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‘Calcutta To The Caribbean- An Indian Journey’: A Film on heart-rendering Experience of Indian Indenture in Trinidad

In 1845, on May 30, a sailing ship brought 217 Indians under the false impression that they will get to work on the sugar estates

Directed by Gideon Hanoomansingh, “Calcutta To The Caribbean- An Indian Journey” is a documentary film tells the history of Indians who went to the Caribbean and how the abolition of slavery brought these workers to the sugar plantations.

In 1845, on May 30, a small sailing ship weighing 415 tonnes, the Fatel Rozack, was tied up at the lighthouse jetty in Port of Spain, Trinidad. After almost a 3 months and 6-days voyage from Kolkata (then Calcutta), around the southern tip of Africa and across the southern Atlantic, it came to Trinidad.

In 1845, on May 30, the ship Fath Al Razak brought 217 Indians to Trinidad. Image source: www.yespunjab.com

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As History says, this was no ordinary ship. With it, she brought 217 Indians who were given the false idea that they were heading for a better life and will work on the sugar estates of Trinidad. While five died on the voyage, most of them were women and under 30s. To the surprise, only five of them were men. On reaching the Port of Spain, Gazette reported, “the general appearance of the people is healthy”.

Newly arrived Indian labourers in Trinidad. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Newly arrived Indian labourers in Trinidad. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This was just the beginning! Soon over, 143,939 Indian labourers were shipped to Trinidad in the next 72 years. The majority of the labourers, that is 240,000 were sent to Guyana (then British Guiana), 36,000 to Jamaica, and smaller numbers to St Vincent, Grenada, St Lucia and Martinique.

This map is shows the slave trade routes that were established to produce sugar and chocolate. (Martin, Lecture 7, 2015). Image source: chocolateclass.wordpress.com
This map is shows the slave trade routes that were established to produce sugar and chocolate. (Martin, Lecture 7, 2015). Image source: chocolateclass.wordpress.com

Indian Labourers came from several areas the country, such as- Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal  (through the port of Calcutta) and Oudh. Not just that, in the early years it came through Chennai (then Chennai) as well. The labourers, most of them belonged to Hindu faith and only a few of them were Muslims.

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The details mentioned here are just mere glimpses of their lives, the documentary holds in it much more. One has to watch it to get close to the lives of these Indian labourers, share their struggle and unsaid pain. One journey that doomed their lives forever! Their experiences were akin to slavery.

The film will be screened on Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 4:30pm at Film Programme, UWI, #12 Carmody St., St. Augustine.

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