Today, January 10th is World Hindi Day. It is celebrated annually on this day to commemorate the efforts ofthe Government of India to popularize Hindi since 1975. But what significance does this have for Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) and the wider Caribbean?
New Year’s Day 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the contractual agreements of Indian indentures in T&T. May 30th, 2020 will mark the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship, the Fatal Razak, that brought Indian indentured laborers to Trinidad to work on the estates. A similar situation existed in Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, Belize, Grenada, the French Antilles and St. Vincent.
The descendants of these immigrants form a significant part (37%) of the composite population of Trinidad and Tobago. Thus, Indian culture, especially the Hindi language, is an integral part of this cultural tapestry. Since the arrival of these laborers, Hindi as a form of cultural expression- conversation, song, poetry, literature and prayer- has been with us in T&T. The Ramacharitramanas, a poem written by the famous Hindi poet, Tulsidas, has been recited for just under two centuries. Our religious songs are sung in Hindi. Hindi was further reinforced with the introduction of Hindi cinema in the 1940s. 1990s also saw the first Indian radio station in T&T with mainly Hindi content. That number keeps growing as the decades pass by.
Thus, a day like World Hindi Day bears much significance to Caribbean countries like T&T. In T&T, Indian cultural organizations like the Hindi Foundation and the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC), since their inception, have been advocates for the promotion of Hindi as an essential aspect of our Caribbean heritage. The Hindi Foundation, in its efforts since its beginning in the 1980s, has paved the way for Hindi to be taught at both primary and secondary schools. The Foundation’s collaboration with the High Commission of India to T&T has brought to fruition Hindi classes at the Centre for Language Learning at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus.
The Indian High Commission offers Hindi classes to the people of T&T at centers across Trinidad employing the services of local Hindi teachers. The NCIC in the past has held workshops for media personnel and artistes with a strong Hindi content.
The Indian Government, through its embassies has funded annual celebrations of Hindi Day on a grand scale. In 2020, the High Commission of India again will be sponsoring a gala celebration to mark World Hindi Day at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts, San Fernando (SAPA) on Saturday, January 18th. at 6pm. Entry to this event is free to the public. Indeed, there is much to celebrate regarding Hindi as an integral part of our Trinbago identity!
Also, in a Caribbean
context, the preservation of Hindi as a language is a great achievement. Yet
still, we see colonial languages like Spanish and French taking precedence over
heritage languages like Hindi in our education system. The teaching of heritage languages like Hindi,
Patois and Yoruba in our school is quite essential for a better appreciation of
our cultural diversity. This is a critical step in freeing the minds of our
youths from the prison of colonialism and assisting them in embracing their
Wishing all a happy
World Hindi Day 2020!