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Let's get fijical!

By Tanya Chaitanya, Times News Network, Tuesday, June 01, 2004 02:55:41 AM

Ulta Pradesh for some, Uttam Pradesh for others. For all the titles which have been lumped upon it, Uttar Pradesh is happiest when called UP, symbolic of it's ascent, straight up on the world map. Which is why suddenly Bhojpuri singers are in demand in Fiji and kathak is the dance form, which has Aussies twirling around in circles. So much so that performers from UP are special invitees to the International Girmitiya Diwas, involving descendants of indentured Indians, to be held in Fiji in September and later at Sydney, this year.

The ex- Prime Minister of Fiji, Mahendra Chaudhry, a Girmitiya, has written letters inviting the UP culture department to send in performers from Uttar Pradesh for a very special item during the festival. Later the International Girmit Congress in Sydney , to be scheduled just before the Olympics is also relying heavily on artistes from our state.

For the record, girmits or girmitiyas, as they are called are indentured Indians, who originally hail from Eastern UP or Bihar . The term girmit or girmityas arose because the indentured Indians could not pronounce the word 'agreement', which they signed to become indentured labourers, when migrating outside their country. They called it girmit. The word stuck.

Abhishek Singh, Special Secretary, Culture Department says, "We are working out details of which artistes to send abroad. Maybe Manoj Tiwari, famous Bhojpuri singer or some popular kathak troupe will be decided upon soon. There should be 6 or so shows in Fiji . We want to send our artistes to Sydney as well just before the Olympics to get a wider platform."

Initially some one million girmitiyas were taken mainly by the British Raj to work on their sugar cane plantations. Now numbering some ten million the majority of the descendants of girmitiyas still live in the countries where the girmityas were originally taken to. They include Mauritius , South Africa , Guyana , Surinam , Trinidad & Tobago and Fiji . However a fair proportion of a million live in the western world including the UK , Holland , USA , Canada , Australia and New Zealand .

Satish Rai, a film-maker who has made three documentaries on the girmitiya community feels, "Not just abroad, an International Girmitiya diwas should specially be held in UP as well, because it is the native place of this populace. About 75% of the Girmitiya population comes from UP. Lucknow has the infrastructure to organise and host such event. In the case of NRIs, these migrants from Indian states such as Punjab and Gujarat have contributed enormously towards economical growth of their respective states. Same can be done by the PIOs (People of Indian Origin) for the economy of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar , Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu."

It's time for Bhojpuri sangeet to drown out the Bhangra pop abroad.