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From Holland to UP’s Mainpuri: A woman’s search for a family she never knew

Shanta Ram Ratan (55) was here to fulfill her father’s last wish – tracing their family’s roots in Mainpuri with nothing more than a vague address to go by.

lucknow Updated: Feb 28, 2017 11:01 IST
Hemendra Chaturvedi
Hemendra Chaturvedi
Hindustan Times
Shanta (extreme left) with a resident of Mainpuri. Her friend, Seema Kiran, is seen on the right.(HT Photo)

There are many who drop by Mainpuri, some on business and others to visit the numerous temples that dot its semi-urban landscape.

Shanta Ram Ratan, who arrived in the town on Monday, had a different priority. The 55-year-old resident of Holland was here to fulfill her father’s last wish – which comprised tracing their family’s roots in Mainpuri with nothing more than a vague address to go by.

Shanta’s father was just a boy of nine when the British sent him and his mother to Surinam in South America over 105 years ago. Later, he shifted to Holland.

“I have been here twice since 1984. So, this is my third attempt to trace our roots in Mainpuri, and it certainly won’t be my last. I will find them sooner or later,” she says.

During this visit, Shanta and a friend – Seema Kiran – visited the residence of Mainpuri’s late Raja Tej Singh’s ‘sarvarakar’ (custodian) to look for records, but in vain. Raja Tej Singh was the ruler of the region in the beginning of the 20th century.

Shanta’s father, Shyam Sundar Ram Ratan, had passed away in 1976. “My grandmother and my father had to leave Mainpuri on April 3, 1912. The British regime took them to Kolkata on the pretext of making a trip to the Shri Ram Temple, from where they were sent to Surinam by ship. They were made to work as bonded labourers at a sugarcane farm in Surinam,” she says.

Though Shanta knows Suraj Kali was 25 when she reached South America on May 14, 1912, she has no knowledge of what happened to her husband. That was yet another mystery to be unraveled.

However, it may not be a very easy task – considering that Shanta is aware neither of the caste nor the address of her father’s long-lost family. She was seen moving around Mainpuri through Sunday and Monday, making enquiries about the past from local residents.

Way back in 1984, Shanta had visited the British embassy in Surinam to look at the records of people brought in to work in plantations. They told him that the name of her grandmother, a Myanmarese citizen married to a Mainpuri resident, was Sonkali Ram Sahai. “However, it wasn’t clear if Ram Sahai was her husband or father. The clue that brought me here this time was an address – Chappatti Mohalla in Mainpuri’s Kotwali area,” she says.

Shanta, who has four children and a husband back in Holland, speaks Hindi. She will be flying back to Holland from Delhi on March 10.

First Published: Feb 28, 2017 10:53 IST