Glancing away from the usual topics in Amrika, Britain, Canada and the Subcontinent–long before Microsoft was filling out H1-B forms, and even before Sputnik inspired the 1965 Immigration and Nationalization Act*, indentured laborers were crossing from South Asia to South America. At the age of 24 Munshi Raman Khan brought with him a love of all things Indian, particularly the Ramayan, on which he lectured the children of his Hindu brethren. Why do I have a feeling this guy could have had a great blog if he was around today?
At age 24, Rehman M. Khan (1874-1972), a young Pathan arrived in Suriname in 1898 on the steamship Avon. . . .this young Khan knew the Qur’an as well as the Ramayana very well. He soon became popular in his plantation and among the surrounding Indians of the other plantations as a Ramayan specialist. He started propagating the Ramayana ideology and taught Hindi to the children of the Indian community. . . .there are many manuscripts available which he wrote in Suriname dealing with the Muslim problems in Suriname, the language issues and his own biography in four volumes. Coming from a middle class Pathan family, Khan was very educated. His knowledge of Urdu and Hindi helped his literary prose. He was also a poet and could compose poetry in standard Hindi “with a flavour of Braj”. . .He used his knowledge to educate the Hindu and Muslim community and to reconstruct the “Indian identity”. Khan kept in touch with India constantly and was also craving for news from his homeland. (Link.)
Khan wrote an autobiography, apparently in Hindi or a related dialect, that was previously only translated into Dutch. (According to one review in The Hindu, he was even knighted by the Dutch Queen Juliana for his merits.) A translation into English has been popping up in reviews in The Hindu, IndoLINK, and The Tribune. The Autobiography of an Indian Indentured Laborer, by Munshi Rahman Khan, looks to be a fairly new release and seems available for purchase in dollars from Bagchee.
*Of which we sadly missed the 40th anniversary.