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Prof HS Adesh, teacher, author, philosopher
The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, long ago designated the month of May as Indian Heritage Month. It was on May 30, 1845, that the first contingent of Indian immigrant labourers arrived at Port-of-Spain abroad the ship, SS Fatel Razack. This journey from the port of Howrah in Calcutta, India, was long and torturous. The Fatel Razack and its human cargo sailed down the Bay of Bengal and rounded the southern tip of India and then headed to Cape Town, South Africa.
Rounding the Cape, the Fatel Razack began the journey across the Atlantic and headed for Trinidad. We are informed from the ship’s records that many immigrants became ill and even died on this leg of the journey. Those who survived often described an area of the Atlantic as rough and even vengeful. They called this the “Kala Pani.” “Kala” is the colour black and “Pani” means water—the deadly waters.
When T&T was ruled by the British colonial authorities, we were taught that the “sun never sets on the British Empire.” And in order to sustain its occupation of lands across the world, the colonial authorities finally turned to India for cheap and compliant labour. In fact, our Caricom partner Guyana, saw the introduction of Indian immigrant labour seven years before the SS Fatel Razack arrived in Trinidad. In 1838 Guyana, then British Guiana received its first contingent of Indian indentured labourers.