I was a sturdy 16 year-old on my way to the town where there was a recruiting depot, and met an arkati who suggested there was nothing to be gained by loitering; it was better to work.
If I were interested I could go to the depot where there were a lot of people waiting to go to Fiji. In five years I could return well-off for my wages would be 12 annas per day. He persuaded me to go to the depot even though I was hesitant.
I was a Brahmin but I was strong and could work at cane cultivation. I thought I would be able to return after five years. I did not think about crossing the kala pani or mixing with the lower caste. I could read and write.
We went to Calcutta and from there embarked on the ship for our journey to Fiji.
The trip was very unpleasant. I regretted leaving home because of my ordeal on the boat. But God saved us and brought us here.
We were taken to our destination and the first night we had to spend in the mill.
Men and women stood in separate rows and a European overseer walked up and down looking at us. Among the women there was an attractive and married Muslim. The European grabbed her and tried to drag her away. I told her husband, Nur Mohammed, to intervene. He seemed scared and did nothing. After a while I picked up a molasses bucket and struck the European on the back and he ran off. The woman I took to her husband. Though I was only 16 years old at the time I was very strong and knew how to wrestle.
On my estate near Labasa there was a bad sardar named Ibrahim, from Hyderabad. He was a tall thin man, married with two children.
There was a shipmate of mine there who had a very beautiful wife from the Thakur caste. The sardar wanted to seduce her and he used to put ideas into her head. Hence she would not listen to her husband nor cook properly for him. My jhaji confided his problem to me saying that the sardar was intending to take away his wife. I told him that I would speak to the sardar about it.
I mentioned the subject to him, he did not like it. He abused me for the next two days. On the third day when he repeated his comments I jumped off the horse-plough and chased him. He ran but fell into a drain and I gave him a beating.
He reported the matter to the overseer who descended upon me with a whip. I resolved that I would hit him if he struck me. He asked me if I had attacked the sardar. I replied that he should ask the other four doing the ploughing with me.
In those days men had integrity. They told the European that thesardar had abused me for three days. On the first two occasions I did not retaliate but on the third I had chased the sardar who ran and fell into the drain while trying to cross it. The sahib ordered me to tell him the truth about it. I answered: “The sardar wants to sleep with Kampta’s wife and he has put thoughts into her head so that she is not looking after her husband’s welfare. He is setting a bad example. I spoke to the sardar about it and he swore at me as a result. Hence I chased him with a whip, when he fell I struck him two blows.”
The sahib turned to the sardar “Is this true?” The sardar put his head down and with his eyes fixed on the ground made no reply. The sahib recognized that Ibrahim was guilty and deprived him of his position and made Vilayat Hussein the new sardar. And Ibrahim was given thorny ‘sensitive grass’ to weed.