Backdam People
The stories in this collection give an unrivalled picture of the lives of the Indo-Guyanese workers on the sugar estates in the period between the 1930s and the early 1950s when the estate communities broke up.
Rooplall Monar
ISBN number
Fiction, Short Stories
Country setting
Publication date
01 Dec 1985

They explore with great insight the ambivalence between accommodation and resistance that characterized estate life. They portray a people subject to the most oppressive forms of labour and managerial authority, sometimes held back by their inner conflicts and superstitions, but invariably engaged in some form of resistance, whether overt, or more frequently scampish schemes for avoiding hard labour or taking some advantage of the estate authorities. Above all, the backdam people resist by and refusing to surrender their sense of community and cultural identity.

The stories are unblinking in their portrayal of the violence and bawdy of the estate dwellers’ lives, celebrating those like Massala Maraj who outwit big Manager but also mourning those who are broken by the punishing years of canefield work. The stories are by turns comic and tragic in their tone, but always in the end sympathetic to the vigorous individuality of people who struggle to live their lives ‘according to their own likeness’. This is a landmark collection in its total commitment to Hindi-influenced Creole of the sugar workers - though a glossary provides help with unfamiliar terms. Above all, these are the backdam people’s own stories, told in their own creole tongue and shaped by Monar’s skills as a storyteller.

Frank Birbalsingh writes: ‘The success of Monar’s comic treatment is that it enables him to present scenes of gross violence and brutality without sentimentality. We laugh... but do not ignore the cruelty, pain and suffering involved...’

Rooplall Monar was born on the Lusignan sugar estate in Guyana in 1945. Apart from brief overseas visits he has lived in Guyana all his life, in Annandale village, East Coast Demerara.



Rooplall Monar

Rooplall Monar was born in a mud floor logie on the Lusignan sugar estate, East Coast Demerara, in 1945. His parents were both caneworkers, and his mother continued to work on her own ground provision plot daily, long after she retired. The family moved to Annandale Village in 1953 to a houselot with its own plot. This, much extended over the years, remains Monar's home. He attended Lusignan Government school, Buxton Congregational School, Hindu College and Annandale Evening College. He has worked as a teacher, accounts clerk, freelance journalist, broadcaster and practitioner of folk healing (herbal cures).
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