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After the Girmit story

From an e-mail which we received on 22 May 2005. Fijigirmit.org did not do any editing.

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 and old.

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 and Nausori.

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 them.