On May 14, 1879, the Leonidas, the first ship carrying indentured Indians, arrived in Fiji with 463 immigrants aboard. They were the answer to Fijis dwindling supply of labor. From May 1879 until 1919, 87 shiploads of Indians travelled to Fiji to work out their five years of indentured slavery-the girmit (from the word agreement). Conditions on the cane plantations were miserable and the Indians called that part of their lives narak (hell). Once the five years of servitude were over, the Indians were given a certificate of residence.
Only after another five years would they become eligible for a paid ticket back to India. Bittersweet celebrates the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the first girmitiyas in Fiji and introduces the reader to Indo-Fijians. This collection crosses the generations. The writers tell of schooldays and festivals, family and village relationships, suffering and discrimination, sharing and achievements, education and psychology, sports and marriage.
Illustrated with rich color photographs, the beauty of these images masks the turmoil that has marked the people of Fiji for generations.