I recently read Walk with Me all Ova Guyana by Helena Martin and learnt some things about the Portugese Society and history in Guyana. With Coolie Woman it is the heartbreaking history of the Indian women who came from India as Indentured workers to replace the recntly emancipated slaves in the sugar fields.
Bahadur uses her family history as a starting point and coming back to it time and time again it helps to maintain the flow of the writing so it doesn't become too academic. However it is very well researched. It was educational and informative. From the recruiters offices in India to the loogie accommodation on the backdams of the Sugar Cane Fields in Guyana. The abuse and rapes near starvation on the ships passage over, to the abuse and rapes for the rest of the lives in Guyana. The shortage of Indian women was to remain an important issue for many years and to mediate this there is an assignment of a "husband" without any input from either party. The violence in the community is not played down and many women were abused and killed at the hands of same husband with a cutlass as they were blamed for speaking/looking at another man. Plus the use of these women by white Overseers despite the Colonial Offices attempts to eliminate such activity. Shocking information that I really had absolutely no idea about. Yet one or two Coolie women were stubborn & strong, managing to succeed and acquire wealth to survive comfortably without the aggravation of a "husband" foisted upon them.
The British Colonialist moved many Indians all over the world as workforce was needed, yet they held on tentatively in some case to the culture they came from over a 100 years ago, pigin Hindi, Bollywood and some regligious cermonies (gold jewellery!!) They lost their names, often simply using pet names and their village names as Indians did not have surnames. They forgot the villages the came from and became "polluted" because they were obliged to marry out of their caste.
Found in Guyana, Trinidad, Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, Uganda they survived. This is a excellent book that really documents their trials and tribulations. A small few returned at the end of their contracts, the last returnee boat as late as the 1950s, but on arrival were unable to cope with a new divided India. About a quarter eventually returned back to Guyana.
I was enthralled by this book wish I had read it sooner. It educated me to one of my ancestors who made this journey to Guyana and whose name is lost to history. Could I survive what she went through?
2 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
This is a meticulously well researched book which gives an insight in to the conduct of the migrant of Indians from India to various colonies of the empire. This type of labour system replaced slavery, but was not a much different system. The only reservation is the number of rhetorical questions the author asks in the book which becomes a bit tedious and irritating. People interested in the subject should also read 'A new System of slavery' by Tinker R. K.
A great manuscript about Indian diaspora and immigration. Bahadur recreates and transports the reader back to an unrembembered and otherwise unknowable time and space. It is the story of origins, of change, of the clashing of contradictory worlds and of giving a voice to what has remained silent for so long.
I read 'Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture' with voyeuristic pleasure !
3 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?