Jagan's story

I left because of a problem with my marriage. My wife was 12 years old. Whenever I approached her she resisted my advances. Hence, I thought marriage was of no value to me.

I walked out without telling anyone. My job was to graze cattle. I was an only son, my father had 25 bigha of land as well as labourers to work his field.

When I made an approach to my wife she told me not to try again. I retorted: “I want it, so where else can I go?” Her answer was: “You may go wherever you wish!”

Thus I decided to leave and came to the railway station. There I met a recruiter who asked whether I wanted a job.

I answered “Yes”.

But my father discovered my absence and was able to trace my whereabouts and took me away after paying seven rupees to the manager of the depot where I was awaiting -transit. I remained in my village for three years after my first abortive attempt to migrate.

I had been attracted to pardesh hence I left again.

On this second occasion the arkati was a Muslim. After seven days I left for Calcutta. In the depot there we ate, sang and enjoyed ourselves. On board the ship the food was satisfactory. There was squabbling among people during the journey. My own trip was rather rough and I resolved that once I stepped ashore in Fiji I would never again go on a sea voyage.

My girmit was in Tavua and my job was to be a courier between Tavua and Lautoka. Thus I spent my five years, and without a mishap.

During girmit there were situations where three or four men kept one woman.          As for Europeans on the estate, they had their choice of women. If a woman bore a white man’s child then he or she was accepted as the child of that woman’s husband. There were several cases of Indian women having children fathered by Europeans.

I sent money home, five pounds, but it was returned with the note that unless I came along with the money it would not be acceptable. I had no intention of returning. I had no thoughts of home; my girmit was pleasant. Each man was for himself. Each kept his sorrow to himself. There were many who committed suicide, their girmit was full of anguish for them.

From the 5/6 per week  wage it was possible to save in those days when one bought sharps at one penny per pound. A single man could eat well and enjoy himself on that sum. One could buy a bottle of ghee for 1/6, a dozen eggs for the same amount and 2/- would get you a good big rooster. Everything was cheap then.

We had frequent contact with time-expired Indians. They were very pleasant and welcoming. We used to help them, for instance, with harvesting their rice and they would help us too. And Fijians too were very amicable; if you went into their koro they received you very hospitably.