An Indian greatest fear in Trinidad and Tobago is to be labelled a racist by a black man. This fear has grown into a phobia and it is stifling the growth and development of the community. The Indian cannot afford to ignore this mental disease but confront it head on and resolve it.
Fortunately, blacks don’t have to label Indians racists; Indians are doing it to themselves. The one criterion that an Indian use to define another Indian is his degree of racism. This phobia of being labelled a racist make the Indian fearful of dealing with issues impacting on the community from outside. Such issues are totally ignored. Indians convinced themselves that there are no external threats and that the enemies are within, hence a creepting implosion.
A similar situation confronted Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurushetra thousands of years ago. Arjun became obsessed with the conflict within his family and forget his role as a warrior. The fear is so great that it can be likened to a mother eating its young. The mother forgets her role to protect and nurture; instead, because of this mortal fear of the threats, she turns on her children.
This behavior has been part of village life until the 1970s. Employed in the fields, with little hope of improving their social conditions the norm of the Indian community was drinking alcohol and then fighting with family members, neighbors and friends. Pelting bottles at each other’s home was the norm. Wedding nights became an arena for drunken brawls.
Today, with a more educated group, with so many having tertiary education, one would have expected the behavior of the community to push beyond, to cross the Caroni and venture into new territories and cultures to discover new ideas that can enhance and transform for the better. Sadly, little of this has taken place. The culture of the cane cutters of yesteryear persists; the fear of dealing with the wider societal ills is paralyzing us.
This attitude is best reflected in the papers presented at conferences on East Indians in the Caribbean. Much is said about the recruitment process and the role of the arkatiyas (recruiters); the voyages across the Atlantic; life on the plantations, etc. However, our academic consistently fail to address contemporary issues such as crime, discrimination in the work place and the disparity in funding by the State for Indian culture. In fact, when a few individuals raise these issues they are quickly branded ‘controversial’ and ‘racists’ not only by blacks but those Indians who have appointed themselves guardians of the community. For example, blacks used the State machinery to rectify the flooding in Greenvale. However, the Indian “village intellectuals” are afraid to talk about flooding in Bamboo, Debe, Woodland and Barrackpore!
Why this mortal fear to speak out? Indians have developed a dependency mentality. Like Tobagonian who are dependent on the THA and State machinery for employment, a growing number of Indians are becoming employed with the State and private companies.
Young graduates must demand the dismantling of the State in so many aspects of our social and economic life. So many companies and institutions in education, health care, public utilities etcetera, should be removed from the State and placed in private citizens’ hands. In this way Indians would know that they have more than a monthly salary to looking forward to, paying a mortgage and sending their children to one of those government-run educational institutions
The success of the Modi government in India relies heavily on the support owners of family-run businesses. This entrepreneurial spirit is necessary to develop our frontal lobe which I think has become a junkyard of outdated information. We need to become more enterprising and risk taking rather than aligning ourselves with political parties and “behaving ourselves” so that we can have an HDC house or a promotion in the workplace.
The Indian mind is very fertile. It has always been kept alert for centuries. However, in this so called Caribbean culture and environment, we have confined our minds to a very limited space. It is like living in the barracks where our social and personal growth is regulated by the plantation. Hindus must break away from this barrack mentality!
Indians must be aware of leaders with big fish, small pond mentality. It is time for us to take to the ocean. Basdeo Panday has demonstrated to us that we must widen our political support base. In the business arena we must applaud the growth of Xtra Foods and Pennywise to compete with the 1%. Their spirit of entrepreneurship is second to none.
In the area of SEVA, we see the work of the Port of Sai Centre serving hot meals to the poverty stricken community of East Port of Spain. The Pasea Sai Centre that build houses for needy families must be applauded.
“Think Big, Act Small” should be our motto. No fanfare and glitters, only hard work and striving toward our goals. It is time for us to awaken that latent entrepreneurial spirit in us and stop living in fear of others and retreating into ourselves. We must learn to live large, make the entire world our home. It is time for Indians to cross the Caroni!