Tuesday, November 16, 2010

150 years of indentured Indians in South Africa

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of indentured Indians to South Africa.
Here is an article taken from Times Live.

Image taken from Google Images
Tuesday marks the 150th year since the first indentured Indian workers arrived by boat in Durban where curry, bindis and saris are today an integral part of the city. The anniversary will be marked with prayers at 0400 GMT at sea and speeches on the beach.

Grammy-winning Slumdog Millionaire composer A.R. Rahman's world tour will reach Durban 10 days later to join the celebrations.

"We will do a symbolic prayer on the water to remember the arrival of our parents in this country," said Seelan Achary, spokesman for the 1860 Commemoration Council.
"We want to thank them for crossing the ocean and making a home here for us," he added.
"Today, we are truly South African but proudly of Indian descent."
The eastern port is home to some 800,000 South Africans of Indian descent, although at a national level they make up less than three percent of the population.
The indentured labourers who first arrived on November 16 1860 to work colonial sugar cane fields were followed by immigrants, including India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi whose descendants still live in the city.
The relationship has left its mark, with temples and the Juma Masjid mosque, one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, among the city's buildings.
In the streets, spices and flower necklaces are sold to the rhythm of Bollywood hits. Bunny chow -- scooped out bread filled with curry -- is a popular fast food, and fully veiled women join surfers in bikinis on the beaches.
Indians too were subjected to South Africa's racist rule -- but the white apartheid government, which ruled from 1948 to 1994, nevertheless placed them above the black majority.
Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of the icon, still lives in Durban.
"I was born here, this is my country. I was part of the struggle," she said, meaning the fight to end apartheid.
Her grandfather spent 21 years in South Africa, in between his time in India and England.
The racism and prejudice in South Africa helped shape his social activism, for it is here that he developed his system of passive resistance, the Satyagraha movement.
In later years, Indian South Africans played key roles in the anti-apartheid struggle. They include Fatima Meer, Yusuf Dadoo -- and Ahmed Kathrada, who was jailed alongside the country's most famous ex-prisoner, Nelson Mandela.
Today, Indian South Africans have made an impact in all walks of life.
In the sporting world, for example, Durban-born ace national cricketer Hashim Amla is currently ranked as the world's top one-day batsman.
"We have an Indian heritage, we've got a lot of Indian culture but we consider ourselves as African," said shopkeeper Shane Maharaj, 38, who lives in Phoenix, a settlement in the north of Durban set up by Gandhi in 1904.
He would not consider living anywhere else, he added.
Another resident, 37-year-old lawyer Miten Naran felt the same way.
"We've grown up in this type of environment. We have our friends, our temple, our family... It is a way of life for us."
The Indian community in Durban is still largely concentrated in two main townships of Phoenix and Chatsworth.
"It is different for us because we lived separately. We are now learning to live together," said Naran.
"But the future of our children looks great because they are now growing up together."

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