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Lainy Malkani’s “Sugar Sugar: Bitter-sweet Tales of Indian Migrant Workers” Shows Lives of Indentured Indian Labourers Spanning Five Continents

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

iIndentured Indian labourers
Lainy Malkani. Twitter

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 The stories were based on historical documents from the British Library and the reminiscences of the descendants of Indian sugar workers living in London.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.

indentured Indian labourers
Sugar, Sugar: Bitter-sweet Tales of Indian Migrant Workers book cover. Twitter

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.

Also Read: Indian Arrival Day: Remembering the hardships of Indians who were brought as Indentured labourer

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.

She explains, “In indentured labour, people signed up for a period of five years. There are two schools of thought, one is whether this is voluntary when you don’t really know what it will be like but then it is a huge departure from the slavery, of course, there were conditions of work and at the end of the five years, they could return home”, mentioned Harrow Times report.

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

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Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago to organise Lecture on Human Slavery on August 27

Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island Caribbean nation near Venezuela and is a blend of multicultural and multi-religious society

August Lecture Series i invite

Port of Spain, August 21, 2016: The Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago presents its August Lecture in collaboration with the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday, August 27. The event will take place at the National Museum and Art Gallery, Frederick Street, Port of Spain at 6pm.

Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island Caribbean nation near Venezuela and is a blend of multicultural and multi-religious society. The presence of Indian Diaspora there makes it more lively and continues to induce spiritual reconstruction among the people. If one visits the place, they will find a whole new scenario, but only a few know that this transformation has travelled decades.

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Port of Spain is the capital of Trinidad and Tobago and there is no denying that Carribean colonies were built on the backbone of slavery. 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.

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

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”.

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.

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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.

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 closer 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.


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Evolution of Indian Radio Stations in Trinidad & Tobago

May 30 is observed as Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad and Tobago


Indian Arrival Day is a national holiday celebrated in various nations of the Caribbean and the island country of Mauritius on different days to acknowledge the first wave of arrival of laborers from the Indian subcontinent by British colonial authorities. Often observed as a national holiday in most of the concerned countries, this day is abound with cultural events that indulge the Indian population.

May 30th, 1845 saw the entry of Indians into the island of Trinidad & Tobago, and even 170 years later, today, Indian Arrival Day is honored with speeches from the Prime Minister and award ceremonies to recognize the efforts made by outstanding Trinidadians & Tobagonians in bettering inland communities, and the nation as a whole.

It is, therefore, an apt time to explore the virtual presence of Indian institutions in this nation. Out of the 39 registered local FM radio stations that cater to the widely diverse cultures that the island harbors, 9 stations are Hindu and Indian-formatted. Which is why, stations like 103.1 FM: “The First… The Finest”, Taj 92.3 FM: “Celebrating Passion and Culture”, Heritage Radio 101.7 FM: “The Pulse of the Nation”, and 90.5 FM: “The People’s Station” will make the Indian diaspora feel right at home.

All of these stations target different audiences. According to Dr. Kumar Mahabhir, Sangeet 106.1 and WIN Radio 101.1 are famous for remixes of dancehall and reggae to indulge the youth, while Taj 92.3 FM appeals, primarily, to professional women belonging to the high income class and enjoy a modern lifestyle. Radio 90.5 works to promote the international releases of Indian films, and Heritage Radio 101.7 plays music from a plethora of genres, including calypso. Trinidad Raio 90.5 stands out from the other stations thanks to its upbeat and creative characteristics. In many of its pioneering ventures, this station has managed to come up with a mobile application for smart phones, collaborate with Bollywood playback singers, release a live stream online, and even hold the famous Bollywood Music Awards in Trinidad in 2005, before any other station, and is truly commendable.

103.1 FM and Radio Jaagriti 102.7 FM are stations of special importance in the history of Indian Radio. 103.1 FM was Trinidad & Tobago’s first Indian-customized station to run 24 hours a day, and it met with unprecedented success, which highlighted the fact that there was an immense need for radio media solely dedicated to Indian cultural and religious programs. 103.1 FM inspired many other stations to follow in its footsteps and cater to the Indian population, because there was a lot of economic power involved in this sector.

Similarly, Radio Jaagriti 102.7 FM, now available as a streaming station on the internet as well as a satellite radio station, was the first exclusively Hindu radio station in the world which aired in 2013. Keeping true to its Hindu roots, Jaagriti does not market alcohol and meat products, or even encourage parties. More importantly, with a whooping 2.4 million website hits from June 2015 to May 2016, this station is arguably the most popular one in the country. Aakash Vaani soon sprung up as a close competitor to Jaagriti, but it is widely managed by non-Hindu communities and backed by Guardian Media Limited. Jaagriti, on the other hand, is a product of the Hindu masses, and all of its profits and proceedings are donated to Hindu activities.

It is refreshing to see practices like these followed diligently to keep history alive all over the world. The advent of Indian radio stations in Trinidad & Tobago is quite reassuring. The Indian population isn’t lost and forgotten, but now forms a valuable chunk of the island’s demographic and economic entities.

-written by Saurabh Bodas. Saurabh is an intern at NewsGram. 

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Nandani Bharrat: A New York spiritual healer who tries to dispel stereotypes

Nandani Bharrat: a psychic healer
Nandani Bharrat: a psychic healer

Bushwick, New York City: In a Bushwick apartment building, Nandani Bharrat, 29, sits on a mattress with her eyes closed and her legs crossed in a lotus position. The air is spiced with incense and the room is quiet except for the rhythmic hum of chants.

Bharrat, also known as Kali Ma after the Hindu goddess of creation, preservation, and destruction, is one of the city’s many psychic healers New Yorkers rely on for astral insight.

She founded her practice, Kali Ma: Triple Goddess Tarot and Healing, in 2013 and specializes in card readings and guided meditation. She is also trained in a Japanese healing technique, known as “usui shiki ryoho,” that believes energy can be channeled into a patient through touch to restore physical and emotional well-being.

Bharrat feels she offers a valuable service, but many remain skeptical of her profession. In recent years psychics have been arrested and charged with fraud, grand larceny and other crimes. A stereotype of how fortune tellers swindle small fortunes out of their customers remains. Still, however, there are those, like Bharrat, who genuinely believe in their craft.

“It started with things like meditation and energy healing, but as I get deeper into the practice, it’s about acceptance,” she said. “It’s about accepting the darkness, accepting your negative feelings and embracing who you truly are. Those things are meant to be acknowledged and dealt with.”

Raised in a multi-religious household of Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism, Bharrat’s upbringing was steeped in spirituality. She was born in the South Bronx and grew up in Bushwick after her family emigrated from Guyana to New York (Indo-Caribbean descent). On her father’s side, Bharrat comes from a lineage of Brahmin—a member of the highest Hindu caste, that of the priesthood.

“I never thought I’d be doing something like this at all,” she said with a chuckle. “But I feel like I need to be of assistance to others. Whether it’s poverty or mental health issues, there are these quick fixes happening, but we’re not actually healing ourselves.”

Even in a country where fortune telling raises some eyebrows, unlikely people with high profiles have trusted in the supernatural. The late Nancy Reagan, for example, made no secret of her affinity for astrology and Hillary Clinton was once famously led by a medium through conversations with long-deceased leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt.

For the everyday person, however, Bharrat hopes her clients will be able to glean a deeper understanding of their lives from her services.

“Hopefully what I’m doing is showing that even if you don’t get the support that you think you need, it really is there,” she said. “It’s just in a metaphysical way that we don’t always see with our eyes.

Watch the video here

The story was originally published at NYCityLens. Here is a link to the story.