The works of Nobel laureate, V.S. Naipaul were the subject of discussion at the on-line seminar organized by the Indian High Commission to mark the 175th Indian Arrival Day, May 30, 2020.
The Indian Diaspora of Trinidad and Tobago was inspired by its own sacrifices is on the cusp of yet another voyage of mobility, a Caribbean identity, according to former Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran. He was speaking on the theme, “The Challenges of the Indian Diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago”.
Dookeran added: “Surely, a history built around achievement and creation and in a twist to Naipaul’s provocation, could well be a prophecy of times to come. This ironically will be taking the Nobel Laureate seriously, although his country of birth is yet to acknowledge his own famous legacy on the world stage.”
“The Caribbean is a place of multiple identities, always in contest but bounded together as some authors in Le Monde des livres—literary critics from Guadeloupe, Haiti and Martinique—aptly called a post- colonial manifesto anchored in human and environmental rights long before they were placed on the agenda of the West—wedded to a global convergence in trade that precedes the World Trade Organization, and now the birth of the emergence of mobile diasporas in the contemporary global stage,” Dookeran said.
Indeed, German historical economist, Andre Gunder Frank traced the origin of globalization to the growth of trade and market integration between the ancient SUMER and INDUS civilization to the Third Millennium B.C. Dookeran said that the Indian Diaspora around the globe had its genesis in that growth of mobilization, and came to the Caribbean and to Trinidad and Tobago in continuation of that historic movement of peoples to a place which is a creative hybrid of Island People from Cuba to Suriname in today’s Caribbean civilization into that “brave new world” which started the escapade of the Indian Diaspora’s journey to Trinidad and Tobago.
Dookeran said that the Indian Diaspora was in search of its own IDENTITY in these waters, and transplanting its culture and religion so many thousands of miles away from their home was in itself a huge undertaking of sacrifice, suffering and survival. “But the human spirit of hope and progress propelled their achievement, as they began to share the wider aspirations of the new society, yet to remove the yoke of a suppressed political order.
Dookeran, now Professor of Practice, Institute of International Affairs, UWI, said that this then provided strength and courage to embrace the call for EQUALITY in its broadest, and more specifically for equal access to education and quality of life of issues.
Dookeran noted: “The rural urban dichotomy, the state of hegemony of public goods and unequal recognition of culture and religion were platforms for contest. The negotiations were tense, but soon it found common ground, especially on the labour front to aspire for a wider cause—equality and higher freedom—that was also growing on the streets of the land, and expressed in populist events, that begun to shake the order of things. This was, by now, the embodiment of the ancestral home of India into a new nationalism on Caribbean soil”.
“So when independence came, the challenges turned to POLITICAL RIGHTS and an opportunity to nurture and shape the new democracy. There were many paths, and many paths were indeed take in the politics of a new nation. Shaping of the institutions, forging the rules of the game and adhering to the right principles of governance were common goals of the society that increasingly defined these goals as our collective problems. And, in this effort, there were conflicts and contradictions, fears and duplicity, and in differing visions of the future, in the political quest of discovering a national character,” Dooker pointed out.
Dookeran referred to a documentary on the Lion House in Chaguanas, immortalized as the House of Mr. Biswas, in honour of Pundit Capildeo Maharaj who built the house, In a documentary shown at Central Bank in 2016, it was described as, “iconic and a testimony of the East Indian Arrival in the Western World, and it was indeed a profound expression of the, “national character”.
Dookeran added: “No wonder, political figures at the time, a mathematician, Dr. Rudranath Capildeo called at the Queen’s Park Savannah for the future society to, “take up arms and adopt socialist values”, and C.L.R. James, a philosopher historian, “sounded a clarion call for individual human rights, and envisaged a unified Caribbean experience and culture”, adding that the Caribbean, as a human society, was unique.