A bittersweet transnational love story dedicated to Indo-Surinamese

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A post by Peter Jordens.

Khyati Rajvanshi reports for The Indian Express on a novel written to help Surinamese of Indian descent recognize and value their Indian heritage.

Safdar Zaidi comes from a small city in Uttar Pradesh, India, called Muzaffarnagar. […] Currently residing in Holland [since 1999], he spent the last five years researching and writing about the history and culture of Suriname. His book titled De suiker die niet zoet was – closely translated as: The Sugar That Was Not Sweet – embarks upon the journey of a young man named Raj through two time periods that help define him as a person. Married to a loving wife, he is mentally unstable due to the issue of identity crisis and battles with nightmares that change his reality. His path crosses with a Sufi saint that puts him in a trance and takes him back to his past life – a life full of separation, discovery, slavery, and unknown boundaries.

The root existence of Suriname is incomplete without the vast migration period that took place under the Dutch colonial period. The importance of such events shapes the history of many Surinami-Hindustanis that exist in The Netherlands. In June 1873, a transport ship called Lalla Rookh arrived in Suriname with hundreds of first ‘indentured laborers’ from British India. The indentured laborers were appointed to work on the plantations in order to replace the former slaves who after ten years of state control were released from their work, to do jobs for payment. The descendants of South Asian contract workers from then British India speak [Surinamese Hindi or] Sarnami [a dialect of Bhojpuri …]. One of the highlights of their presence in Netherlands [today, as immigrants from Suriname] is the existence of Surinamese radio channels, where Hindi Bollywood songs as well as Surinami songs are played, and the RJ converses in a Sarnami-Dutch with the listeners.

Safdar Zaidi reflectively summarized the motive behind his book as well as shed some light on the current situation in the country: “I have seen and met many Hindustani people here who are rejecting and ignoring their own roots and their own culture. They say: ‘Listen, I am Dutch and I have nothing to do with India and nothing to do with Suriname’. By seeing how they were behaving, I thought it was very important for the Dutch-Hindustani people to recognize their roots, culture and history. They should be proud of their history. They are underestimating their culture maybe because of inferiority complex and this complex is creating a block that is preventing them to move on with their lives.”

The first edition of the book was published in 2013 in The Hague and the second edition is recently published last month in Suriname. When asked how he felt about the reception of the book so far, he said: “I am very happy with the response, especially in the Suriname. Suriname is a country where different ethnic groups live together, for example, Creoles (black people), Indonesians, Lebanese, Jews, and many more. The Hindustani community was kind of a mystery to them and this novel is providing a sort of gateway in the understanding of Indian culture and Indian people. It is the first time that somebody has written a book about Hindustan immigration to Suriname.” […]

“I think it is a pity that not many Indians know about their own people living in another part of the world. One thing I want to tell them through you is Surinami-Hindustanis are very different from the Indians that live in Fiji or Mauritius. The Surinami Indian people are “hybrid Hindustanis”, said Zaidi. The term “hybrid Hindustanis” does justice to the people in Suriname due to their high tolerance when it comes to religion and society rules. Away from all the society norms and religious rules, the migrating population broke out of the boundaries and formed a society where everyone is equal and respected. In one Surinami family, it is normal to find Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other pupils that follow a type of religion. Other tribes and their cultures also influenced the Hindustani people, thus forming a hybrid society where there is no language of love, respect or culture. It is one hybrid community with several historic and cultural aspects that India needs to reconnect with. […]

The book is going to be published in Hindi and English in India. This is a novel-fiction based on migration of Indians from the Eastern UP/Bihar (Bhojpuri speaking area), which started in 1873 and ended in 1916 due to the intervention of Mahatma Gandhi. Through a heart wrenching love story, the book deals with historic events, causes and consequences of this migration to a Dutch colony at that time. We should certainly embrace our history and remember our people. This book is a tiny bridge that will help connect two nations that were once one. […]

For the complete, original article, go to http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/books/it-is-very-important-for-the-dutch-hindustani-people-to-recognize-their-roots-author-safdar-zaidi.

One thought on “A bittersweet transnational love story dedicated to Indo-Surinamese

  1. Thank you for paying attention to this novel. As a literary agent of this work I am proud you wrote an article about it. I have shared your link on LinkedIn in the group Books and Writers. Hanna Mitra.

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