Bloodlines and Legal Slavery

Journalist and author, Godfrey Pereira, is coming out with his novel on slavery of a very different kind. Speaking about the human rights angle of bonded labour, immigrant lives and torture, Godfrey shares some thoughts about an issue that threatens many people world over.

Can we start with Bloodline Bandra? What is the story about?
Bloodline Bandra started off with me trying to put down on paper, the way The East Indians in Bombay spoke. I wanted to capture the salt and spice of their lifestyle. I don't know if you know this but the East Indians {The Kolis} are the original inhabitants of Bombay or Mumbai. I am an East Indian by birth. I had experienced this life style as a child and it fascinated me. The Novel is divided into two parts with an epilogue. The first part is located in Pali Village, Bandra, Bombay and details the lives of the East Indians in Pali Village. The second part is the central character David Cabral, leaving and going to America. Once he gets there, he is enslaved by other Indians in what I call "Legal Slavery." What is 'Legal Slavery?' When a worker comes to the United States {and many other countries} he or she is issued a work visa. Now this Visa forbids him or her from working with anyone but the company that has sponsored him or her. And often, these employers give you the minimum wage, treat you like an animal, and there have been many instances where the poor immigrant is physically tortured. The desperate immigrant has nowhere to turn to. They are scared, have no money and they do not want to be fired because if this happens, he or she becomes an illegal alien. Very, very scary. And they do not have the guts to go to the authorities. And so they carry on, like a bullock with a yoke around its neck. This is happening as we speak, in The United States and all over the world. There are statistics that prove this and unfortunately there are many Indians who are the culprits here. Again, there are many Indians who do not do this. They are successful and follow the laws of the land but there is a flip side to this and that is what is detailed in Bloodline Bandra If you go to bloodlinebandra.com you will begin to understand.

You speak of a very ghastly human rights violation in your work - what inspired your choice of
Godfrey Pereira
story?
Well, I am a journalist. I have been a War Correspondent, I have seen human rights violations written in blood flowing from open wounds. It is ugly and devoid of anything human. When I first came to America, I was enslaved in the same trap of 'Legal Slavery.' Sure I was a legal resident in America but I was worked to the bone, underpaid, sometimes even that little money would not materialize. It was horrible. I was threatened, pushed around and abused. I was homeless, begging to sleep on people's couches. Finally,  I snapped in the middle of a nervous breakdown one dark evening and tried to commit suicide. I then began talking to the lowly paid  waiters, cooks, cleaners of restaurants, gas station attendants, motel workers and small businesses owned by Indians all over New York State, from Manhattan to Woodstock. And the story was always the same. It was then that I began researching, and good God, story after story emerged. It shocked me. The website bloodlinebandra.com details this. The rights of Indians were being violated by their Indian bosses all over the world. It made me feel sad and ashamed. The human rights injustices that is what I wanted to portray in Bloodline Bandra. The Novel started off as just one book so to speak; just the East Indians and their lives; but somehow in the Novel, David Cabral the central character winds his way to New York city, and his life turns into a living  burning hell.

What, as a researcher and writer on the issue, do you see as a feasible solution to the issue?
I don't know, I really don't know. I am a pessimist at the best of times. I mean it has got to begin with change deep in the human heart. I have heard the defense a thousand times. 'Well, why are you picking on the Indians. The Chinese do it, the Russians do it.... everybody does it!' Well, first, my bloodline is Indian. Second I was a 'Legal Slave'. Third, as someone born in India, I am not qualified to point a dirty finger at someone else when my own backside is not clean. Indians find it easier to exploit other Indians because it is easy. In the beginning there is the trust factor between both parties that bhai bhai back home made in India glue. They both speak the same language, eat the same food, follow the same religion, ect. ect. and then BOOM, the shackles are on the new immigrant's feet. I have no answers to what you call a 'feasible solution'.

Why does slavery and bondage still subsist? What are we not doing?
Very good question! That's a difficult and tough one. Slavery and human bondage, well that's a financial enterprise aided and often abetted by dirty underground political and strong social strings. It's as old as prostitution, which is often considered the oldest profession. But people tend to overlook the fact that behind most prostitutes there is that shadowy figure called 'The Pimp'. The same analogy applies here. It brings in money and the third party always triumphs. Cheap labor and able man and woman power that is eventually  manipulated into bondage. That ultimate power over the life of another human being. The slave and the master. It also stems from racism, religions, philosophies, traditions, the whole spectrum of the dark side of humanity. It is hard to get a bulls eye on it. The pessimist in me will say that as long as men and women exist there will be human bondage of some sort. What we are not doing, is trying to stop it, with will and passion. You hear of a case of  modern slavery on television and everyone is up in arms about it, and then it fades into obscurity the next day. No one is concerned, how or why it happened or is happening. I know there are laws against slavery all over the world but it still goes on and on and on. I mean, it happens in America, "Land Of The Free", it is happening all over the world.  What we are not doing is enacting tougher laws, and I say this both of America where I live, and India where I was born. I am so glad that Kailash Satyarthi was bestowed with the Noble Prize for Peace. He has been fighting against the human bondage of children for years. Malala Yousafzai, that incredible young girl who shared the prize with Satyarthi has been fighting another kind of legal slavery; the slavery imposed by fanatical religious zealots who believe it is moral and  legal in the eyes of God and society to murder somebody if they do not confirm to their doctrine. And think about it! An Indian and a Pakistani sharing the Noble Peace Prize! How great is that!

What, in your opinion, makes a human feel entitled to hold another human in bondage, or as his slave?
Power. Absolute power over everything. And, of course, the money and connections that this power brings play a big role. Take your average dictator. That's what it is all about. The ass kissing, the groveling, the boot licking; it powers the dictator. It helps the "I am the good God" factor, "I am the almighty Lord of all I survey" feeling. First they break you down, then re- construct you psychologically and then physically abuse you. In India whole families, for generations are enslaved, father to child, mother to daughter. They are trapped in the vicious cycle of the loan system.  It is terrifying. Human beings are basically flawed, at least that is what I believe. If we are all made in the image and likeness of God like I was taught at school, there is something really wrong here. Realistically nobody is entitled to anything. Not the rich land owners or the spiritual Brahmins, or the poor man, beggar or the thief.

What do you hope for your book to do, for the cause?
I hope Bloodline Bandra is read by people in places like Southall, in West London, who are enslaving their fellow Indians. I hope that Bloodline Bandra is at some point is translated into other languages so that some of those rich fat bastard landowners in the heart of India, living off the flesh, skin and bone  of indentured farmers and their children read it. I hope that a few people change their minds and do the right thing. I hope that those slimy Indian agents who herd poor south Indian men to the Gulf read it and try walking in the shoes of those they sell like cattle. I hope the Arabs, who treat Indian laborers like chattel read it and realize that their brutality goes against their religious principals and violates basic human rights.  I hope that all those young men and women who look to the West or the Gulf regions as a gateway to the promised land tread carefully, very, very carefully before they take that next step. The luxurious  green grass on the other side is sometimes tipped with flesh shredding razor wire. I hope that people read Bloodline Bandra and realize that the author is not trying to slander Indians, but simply telling it like it is... hoping that something will change....I hope...


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