Indians not really in our textbooks

Indians not really in our textbooks

Photo : Ravi Dev

I was illustrating the  point made about Indians not being mentioned in our school texts. We had to scrounge around in the age before the internet to find out about the India our foreparents came from.

The song was from the movie “Teesri kasam/The Third Vow”, which was set in the Bhojpuri Belt that was virtually unchanged in the 1960’s from what it was at the late 19th century when my Great Grandfather left Ishmaelpur, in Bihar. 

It was very much like the Guyana I knew as a child especially with the rice fields and the thatched huts of some old indentureds who lived at the end of my street, near the sugar factory. They never married.

Raj Kapoor - who was incidentally never a favourite of mine, but he excels in this role  - is transporting a local dancing girl (Waheeda Rehman) in his bullock cart to a village fair on a journey that takes a couple of days. Many of our Jahajis were recruited at such fairs.

During that time, as I told the Berbice audience, he tells her the story of a girl Mahua whose beloved had been shipped off to a foreign land to work and had left her behind. Her song, in the form of a letter is the song - a biraha/song of separation that Raj Kapoor sings. 

My own grandfather had left his young wife with a child when he came to Guyana, and according to his son who raised me (My Nan,)and my mother, his granddaughter,  he always wondered what became of her and his son back in Bihar.

The point I made was when the books talk incessantly about the preponderance of men who came as indentureds, they never talk about the females who most of them would have left behind, since in their age cohort, they would have been already married. Like my great grandfather.

The biraha/songs of separation sung by the women left behind,  is unique to the Bhojpuri Belt.

The song, originally done by Mukesh, tells the story of how some of those women might have felt.

Sajanwa bairi ho gaye hamaar...

My love has become my foe...

Sajanwa bairi ho gaye hamaar

Chitthiyaan ho to, har koi baache 2

Bhaag na baache koi

Karamwaa bairi ho gaye hamar

My love has turned against me

If it was a letter, anyone would read it

But no one can read fate

Even my actions have turned against me

Jaye base, pardes sajanwa, sautan ke bharmaaye...2

My love has gone far away and has settled with another woman...

Na sandes na koi khabariya rut aaye rut jaaye

Doob gaye hum beech bhanwar mein 2

Karke sola par

Sajanwa bairi ho gaye hamar

My love has gone far away and has settled with another woman

There has been no message or news from him; the seasons come and go

I'm drowning now in a whirlpool

After having  crossed the seas

My love has turned against me

Sooni sej god mori sooni maram na jaane koi...

My bed is empty, my lap is lonely. No one knows how to soothe me.

Sooni sej god mori sooni maram na jaane koi

Chhatpat tadpe preet bichari mamta aansoon roye

Na koi is paar hamaara 2

Na koi us paar

Sajanwa bairi ho gaye hamar

My bed is empty, my lap is lonely. No one knows how to soothe me.

My desperate love shudders; I shed tears of affection.

There is no one on this side of the shore to call my own.

There is no one on that side

My love has turned against me.

Chitthiyaan ho to har koi baache

Bhaag na baache koi

Karamwaa bairi ho gaye hamar

If it was a letter, I would read it

But no one can read fate

Even my actions have turned against me