Through the chapters of our legacy

We all know what mov­ing feels like. It en­tails mak­ing new friends, per­haps chang­ing jobs and gen­er­al­ly adapt­ing to a new en­vi­ron­ment. But it’s even more chal­leng­ing when that move in­volves cross­ing shores to an en­tire oth­er na­tion, a na­tion that may not speak your lan­guage and may not un­der­stand or even ac­cept your cul­ture.

Some 174 years ago a moth­er would have held her chil­dren close, some even still at her bo­som. But for the dream she was sold about hav­ing a bet­ter life, she would have char­tered in­to the un­known. With on­ly a prayer in her heart and be­lief in her god that she would make it to the end of lengthy and harsh jour­ney alive, she would en­ter a ship, filled with her coun­try­men, en route to an is­land she knew not called Trinidad, which would even­tu­al­ly be­come her home.

This is a sto­ry of Taitree, an East- In­di­an in­den­tured labour­er, who would rose to be­come a co­coa pro­pri­etor in the late1800s. She would al­so be­come the ma­tri­arch of the Cha­toor fam­i­ly who set­tled in Siparia, liv­ing in the mud house, she built with her own two hands.

Out of that mud house came doc­tors, lawyers and teach­ers, a fourth gen­er­a­tion el­der told Guardian Me­dia.

Ra­jwan­tee Bul­lock is “proud from whence she came” and to­geth­er with her chil­dren An­drea and Adri­an, they have fought to pre­serve the mud house, us­ing on­ly of their per­son­al earn­ings.

“My pen­sion and NIS…. every cent went in­to pre­serv­ing this mud house. We spent over $1M, over the years,” Bul­lock says.

For some who may think it a waste of time, she views the mud house as a sig­nif­i­cant rep­re­sen­ta­tion and re­minder of the hard work and sac­ri­fices made by her fore­fa­thers and oth­er in­den­tured labour­ers who came to the shores of T&T.

In her quest to pre­serve this “fam­i­ly trea­sure,” Bul­lock did much re­search and sal­vaged as much re­main­ing hand­i­work, she could find and trans­formed the mud house in­to a mu­se­um, which was of­fi­cial­ly opened last year on May 25.

In­side the mu­se­um presents an ex­hi­bi­tion of East In­di­an arte­facts like the “night nurse,” (aged and worn out enam­el pot­ties), ja­ta—two stones used to grind grain to make flour and the takha—a carved hole in the wall of the mud house where valu­ables like jew­ellery and mon­ey were stored.

Since its open­ing, it has of­fered tours to schools, lo­cals and tourists alike, ed­u­cat­ing them on the his­to­ry of the Cha­toor fam­i­ly’s mud house, as well as the his­to­ry of in­den­tured labour­ers in T&T.

Co­coa held a spe­cial place in the hearts of the Cha­toor fam­i­ly and as such, of the 17- and- a- half acres that once pro­duced co­coa, Bul­lock has kept a sin­gle co­coa tree which stands now as the “odd man” in a field filled with egg­plants and or­anges, among oth­er fruits and veg­eta­bles.

How­ev­er, more than the har­vest­ing of or sell­ing of co­coa, it was in the mud house, each gen­er­a­tion of the Cha­toor fam­i­ly was taught spir­i­tu­al and moral val­ues.

The girls were raised very dif­fer­ent from the boys, who would sleep in one room with their fa­ther and then move to the up­per room and sleep in ham­mocks when they be­came teenagers.

The girls were made to sleep close­ly to­geth­er in one bed to form ever­last­ing bonds, as was ex­plained by Bul­lock. At their bed head, a pic­ture of a de­ity would watch over them and the girls would learn to grow to em­u­late this de­ity.

Cook­ing was done by the women and with no re­frig­er­a­tors in those times; chick­en, fish and oth­er meats would be placed in large enam­el pails, which were then placed on strings and hung from the ceil­ing of the kitchen.

It is the hope of Bul­lock that with the mud house mu­se­um, which holds all these mem­o­ries, young peo­ple would learn how to trea­sure their his­to­ry and how to pass it on.

Reporter: Bobbie Lee-Dixon

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