SA In­di­ans ig­no­rant of their roots

Novem­ber 16 marks the 157th an­niver­sary of the ar­rival of In­dian in­den­tured labour­ers to South Africa and the 100th an­niver­sary of the abo­li­tion of in­den­ture. speaks to youths keen to trace their lin­eage, while in­ter­views a Dur­ban fam­ily who are mak­ing i


YOUNG South Africans of In­dian ori­gin have lim­ited knowl­edge of their in­den­tured ori­gins or ances­try.

Westville res­i­dent Saranya De­van, 22, a fi­nal-year clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy stu­dent at the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal, bucks this trend.

She has a vast un­der­stand­ing of her fam­ily’s his­tory, go­ing back to their an­ces­tral vil­lage in Madu­rai in the deep south of In­dia. Oth­ers, how­ever, could not pin­point where their fam­i­lies came from.

Fi­nance clerk Venita Naidoo, 26, of Yel­low­wood Park, ex­pressed a deep de­sire to in­ves­ti­gate her ori­gins.

“I would love to be able to trace our fam­ily roots back to In­dia if I had the re­sources.”

Her sen­ti­ments were echoed by civil en­gi­neer Jayren Soo­bra­money, 27, of Westville.

“It would be very in­ter­est­ing to find out more about my lin­eage. I have been sav­ing money to make a trip to the mother­land of my great-great­grand­moth­ers.”

He lamented that he has trav­elled to Europe and has just re­turned from Ja­pan but has not yet been to In­dia.

Third-year busi­ness science stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Cape Town Uvika Matadin, 20, trav­elled to In­dia as a child and re­mains fas­ci­nated with the sub­con­ti­nent.

“For some time now I have wanted to trace my ori­gins af­ter hear­ing tit­bits from my grand­par­ents.”

De­van was for­tu­nate to have heard sto­ries about in­den­ture from her grand­par­ents.

“My great- grand­fa­ther, Iyanna Theven Moodliar, joined hun­dreds of oth­ers who left In­dia for a new life in South Africa.”

Her ex­pe­ri­ence is dif­fer­ent from Naidoo’s, who said she had not been told many sto­ries about in­den­ture.

“I guess it’s be­cause the older gen­er­a­tion in our fam­ily are no longer around.”

Matadin was sad­dened when asked to share her views on in­den­ture. She said many In­di­ans were run­ning away from home and some were elop­ing.

“It was their op­por­tu­nity to start a new life. They were promised a land of gold, but many false prom­ises were made. It was in­hu­mane be­cause women were abused by their white mas­ters, and when they ar­rived, they came to work in sug­ar­cane fields and were treated as slaves.”

Soo­bra­money said he came from a fam­ily of sto­ry­tellers and found it hard to dis­tin­guish fact from fic­tion.

He was, how­ever, aware that his great-grand­fa­ther, Govin­dara­julu Naidu, had trav­elled with his par­ents as a six-yearold from Madras in 1896.

Asked about their thoughts on the 157th an­niver­sary of the ar­rival of In­di­ans in South Africa on Novem­ber 16, De­van said: “While South Africa is my coun­try of birth and my home; I also have emo­tional and cul­tural links with In­dia. It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand one’s roots. There­fore, In­di­ans in South Africa must never for­get that their fore­fa­thers came from In­dia to sell their sweat to de­velop Natal.”

Soo­bra­money had stronger words, de­scrib­ing in­den­ture as a time of op­pres­sion and white supremacy.

Re­flect­ing on her cul­tural pride, Naidoo added: “I am very proud of our cul­ture and what the In­dian com­mu­nity has achieved in a for­eign coun­try in such a short time. We ar­rived here as slaves but some­how man­aged to build our­selves up.”

Turn­ing to the fraught sub­ject of iden­tity, Matadin said she was un­sure where she would be had it not been for in­den­tured labour­ers cross­ing the In­dian Ocean way back then.

“To an ex­tent I am grate­ful that they were dar­ing enough as I have been given an op­por­tu­nity to be a South African in­stead of grow­ing up in In­dia and this is some­thing spe­cial to me.”

Uvika Matadin

Jayren Soo­bra­money

Venita Naidoo

Saranya De­van

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.