All Castes Alike

by , under Fiction Prompts, What Pegman Saw

“My mother begged that I always remember my caste,” said the boy. “Though we are only Sudra.”

“Devansh, there are no castes here. In the cane vineyard, all are made equal by the work they can do, the acres they can harvest. Queen Victoria must have her sugar.”

“How came you here, Sidra?”

“I came on a ship, the same as you. The first ship, the Leonidas.”

“What was my ship? I cannot remember.”

“Your ship was the Clyde.”

“What are these names?”

“Your ship was named for a river, mine for a king of Sparta. We had the blue death aboard, and almost a score died during the voyage despite all the surgeon-superintendent could do.”

“But how were they buried? Were there members of their castes to properly mourn them?”

“They were slipped over the side, shrouded in their bedding. That was when I knew all castes were alike.”

 

What Pegman Saw

Note:
The British Colonial authorities were deeply tied with the sugar cane industry in Fiji, but were unsuccessful in harnessing the fiercely independent indigenous islanders as a labor force. Governor Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon implemented an indentured labour scheme which had existed in the British Empire since 1837. Recruitment began all over India, especially in impoverished rural areas. Indenture would last four years, at which point the laborer could travel home at their own expense. Alternatively, they could elect to extend their indenture another four years, after which time the Crown would pay their passage or allow them to stay as free citizens of Fiji.

Most elected to stay.

The 61,000 original  indentures originated from different regions, villages, backgrounds, and castes that later mingled or intermarried with the native population.

  1. Joy Pixley

    Guaranteed work and the chance to escape your caste — I can see how that option would look good to those from impoverished rural areas, especially those of the lower castes. How it played out depends on how well the laborers were treated, though, and I don’t know much about that, although it seems to have worked well for many of them.

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