A Saga of Loss and Survival
Rashmi Bhardwaj
COOLIE LINES by Praveen Kumar Jha Vani Prakashan, 2019, 280 pp., 299.00
October 2020, volume 44, No 10

Coolie Lines is an extensively researched non-fiction which narrates the untold saga of migration. Around two hundred years ago, the British had sent millions of Indians as indentured labourers to countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Surinam, Trinidad and South Africa. These bonded labourers were called ‘Girmitiyas’ or ‘Bidesiya’, sent away from their homeland either by force or with false temptations. Most of them never returned back, toiled  and ultimately died in a hostile and strange land. In the process, they lost their country, their people and their identity. History is silent about that massive migration, this enormous loss, and its aftermath. Praveen Jha has tried to give words to that pain, separation, and longing. The book is full of heart-wrenching incidents. The author is successful in narrating the immense grief, exploitation, and their ability to endure all and survive. This is a story of survival and victory of human beings under all circumstances. The book not only talks about an almost unknown segment of history but also showcases the culture, lifestyle, fearless attitude and endurance of the migrants.

Continue reading this review