Review of Sugar's Sweet Allure.
Mustafa is a witty individual who is able to acquire positions of leadership while on the depot, during the voyage, and on the plantation. He eventually comes in contact with almost every aspect of being indentured. He is exposed to other ethnic groups like Africans and Chinese, who are also working and living on the plantation on which Mustafa is indentured. During the first five years of indenture, Mustafa has the opportunity to meet and marry someone else but remains faithful to Chandini, even though he fails to make contact with her through letters and messages. When his contract expires he is torn between going back to India and staying in British Guiana. He eventually stays in British Guiana for another five years. While he never dismisses his love for Chandini, he marries another indentured Muslim, and together the couple has two sons. The story becomes more interesting when Mustafa is able to break out of his plantation environment to start his own business and when his sons are ready to get married. At this stage of the plot one is in suspense as to whether Mustafa will ever see Chandini again. The characters do not meet in India but in British Guiana when they are middle-aged. In India, Chandini's family plantation is ruined by disasters and other hardships, and so, like Mustafa, she is forced to look for employment and eventually is indentured to British Guiana on a plantation not too far from Mustafa. But neither character is aware of the other's presence. However, Chandini is no longer single. She marries, mainly for protection, a gentleman whom she meets on board the sea voyage to British Guiana. They eventually have two daughters. In maintaining the match-marriage customs of nineteenth-century India, Mustafa is looking for two young women to marry his two sons and is told of a couple who has two daughters on a nearby plantation. It is within this context Mustafa and Chandini meet after thirty years apart. They acknowledge and respect each other's different routes in life. One of Mustafa's sons is eventually married to Chandini's daughter, something Mustafa and Chandini were not allowed to do in India.
The novel is rather interesting in that it covers so many themes in Indian indentureship not often seen in literary works. The author examines the relationships during indenture from the position of the laborers and not from the power holders of the plantations. The end result is some surprising gender, religious, and ethnic relations that are not always tragic. But the novel also provides a balanced perspective on Indian indenture in British Guiana. One learns about how these individuals were uprooted from their homes, and how this rupture affected them in the depot, during the sea voyage, on the plantations, and in their isolated communities. Yet, over time and through determination, they were able to develop a new homeland in a foreign country without dismissing their past. It is a classic case of cultural continuity and change. Finally, one gets the sense that despite hardships in British Guiana, it was a better place than India, at least for the working class and social relations. The descendants of indentured Indians in Guyana will find this novel useful in understanding their past.
Ali, Khalil Rahman. Sugar's Sweet Allure. London: Hansib Publication, 2013
Jackson State University
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|Publication:||Journal of Caribbean Literatures|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2013|
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