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An expert on Fiji for Auckland

New Zealanders in general and Indo-Fijians in particular, will benefit from the visit of one of the most prolific writers and renowned academics to Auckland this week.

Dr Brij V Lal, Professor of Pacific and Asian History at the Canberra based Australian National University (ANU) will speak at a meeting to commemorate the Anniversary of Girmit in South Auckland on Sunday, May 18, 2014.

Organised by the Fiji Girmit Foundation of New Zealand, the event will be held at Skipton Hall, 53 Skipton Street, Mangere from 130 pm.

The Foundation has been established by Indo-Fijians in Auckland to pay tributes to their ancestors who were taken to Fiji under the indenture system and forced to live and work under harsh conditions. A similar event was held in Wellington on May 10 under the aegies of the Fiji Indian Association Inc at the Johnsonville Community Centre.

Versatile writer

Born and raised in a cane farming family in Labasa, Dr Lal received his tertiary education in Fiji, Canada and Australia. Prior to joining ANU, he taught at the Universities of the South Pacific and Papua New Guinea and at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

Dr Lal is the author of many books and is considered an authority on Fijian history and politics and the history and culture of the Indian Diaspora.

Besides fiction, he writes creative non-fiction and is the author of ‘Mr Tulsi’s Store’ and ‘Turnings: Fiji Factions.’

Among his books on indenture are ‘Girmityas: The origins of the Fiji Indians’ and ‘Chalk Jihadi: On a journey through indenture in Fiji.’

Married to Padma, an environmental and resource economist, the couple have two grownup children, Yogi and Nora.

Reader reaction

The following review of Dr All’s Book (Girmityas: The Origins of the Fiji Indians) by a reader for the Amazon.com website indicates the large following that he enjoys worldwide.

“This book, largely based on the author’s PhD thesis, explores the emigration of Indian labourers from India through the British Indenture system to the colonies, especially to Fiji. Brij Lal himself is the grandson of Girmityas from the United Provinces.
“Using statistical analysis of the emigration passes filled out in the ports of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Madras (Chennai), Lal hypothesises on the social milieu and economic conditions that prompted thousands of Indians to emigrate to strange foreign lands. Remember that this movement of labour happened in the late 19th Century when communication was glacial. Emigration meant almost certainly losing touch with your family and society. Conditions must indeed have been bad to force people to leave and mostly never return.”

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