A review of Sushma Swaraj’s India in the Caribbean from The New India Express.
The Indian diaspora in the Caribbean is one of the most vibrant across the globe, says India’s Minister for External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, in a just published book titled, “India In The Caribbean”.
The book was initiated and coordinated by Indian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago Gauri Shankar Gupta and edited by Atlury Murali.
“Though numbering less than two million across the Caribbean islands, they (Indians) occupy a position of considerable power and influence. They have produced some of the best artists, writers, spiritual leaders, political thinkers, doctors, lawyers, scientists and sportsmen. Indian festivities including Diwali, Holi, Maha Shiva(Rathri) and Ram Navami are celebrated with traditional fervour and gaiety. Indian films and music are as popular as they are in India,” Sushma Swaraj said in a message in the book.
“I, therefore, take this opportunity to pay tribute to the sagacity, fortitude and courage of these valiant people far away from India.”
Former T&T Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran, in a message, said that as with other diasporas, the Indian community does have an affinity with the home country.
“That affinity was kept alive by films, letters and the ties of kinship. The earlier generations understandably were nostalgic. Globalization today, however, is triumphant. With growing convergence among nations and states, nostalgia will recede and some memories lost. While not losing their heritage, the Indian community is first and foremost part and parcel of the citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago,” Dookeran noted.
He said that the journey was long, at times arduous and difficult but always inspiring, in discovering a new Caribbean identity.
Indian High Commissioner Gupta, in the foreword, noted that relations between India and Trinidad and Tobago are deeply rooted in history and culture, though their initial history has been painful and brutal.
“During the colonial era, after abolition of slavery in 1833, the British faced extreme shortage of labour for sugar plantation in their sugar producing colonies of the Caribbean. To overcome this problem, over half a million Indians were transported to the region as indentured workers (often called as Indian coolies) with false hopes and promises. Most of these workers came from (what is now) Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Western Bihar, while a smaller number came from (what is now) Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Many of them even died on the way during the long voyage,” Gupta added.
“India In The Caribbean” is a classic presentation, away from the routine issues such as cramped huts, and singles out some of the achievements of the Indian diaspora today which are both educational and forward-looking, thus ensuring a firm place in the overall scheme of challenges which they faced earlier on in their sojourn to Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the Caribbean.
In its 275 pages, the book, which was edited and published by India Empire Publications, India, carries articles like “Customs and Traditions of East Indians in Trinidad and Tobago”, “From Girmityas to Nation-builders: the Indo-Caribbean Experience”, “Role and Evolution of Broadcasting”, “Memory. Indian Films and the Creation of Indian Identity in Trinidad”, “Challenges to Tracing Roots in Trinidad”, and “Culture and Traditional Way of Life”, among the 24 on offer. Each one of the contributions is stimulating, refreshing and thought-provoking – enhanced by in-depth bibliographies and researches.
“India In The Caribbean” is worth reading by all, irrespective of religious, cultural, geographic or ethnic orientations as it gives an eventful insight of the Indian diaspora which has a few years short of 200 years on this side of the Atlantic.