New Delhi, August 04, 2017: More than a century has passed since the end of indentured labour in British colonies and 70 years since the partition which led to the creation of two nations – India and Pakistan. Lainy Malkani, a London born journalist, and writer with Indo-Carribean roots attempt to commemorate by sharing composition of ten short stories about the lives of indentured Indian labourers spanning five continents.
Traversing across five continents and based on historical facts, this contemporary short story collection is an exhibition of exhilarating tales of heroism and resilience. The stories were based on historical documents from the British Library and the reminiscences of the descendants of Indian sugar workers living in London. They were hired to work on the sugar plantations in a number of British colonies after the liberation of African slaves that led to a shortage of labor.
The anthology, Sugar, Sugar: Bitter-sweet Tales of Indian Migrant Workers, forms a network of those who left the country 150 years ago and their descendants living in Britain.
Lainy Malkani grew up in Crouch End and went to school in Muswell Hill before moving to Stanmore. She learned about her heritage after her mother passed away. However, as a descendant of indentured Indian laborer who went to work in British Guiana, Lainy was already aware of the history of her ancestors.
Lainy was the first in her family to be born in the UK. She is not sure exactly when her family moved from India to Guyana, but knows her grandmother was born in the Caribbean. Her father was the first to lead followed by her mother and sister.
The period between the year 1838 and 1917 witnessed an exodus of around one million people from India to work on sugar plantations around the world. Lainy was inquisitive to know more about the journey her family and others led as indentured labourers, which also drove her to set up the Social History Hub in 2013 to bring the stories of ‘unsung heroes’ in society to reality.
Lainy was impelled to write the collection after creating a two-part documentary for BBC Radio 4, Sugar, Saris and Green Bananas, whose success inspired her to extend it to Fiji, Trinidad, South Africa and Mauritius where the Indian diaspora would also share this incredible history.
Amid her research, one story from South Africa (1885 to 1887) appeared to outlive more than others. “In documents, you rarely find anything in the first person, it’s usually plantation owners”, she said.
“I found 300 words of testimony telling the story of a heavily pregnant woman who went missing, she was gone for three days. When she returned she must have had the baby and then two days later a baby was found dead. I was really shocked, as a mum it was horrifying.”
The work has been published with HopeRoad, an organization set up in 2012 that focusses on writing about Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.
Lainy will be hosting an event called Sugar, Sugar at the British Library on August 16, which will bring together over two hundred people to share their own stories of indenture.
– prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94