Rekindling the Glories of Yesterday


By Ariti Jankie
HOUSTON: A group of men and women who share a common heritage walked barefooted on Sunday May 25, to honor the memory of their ancestors.
The walk started promptly at 7.30 a.m. on the grounds of Players Street Sanatan Dharam Mandir, Houston, and ended beneath the tree where they sat in a circle to tell their individual stories.
Ram Sharma who was born in Fiji said that his father was 18, when he was fooled by the arkatis (recruiters) and taken to Fiji to work on the sugarcane plantations.
“My father told us that he had gone to buy groceries when someone asked him if he wanted a job where he can make some easy money. My father said ‘yes’ and was persuaded to leave immediately with the atkari who insisted that there was no time to waste.
Six months after he left his home, his family received a letter written by him in Hindi telling them what had happened and informing them that he was safe in Fiji,” he said.

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President of the organizing committee; Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Branch 377 of Texas, Dharam Vishal Chattoor said that his grandfather had built a mandir in Exchange Village, Couva, Trinidad and the family continued age old traditions of India that has been passed on.
He said, “Life was hard but it was simple and filled with love, faith and happiness.”
Nirmala Mohan wept with remembrance of her maternal grandmother who stretched her pennies to afford shoes that she may not walk barefooted and made her a princess of the heart during her childhood. A mother of three and a grandmother, she said, “The old days made me who I am today and I wish my grandmother could see me now.”
A brother and sister; Larry and Prena talked about their grandmother making ghee and early childhood days when simple things gave them the utmost pleasure.

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Tulsi Mahabir recounted a home rooted deep in Hindu philosophy and religion.
He said, “My life was shaped by the example of my grandfather who had come to Trinidad from India.”
The group ate a simple breakfast consisting of damadool (tomato) chokha and sada roti with cups of hot tea; a common fare of their laboring ancestors.
The festival known as “Indian Arrival Day 2014” began in Trinidad in 1980s. A formal program started with pooja at 10.00 a.m in which an audience of approximately 200 comprised first, second, third and four generation of Indentured laborers from India to Guyana, Trinidad and Fiji.
A cultural program included dances by Amrita Chatterpal and Simi Raman, Bhojpuri folk songs by Sharma, Chattoor and Jasodra Sharma, Birha singing and dances by Larry Sawh and other folk cultural items with traditional bhojpuri musical instruments. Tassa in the old Nagara beat was also played by a band of boys under the leadership of Bobby Teelucksingh.
Several pundits, civic leaders and senior citizens were recognized and honored with garlands and plaques which included prominent pundits like Sais Narain from Guyana, Pundit Rajender Sharma from Fiji Islands, Jankie Somar, Banwattee Sanicharra and Sundardaye Goberdhan of Guyana, Ramkisoon Goonie, Rajkumar Soodeen and Tulsi and Chandra Mahabir of Trinidad.
Hosting the packed cultural program was radio personality Sharda Jaishree who was born in Trinidad, educated in India and a resident of Houston. A vegetarian feast followed.
Spokesman for the organizers, Sharma said that the response to this first observation of Arrival Day was overwhelming and plans are to expand the celebrations throughout the month of May in the coming years.
He said, “Next year this celebration also known as “Girmit Festival” will be held with greater pomp and ceremony.”
(Ariti Jankie is an Author/ Journalist based in Houston, Texas).