After the Girmit story
From an e-mail which we
received on 22 May 2005. Fijigirmit.org did not do any
Read most of the articles on this site and
it is a pleasure to share this story:
I am the youngest son of the nine children
of my parents who lived in Lokia, Rewa. My father was a
Girmitiya. I was just under ten years old then.
My recollections are faint but true. The
whole area was abuzz with talk of Girmitiyas being offered a
passage to India at government cost. They could take their
children with them.
My sisters told me made up stories of what
would happen to children once they arrived in India. Bad
people of a particular religion would chop my arms off. Blood
would flow and flies would feed on the wound.I guess it was
more to scare me from joining my father on this trip he was
going not to miss.
Two others, one from Barmasaga, across the
river from us, and the other my maternal uncle's father -in
-law were going also. I called the second person 'nana'. He
would come home to do the 'mundan' ceremonies of the new born
and tell us stories too.
My father and my brothers went to Nausori
and a group picture was taken.
Finally the departure date came.
We were at Suva wharf. There was a huge ship
in the port. I had never seen anything like it before. The
wharf was crowded with families. Men, women, children, young
There werre those, mostly in dhotis carrying
stuff packed in bastas and kotars.. At some time paper ribbons
were thrown from the passengers on board to those on the
wharf. There was noise. The ship moved. There was waving,
tears, broken ribbons and growing distance between the ship
and the wharf.
I was attending school at Naililili. We went
there on a boat which was owned by my my uncles who also
taught there. One day I was depressed and did not want to go
to school, so I left home but hid the the grasses in the drain
by the river bank until my uncle started the engine and the
boat left. I came home to tell that my uncle had left me. My
aunt had seen me go to the river bank much before my uncle and
reported this to my brothers, I was caught.
This was the only day I had missed school, ever.
My father arrived in the village .Chatoh,
Rai Barailly, Uttar Pradesh. He saw a woman and asked her if
she knew of a certain man in the village. The woman at once
grabbed the stranger, hugged him and would not let go. She was
my father's mother. There was a lot of rejoicing.
The village 'panchayat' held a meeting and a
lot of questions were asked of my father. Where did he go.
What did he eat. Who did he marry.
He had carried with him some Chinese "phulwala' plates and
pialas and these caused some suspicion. Finally they decided
to give him food rations and let him stay and do his own
cooking. There was no 'hooka, pani' with the biradari.
My father met his mother. He also
had a brother who worked in Delhi but came to visit his wife,
my kaki, and the family in Chatoh a few times a year.
Sometime later on my Kaki's insistance he
was accepted in the household and did not do his cooking.
Five years passed. For some reason he could
not come. We were too poor also to arrange
for his return. I think he made a couple of attempts
but missed his ship to Fiji at Bombay.
In 1954 on his last attempt he met one
Mahangi Ram Din who worked for Mackinon Mackenzie and Company
Ltd. a shipping company and with his help managed to catch a
ship to Fiji. The ship arrived via Australlia.
I was in class eight when Pitaji arrived
back in Fiji. He arrived home sitting on the roof of one of
the boats my uncle ran as a passenger boat between Rewa Koro
I visited Chatoh in 1986 and then again in
1992. On my first trip I met my kaka. I asked them if they
knew why my father had left India in the first place. They had
one story but on the second trip the answer to the same
question was different.
There in Chatoh, what is the meaning of 40
years? My fahter was there between 1950 and 1954 for five
years. Someone told me that my father was there just 10 t0 15
yeras ago Another old lady wondered if it took me three months
to arrive there in that 'agin boat' meaning steam boat.
I went to meet Mr Mahangi Ram Din so I could
thank him for assisting my father. The meeting was supposed to
last a couple of hours, I ended up staying with the famliy for
two days and had to leave as I had to visit other places.
Indians are a great people. May God bless