The Kahaur pani

News that a second ship, the “Louisa Baillie” was finally on its way to sail them back to India would have prompted much excitement and relief among the 1838-indentured labourers. The young “Kahaur” man “Chucedoo” must have been particularly happy at the prospect of leaving British Guiana (BG) and being reunited with his family across the dreaded “kala pani” or black waters.

One of the numerous complicated castes found in many parts of India but concentrated in the North, the Kahaurs or Kahars are sub-divided into lower clans and today remain a mostly landless community of former palanquin bearers who have switched to farming and water-based jobs like fishing, with the decline of their decreed profession. They are hired to officiate at the numerous holy ceremonies along the banks of special rivers and waterways especially the Ganges.

Most likely Immigrant Number 218, the sole recorded migrant from the village of Dhungye, he had survived the long, rough sea journey once before, from Calcutta to Berbice aboard the “Whitby” in May 1838, facing up to old fears of oceanic odysseys. The short, 26-year-old “copper”-hued man with a distinguishing mark on the forehead spent the next five years toiling on the sugar estates of Highbury and Waterloo, owned by the absentee proprietors, the merchant brothers and partners, Henry and William Davidson, both major recipients of slave compensation…..