New Book on Indian Indentureship in Suriname and Guyana

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Sharmila Ramratan

By Dr Kumar Mahabir

A new book on Indian indentureship in Suriname and Guyana was launched by Sharmila Ramratan recently (14/3/21). It is entitled ‘Is ghaat ko chor us ghaat gaye’ (‘From this shore to that shore’).

The launch was hosted by the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre (ICC) in one of its weekly Sunday night ZOOM Public Meeting. The programme was chaired by Sharlene Maharaj and moderated by Bindu Deokinath Maharaj, both women of Trinidad.
The presenters were Sharmila Ramratan herself, poet Sandhya Bhagoe, and singer Swamipersad Jankie.

The launch drew 78 participants in the virtual room compared to 40 each day at the NCIC International Phagwa Conference in Trinidad the same weekend.

Cheryl Rodriguez of St Vincent wrote afterwards: “Fantastic programme. I was fascinated by the language, music, songs and poetry of Suriname. The presentations were touching and beautifully rendered. Thank you for inviting me again. I absolutely enjoyed every moment of it and look forward to Sunday evenings. God bless.”

Cheryl Rodriguez

On another day, Cheryl wrote again: “Wonderful! Congratulations to Sharmila! Now your Sunday night programs have us in St Vincent on board. Thank you and Sharmila for opening our eyes to so much that we have lost. Because of this Sunday programme, our interest in Indian culture has doubled.”

Two Parts with Three Sections

Ramratan’s book is divided into two parts: Hindi with English translations. On the cover of the book, she placed a black-and-white photo of her grandfather, Mangroo. The sailing ship in the background symbolizes the Lalla Rookh [“Red Cheeks”] which made its maiden voyage from Calcutta to the Dutch colony of Suriname on 5th June 1873.

The book consists of three sections in each of the two parts: The first section is set in Calcutta, India, and is about the main character, Mangroo. He leaves his home with his wife, Dhanwantie, and their two children in search of a better life overseas.

The second section is set in Commewijne and is about the life of Mangroo as a farmer and worker on a sugar factory in Marienburg. He was also an overseer in his new village. The third section is set in Guyana where his long-awaited wish was fulfilled.

This book falls in the literary genre of historical fiction; that is, fiction based on historical fact.

The story is set in India, Suriname and Guyana.

Ramratan intends to publish two other books this year.

Ramratan is a motivated Hindi teacher and researcher in Hindi as well as a short-story writer and Hindi translator of plays. She is also a woman entrepreneur in the business of clothing, household items and vegetarian food.

Ramratan can be reached at sharmilaramratan@hotmail.com or WhatsApp +597 870 0784

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Dr Mahabir is an anthropologist who has published 12 books on Indo-Caribbean identity. Correspondence – Dr. Kumar Mahabir, San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean. Mobile: (868) 756-4961 E-mail: dmahabir@gmail.com

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