By Kris Kooblall
On the important question of Indentureship, a disguised and holistic form of slavery within the abhorrent model of an alleged framework of archaic laws, and how it affected our lives and those of the descendants of indentured servants who were brought to the Western Hemisphere in 1838.
I write specifically on Indentureship because it is a part of me and who I am, my own upbringing, culture, my identity and perhaps so much more.
In this regard my approach is substantively different from many who choose the topic to retain academic relevance, recognition, reward, write in their spare time, etc.
This is who we are as a people and this is our history and our story.
It is one of unimaginable hardships, sacrifices and deprivation of personal liberty and the freedom to live our lives as human beings, a God given right.
Growing up in Guyana, a small South American country of approx. three quarters of a million persons and a part of the English speaking Caribbean in terms of colonial history and the very topic we are on Indentureship and slavery.
This is who we are and I thank God I have the intuitive ability to wear this historic apparel with the dignity of acceptance and strength.
In Guyana, we were under a government that marauded it’s way into power, a criminal organization, the People’s National Congress Reform – PNCR that committed an untold number of atrocities against specifically the descendants of East Indian Indentured servants.
Yet many East Indians will lie by omission and pretend that this is not a part of our history.
As far as I know, it is and I have the marks in my own personal instance and that of many others to prove these atrocities occurred against our people.
My interest in our history and Indentureship revolves on the tremendous hardships and sacrifices that our families made and endured so that today we stand on the strong foundations that they built with their sweat and their blood.
My own children and theirs will have this strong bond to build on if they choose to and like our foreparents we can share the fruits of theirs and our labour so that we all have a better life.
Their story is our story and a part of the human fabric that is interwoven in a prosperous and stable human society.
Thank Thee God that we have the ability to understand the nexus and continuity and to build on this powerful strand of human connectivity for future generations.
The origins of those who came as indentured servants (our foreparents) from India to the colony of British Guiana from my mother’s side of our family.
The information that I wish to share has been mostly obtained from my late mother’s younger surviving sister, Aunty Sheila Sohan (Rambalak) who currently resides in New York City and recently celebrated her 86th birthday.
My late mother, Gladys Ramkumarie Kooblall (Rambalak) parents were Rambalak Chunilal (1902-1977) aka Paa and Boodni Rangabir aka Maa (1905-1976).
Paa’s (Rambalak) father was Chunilal Maraj and mother Marajin and Maa’s (Boodni) father was Rangabir.
Rambalak was one of 8 siblings, 4 brothers namely Ramdass, Rambalak, Ramdawar and Ramdehal.
Boodni was one of one of five siblings, Maa (Boodni), Mousee (Indranie Beerbajan), Jagjeet, Indarjeet and Sarabjeet.
Information regarding the boats on which my great grandparents came is not accurately known and my Aunt advised it is Elee. I researched the name and the closest is the ELBE that came to Trinidad.
It is quite possible that these boats that ferried the indentured servants from India came to several shores and depending on the human cargo and the need in the British colonies would offload in more than one port.
Rambalak and Boodni, my maternal grandparents children are Walter (Lallbachan 1928), Ernest (Ramkumar 1930), Doris (Bhagwandai 1931), Gladys (Ramkumarie 1933), Sheila (Narainie 1935), Cecil (Jamna Persaud 1940) and Baby (Mootri 1947).
In speaking with my Aunt and others, one of the most compelling feature of life among our foreparents and indentured servants and their offsprings was the hardships and extremely difficult living and social conditions that they endured.
The stability and prosperity that transcends in the lives of the offsprings of indentured servants who are notably ourselves were completely absent in theirs and they were forced to make the best of what was given to them.
Stability in their family lives was an alien concept as the institution of marriage and wholesome practice of culture and continuity of beliefs were simply dashed on the rocks of desperate economic and social conditions and this fact is missing in several historical accounts and records of their lives in the 19th and 20th century.
One of my oldest surviving relative is Aunty Doris Shivcharran (Seenarine) who is 94 years of age and originally from Gangaram and currently residing In Pohal, Canje. Berbice Guyana and whom I tried to make contact with through her sons Michael and Paul. who both reside here in Toronto, Canada.
Aunty Doris is the older sister of the late Aunty Betty Ramdeen from No 64 Village, Corentyne, Berbice, Guyana.
It is my hope that missing and vital pieces of information can be added to the above and to many who are of the thinking that the lives of our foreparents and their offsprings remotely resembles the ease of our own lives today can rest assured, theirs were lives of enduring and unimaginable hardships and sacrifies.
And to our foreparents, we owe not just gratitude but the realization that all we are today are because of their sacrifices and their prayers.