
Revised updated
and enlarged

CHAKRA

An important reference book for homes, schools, libraries, and offices
An important reference
book for homes, schools,
libraries, and offices

It is without doubt that Hindi in Trinidad

and Guyana has contributed scores of loan words to mainstream Caribbean English. Today, Hindi/Indic lexical items are being used regularly by calypso and chutney singers, writers, journalists, broadcasters and politicians.

Linguists refer to the variety of Hindi commonly spoken in Trinidad as “Trinidad Bhojpuri,” “broken Hindi” or “gaa-nw bo-lee” [village speech]. The majority of people refer to Standard Hindi as “Good

Hindi” or “Proper Hindi.” Trinidad Bhojpuri

is now a dying language used mainly by very old, usually rural Indians.

This illustrated dictionary represents

a record and inventory of 1,864 words

and calques used in everyday speech by younger Indians and older non-Indians in multi-ethnic Trinidad.

First printed 1990. Fourth edition 2018 Illustrations by S.K. Ragbir & Hayden Geeawan 5¼ x
First printed 1990. Fourth edition 2018
Illustrations by S.K. Ragbir & Hayden Geeawan
5¼ x 8¼ xxxiii + 105 pages
ISBN 976-95049-3-9
Paperback TT $80.

Swami Avenue, Don Miguel Road, San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago Tel: (868) 674-6008 Tel/fax: (868) 675-7707 E-mail: dmahabir@gmail.com, indocaribbeansta @gmail.com Website: https://indocaribbeanpublications.com