Abdool Clan Ancestry
Written by: Joaneil Baksh
When I think about my ancestors, I think of strength. Knowing where my roots trace back, I feel a sense of pride in my history and the path travelled on my mom’s side, as this is the only story I currently know. However, one thing rooted in Indo-Caribbean history is the impact of colonialism, part of the experience of becoming, as a person of colour. The experience wasn’t only felt while establishing themselves as beings in this world, but the impact continues today, with the way institutions continue to oppress people of colour to support their agenda. This oppression my ancestors faced is something we cannot erase, but an aspect of our journey from which strength, resilience and courage was born. Tupac penned it perfectly, with his poem, The Rose that Grew from Concrete…
Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature's law is wrong it learned to walk without having feet. Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.
Learning about your family’s ancestral path is always an exciting adventure; gathering an understanding of which cultures you’re connected to and the challenges and achievements your ancestors experienced. In 2004, my uncle hosted a family reunion in commemoration of the Abdool Clan, my maternal grandmother’s paternal side.
Researching and curating the path my ancestors took to reach Trinidad was the most intriguing part of the reunion— although tassa is right up there!
Ramzan Abdool, my great, great grandfather on my maternal side embarked for Trinidad on July 19th, 1893 under contractual emigration, from the Gujarat area in India. Ramzan met at the sub-depot of Fyzabad, where he was then taken to a port in Calcutta and boarded the S.S. Rhone. The ship arrived in Trinidad on October 28th, 1893. Indentured to the La Fortune Estate, Ramzan worked upon his arrival and continued to live there beyond his contractual agreement.
Indentured labourers were predominantly of the Indian and Chinese diaspora who were proposed contracts to work as labourers in the Caribbean, under whichever country colonized said island. Trinidad and Tobago were colonized by the British, which was who Ramzan entered his contract with.
Ramzan married Patteah, who he met at the estate. They had Abdool Ramzan, their first generation, Trinidadian son. Abdool Ramzan married Halliman, who my mom referred to as Papa and Moi, her beloved grandparents. Papa and Moi went on to have 12 children, amongst which is my most loving Mama, Amina, my maternal grandma.
My bias is evident as it’s with Mama I had the greatest connection with, and there’s no greater love than that of a grandparent.
Ramzan commenced a life for our family in Trinidad with his courageous and resilient spirit. Our family is rooted in indentured slavery, though we’ve come to make a name for ourselves through that same courage and resiliency; however that translates, professionally, emotionally and physically. Our oppressors didn’t succeed with breaking our people down… In fact, though the Caribbean was built on slavery, both Indo and Afro, as people we’ve united and found a way to live, love and be, as we were meant to.
Though I don’t know much about my great, great, grandfather, I can tell he was strong. Strong enough to leave a life he knew, in search of a new life, perhaps with hope and a dream in mind. Strong enough to ‘trust’ the oppressors in hope of this new life. The strength an emigrant exudes is most admirable and paramount in gaining success, with its fluid definition. I thank my ancestors for the sacrifice they made to allow us this existence we call life. Just like the rose that grew from concrete, my great, great grandfather prevailed through a life of adversity as an indentured labourer and gave our family all that we are thankful for today. Thanks for this rose.