The Things We Carried

Books were in our bundle. We brought the novels of Enid Blyton and Edgar Mittelholzer, a first aid manual and three volumes of Nelson’s West Indian Readers. We brought a college biology notebook and a midwifery textbook and regretted that we couldn’t bring a family Bible.

We carried the weight of the sacred and the secular: a brass lota, a heavy wooden vase, and a collection of dolls purchased across the world. We brought a child’s Islamic skullcap, an international newsletter published by Guyana’s Ahmadiyya council, and a framed picture of Ram and Sita.

We brought Guyana gold and contraband guinep.

We brought the poetry our mothers made and the shadows they cast. We brought the memory of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers in the archetype of the sugar cane cutter carrying his cutlass home from the fields. We brought the flash of his cutlass.

Gaiutra Bahadur, author of Coolie Woman: the Odyssey of Indenture, is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University-Newark in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media. Her Archival Creators Fellowship project focuses on documenting within Guyanese communities descended from Indian indentured laborers. The Archival Creators Fellowship Program is made possible with a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read Gaiutra's writing about her fellowship project in TIDES:
• The Things We Carried
• The Storytellers in the Mandir
• Notes Toward a Prehistory
No Homeland Here

You can also listen to the oral history interviews Gaiutra conducted for her project and browse the archival materials she collected.

For their work and their guidance, Gaiutra is deeply grateful to her advisory board members William Depoo at DRUM, Annetta Seecharan at CHHAYA CDC, Pritha, Chitra and Karna Singh at the Rakjumari Cultural Center, Aminta Kilawan at Sadhana and the members of the collective of Ro(u)ted by Our Stories: Arita Balaram, Sasha Balkaran, Lissa Deonarain, Kimmi Ramnine, Tarika Sankar, Dharani Persaud, Simone Devi Jhingoor, Shivana Jorawar, and Yasmin Toney.