To mark 100 years celebration of the abolition of East Indian indentureship, I am pleased to bring you another story about our history courtesy of the Daily Express.
The great house at Sangre Chiquito, belonging to the Dial family. Photo: Dexter Philip
Bishnu Dial holds a photograph of his deceased father Prem Dial, who helped build the great house. PHoto: Dexter Philip
THOSE priceless photos taken of the Indian indentured labourers on their arrival at the human processing depot on Nelson Island show an impoverished people exhausted, dispirited and wary of their future on the mainland.
But by the end of their five-year indentureship, the majority would choose to stay, accepting Crown land instead of the free trip back to the Motherland.
However, it is a little known fact that not all who made the voyage from India came on contract.
Some paid their passage and arrived on the island free of encumbrance, says genealogist Shamshu Deen who has researched and found the roots, in India, of many Trinidadians.
Then there is the case of man named Mandary who met wife Ooozerone on the voyage to Trinidad in 1856, and returned to India 22 years later with their four children.
Within two years, the family (without Mandary who had since died) returned to Trinidad on November 8, 1882 aboard the vessel, the Scottish Admiral.
Among the children was Prabhu, who would take the name Prabhudial Maharaj, and make his fortune in the cocoa planted in east Trinidad, a wealthy Indian at a time when most of his race lived in barracks and shacks.
The industry that was King cocoa, crashed in the 1920s, but not before Prabhudial built what would become his legacy.
In 1918, the year after the end of Indian Indentureship, he began constructing the family home. He chose a gentle slope at Sangre Chiquito, with a long driveway leading to the main road heading to Manzanilla, a spot that invited the traveller to consider the elegance of the house but discourage anyone from coming too close.
It took him two years to build, and he spared no expense. And when it was completed, it rivalled any of the east coast great houses (several of which still survive) which were influenced by Trinidad's British, French and Spanish heritage.
Prabudial Maharaj would have two marriages and at least twelve children before his death.
His first-born, Prem Dial (1898-1966), who was bequeathed the house, also had two marriages that produced seven children.
The second to last child, Vishnu Dial (born 1949) now owns the home and lives there with a brother and their families. And he knows the place is something special.
Dial said: “I have lived my entire life here. It was already old when I was born. My father told me that it took two years to build, and they used the very best material. The front walls (mortared and shaped to look like bricks) have thousands of river stones, and the fretwork was patterned after what my grandfather saw in India”.
There was a detached kitchen at the back made of tapia walls, to prevent an accidental fire from torching the place, and concrete cistern for storing rainwater. Nearby were the coca drying and store houses, where the beans would be bagged for transport into Sangre Grange, where it would be weighed, sold and transported out of the area by rail. Those buildings are gone now and the attic can no longer be accessed, but surviving it all was the antique Ansonia Octagon clock, older even than the house, under which generations of Dials marked time.
Pillars shaped into hands holding a sphere, stand at the base of the staircase. Why Prabhudial had commissioned the sculptures is lost to time, but the family would like to believe it to be a message from a man who then “had the whole world in his hands”.
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