Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rambachan reflects on Indians in T&T and celebration of Corpus Christie

One hundred and sixty eight years ago, 225 individuals stepped off the deck of the Fatel Razack and onto the British colony of Trinidad. They were the first to leave the land of their birth, India, and everything that was familiar to them and secure in their lives, and embark on a journey of 14,000 miles across choppy waters and to an unknown land and an uncertain future.

These people were fleeing a life of hardship and oppression and seeking the hope of a brighter future for themselves and their unborn children. They arrived in Trinidad and other parts of the West Indies to find broken promises and abusive and exploitative overseers. But they did not give up on their dreams.

They worked hard and saved their wages. They sacrificed so that their children could have opportunities outside of the sooty cane fields; opportunities to become professionals in the fields of science, commerce, trade and all other vocations where they are today economic beings who rank among the movers and shakers of the world.

This is the legacy of those courageous souls who braved the uncertain waters of the Kala Pani from 1845 to 1917, and battled various forms of oppression since. The consciousness of the East Indian people has grown over the decades and they have come a long way from being a recalcitrant minority. The barriers of psychological, cultural, economic and political dependency that characterized indentureship have been broken and replaced by a culture and value system that is based on discipline, self-denial, perseverance, a strong work ethic and family life – the same value system that took our forefathers through the difficult periods of the indentureship era.

The contribution of the descendants of the East Indian labourers go far beyond music, songs, dances and other art forms, culinary arts such as roti and curry and a rich cultural heritage that includes festivals such as Phagwah, Divali and Eid-Ul-Fitr.

By working the sugarcane fields, the Indentured labourers saved the Caribbean territories from economic doom when slavery was abolished - it is the 147,596 individuals who crossed the Kala Pani in the 70-year period of indentureship and the 75 per cent of them who chose to remain instead of returning to Mother India, who worked this land when no-one else would.

The contributions of the indentured labourers and the generations after them have turned Trinidad and Tobago into one of the economic powerhouses of the region.

Our forefathers have taught us how to struggle and what we can accomplish with our shakti (internal divine power). They have taught us that we can achieve anything we work towards. They have shown us that we can have the future we want if we are willing to work for it.

In similar fashion, the values and ethos of a man some two thousand year ago have remained with humankind over the centuries, showing us how to love, show kindness and live in peace with each other. Corpus Christi is about communion, and community: of living with and accepting each other and using our differences and diversity to make us even stronger as a people.

It is perhaps quite serendipitous and fortuitous that Indian arrival and Corpus Christi have fallen on the same day this year, to remind us all that even in the disparate origins and significances of these two holidays that we can share in the beliefs, hopes, and achievements of each other.

As we celebrate Indian Arrival Day, and Corpus Christi, let us take a moment to appreciate how much of our lives today has been impacted and shaped by the decision of the East Indian immigrants to come to the Caribbean and, and by a man who sought to teach us the simple lesson of always having love for one another.

Happy Indian Arrival Day and Happy Corpus Christi 2013.

Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan
Minister of Works and Infrastructure 
May 29, 2013.

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai