Sugar, Saris And Green Bananas

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0120150918

When you reach for the sugar bowl do you ever think where those sweet granules come from? In the first of two programmes, London-born journalist Lainy Malkani embarks on a quest to uncover her family's Indo-Guyanese roots on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

She learns how her ancestors were among the tens of thousands of poor indentured labourers shipped from India to work on the British-owned sugar estates - a practice that began after slavery was abolished in 1838 and continued well into the 20th century. They lived and laboured on plantations with quintessentially English names like Rose Hall and Albion.

When Jock Campbell, the Eton-educated son of the owners of Albion, first visited in 1932 he was shocked by the conditions he found. He asked the fearsome Scottish manager James Bee why the workers' lodgings were so much worse than those of the mules. He was told "Because mules cost money to replace."

Lainy hears firsthand accounts of life on the sugar plantations and the intense nostalgia workers felt for their Indian homeland. She also learns how some of the most famous West Indies cricketers, such as Clive Lloyd and Rohan Kanhai, began their careers on the cricket grounds of the Guyanese sugar estates.

And in a south London suburb, she joins numerous other Indo-Guyanese families as they commemorate the first generation of indentured labourers who went to the Caribbean.

She says, "It was sugar that brought my Indian ancestors to the Caribbean. It was the sugar plantations that defined their daily lives. And eventually it was what drove so many of my parents' generation to seek better lives abroad, such as here in Britain."

Producer Mukti Jain Campion

A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.

01Sugar in My Blood20150918

01Sugar In My Blood2015091820160616 (R4)

When you reach for the sugar bowl do you ever think where those sweet granules come from? In the first of two programmes, London-born journalist Lainy Malkani embarks on a quest to uncover her family's Indo-Guyanese roots on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

She learns how her ancestors were among the tens of thousands of poor indentured labourers shipped from India to work on the British-owned sugar estates - a practice that began after slavery was abolished in 1838 and continued well into the 20th century. They lived and laboured on plantations with quintessentially English names like Rose Hall and Albion.

When Jock Campbell, the Eton-educated son of the owners of Albion, first visited in 1932 he was shocked by the conditions he found. He asked the fearsome Scottish manager James Bee why the workers' lodgings were so much worse than those of the mules. He was told "Because mules cost money to replace."

Lainy hears firsthand accounts of life on the sugar plantations and the intense nostalgia workers felt for their Indian homeland. She also learns how some of the most famous West Indies cricketers, such as Alvin Kallicharran and Rohan Kanhai, began their careers on the cricket grounds of the Guyanese sugar estates.

And in a south London suburb, she joins numerous other Indo-Guyanese families as they commemorate the first generation of indentured labourers who went to the Caribbean.

She says, "It was sugar that brought my Indian ancestors to the Caribbean. It was the sugar plantations that defined their daily lives. And eventually it was what drove so many of my parents' generation to seek better lives abroad, such as here in Britain."

Producer Mukti Jain Campion

A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.

02Indo-Guyanese and Proud20150925

02Indo-guyanese And Proud2015092520160617 (R4)

A cutlass once used for chopping sugar cane, a collection of old Indian music albums and a pair of shiny red stiletto shoes. Can these objects help a daughter better understand her mother's past?

Since her mother died, London-born journalist Lainy Malkani has been trying to make sense of her family's history of double migration. In the first programme she uncovered the epic story of her ancestors who came from India to work as indentured labourers on the sugar plantations of British Guyana in the 19th and early 20th century. In this programme she discovers how difficult it was to forge an Indo-Guyanese identity for the migrants who came to build new lives in Britain during the 1960s.

"No-one knew what to make of us when we came to England. We looked Indian but we didn't speak any Indian language or dress in Indian clothes. If we said we were from the Caribbean people didn't understand because, to most British people, Caribbean just meant being black. So we became sort of invisible."

When her parents were alive they didn't speak much about the past. But by going through her mum's belongings with her siblings and speaking to other immigrants of that period Lainy has begun to reconnect with her Indo-Guyanese heritage. And as she reflects on the life her mother created for herself and her children in north London, Lainy learns that migration can be motivated by many things other than money.

Producer Mukti Jain Campion

A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.

02Indo-guyanese And Proud20150925

A cutlass once used for chopping sugar cane, a collection of old Indian music albums and a pair of shiny red stiletto shoes. Can these objects help a daughter better understand her mother's past?

Since her mother died, London-born journalist Lainy Malkani has been trying to make sense of her family's history of double migration. In the first programme she uncovered the epic story of her ancestors who came from India to work as indentured labourers on the sugar plantations of British Guyana in the 19th and early 20th century. In this programme she discovers how difficult it was to forge an Indo-Guyanese identity for the migrants who came to build new lives in Britain during the 1960s.

"No-one knew what to make of us when we came to England. We looked Indian but we didn't speak any Indian language or dress in Indian clothes. If we said we were from the Caribbean people didn't understand because, to most British people, Caribbean just meant being black. So we became sort of invisible."

When her parents were alive they didn't speak much about the past. But by going through her mum's belongings with her siblings and speaking to other immigrants of that period Lainy has begun to reconnect with her Indo-Guyanese heritage. And as she reflects on the life her mother created for herself and her children in north London, Lainy learns that migration can be motivated by many things other than money.

Producer Mukti Jain Campion

A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.