| || || Lata, Rohini Ronita.|
| || || Means of connecting the contemporary Indo-Fijian women towards the imaginary homeland|
Author:Lata, Rohini Ronita.
Institution: University of the South Pacific.
Call No.: pac In Process
Copyright:Under 10% of this thesis may be copied without the authors written permission
Abstract: The ‘Old Indo-Fijian Diaspora,’ of the indentured labourers who came to Fiji between 1879 and 1920 has been an important area of scholarship and research. According to Dr. Brij Lal, some 60,965 indentured labourers came to Fiji during the indenture period, of these, 45,439 where from northern India, embarking at Calcutta and the rest came from southern India after 1903 when recruitment had begun there (Lal, 1983:2). After serving their indenture term many indentured labourers (such as those interviewed in Ahmed Ali’s book; Girmit: Indian Indenture experience in Fiji) revealed that they were trapped in a far-away land and many had no choice but to make Fiji their home (Ali, 2004). Brij Lal strengthens this point by stating that Indians did not leave their homeland with the view to completely severing their links with it but many of them probably hoped to go back after acquiring wealth in the colonies (Lal, 1983:4). The indentured labourers comprised of Indians of different classes, geographical locations, castes, languages, occupations and an unequal gender balance. The pain and remorse felt by these labourers were worth recording, studying, researching and internalizing as today this has provided many intellectuals, academics and searching souls with information to broaden the studies in this area and provide exposure on the Old Indo-Fijian Diaspora. This paper therefore looks into the movement of Indians from India to Fiji during the indenture period and particularly allegorizes the role played by the female girmitiyas during the time of indenture where Gyarti Spivak’s notion of the “triad- use, exchange and surplus” would be employed to explore and discuss the traditional role of the women girmitiyas (Spivak, 1996). Indo-Fijian women today are thousands of miles away from India yet they are still influenced by the homeland and various connections are evident almost a 130 years since the beginning of the indenture system. These ‘connections’ to the homeland do not imply that Indo-Fijian women are connected to the whole of India but refers to them identifying themselves with specific aspects. These ‘specific’ aspects in this paper are limited to what these women perceive through the various media available in Fiji and for the purpose of this research, namely: The Bollywood cinema, Independent cinema, daily-life drama series via Hindi satellite television and the Diaspora poetics i (literary works of Indo-Fijian writers on the indenture experiences). In this light the role of Bollywood films and the daily-life drama series of the Hindi satellite television (which are adopted from epics / religious texts) are of great interest due to copious stereotypical characters of the binary of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and thematic representations of ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’ (dharmik / adharmik) values depicted through these media. A closer look would also be taken at the female portrayals in the above mentioned media and weighed against feminist claims of portrayals of ‘round’ female characters on screen in contrast to the Independent Cinema which moves away from the fictive and indulges in those subjects of culture and human nature which are not easily accepted by the subjects in concern. Moreover, this paper looks at (through a primary research) how closely the contemporary Indo-Fijian women are connected to the cultural, social and religious aspects of India via the various media mentioned. Additionally, Vijay Mishra’s notion of the emergence of a ‘diasporic imaginary’ growing out of a sense of being marginalized or by being rejected outright by nation states would be looked at in terms of the views and experiences of the Indo-Fijian women from the primary research, illustrating that this diasporic imaginary is also created and promoted mostly through the ‘romanticized images’ of the Bollywood cinema and Hindi satellite television. The Diaspora poetics is also seen as a means of connecting the contemporary Indo-Fijian women (elite group) to the homeland, opposing Vijay Mishra’s claim that the literary works of Fiji Indians reissue versions of ‘the conscious falsification of reality’ of the Girmit ideology. Instead a positive direction would be ventured towards with Salman Rushdie’s idea of creating fictions of the imaginary homeland (Indias of the mind) and using one’s own memory to create memory of the homeland (an imaginative truth). This paper discusses the role of the above mentioned media in creating ‘Indias of the mind’ amongst the contemporary urban dwelling Indo-Fijian women. Additionally, in order to get first hand information a survey was carried out and questionnaires were distributed randomly to 100 Indo-Fijian women around the Samabula area, a suburb of Suva, the capital of Fiji. The women used for the primary research varied in age ranging from 16 to over 60 years with different educational, geographical (that is, where in Fiji they are originally from), caste and subracial backgrounds.