Baba and Mai or Mai Baap statue, located at the Suriname Jetty in Balu Ghat, Metiabruz, simply means father and mother, but symbolizes the male and female workers who had left the Indian coasts to work as labourers in the sugarcane plantations in Suriname. The monument notes the exact location from where the poor workers from India used to board the cramped ships, making their way towards an uncertain future at unknown shores.
‘Lalla Rookh’ was the first ship that carried the contracted and enslaved Indian labourers and arrived in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname in June 1873.
Located on the northern coast of South America, Suriname was in those days a plantation colony of the Netherlands and was known as Dutch Guiana. Today, the descendants of those 19th century indentured labourers, primarily hailed from Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, are the largest ethnic group in Suriname.
Though Suriname gained its independence on 25 November 1975, slavery was abolished from the country as early as 1863. However, as the plantation colony it needed skill labourers, they sought assistance from the East India Company and started to bring workers from India.
The agents used to lure and collect the needy persons from here and there, sometimes forcibly and those helpless and poor persons were shifted from one depot to another, till they reached at Calcutta Port in Garden Reach. Before leaving the shore of India, they were given only a thali (plate), a lota (a round water pot), a couple of kurtas (pyjama) or saris and dhoti.
Today, the population of Suriname includes a huge number of persons of Indian origin, whose ancestors, with their hard work and spirit, substantially contributed towards the development of the country. However, till date, they have kept alive their old Indian traditions. The language of eastern UP and Bihar can still be found in the country.
The Suriname Memorial monument was inaugurated on 7 October 2015 to commemorate 120 years of Hindustani immigration and was dedicated to those unnamed and unknown Indians, who had to leave the country under unavoidable circumstances from that particular place, in search of a better life. It is interesting to note that, there is also a Baba and Mai monument in Paramaribo, installed at the place of arrival of the emigrants.