New Delhi: Trinidad and Tobago marked the 167th anniversary of Indian Arrival Day — the day the first group of Indians reached Trinidad — by honouring Samoodarie Doon, an Indian immigrant who arrived in the Caribbean about a hundred years ago.
Samoondari Doon was felicitated and presented a memento by Trinidad Education Minister Dr Time Goopeesingh at a ceremony hosted by the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism at the National Archives in Port of Spain earlier in June.
An independent-minded lady, Samoondarie expressed a wish to visit India after the felicitation ceremony was over. According to her grandson, Michael Salazar, she has never travelled outside Trinidad but a desire to see the country from where her mother had begun her journey to Trinidad still moves her.
“Nanny [nani — maternal grandmother] is in good health for her age. She can grow anything — she is an excellent gardener and loves to cook. She likes to meet new people and talk about the old times. She has seen a great deal of history,” Salazar told IANS in an email.
Samoondarie Doon was a ten-day old baby in her mother Makhani’s arms when she arrived in Trinidad. Samoondarie was born on the high seas on board the ship ‘SS Mutlah’ which was carrying a group of Indian indentured workers to Trinidad to work on the sugarcane plantations. The new born child was named after the ocean (samoondar). The SS Mutlah reached Nelson Island in Trinidad on October 14, 1912.
Samoondarie’s father, Baal Mohotam, was a cook on the ship. He died during the voyage and was buried at sea. Makhani and Samoondarie had no one to take care of them when they reached Trinidad.
Colonial officials planned to send Makhani and her infant daughter back to India but Makhani decided to marry one of the Indian migrants who had travelled on the same boat. Makhani, her new husband and Samoondarie went to live at the Petit Morne Estate where the two adults completed their five-year indenture contract.