I have started the home and family Indian Arrival Day celebration here in Toronto and invite my Indo Caribbean friends here in North America and back in the Caribbean to do their own from next year on whatever is Indian Arrival Day for them. This is an item from our Indian Arrival Day Committee 1977 agenda whose time has come. It is something separate from the big public celebrations and shows.
Home and family Indian Arrival Day celebration is a personal honouring of your jahaji ancestors with your family in your home. On May 30 for the Trinis, May 5 for the Guyanese and so on, you gather your relatives and especially the living parents and grandparents at your home, dress like the jahajis would have dressed in the 19th century, yes white dhoti and kurta for the men and long ghangri and orhni for the women. You cook and eat what they would have eaten, dhal and bhat and bhaji style and water to drink, no meat because most of them didn’t eat meat, no alcohol because they didn’t drink alcohol, no fancy jalebi and kurma and sahina because they couldn’t afford those things. I will get the appropriate Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian prayers for your ancestors, but if you know those already, use them.
You dedicate everything in their honour and memory, thank them for their sacrifice and hard work that has allowed us their descendants to live the good life we have now, and thank them for passing on our Indian heritage and culture under very difficult situations. If you can, read something appropriate from your holy scriptures. Play some of that old time music. Youtube has loads of old stye ghazal and tumri and tassa and biraha.
Finally, gather around the group and let the elders tell their stories and recount the family history from the jahajis to the present time, especially for the benefit of the younger ones so they will know their heritage. Yes, you can play some of the more recent Indian music too, as that is also our inheritance, but please this is not a bacchanal carnival party, so some dancing could be okay but remember this is a family function to honour our ancestors and past generations.
A good model for this is the American Thanksgiving Day when they honour the Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers who came to settle in what is now America. Our ancestors too came to save and then settle in 11 colonies in the Caribbean.
Write it down in your calendar, friends, and then do it.
In my case here in Toronto on May 30, two good friends came to my house, and I immediately adopted them as family for the day. We ate the vegetarian food, mostly in the rice and dhal and bhaji style, and then we sat down and talked long hours about our family history and specially our efforts to locate those who had come from India and our work in trying to find their home villages in India and any relatives we may still have in India.
A most satisfying day. Next year we will do it bigger and better.
I don’t know why I took so long to start this home and family Indian Arrival Day.