Abdul Aziz's Story

I left India because I was told that I would receive a shilling a day for work in Fiji and that after five years when my girmit was complete I could return of my own accord, paying my own passage back, but if I stayed another five years then I would be given a free return passage.

Religion was an important factor in India, but once we came to the depot, we all became one. I was a single man, but I met a woman from Hyderbad and married her.

I went to Naitasiri to serve my girmit. For a month I spent my time crying. When I got to Naitasiri I thought that I would never see my parents again.  But after shedding  tears for a month I decided I must work despite my despair. In the first three weeks we were taught what to do by the sardars as we were going to be involved with cane cultivation. Some amongst us who did not learn were given a thorough beating. Our sardar was a pundit, a maharaj. Our estate was bad enough but there were others far worse where people were disgraced completely. I did not like the work at all. But I told myself that if I did not work I would die of starvation.

For six months I had to cut cane and had to ensure that I filled three trucks. It did not matter whether I finished at five or seven in the evening. What was important was that I cut enough cane and loaded three trucks. Work was very hard.

The difficulties we experienced in Fiji we had not encountered in India. We all put up with it, there were only two alternatives: work or a thrashing. I too was once hit by a sardar and thereafter I learnt my lesson. My wife was also kicked by one. My wife was weeding grass but she missed a patch. The sardar drew her attention to it and she said that she would do that part later and the sardar immediately kicked her. My wife fell down.

I feel bad about this incident. I would have killed the man for doing such a thing, but we were in a hopeless and helpless state in this place; hence, I could do nothing. We became fed up with one sardar and chopped off his hand.

After work, we used to sit down together and discuss how we had got to this place where we were being beaten up. We thought we were suffering because of our fate. Despite our different religions we used to all get together. Sit together and eat together, yet nonetheless, each practised his own religion. We used to fast in those days but my word, we suffered a great deal in our efforts to keep our fast. But at prayer time we still had to work. During our festivals some¬times we got leave so we came and said our prayers, at other times we did not, so we did not say our prayers.