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Bloom where you are planted

Published: 
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

As we prepare to observe Indian Arrival Day, let us use this opportunity to thank God for the resilience of our forebears. As Desmond Tutu said “You don’t choose your family, they are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” Sadly, many of us have failed to document the history of our ancestors.

My maternal grandfather, Robert Henry Fitzgerald Manning, came to Trinidad from Barbados and my maternal grandmother, Enid Nicome, originated from Venezuela. Though we don’t know much about their history before they arrived here, my family have some knowledge of the history of my paternal forebears.

The genealogist, Shamshu Deen, was commissioned by my cousin, Sakaldip Dial, to conduct research into the Dial family. In 2014, my cousin, Devant Maharaj, launched his book: The line of my People, in which he drew on Shamshu Deen’s genealogical research.

On December 6 this year, we will observe the 160th anniversary of the arrival of 18-year-old Madaree (Hindu), and 20-year-old Oozerun (Muslim)—my great, great paternal grandparents. They were both travelling with their fathers—Toofaney and Deana. They arrived on the ship, the Edith Moore, on December 6, 1858. Between 1845 and 1917, about 147,592 Indians were indentured to Trinidad to work in the sugarcane plantations. Indentureship officially ended on January 1, 1920.

It is not known if Madaree’s and Oozerun’s love for each other blossomed during the 96-day journey from India to Trinidad. It is unlikely that they were married since their ship numbers were not consecutive (154 and 324). On arrival, they were sent to work as indentured labourers on the Mon Plaisir Estate, Cunupia.

In spite of the difficulties they would have faced, somehow, they survived. Twenty-two years after arriving in Trinidad, Shamshu Deen saw their names on a ship’s log sailing back to India as fare-paying passengers—with four children. Their first son, Dabee Dial, Devant’s great-grandfather, did not go with them. He settled in Plum Mitan, east Trinidad.

Shamshu Deen then sees the names of the mother and children, including an infant, Parbatie, on the ship’s log of the Scottish Admiral ship in 1882, as fare-paying passengers, but their father was not with them.

The children all had Madaree listed as their father’s name. The ship arrived in Trinidad on November 8, 1882. There are different versions as to how Madaree died.

Madaree and Oozerun bore six children: four boys—Dabee, Bhawanie, Siew (my great-grandfather), Prabhu; and two girls: Bhagmatie and Parbatie. They worked hard and pooled their resources. Bhawanie built his home first in 1901 and they all lived there initially. Prabhu built his in 1917. In those days cocoa was king, and they owned many cocoa estates in the area.

Devant’s book states: “The fact that the family returned to Trinidad as paying passengers was also indicative of the wealth of the family, and indeed this could be seen manifested in the colonial homes they built in Sangre Chiquito, on the outskirts of Sangre Grande.”

The big blue house in the film Green Days by the River, where Mr Gidharee and his daughter lived, was built by my great-grandfather, Siew Dial, in 1923. My father was born there in 1925 and I spent many happy days there as a child. My uncle lives there now.

Devant says in his book: “The surname, Dial, is an Anglicised version of the Sanskrit name, Dayal. It is a name found mainly in India’s northern States, among Hindus.” Somewhere along the line, my grandfather, Nanan Ramdeen, changed his name from Dial to Ramdeen. There are different versions as to why he did so.

The descendants of the Dial/Ramdeen family have accomplished much in various fields of endeavour. They include: Anna Mahase, past principal of St Augustine Girls’ High School; my father, the late Balgobin Ramdeen, barrister-at-law, author, and MP for Caroni East (1961-1966); Kamala Ramdeen, retired barrister-at-law and former head of chambers in London; Dr Dhanrajie Dial, the first female paediatrician in T&T; Stephen Maharaj, former leader of the Opposition; Anthony Harford, broadcaster; Nalini Dial, political leader of the National Coalition for Transformation; Neval Chaitlal, Digicel Rising Star; Ashram Deoraj, retired school supervisor; Karena Steele, school supervisor; Ranu Maraj, principal, Seereeram Memorial Vedic School; lawyer Bindra Dolsingh; former assistant DPP Ranjee Dolsingh; and me. I wear many hats!

Let us celebrate the family—the first and vital cell of society; the bedrock of society. May each family be a school of love.

Leela Ramdeen

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