Remembering 148 years of Indian immigration in Suriname

Today 148 years ago the first Indian migrants arrived Suriname by a ship called Lalla Rookh.

Indian crooked agents (sent by the British) had cheated them, saying “come to the country of Shri Ram; there you will be very happy. You will do some light work for 5 years and then get land and money, after which you return to Bharata (India).” They agreed to go, in the illusion they would get a better future for themselves and their families.

But in the ship they were ill-fed and many fell sick. Many even died during this long, terrible journey. At arrival in Suriname, their dreams were shattered. It appeared they had to take over the work of the former (African) slaves, who had just been freed. They had to work in inhumane conditions, at salaries even less than the former slaves got. They had to work like slave animals. The British and Dutch rulers were merciless, increasing workload, torturing them at the slightest and even raping women.

One day because of this reason, the Indian workers killed the top manager and a resistance started. Many Indians were killed and their mass grave has still not been found. The inhumane rulers did this because they knew how important a funeral is for hindus, muslims and sikhs, as they believe their souls wouldn’t get peace without a proper funeral according to the rituals and traditions.

After their “contract” ended, some 1/3 Indians returned to India. Some 2/3 remained in Suriname as they didn’t trust the British anymore or thought they had nothing left to go back for. All those years, there was no communication possible between them and their families back in India. What if the British had killed them? What if no one was left? Or what if they had forgotten about them?

With pain in their hearts, they started a new life

People started building a new future in Suriname. After Suriname got independent, the Dutch left the country looted (even today Suriname is very dependent on other countries for the economy, healthcare and development. Some people even call Suriname a lost country, as the state of the country seems very barren today.). When they got the chance, many people decided to go to the Netherlands for a better future.

In the beginning there was a lot of discrimination (for example, migrants from Suriname weren’t allowed to live in the cities), but after being so inhumane for many years, the Dutch eventually had to give the people a place in their society. While most of our ancestors were illiterate and barely went to school, today Indians are not only known as very hard workers, but also bright students, reaching high positions and contributing highly to Dutch society.

Despite this, we are still very proud of our religions, culture and customs. We managed to make our own identity into the modern world without forgetting or ridiculing our religions, culture, customs etc. In intercultural society we speak fluent Dutch, but at home our Sarnami (mix of mainly Bhojpuri and Awadhi with tiny bits of Dutch and Sranang Tongo, the language of Suriname) is still intact. We still play and listen to our harmonium, dholak and dandtaal, sing our lokgeets and dance on it with joy, and religion, rituals and traditions are still an important part of our identity and lives.

Thanks to the Indian government for issuing the OCI card, today we are even able to go back to India and contribute as per the purpose of our ancestors: creating a better future for their families and motherland, wherever they may be. What many Indians nowadays do, is earning money abroad and investing it in India, helping the country develop. Many people from Dutch-Surinamese-Indian migrant families even run their own NGOs developing health clinics, schools and other facilities for underpriviliged people. Many 3th, 4th and 5th generation Indian migrants even moved to India permanently, continuing their lives here.

As a 5th-generation Indian migrant, every 5 June I remember this story of my ancestors…..

Even during my journey in India I regularly share this story on small public platforms where I get an opportunity to speak. The Dutch and British destroyed a lot of historical evidence to hide their barbaric actions, but I am grateful to have people in my family who passed on the story of our ancestors and even personally talked to some people who or whose parent had seen the ship journey or barbaric circumstances in Suriname with their own eyes.

I often think about their pain, blood, sweat, tears, painful deaths, hard work, sacrifices and especially dedication to keep on going and building towards a better future, no matter what, however the rulers are and even when there seems to be no perspective…..

I feel so indebted to them and whenever I feel low or defeated, I try to remember them and feel empowered again. If they didn’t give up at such devastating times, then why should I?

How to create your own itinerary

Whether you’re new into travelling or have already done a few trips; it can be difficult to plan your trip, especially when you’re travelling solo. So I made this step-by-step sample to guide you through this, so that you can make your own itinerary and plan your own trip.

  1. Decide the amount of days for your trip.
  2. Decide the type of trip. For example: adventure, beach, road trip (car/bike?), city, rural, jungle safari, nature, mountains, combo, romantic, desert, snow…..
  3. Decide your destination according to the type of trip. It can help to just look at the map and mark a few places according to your trip type. Then you can make a choice between them. Now I know that nowadays we don’t use physical maps, so digitally Google MyMaps is a very nice tool to mark places and routes for your travels.
  4. Decide the dates for your trip: this may depend on your destination as well. Not all kinds of trips are possible in just any season. Also, it may be helpful to have a good look at the holiday calendar, to select a suitable option where you don’t have to take a lot of days off from work. Don’t forget to apply for your leave on time!
  5. Decide the comfort level of your accommodation (shared/standard/comfort).
  6. Decide your budget. I made a list of travel budgets per country (divided into shoestring and standard), that can help you make an estimate: Travel budgets per country
  7. Do some research on your destination: what’s there to explore? What are the ‘must visits’ and ‘must dos’? What are the best places to have authentic local food? Also see if you need any documentation or precautions for visiting that destination. And how is the connectivity in that area? (mobile and transport both) Make sure you know about the practical information you need for your trip.
  8. Outline your trip and make a rough but realistic itinerary or calendar for each day of your trip. It may be helpful to ‘group’ some places that are in the same area, so that you can cover those on the same day. Using Google MyMaps can help you marking all the points you’d like to visit and then you can see for yourself what’s the best way to visit all places.

    What I often do, is read itineraries from tour guide or agency packages, to see how they plan trips in those areas. From there I get a lot of inspiration on which places to visit, things to do, whether morning, afternoon or evening will be best to visit/do those places, how much time I can expect to spend there etc. Exploring different itineraries from tour agencies can help you get an idea about things and inspire you to customize them to your own preferences.

    Don’t plan too many things in less days. Be realistic, make room for opportunity and prioritize! Better plan 2 big things on the same day rather than 5 small things. Like my teacher would say: “Kill your darlings.” Divide the ‘must visits/dos’ into highlights and sidelights. Focus on the highlights: if you happen to see the sidelights too, it’s nice, otherwise you will at least have done the highlights and, most important: enjoyed those!
  9. Find affordable modes of travel for your trip: how to get to your destination? Will you go by flight, train, bus…? And how will you travel when you get there, to your accommodation, from place to place etc.? Think about public transport, riksha, taxi, shared taxi etc. Or would you rather rent a bicycle, scooty, bike or car? If so, what are the best rental options? See how much time it will take to go from one place to another and which mode of travel would be best for that.
  10. Find suitable accommodations: where will you stay? Think about Couchsurfing, dorms, homestays, guesthouses, Airbnb, hostels, hotels… Read about the facilities and read their reviews too. See which option feels best for you. Also inform about crowd: do you need to book or is there always some place available? If you need or want to book, what are the terms & conditions? And what about the cancellation policy?
  11. Decide your final itinerary: what is the plan you’ll go with? If you’re not sure, just make some plan A, B and C. If one plan doesn’t work out during your trip, you can always use another. For example, if you had planned to visit Kuarsi but you can’t reach because of landslides, then you can opt for Chamba (just an example).
  12. Book your travels and accommodations: if you’re a beginning traveller or travelling in a group, it can be wise to make your bookings in advance. If you’re travelling solo and are flexible & confident, you’ll be most likely to find a place somehow, but if you’re not, just be sure and book things in advance.
  13. Create a packing list: see what things you need for your trip and make a list of those things. Have a look at my packing list to get some ideas: Packing list of a digital nomad
  14. Buy things you need for your trip
  15. Pack your backpack/bag/trolley/suitcase: pack light, go for multipurpose stuff and roll your clothes with the army roll method (see YouTube) to save space, get a better overview on your stuff and not mess up your stuff when removing something from your bag, trolley or suitcase.

    It’s always good to keep at least 1/4 of your luggage empty, for example for souvenirs or things you unexpectedly buy during your trip. Further, it’s advisable to take maximum 15 kgs with you and as less liquids as possible. This will be helpful if you travel by air and also if you’re a backpacker. As a backpacker you don’t want to carry too much weight.
  16. Make a to-do list: see what things you need to do before going on your trip. Do your pets/kids/plants etc. have some caretaker? Make sure you turn off electricity points, gas, taps etc. properly. Make sure you dispose things that can get rotten inside your home during your trip, throw away the garbage etc.
  17. Take care of the last-minute preparations: think about checking whether you’ve got everything, confirmed all bookings etc. You may want to buy some snacks for on the way too.
  18. Grab your last-minute things: think about toothbrush, toothpaste, comb/brush, mobile charger etc.
  19. Close & lock your windows, curtains, door etc. properly.
  20. Take off, enjoy your travels and remember to remain flexible to make the most of your trip.

Have a look at my other articles regarding travel and travel planning too: Let’s talk about travel!