lived with my wife and mother in India. One day I decided to visit
my aunt in Basvelli. My mother gave me some money to buy some sweets
for my cousins. So I left the place and came to the bazaar of
Basvelli. I went to the sweet-seller and bought sweets; I ate some
and had a drink of water from the well. There was a man sitting very
close to it. After drinking, as I moved towards the other side, the
man approached me. He enquired whether I wanted a job. I said I
would be interested but only after I had returned from visiting my
aunt. He said this was not possible because someone else might take
the job by that stage. He continued to press me but I continued to
take the line that I would be interested after having visited my
aunt and on my return would give the answer. There was a depot
He persuaded me to go to it first.
There were men there who were sitting
around playing cards. They were keen to take me into their company.
At the depot there was a Muslim who read from a paper that if we
went for five years and came back we would have to pay our own
fares, but after ten years government would send us back on a free
I then opened the sweets that I had
intended originally for my cousins. Those present were very happy
and we all shared them. While I was there somebody came from the
owner of the place with foodstuff for me, telling me that it was for
me to cook and eat. I was given utensils as well. The Muslim chap
kept saying that we would all go and work in the same place and
according to the paper he had there was plenty of money available so
that after seven years we would be able to pay our own fares back.
He suggested that we should all shake hands because we would
all be together.
Those there told me that Fiji was an
island. They did not say how far it was from my home. I did not ash
either. When we went before the magistrate he asked what I wanted. I
told him that I was going to Fiji to work. He asked how many of us
there were. I said I had a wife and mother as well. The magistrate
asked how could I, as the only man in the family, go off and work in
this far-off island. But I insisted that I must go. He said that
only after I had gone to Fiji would I recognise the value of his
advice. Since I pressed him he registered me. I was 26 at that stage
but when it came to registering the two persons taking down my age
noted 20 for me. Apart from the magistrate everyone thought T ought
-to go and by that stage I had made up my mind firmly to do so.
When we got to the depot in Calcutta
we all ate together irrespective of religion. We got clothes and
blankets when we were about to board the ship to come to Fiji. The
journey by ship was quite pleasant. Living conditions were adequate
and food was reasonable. There was nothing wrong with the biscuits,
we enjoyed them even though they were very hard. When the ship
tossed people yelled and shouted. There was nothing to do on board
except sit and pass time. Those who got into trouble were given a
brush to clean the ship.
During indenture Muslims sometimes
did not eat meat killed by Hindus but Muslims ate with Hindus. They
all used to live like one big family. Muslims did not get involved
with throwing paint in the Holi
festival but they went to the Ramayan
readings. They had their own Koran reading to which they invited
During their Eid
festivals Muslims took the view that nobody invited anyone and all
were welcome to come and eat at their place.
At Muslim weddings Hindus and Muslims all ate together.
During indenture I met a cousin of
mine who had come here before me. He then wrote to his father about
me. My uncle, in his reply, asked him to inform me that my mother
had gone with her brother and. that my wife had been taken away by
her father and that my home was all closed.
I suggested to my cousin that we ought to go back to India.
But he always kept postponing it for the following year.
So we remained here.