October 2014 \ Cover Story \ Cover Story
Viva Mauritius

Mauritius, nicknamed Mini India, held the 180th anniversary of arrival of indentured workers from India

By Sayantan Chakravarty, Kul Bhushan, Mauritius

“How can one be compelled to accept slavery? I simply refuse to do the Master’s bidding. He may torture me, break my bones into atoms, and even kill me. He will then have my dead body, not my obddience. Ultimately, therefore, it is I, who am the victor and not he, for he has failed in getting me to do what he wanted done.”Mahatma Gandhi

Prejudice to Pride is how the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund in Mauritius describes the journey of Indian indentured labourers and the descendants. Indeed it is, one of Mauritian pride, and extreme British prejudice, the abiding story of the hard taskmaster and his impoverished subject, a narrative of the greedy ruler and the long oppressed. The Great Experiment is what the British colonialists called it, euphemistically, of course, an experiment that was to change the destiny of a nation forever.

Mauritius, once barren and forlorn, yet scenic and savoury, was filled up with indentured workers, the first lot of which travelled on the Atlas from Calcutta, arriving on this island nation on November 2, 1934. There were 36 of them on board. Subsequently nearly 458,000 men, women and children left the ports of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay to sail for Mauritius. Of those who sailed, 4,800 perished during the perilous journeys, and another 4,000 died inside quarantine stations in Mauritius, such as the one at Flat Island.

Tags: Mauritius, PIO