Remember the stories of your forefathers. Their struggles must not be in vain.
This was the overriding message of encouragement shared by Dr Thelma John David, the Consul General of India in Durban, today.
John addressed a commemorative ceremony to mark the 163rd anniversary of the arrival of indentured labourers aboard the SS Truro to Natal in 1860.
The event took place as part of the citywide special occasions to mark the anniversary. It was held at the Durban beachfront and hosted by the 1860 Heritage Centre.
“If we do not remember, their memories don’t live,” said John.
“There are many stories being told but there are still yet many more stories untold. I do hope more of you will take this opportunity to find out more about your roots, where your forefathers came from, and how they toiled on this land. It is important to preserve and keep these memories alive.
“Theirs is a story of resilience, which today sees this community standing strong. It is a story of resilience and growth, which we represent here. Above all, it is a story of the resilience of this community in reviving culture and traditions and connections with India ,” she said.
James Ratibar, 100, of Clare Estate, was also at the ceremony.
The centenarian, who worked at a string of hotels along the same stretch of beach in his time, and whose story was previously featured in the POST, said: “It is an honour to be here today part of this ceremony. This is wonderful. This is a good event. They should continue to remember our ancestors.”
Ratibar’s father, Gendha, came from Calcutta as an indentured labourer.
The event was preceded by a morning of prayer at various sites across the city, culminating in the main commemoration at the beach.
The pre-events included the ringing of the Indentured Worker Bell at the Heritage Centre and heritage stopovers at the Hazrath Badsha Peer Shrine at the Victoria Street Market undercover parking; Emmanuel Cathedral; and Shri Vaithianatha Easvarar Alayam in Umgeni Road.
It culminated in an interfaith prayer, bell-ringing ceremony, and an offering of the marigold ceremony at Durban Beach.
The POST reported this week that after 13 years since the project was first announced, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport, Arts and Culture announced on Tuesday that a service provider had been finalised to construct a monument that would pay homage to the 1860 indentured labourers.
The monument will be erected at uShaka Beach (next to the uShaka Marine World parking lot).