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'A lot to learn from Girmit' era

Samisoni Nabilivalu
Saturday, May 12, 2012

A FORMER Fiji resident has urged young Fijians of Indian heritage to remember the struggles of their ancestors during the Girmit era and she says "we have a lot to learn from their experiences".

Veena Rathi, a resident of Sacramento in the US and author of A Fijian at Heart, said in a statement the date May 14, 1879 always brought her tears as she thought about her ancestors who took a big risk by coming to Fiji .

"It was nothing close to what they had imagined and everything was unfair, unjust and unexplainable," she said.

"Unfortunately at that time they did not have a choice and as much as they wanted the situation could not be changed.

"The indenture contract they signed was for five years รน worked as slaves in the cane fields of His Britannic Majesty's Crown Colony of Fiji.

"To them it was a Girmit, an agreement and it contained some of the most pernicious clauses thought up by man.

"A fixed immigration ratio of four men to one woman, no choice of place or method of employment, women to work in the fields for at least the first seven months of their pregnancy, housing conditions worse if anything than those from which they had escaped and almost endless working hours for a few pennies a day.

"And though it did not make sense at all at the time, for them, they seemed to agree to an ancient warrior song that says 'Life has meaning only in the struggle, triumph or defeat is in the hands of God, so let us celebrate the struggle and be victors instead of victims'."

She said young Fijians with Indian heritage should seek inspiration from the Girmit Divas and continue to celebrate the day and pray for their souls.

"We salute them for leaving behind a great legacy that we are so proud of. They are a constant reminder that life is not a bed of roses," Ms Rathi said.





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