‘Rishi Jheengun’s travail down memory lane is a must read for all of us, for it is our story too, a story of endurance, perseverance, unbending hope and resolute marching towards the future despite all odds.’
On Saturday 3rd January, Rishi Jheengun organized a launching ceremony of his book ‘Untangling the Knot’, being the ‘Tribulations and Legacy of a Coolie.’ The ‘Coolie’ in question was his great-grandfather, labelled by the authorities then as ‘Jheengun 144792.’
Impelled by a curiosity to learn more about, initially, his grandfather, Rishi with a group of friends was able to journey to his ancestral village Chandapur in Uttar Pradesh, visiting his great-grandfather’s birth place in December 2009 and November 2011, and met with relatives living there.
The ceremony was held in the afternoon at his residence in Canton Nancy, Pamplemousses, in the presence of several members of his family and his close friends, among whom was a resident of the village, Mr Aujeet, who chaired the function.
Rishi Jheengun gave an account of the circumstances which led him to look for and document his roots, and the elegantly produced book by Star Publications, New Delhi, was presented. He also explained how he came to solicit the help of Dr R N Gopee, former Director General Health Services for editing the book. The latter who was present expressed his admiration for the ‘labour of love’ that he felt Rishi’s book represented. He congratulated the author for his thoroughness and determination to produce a very important and genuine historical document that adds to the literature on the Indian diaspora.
In fact, as the story unfolds, Rishi Jheegun takes us not only through his personal journey but makes us discover the world of the Indian immigrants. He puts into perspective the realities of the life of indentured labourers, their hardships and their struggle, which his great-grandfather also went through. In doing so he paints a broad picture of the indentured period, such that any descendant today of those immigrants reading the book can identify and connect with the events and life journey of his forbears.
From this book, today’s generation of those valiant pioneers will learn who they really are, where they come from and the tremendous sacrifices that our ancestors made that allow us to enjoy the luxuries we have today. The most precious legacy they have left us are the family and social values which endure through the traditional customs and practices that enrich our common cultural space to this day, and a hallmark of which is the stress on education which has been the pillar of their success and social mobility.
It may be noted that Rishi Jheengun has decided to help the inhabitants of Chandapur and surrounding villages through a few initiatives that he has launched, such as the setting up of a computer center for students (which is operational) and a mobile library which covers ten villages. He has other such projects in mind, which he will fund form the sale of the book and also donations he receives from friends to whom he will give the book, and others who may wish to take part in this venture.
The book is available at the Nalanda Library, Port Louis, and is highly recommended as a ‘must read’ for all Mauritians who are interested in the history of their island.
* Published in print edition on 23 January 2015