Friday, December 07, 2007

Where do you come from?

photo credits: Daily Mail

Before dashing off to Surinam for the funeral of Faisja, I did this interview with Londoner John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, an English street newspaper on behalf of and sold by homeless people. At the end of the interview, published on 14th November, he asked me: 'I don't get it. Where do you come from? You sound British, you are working for a Dutch newspaper and you look Indian.' I told him that I am indeed originally from India, but ended up in the Netherlands through this colonial bypass called Surinam.

Bird then asked me a question Dutch people would never do, simply because it would never occur to them. He asked: 'Where in India does your family come from?' I nearly stuttered when I replied, as nobody had ever bothered to ask me in such detail before: 'My own ancestral roots lie in the provinces of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Kashmir.' Bird: 'So we British bastards displaced you.' ;-)

'We' started coming to Surinam from 1873 onwards. Immigration records indicate that the majority of Indian (Pakistan was no where near in sight yet) Muslims who migrated to Surinam came from the urban centres of Uttar Pradesh: Agra, Allahbad, Faizabad, Gonda, Gorakhpur, Ghazipur, Mirzapur, Lucknow (film Umrao Jaan), Muradabad, Bareilly, Rampur, and Sultanpur.

Small batches also came from Karachi in Sind, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi in the Punjab, Hyderabad, in the Deccan, Srinagar in Kashmir, and Peshawar and Mardan in the Northwest Frontier (Afghan areas).

Then they brought us to Calcutta where we shipped off to Latin America, to the country of the holy Ram. Sri Ram. Surinam (see green small country bordering the north of Brazil and squeezed in between Guyana on the left and French Guyana.).

P.S. Surprise, surprise, John Bird actually knew Surinam: 'from the beautiful stamps.'