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T&T ‘a melting pot’ | Local News |

T&T ‘a melting pot’ | Local News |

Today is Indian Arrival Day. It marks the arrival of the first Indian indentured workers in Trinidad in 1845.

The first ship to arrive in Trinidad was the Fatel Razack, which left Calcutta on February 16, 1845, and sailed into the Gulf of Paria on May 30, 1845, with 227 immigrants on board. By the time the practice of Indentureship was finally banned in 1917, over 147,000 Indians had arrived in Trinidad. They eventually assimilated and integrated themselves into the national landscape—with their culture, cuisine, folkways and mores.

Among the prominent people who extended Indian Arrival Day greetings were orthopaedic surgeon Dr David Toby, who said: “A lot of my colleagues are Indians. We tap into each other’s reservoir of knowledge and abilities. When we are on the wards or in the emergency rooms, we don’t have time to focus on ethnicity, race or class. We are there to see about the patients and ensure everything goes smoothly. We have been ‘brothers’ for many years and that will never change. Our Indo-Trinidadian doctors and nurses are among the brightest and most caring in the land. I extend Happy Arrival Day greetings to all my Indo-Trinidadian friends, the community and the nation. May God continue to bless us all.”

Minister in the Ministry of Education Lisa Morris-Julian said: “I am a (Gen D’ Arime), meaning true ‘Arima people’. The Morrises grew up alongside the Maharajs, Singhs and Fordes. We all shared our meals and looked out for each other. Arima is a truly cosmopolitan borough and a model for integration. I appreciate the rich diversity that Indo-Trinidadians brought to our country. The Indo-Trinidadian community is a rich part of our tapestry. Let us be our brothers’ keepers and move forward with a spirit of love and unity. I wish the Indo-Trinidadian community and our blessed nation a Happy Indian Arrival Day.”

Secretary of La Ciudad De Brazil Christmas Society Constance Nanhoo-Coker said: “I extend Happy Arrival Day greetings to the Indo-Trinidadian community. I admire the work ethic of my late parents (Babwah and Councillia). They encourage their children to work hard and make a better life for themselves. I love to cook curried meats like duck and roti. I love to dance to chutney music.”

“I urge all the children and young people to read voraciously about the contribution of the various ethnic groups—including the Indo-Trinidadians. They would gain a deeper appreciation for the labour of love that went into developing our nation. I delight in reading Indian folk tales. I admire the work of retired professor of history Dr Brinsley Samaroo, who had mapped the contribution of Indians in the Caribbean,” added Nanhoo-Coker.

Economic stress

Former planning minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie said: “I take the opportunity to wish all Trinidadians a Happy Indian Arrival Day. I hope the approach to the celebration will be one of unity, cohesion and national purposefulness. It is clear from talking to people in the Indian community they feel a certain sense of pressure and unease at this time. That is also typical of many people in the urban environment who have seen great difficulties after Covid-19, and who are finding themselves in great difficulty trying to make ends meet.”

Tewarie added: “The Indian community feels pressured in a number of areas like agriculture and food production where they want to contribute. But they feel unappreciated. The other is in the educational achievement where children and young people try to achieve. But they feel their achievements are viewed with suspicion and scepticism.”

“A third area in which they feel a certain amount of pressure relates to small and medium enterprises. They feel not enough attention has been paid to this sector during the Covid-19 period, and in this period in which everyone is hoping for a recovery. Apart from that, there is a general unease in the society because of economic stress almost everywhere—from middle class to people who are unemployed and unemployable. This is a feeling that pervades the society regardless of ethnicity. The challenge is to create the conditions for recovery. There is need for a shared prosperity and political inclusion in order to ease this sense of anxiety, and worry about the present and the future,” added Tewarie.

The St Augustine campus’ assistant lecturer at the History Department, Dr Aakeil Murray, said: “We are grateful for the significant contributions that they have made- not just in food, music and dance, but in overall spheres of education, business and politics. We have examples like former prime ministers Basdeo Panday and Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Then the late former president Noor Hassanali.”

“We can take example and pride in their ability to fight against the colonial system that did not accommodate their cultural practices and belief systems. They were able to organise themselves and protest; thereby ensuring their culture and beliefs were retained and legalised. They were able to conduct open-air cremations and marry under Hindu rites. They have shown themselves to be resilient and hard-working,” added Murray.

Veteran calypsonian and historian Dr Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust), who is also the 2019 recipient of the Order of The Republic Of Trinidad and Tobago, said: “The Indo-Trinidadians have arrived and they have ‘disturbed’ the world of Carnival, calypso and culture. They have impacted on it tremendously and positively. Not only in the names of East Indian communities, but in their cuisine and storytelling. When we study the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, we have to understand and accept their contributions.”

He added: “The late Ras Shorty I (Garfield Blackman) experimented with the Bhojpuri rhythms and created soca. He was hailed as the ‘inventor of soca’. The late Claude and Frank Martineau, promoters at Spektakula, brought Indo-Trinidadians into the tent. He brought artiste Chris Garcia to sing ‘Chutney Bacchanal’. Indians have played their part, and we extend best wishes to them.”

Tremendous contribution

President of the Carapo Shiv Mandir, Naresh Timal, said: “I extend Happy Arrival Day greetings to the Indo-Trinidadian community. I thank everyone who has helped us get back on our feet after the vandals defiled our temple. We have forgiven them. I admire the resilience and tenacity of our ancestors, as they made the trek across the kali pani (dark waters) from India. We have contributed immensely to the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Sancho Francisco, fashion photographer and son of iconic calypsonian Sparrow (Slinger Francisco), said: “I have a lot of Indo-Trinidadian friends. I extend Happy Arrival Day greetings and salute their sterling contribution. My dad has created a few songs with the chutney and spicy lyrics. He took the time to honour the Indo-Trinidadian community and pay homage to their language, using words like dulahin and cuisine. ‘Sexy Marajhin’ is, by far, the song that is most recognised and enjoyed. It is the number one among his fans.”

Former trade minister Vasant Bharath, who has lived and worked in India, said: “We share many common experiences that have allowed us to morph into the melting pot we can be proud of. The Indo-Trinidadians continue to maintain the cultural practices that have enriched our society. The people who left India to seek a better life for themselves are the real entrepreneurs. India is a fascinating place. You have very wealthy and very poor. The crime rate is very low, simply because they accept it as part and parcel of their lot (karma).”

“On this occasion, let us celebrate the courage and the foresight of our forefathers. They created a better life for themselves, and in so doing helped build a stronger and better nation. We thank them profusely for their outstanding contribution,” added Bharath.

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