First Published: 5th May, 2020
My great, great grandparents were the first batch of Coolies who came from India and settled in Guyana in 1838. My great, great grandfather came willingly, aged 21: young and strong, and looking for adventure. He came with 2 brothers. One brother died on the way and was buried at sea.
My great, great grandmother was kidnapped, aged 15. She had gone to the shop, saw a crowd, went to investigate and ended up in a holding area. As night fell, from where she was held, she saw her father. He was looking for her, but he could not see her. That was the last time she saw him and India. The boat departed the same night and she left without saying goodbye.
During the 3-month journey, in order to save herself from being abused, she aligned herself with my great great grandfather and their union would last for 50 years. None of their descendants ever returned to India.
Their granddaughter was my grandmother. I grew up with her, and she told me everything I needed to know about life in India, the dreaded journey at sea, and life in the colony when her grandparents arrived.
She told me also that without the help, support, and encouragement of the ex slaves, none of the Coolies would have survived. They needed food, medicine, and clothing, and this was provided in part by the British, but a greater part was provided by the ex-slaves. Some of the men also took for themselves young wives from the ex-slaves since the proportion of men were greater than women who came.
As I reflect today, 182 years later, I must be grateful for those who braved the oceans seeking a new life and those who were already here ( the ex slaves), thanking them for my very existence.
I have no photos, no names, just their stories. I have no one in India with whom I can connect. Guyana is my land, my people, and my home.
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