Indo-Trinis: 167 years of rich heritage

It has been a long time since the first set of indentured labourers set foot on Trinidad and Tobago’s shores – 167 years to the day this week to be exact. Yet, the food, fashion and jewellery, which were part of the cultural heritage they brought with them back then, remain popular among the East Indians, as Seeta Persad reports in this article for Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday.

Today, people of all walks of life are involved in the Indian culture here in TT.
The music and dance have made great strides, evolving into modern day art enjoyed by all. The religious festivals of Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr and Phagwa are now also on the country’s general calendar.
The fashion has also taken this country by storm, and various Indian trade fairs now regularly visit here and offer low prices in jewellery and clothing, including saris, shalwar kameezs, gararas, kurtas, dhotis and shararas.
While over time a lot has changed in the Indian fashion industry, to say that Indian fashion has evolved during that time would be an understatement.
In the last few decades there has been a complete turnaround in the Indian fashion industry and it has become a global brand. Indian designers and Indian clothes have made their presence felt all across the globe.
Here in TT, the simple shalwar kameez (dress and pants with orni) and the most elaborate saris and gararas are worn at many formal functions, fashion shows and Indian weddings.
Both men and women are always searching for the perfect Indian wear for their public appearances.
The foods are also popular at the fast foods outlets or at restaurants throughout the country and big name hotels here. While the first fast food that comes to mind is doubles, there are many other Indian delicacies that are popular as well, including saheenas, aloe pies, kachries and samosas.
These fried delicacies are served with amchar or chutney made with tamarind or mangoes and seasoned with hot peppers and garlic.
As for the line of jewellery, the bangles are most popular. There are a wide variety of colours, designs and make of bangles at the current Indian trade fair at the Divali Nagar in Chaguanas or at the several Indian shops throughout the country.
Women are also going after matching jewellery with necklaces, earrings and bindi (head jewellery) to accompany their saris or shalwars at formal functions.
Among the festivals, Divali stands out as the most popular. This highly religious event attracts people of all walks of life in TT. Everywhere people light deyas as a symbol of light over darkness during the event. Also, for the festival of Phagwa or Holi, many citizens join in as they throw abeer (red liquid) on each other as a sign of victory of good over evil.
The music is by far the most influential, as it was one of the main mediums that brought people together in the early days and remains so.
Today it is a main attraction in bringing thousands of people together for events such as Chutney Soca Monarch and the annual Mother’s Day and Father’s shows and other concerts.
The simple religious groups that existed in the rural districts throughout the country have been the breeding ground for thousands of singers and dancers who have now become international stars. In examining the life of popular acts of today, one is sure to trace their roots to the simple temple services, which featured songs and dances done by the early settlers.
Today we have Raymond Ramnarine, Rakesh Yankaran, Rasika Dindial, Jit Samaroo, Mungal Patasar and many others who are now top-rated performers earning a living from the arts associated with Indian culture.
Hindu weddings are also very popular and friends and relatives look forward to three days of celebration to mark this occasion.
All through the weekend days of weddings, Indian foods are served, music is played and people look forward to wearing the latest fashions coming out of India.
The Bollywood film industry and the local soaps on Zee TV have also influenced the younger generation in fashion, music and dance. The connection between India and TT has grown significantly as many artistes are now involved in cultural exchanges.
The Indian High Commissioner to TT, Malay Mishra, has also been doing a lot work introducing new items of art and culture to TT.
At this time, NIHERST is hosting an exhibition on the science and technology of ancient and modern India.
The exhibition runs until July 20 at the Divali Nagar site in Chaguanas and is endorsed by the National Council for Indian Culture (NCIC). It is free and open to the public from 9 am to 7 pm weekdays and 1 pm to 9 pm on weekends.

For the original report go to http://www.newsday.co.tt/features/0,160822.html

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