The Elusive El Dorado. Essays on the
Indian Experience in Guyana. The University Press
of America, 2005. 152 pages, $20.
University Press of America, which specializes in scholarly and
academic works in the humanities and social sciences, has just
published The Elusive El Dorado.
Essays on the Indian Experience in Guyana. This is the fifth book
of Dr. Basdeo Mangru, Associate Professor of History at York College,
City University of New York.
This thoroughly researched book is a collection
of eight essays, published and unpublished, examining issues in
the indenture and post-indenture period which are relatively unexplored
in the existing literature on the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean.
From an analysis of the failure of a private immigration scheme
from the Bombay Presidency and the disparity in emigration from
Madras and Calcutta, the book examines the Hook-swinging ritual
and the efforts of Christian Missionaries and officials to suppress
it. The alarming incidence of Indian wife murders, particularly
the causes, and the various efforts to minimize the crime and
deflect criticism is analyzed in another essay. The book goes
on to evaluate the pressures exerted by the sugar planters and
the Colonial Office to abolish the return passage entitlement
which was an indispensable part of the immigrant’s contract.
Another essay provides an historical background to the sensitive
race issue in Guyana, to broaden debate and foster a better understanding
of its origin and development. Of the last two essays, one highlights
the activities of Bechu, a fearless Bengali immigrant who launched
a vigorous and sustained attack on the iniquities of the indenture
system. The criticism so rattled the planting interests that they
took unprecedented measures to silence him. The other focuses
on the Impressions of C.F. Andrews, an apostle of Mohandas Gandhi,
who visited Guyana in 1929. His report not only bemoaned the pitiable
plight of Indians but also offered invaluable suggestions for
improvement. It was the visit of Andrews and others which spurred
Indian nationalist consciousness, enabling educated Indians to
articulate their concerns with much more vigor.
This fascinating book includes a list of immigrant
ships, with dates of arrival, that landed in Guyana from both
Calcutta and Madras. Indians interested in researching their roots
will find this information invaluable. It is also a valuable resource
for genealogists. Guyanese experts have made positive comments
on the book.
For information, contact
(718) 845-7596/(718) 262-2579
[Editor's Note: Mr. Basdeo
Mangru is one of the most recognizable of Guyanese historians
today. A local of Leguan, Essequibo, Guyana, he is a graduate
of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African
Studies who once taught at the University of Guyana. He currently
teaches history at City University
of New York (CUNY)’s York College and Social Studies at
John Adams High in New York City. Mr. Mangru is also the author
of Benevolent Neutrality: Indian Government Policy and Labour
Migration to British Guyana, 1854-1884 (London, 1987), Indenture
and Abolition: Sacrifice and Survival on the Guyanese Sugar Plantations
(Toronto, 1993), and A History of East Indian Resistance on
the Guyana Sugar Estates, 1869-1948 (New York, 1996).]