left India because I was told that I would receive a shilling a day
for work in Fiji and that after five years when my girmit
was complete I could return of my own accord, paying my own passage
back, but if I stayed another five years then I would be given a
free return passage.
Religion was an important factor in
India but once we came to the depot we all became one. I was a
single man but I met a woman from Hyderbad and married her.
I went to Naitasiri to serve my
girmit. For a month I spent my time crying.
When I got to Naitasiri I thought that I would never see my
But after shedding tears
for a month I decided I must work despite my despair. In the first
three weeks we were taught what to do by the sardars
as we were going to be involved with cane cultivation. Some amongst
us who did not learn were given a thorough beating. Our sardar
was a pundit, a maharaj. Our estate was bad enough but there were
others far worse where people were disgraced completely. I did not
like the work at all. But T told myself that if I did not work I
would die of starvation.
For six months I had to cut cane and
had to ensure that I filled three trucks. It did not matter whether
I finished at five or seven in the evening. What was important was
that I cut enough cane and loaded three trucks.
Work was very hard. The difficulties we experienced in Fiji
we had not encountered in India. We all put up with it, there were
only two alternatives: work or a thrashing. I too was once hit by a sardar
and thereafter I learnt my lesson. My wife was also kicked by one.
My wife was weeding grass but she missed a patch. The sardar
drew her attention to it and she said that she would do that part
later and the sardar
immediately kicked her. My wife fell down. I really feel bad about
this incident. I would have killed the man for doing such a thing
but we were in a hopeless and a helpless state in this place hence I
could do nothing. We became fed up with one sardar
and chopped off his hand.
After work we used to sit down
together and discuss how we , had got to this place where we were
being beaten up. We thought we were suffering because of our fate.
Despite our different religions we used to all get together. sit
together, eat together, yet nonetheless each practised his own
religion. We used to fast in those days but my word, we suffered a
great deal in our efforts to keep our fast. But at prayer time we
still had to work. During our festivals someČtimes we got leave so
we came and said our prayers, at other times we did not, so we did
not say our prayers.