Yerrama by CHANDRIA NAIDOO

Yerrama

byCHANDRIA NAIDOO

Kobo ebook | June 2, 2011

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In 1908, Yerrama, the attractive young wife from a rural village in South India is surprised with her husband’s enthusiasm to work as an indentured worker in a foreign land.

Somiah, her husband faces many arguments when he began to persuade her to emigrate with him. Yerrama fears the separation from her parents, homeland and the unknown, reluctantly agrees. They eventually board a crowded steamship with their two infant children, together with six hundred other labourers and sail across the Indian Ocean, a journey lasting four weeks. They experience many storms and disease, during which time Somiah becomes victim to seasickness, dysentery and depression. When the ship finally arrives in Durban, a port in Natal, South Africa, the ship is quarantined for one week by the port officials, due to an epidemic on board the ship. Amid the sickness and despair on board, a protest by the white settlers in the city rages to ban the landing of the Indian labourers on their land.

The labourers felt fearful after they eventually disembarked. In the confusion, Somiah, still not well discovers his money belt with gold sovereigns was stolen. Penniless and weakened with sickness, Somiah plummets further into depression and thinks, “how can I fulfill my work contract when the Plantation owner sees me in my sickly state”.

For Yerrama, the panic and depression wash over her like a monsoon. Realizing, if her husband is unable to work the land and fulfill their contract, they will be shipped back to their native village; Somiah will never be able to endure the return journey.

Staring into the steady steady gaze of the of the plantation owner, Yerrama bravely rises to the occasion. She meets his gaze and negotiates her services to fulfill her husband’s work contract, until her husband’s health recovers. The owner is won over by her tenacity and agrees.

Being the only woman on the field, she works six days a week at half the pay the men earn, from sun up to sun down, under the barbs and intimidation from men working beside her. Determined to survive, she stands her ground on the fields and eventually wins the respect of the men. Weeks after their arrival on the farm, Somiah dies. Yerrama lays on the floor with her husband’s lifeless body in her arms in the depths of despair for herself, her children and her future.

As years pass and working in the hot African sun, she loses her fine honey coloured skin and soft ways. Now five years on the farm, she re- signs her work contract for another five years, afraid to leave the security of her surroundings.       

She finally gains courage to venture out of the farm and visits the city by train with her family. She gets her first experience of apartheid and is moved when she sees Mohandas Gandhi addressing a crowd of “free Indian” protesters and hears his plea to the people, to peacefully protest the atrocities against them.

Ten years later, Yerrama continues to stay on the Estate and re-signs her contract for another five years. Over the years she becomes bitter and aggressive in her attitude and has taken on personal habits likened closer to men of that time; with a cigar in one hand and a glass of cane spirits in the other.

 Her dream of a big family, living as free citizens, owning her own house and land are goals and her only salvation; her two children, Appalsamy and Chendramma becomes her hope for the future.  Chendramma comes of age and Yerrama finds her a suitor. Tragedy strikes again when Chendramma dies after a difficult child birth. Yerrama becomes fearful of her family’s survival, and then persuades her reluctant son to marry, hoping for a large family; the young bride dies within months of their marriage. Undaunted, Yerrama finds him another bride, whom he marries only to please his mother. Disease is rife in the colony and the new wife dies within a week of their marriage. Yerrama cannot understand the tragedies in her home, but never loses her enthusiasm to have her own house and a large family for her survival.

On their fifteenth year they finally leave the estate and settle in the city, where her son buys a piece of land and builds the house his mother so dearly had wanted. He now fulfills the promise that his father had made to his mother.

 Yerrama is still not satisfied and wanting of a big family proceeds to find her son another wife. This time she finds him a young widow with a two year old son. Appalsamy is intrigued when she explains her proposal and ensuring procreation to him. Appalsamy agrees to marry much to his mother’s surprise.

The young woman is Seetha and, eighteen years old and now lives with her parents. When Yerrama and her son arrive to her home and proposes marriage, she runs away in terror and fearful for another marriage, then hides in the sugar plantation. She then realizes that the future for her child, she must marry.

Yerrama remembers herself in Seetha’s position as an image of herself, at that age, widowed with children.                  

Title:YerramaFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:June 2, 2011Publisher:Chandria Ramie NaidooLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0986766003

ISBN - 13:9780986766008

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