Apravasi Ghat8 mins 579 8 mins 579
Had I wings, I would have flown…
Imagined that the meaning of the song was getting fulfilled today because Sumi’s happiness knew no bound. She was on a flight to Mauritius. As soon as she looked down it seemed as if the ocean had taken the earth on its lap. The magic of nature was hidden here on everything. The aircraft came out of the clouds to finally land on the soil of Mauritius -welcomed by a cool breeze. Ocean expressed happiness through its waves. The clear blue water stretched so far as if the sky had landed on it.
Sumi excitedly asked, “ Are we on earth or on a sky mat? All were charmed with this unique beauty of nature. The eyes were not satisfied with the taste of natural beauty. Sumi started singing the song of the movie “Border”... my brother, my friend ... this was an experience which could only be cherished. It seemed as if heaven had landed here.
Sumi had come to Mauritius under the ‘Student Exchange Program', along with other students. She was deeply absorbed in enjoying the beauty of nature.
A sweet voice broke away her sleepiness. When she looked, the teacher of Labourdonnais college had come to receive them and he welcomed them wholeheartedly. After a session of photoshoots and selfie they got fresh and took their breakfast. Sumi along with all students thanked the teachers. In the meantime, the vice-principal Mr. Debi Das gave the outline of the program in which it was decided to go to the Apravasi Ghat. Our students got intermingled with the students of Mauritius very well. It was the frankness which broke the wall of strangers. All of us started having fun. The scent of cordiality and hospitality pervaded from those teachers. We reached Aapravasi Ghat using in conversation the conglomeration of Creole, English, and Hindi.
There were big ships tied with thick chains. It came to my mind that the Apravasi Ghat was in memory of those who were allured by the British and came here for getting their bread but in the process lost their identity forever. All the students were trying to get more information from each other about the place. The purpose of the exchange program was to read, learn and understand each other’s culture.
This was the same as globalization or call of the Vedas “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam'.
Sumi was excited yesterday with nature but today she was depressed seeing the Apravasi Ghat. Her lips uttered Apravasi Ghat.
She started looking at the Apravasi Ghat as though she was trying to awaken the sleeping history. Suddenly, she looked at the idols of those prisoners who were lifeless but were telling the story of the cruelty of the British. She went closer to see them. Oh, how much pain is hidden in their eyes. Why should they have to come here? Then her attention went towards the glass of sugarcane. She thought of enjoying the drink. It was heard that the sugarcane of Mauritius was very sweet but what kind of juice was it? Red juice coming out of sugarcane made her hands sticky.
What kind of juice is this? Then something fluttered and a light laugh and whisper came into her ears. The chain moved, the door and window got opened slightly. Sumi had sweat on her forehead. She got scared. She swept the sweat from her broad forehead by a kerchief and brought out the beauty of her moon-like face. Her black cloak had come on to her cheek. She gave a jerk and cleared her doubts. After adjusting her blue sari with white flowers she moved ahead carefree when she heard the feeble voice of someone as if she was struggling to save herself being buried under the heap of gunny bags. Everyone turned their head towards that side when they felt the ground slipping under their feet. Their blue eyes remained wide open when an idol wrapped in a piece of cloth raised its voice “Are you from Chapra?Chapra of Saran District in Bihar.”
Sumi went pale without blood. Her rosy lips went dry. Her whole body trembled.
She was about to say “yes” shivering when the next question came more intimately. ”Don’t you live near Dadhichi Ashram of Chapra?”
Sumi was hypnotized by that voice. Yes, a fair is held on a full moon day in the month of Karthik. All sing together and dance. Sumi could not understand anything. Was it hypnotism which was trying to tie her down?
Then female idol said, “Do not be afraid I am seeing you after centuries” Yes, you have a sweet smell of the soil of my village. I am meeting a person from my village after a long time. I controlled myself and asked “Ah! But how do you know me?”
She managed to come closer to me even with the heavy chain tied to her. She smiled lightly and whispered,” I am also from Chapra village! The desire to smell the fragrance of the soil is still left in me” Then the voice became rough and she said-“Hey! Were you not very happy yesterday seeing the land of this place?” A long breath came like that from a wounded snake, this time the voice became sober and then she started saying. “Yes, I have cut this mountain, staying hungry and thirsty, and getting the whips of the whites. The world calls us indentured laborers but this is not our name. This is the wound given by the British which has not healed till today”.
Sumi got stunned to hear the voice. She was not aware of her while hearing the voice of the idol with rapt attention. The blast of wind pierced her like thorny bushes.
There was a question in her mind “Why did you come here for?” The pain on her eyes was discernible as if she had touched the tormented soul.
“Hey, the hunger for bread brought us here. The whites had tricked us by giving false promises. We got into their trap for getting gold. Leave aside gold, we didn’t get even our sleep. Just like the blind man aspiring for two eyes we too came for two loaves of bread, leaving our family, land, house and our close friends. The fire of hunger is a terrible thing. Village after village came in the influence of the treacherous whites. The ba***rds got our thumb impressions on blank pieces of paper. Every year thousands of laborers came, leaving their near and dear ones, dreaming to become rich. The condition was that we should not leave for five years. Suffering from hunger and thirst our helplessness compelled us to become laborer ie indentured laborer or bonded laborer. Poverty, helplessness, and unemployment made the Indians fall in the trap of the guile whites to remain here forever. We craved for our native village and the beautiful land and farms. Then a prolonged sigh….
Sumi could understand her sorrowful plight.
She continued further- “Do you know, some of our people fell ill with hunger? With a satirical smile, she said, “ What is the use of sick labor?” Mercilessly the sick were thrown into the ocean”.
Those hearing this were deeply pained. In her words, the urge to get to her country could be seen clearly. Sumi was thinking that even if a person goes to other countries one seldom forgets one’s country, house or its soil and the pages of history.
“We had to work hard... The moment we took rest we were whipped. See those marks of the whips which have made an indelible mark on our bodies. If a laborer opened his mouth his bare body was smeared with sugar and he was laid near the ant pits”. Sumi got shocked. Suddenly when she peeped outside she saw the red sky. It was difficult to say whether it was due to the sunset or the burning fury of those tormented souls.
And what else happened? Sumi asked with reluctance even when she was distressed.
She started telling,” They used to snatch away the girls from me and after raping dumped them into the drains. There was a restriction here for marriage, watch on our words, and whips for expressing our thoughts. She told “We had brought Ramayan.The exile of Rama was over but not ours”.
“Nobody had the right to fall sick. Even when suffering from hunger and thirst we had to keep working. If we did not go for a job for one day there was a pay cut for two days. We got fast as a reward”.
“When the skin got dried up it was fed to the animals”, she continued sharing her sorrows with others. Her eyes were sharp and the tongue was razor-edged.
She started telling, ”People talk so much about the beauty of Mauritius. This is the land beautified by the sweat of Indians. Every grain of sand here has our blood. By cutting the mountains we have brought rivers. The river with black water is proof of our sweat and blood.”
Sumi was peeping through the century-old history deeper and deeper. Then she heard a message “Dear, when you go back to Chapra please convey our regards to its soil and trees. There are more to tell but my tongue has got stuck inside and the voice has got choked”.
Suddenly someone shouted, Hi, are you here? We were searching for you for so long. Come on.
Yes, she said as if she had just woken up.
Then came the strong blast of wind as if to say “Bye”!
This is English translation of Hindi Story - प्रवासीघाट by Dr. Manju Sharma (https://storymirror.com/read/story/hindi/p11nyfkq/prvaasiighaatt/detail)