Hamare Purvaz at Antoinette – Phooliyar
— Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
Our forbears, purvazon, were commemorated at Aapravasi Ghat on Tuesday November 2, in line with a nearly 40-year old custom that was initiated by late Beekrumsing Ramlallah, and which consists of a yaj (prayers) along with sketches, recitations and songs dedicated to the memory of these hardy immigrants who undertook the perilous journey towards an unknown destination.This event is now a standard feature of the national scene on this annual occasion, and retains the greater attention because the State also holds a function after the yaj is over. This year, during the official ceremony, there was the launching of a book on the health of the immigrants by Raj Boodhoo, Senior Lecturer at the Mauritius Institute of Education and a CD of Bhojpuri songs.
However, others too in their own way do their bit to honour our ancestors. Thus the Forces Vives of Barlow, Rivière du Rempart, with the collaboration of other local organisations, held a ceremony at Antoinette-Phooliyar which adjoins the village of Barlow in Rivière-du-Rempart. Minister of Arts and Culture Mukeshwar Choonee was present along with other dignitaries and personalities. This was done on Saturday 30 October in the afternoon, and a mahayaj was held.
Other items on the programme were Bhojpuri singing by older ladies of the region, a recitation from the Ramayana and a sketch reflecting the contents of a poem which was beautifully rendered by a young student, Mischma Boodhoa, seen at the microphone in the photograph. The words touch our deeper chords, and need to be learnt, memorised and read aloud over and over again especially by the younger generation. They must make it their sacred duty to get to know more about what all their predecessors went through so that their future descendants would enjoy better conditions of life.
The title of the poem is Hamare Purvaz:
Sukh pane ki chaah thi
Khush hone ki chaah thi
Aaye hamare purvaz is desh me
Sache karmath sewak ke vesh me
Kam tha unlogon ka bara katheen
Aur khet par jana tha unhe pratidin
Pet ke liye sabkuch sehte rote rote
Kartavya nibhate the sada haste haste
Malik unhe dete na the adhikaar
Na hi karte unse thora sa pyar
Jiska koi nahin uska hai Bhagavan
Wehi denge unko maan samaan
Unki prarthna sun aye Manilall Doctor
Goron se dattkar khub liya takkar
Purvazon ko banagaye nidar
Chalne lage ab wo sir uthakar
Kari mehnat se kharida zamin ka tukra
Jispar chhotasaghar banaya apna
Chalo hum sab milkar yaad kare unko
Jinhone sukhi banaya hum sabko
Aaj unki kripa se hum hai sukhi
Chalo milkar unhe yaad kare hum sabhi
Hamare purvazon ki Jai Ho!
Broadly, the message is that in their aspiration for prosperity and happiness, our ancestors came to this country and did very hard work in the fields everyday from the early morning. They were denied their rights by their masters, but to earn their living and fill their stomachs, they performed their duties and bore themselves with courage, trusting in God to preserve their dignity and self-respect.
Answering to the call of their tears and suffering, came Manilal Doctor, who challenged the masters and succeeded in making our elders walk with their heads held high. By dint of their hard work, they managed to buy small plots of land on which they built their own houses.
Let us all come together and remember those by whose grace we are today living at ease. Glory be to our ancestors!