By Gaiutra Bahadur
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Extra resources for Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture
The last Mughal emperor, for instance, won the title: Bahadur Shah Zafar rallied the first rebels against the British in 1857. Bahadur was the nom de guerre of a popular 1980s comic book hero, a battler of dacoits in the subcontinent. In my own family, the name seems to have come into being, along with my grandfather, on The Clyde. As far as I can tell, Sujaria made it up. It wasn’t her name. It wasn’t the name of the man she ultimately married in Guiana. And, if the archives are to be believed, she had no husband on leaving India.
Bihar was once the seat of a vast and ancient empire stretching to Iran, but few people see it now as anything but a corrupt and dangerous backwater. Its per capita income is among the lowest and its illiteracy rate among the highest nationwide. ”1 â•… It was November 2005, four days before provincial elections—a bad time to be travelling in Bihar. Ballot boxes had been stolen at gunpoint in the past. And Marxist rebels had just broken out of a jail south of the capital, Patna, when we set out.
Armed with this information, Jitendra approached a group of men loitering near the entrance to the village, off a gravel lane, along a tributary of the Ganges. He asked if anyone knew of a Mukhlal who had lived in Bhurahupur a century ago. No one did. â•… The villagers took us to a toothless man with a helmet of white hair, sitting on a bench outside his house, a mustard shawl draped over his bony body. He was a schoolteacher and an elder, the kind of man you might expect to be the keeper of local memory.