By Naraine Datt  (aka Norman Datt)

On the stormy night of 13th of January

In 1838 the Whitby sailed into Demaray

The 249 Indian jahajis piled out faltering

After 112 days of gut wrenching sailing

Staggering on greenheart planks in woes

Greeted by filth, flies and rotten potatoes

They’re the first batch of immigrants

Trying to fulfill their needs and wants

In galvanized barracks they were herded

For documentation only to be parceled

And shared out to the various plantations   

Where they lived in deplorable conditions

They made their own medicine for they had no doctors

All they had were seeds and their own dharmic cultures

A few days later the ship the Hesperus came
With 165 Indians on board it wasn’t the same

She sailed on the 19th January at much cost
13 died on board and at sea two were lost

On the 30th of May in 1845 came the Rozack
Stormy weather caused her a serious set-back

After 137 days she did not come to the main
With 225 souls she landed in Port of Spain
The last ship was the Ganges
Thus ended coming of the jahajis

Strong kinship made on their journey
Which sailed in 1917 on 17th January

They lived in very appalling conditions

In 100 feet loggies with ten feet sections

They labored twelve hours a day

In rain or shine they had no say

Forget your pass you’re thrown into jails

And gotten whipped with cat-o-nine tails

Wounds from whips caused serious setbacks

For they rubbed salted pickle on their backs

These pioneers came from Bengal and Behar
From pretty Punjab and Uttar Pradesh so far

The North West provinces of Oudh and Orissa
From cities like Madras, Bombay and Calcutta

By 1917, 239,756 Indians were in Guyana
After five years some went back to India

Most never again to see their provinces or cities
Many died from flu epidemic and other diseases

Cont’d: Children of the Jahajis.


 By Naraine  Datt

 They made homes in Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica
Martinique, even Venezuela and tiny Grenada

St.Vincent, St. Lucia, Honduras, Guadeloupe
French Cayenne and also in the Dutch group

After five years they were freed from their massahs

Many were lured with false promises by harkatiyas
 With free passages back to Mother India
Of easy jobs in the islands and Guyana

Their hopes and aspirations were shattered
From estate owners as they were scattered

By the treatment and racial molestations
On the cocoa, corn and sugar plantations

Living in long logies of mud and wattle

The massahs handled them like cattle
And they met worse humiliating fates
When they had to face the magistrates

His rights were always met with denial
He was charged and dubbed a criminal

Any breach of the indentureship contract
For the massahs were mean and exact
The reward for saving the English plantation
When the Negro slaves got their emancipation
They came to save their dilapidated economy

But was turned into very oppressed slavery

Negroes made life very uneasy
Calling them Babu and coolie

They ridiculed and molested them

On top of all their other problem

They mocked their Hindu religion
Called them pagans treated them as foes
Molesting the youths were common
So was the ridiculous abuse by Negroes

The Indians suffered traumatic attacks
They couldn’t live in peace and couldn’t win
East Indians were forced to marry blacks
 Dougala meant straighter hair and fairer skin

In many islands they lost their names and religion
And they were completely integrated
Only then they were more tolerated as kith and kin
And then they were readily accepted

No one was even in the Fast Indians’ niche
The plantation owners had the law on their side
For the magistrates were owned by the rich
And Indian field-workers were in for a long ride

The Negro later became a black Whiteman completely
They almost lost their religion and were culture dead
Were bent on forcing the Indians into their society
Like them, only to become brown white men instead

Now the Indians are the wealthiest in the Caribbean
In Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname they are the majority
The Coolie Baboos are educated, self-made and keen
And owned most of the businesses, land and property
Like the little train which says it can

Was the indomitable Cheddi Jagan
They raised learned men and not any lagabagoos
The famous Shridat Ramphal and the Luckhoos
In our Law, men were decent and not mean
Ramsahoye and Mohamed Shahabudeen
In Education they were men of higher mind
Birbalsingh, Ravi Dev and Rupert Roopnarine
For the suffering from the Socratic oath’s basin
Dr. Mootoo and Dr. Balwant Singh in medicine
In our religious affairs we were honoured above all
With Bisnauth, Pt. Daman Persaud and Mulavi Ali
In Business Toolsie Persaud, Abdool Gafoor and Beharry
Yesu Persaud, Kayman Sankar, the Kissoons, and Mazaharally
All were stalwarts in their respective fields doing their own thing
The military gave us Balram Raghubir and Major General Singh
Moses Dwarka was our champion in athletics
In track and field he thrashed them with licks
Shakira Baksh was our beauty ambassador
Not forgetting our beautiful Nalini Monasar
Dr. Rovin Deodat and Ricky Singh our media best
J.W. Chinapen and David Dabydin passed the test
Rajkumari Singh spearheading our Arts and Culture
Devindra Pooran and Pita Pyaree, our new future
With Lakshmi Kallicharran and Paranand Sukhu
Nadira Shaw, Pandit Gossai and Mohan Nandu
And Gora Singh some of the best who broke through
Also Sammy Baksh, and Gobin Ram just to name a few.
These pioneers who came from Mother India
Are the East Indians today with a proud dharma
That’s still practiced with vigor and zest
For they had the stamina to come West

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  • Thinker  On 07/13/2013 at 10:28 am

    The exploitation of Indian women by European overseers was a well-known phenomenon but it is not explicitly stated in the poem. However, “Negroes” get some prominence. What does the poet have in mind when he states that Indians were forced to marry “blacks”? Tell us more. Don’t we also have evidence from “The Indelible Red Stain” of the Jagans’ attitude towards Hinduism? Wouldn’t some of the unhealthy attitudes have been shared by other groups (including Muslims)? With regard to the “Negro” becoming “a black Whiteman completely”, perhaps we should be researching the opinion also of the white colonial class of the time. The poet obviously doesn’t need to mention the European missionary influence, finding it much easier and acceptable to focus on a group which has also suffered historically. Colonial society is transformed into black society to which Indians were to be forced into. The poet can use “historical” licence because his principal message is for today’s audience, stoking fear and distrust, as part of a justified pride.

  • Thinker  On 07/14/2013 at 10:09 pm

    It’s absolutely amazing that no one else has seen fit to comment so far. What is this place? A forum for insulting Blacks?

  • Thinker  On 07/15/2013 at 11:23 am

    For the moment I will simply remind the poet that doctors take the Hippocratic (not Socratic) Oath. I am waiting to see if any Guyanese have the “cojones” to deal with the matters I have referred to. You may be overseas, many of you, but you may want to act in the same spineless way as if you were still in Guyana.

  • Thinker  On 07/15/2013 at 1:00 pm

    From Wikipedia: The term babu, also spelled baboo, is used in modern-day South Asia as a sign of respect towards men. It is a derivation of bapu which means father or grand father……..
    In British India, babu often referred to a native Indian clerk. The word was originally used as a term of respect attached to a proper name, the equivalent of “mister”, and “babuji” was used in many parts to mean “sir”; but when used alone without the suffix, it was a derogatory word signifying a semi-literate native, with a mere veneer of modern education.

    Still blaming the “Negroes”?

  • Thinker  On 07/15/2013 at 1:07 pm

    “The Negro later became a black Whiteman completely
    They almost lost their religion and were culture dead”

    Can some sociologist comment on the degree to which Blacks in the Americas are “culture dead”?

  • Thinker  On 07/15/2013 at 1:13 pm

    Should (Fenton) Ramsahoye not be removed from this eminent list in view of the fact that his mother was a mulatto and it was well known that “Dougla” cricketers like Butcher or Solomon were not allowed to play for the East Indian Cricket Club. (Solomon might have, later on).

  • Thinker  On 07/15/2013 at 1:16 pm

    Perhaps the fact that Cheddie, Shakira, and Lionel Luckhoo married Caucasians should be considered. Was that a major problem to any purist?

  • Thinker  On 07/15/2013 at 7:49 pm

    Was the word “coolie” invented by Blacks in Guyana? The uninitiated may really think so after reading this epic poem?

  • Thinker  On 07/15/2013 at 7:58 pm

    Can some historian expand on the “ridiculous abuse by Negroes”? There must be someone well-versed on this issue.

  • Thinker  On 07/16/2013 at 12:43 am

    Notice that we can’t get a single soul of all the regulars who are always commenting on just about EVERYTHING to say that the poet is being unfair historically to Blacks. Notice that we can’t get a single Black all this time to step forward and say something is wrong about the depiction. Does this say something about present-day Guyana?

  • Thinker  On 07/16/2013 at 8:52 am

    Black South Africans may have some legitimate grievances about the behaviour during the colonial period of Mahatma Gandhi (whose statue in in the Promenade Gardens). Yet Martin Luther King and Obama claim how much of an inspiration he was. Perhaps we should all be digging up colonial history and seeing how (legitimately) wronged we all were. Episode one. More to come.

  • Thinker  On 07/17/2013 at 6:28 pm

    With all the emphasis on the people being “forced” to marry “Negroes” isn’t there a great danger for the children when Indo-Guyanese families leave for anywhere else in the Caribbean other than Trinidad? Shouldn’t some sort of cultural warning be given? How should this work to prevent too many “brown white men”?

  • Thinker  On 07/17/2013 at 10:14 pm

    Now that we have understand the experience of crossing the Kala Pani, what are the lessons to bear in mind when crossing (flying to) the Nila Pani to places like Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua, BVI? How must the “Negroes” of those islands behave?

  • Thinker  On 07/17/2013 at 10:50 pm

    Caste was “lost” in the crossing of the Kala Pani. What else must be kept at all cost, when emigrating North?
    Chamar Boy

  • Thinker  On 07/18/2013 at 1:01 pm

    Many may disagree with the Laws of Manu
    Does one have to stick to them to remain Hindu and practise the “proud dharma” with vigour and zest?

  • Thinker  On 07/18/2013 at 4:32 pm
    This is the sort of intelligent exchange that should be going on. “Poetry” is an easier option. Not as intellectually challenging.

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