Indians must stop foraging and start living
Sai Baba, in a discourse, made reference to the lion and its significance as an emblem of India. He said that the lion is king of the jungle not because of its power and strength but because of its sense of contentment. He said that a lion only eats when it is hungry and once filled it would not kill a prey. The lion hunts its food and after it has eaten its fill it walks away and allowed other animals to enjoy the left overs. The lion does not store or horde food. It is confident that when hunger comes around he will be able to eat.
Ravi Dev wrote that the middle-class provides leadership (The Legacy of Terror, ICDN.Today, February 25, 2018). This may be true but the bigger issue is to define ‘middle class’. I guess that middle class is defined as that group that has a steady stream of income and has more time for reading, reflection and charting a destination for the community or country. It would mean that a middle class would have already taken care of basic necessities-food, clothing and shelter and some cash slashed away for the rainy days.
More importantly, a middle class is supposed to have the ability to participate in discussions and debates with a focus on the governance of the country. This would include vying for political power and actively influencing the appointment of a Commissioner of Police and other officials of the institutions of state.
Within the last 40 years Guyana, T&T and Suriname have been greatly affected by emigration to North America. The Guyanese fell victims to the machination of global politics that saw the removal of the PPP led by Dr Cheddi Jagan in the 1960s and the installation of the PNC led by the dictator and racist Forbes Burnham.
In Suriname the government was overthrown by the military led by Desi Bouterse in 1980. Fifteen members of the government were murdered in a planned execution by the military dictator. The Indian population responded by flight to the Netherlands. It is this vulnerability that questions the Indian community’s claim to middle class status. A community that cannot defend itself is not worthy of respect-at least not by its women.
The coming to power of the PNC led by Brigadier David Granger has raised concerns, not just locally but internationally about a diplomatic cable released by the US Embassy in Georgetown on June 27, 1974. The document identified Brigadier Granger, then a major in the Guyana Defence Force, as ‘an anti-East Indian racist’ responsible for the murder of Indian election workers in Guyana in 1973 and the seizure of ballot boxes to return Forbes Burnham to power.
Institutional racism is alive in T&T. Indians on scholarships abroad are generally told that there are no jobs in the state sector befitting their qualifications. The reality is that the unwritten rule of the state is to deny Indians jobs so that they would remain abroad. V. S. Naipaul returned in 1961 hoping to find a job and discovered that there was no intention of the government to hire bright Indian students. Many Indians wanting to return to serve the country are denied the opportunity. In most cases their applications are not even acknowledged.
The role of a middle class is critical to the social stability of a country. It is the middle class that makes big sacrifices to ensure that its members are well educated. They are not a burden to the state for health care or housing. They are the ones that pay taxes to keep the economy afloat. They also contribute to the social stability of the country.
The middle class acts as a check on the executive and a buffer between minority ruling elite and the masses. It is the middle class that produces the professional class: economists, doctors, managers, artistes, journalists, sculptors, writers, poets, etcetera and boldly critique the performance of the government of the day.
Most world leaders come from middle-class backgrounds. Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Mao se Tung of China and Mahatma Gandhi were not from elite background but middle class who identified with the plight of the masses. These individuals were not only middle –class but had a lion mind set, that is a kind of self-contentment where they rise above personal and family security to struggle for the liberation their country from foreign occupation.
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, is an example of the lionised middle-class. Coming from a chai-trader (tea sellers) family, Modi would have been challenged to meet material labels that identify with modern society. Nevertheless, Modi successfully disciplined his mind not only to reading and listening to discourses but also engaging in meaningful social uplift programmes since his teens. A member of the RSS- the largest voluntary organization in the world- Modi served as a pracharak or full-time volunteer in depressed communities across India.
Our aspiring leaders have to adopt this lion quality and overcome this ‘hand to mouth’ existence. Indians need to spend less time “foraging” for food in the supermarkets. Not surprisingly within the past decade there has been a proliferation of supermarkets and fast food outlets! We are more pre-occupied with where the next meal is coming from than who govern us. If we had shown more interest above our stomach we would not have had Keith Rowley and the PNM in power today!
Our business acumen does not go beyond bars, doubles vending and bar-b-que. We have also developed a penchant for cars given the proliferation of ‘no down payment’ loans. We have little interest in developing the skill sets to repair vehicles. We just want to bling! This is our brand of middle-class!
This brings me to another point. What is the role of retirees? Is it to hang around a play whe machine? There are few retiree engaged in meaning work in the community. Why aren’t they engaged in social programs to uplift the community? This is a group that has adopted a culture of uselessness. Indians should find time to look at the faces that serve as directors in Teacher’s Credit Union and Tecu Credit Union. In those institutions they would see that the black middle-class minds are actively engaged in work for the welfare of the entire community and not just “foraging” for their grandchildren!
The unfortunate passing away of Sridevi, a talented actress, is a revelation of a lack focus and failure to accept reality. At age 54 Sridevi was a success story in film. There was nothing more she would have desired from the film industry. Unfortunately, she was a victim to the culture of “you looking beautiful.” To win such accolade many like Sridevi resort to surgical procedures and other dietary rules to look the “acceptable way.”
Hema Malini is a celebrity in her own right. Now in the evening of her life Hema is an active social worker promoting Bharat Nayam dance, offering her name to programmes to bring education to rural children. Hema Malini is also an active member of the ruling BJP. Her biggest appointment is not a date with her hairdressers!
Back in Trinidad there was no Phagwa celebrations in Aranguez for the first time in more than 75 years. Until the 1960s and 1970s Phagwa was celebrated at two venues-Orange Grove Savannah, Tacarigua and Aranguez Savannah. The Orange Grove Savannah died in the 1980s but the Aranguez celebration flourished. This year-2018- the Phagwa Council cancelled the events.
Has jouvert killed Phagwa in the Corridor? Where are the so-called activists in the San Juan district? Are Indians cultural orphans dancing to reggae, soca and dance hall music? Does culture and identity mean something to the Indian middle-class? Does middle-class culture include celebrating Phagwa? Or, is it simply two cars parked in the garage in a house in a gated community?