Hindus must shun the house coolie mentality and increase their entrepreneurial prowess. It is only when we oversee our affairs that we are going to enjoy the success we deserve. We cannot continue being the faithful subjects of Her Majesty. It is that mentality that helped the British to rule over us for two hundred years and continue to have us living as second class citizens.
More importantly, we need to change our thinking, that is, stop thinking like victims and start thinking like winners. If that attitude is adopted, we would become more proactive, that is, taking decisions to put us on winners’ row.
The Jews have been persecuted for centuries and their survival was always hinged on learning and private enterprise. Shut out from employment in the state apparatus, the Jews ventured into private enterprises -finance and crafts- and today they play a major role in global finance. Moreso, their economic strength has assisted them not only to carve out a homeland called Israel but also to protect it from hostile neighbors. Today Israel, with a population less than 10 million, is among the top 10 largest economies in the world with a GDP of $527 B and a per capita income of $55,000.
Hindus must take a reality check to ascertain where we are in the Caribbean diaspora. For example, if you are to rate, one to five, with five being the highest, how much you would give to the Hindu community in Trinidad in the following areas: academia, media, politics, banking/finance, business, sports, business, entertainment, religion, national security, health care and education?
Trevor Sudama, a former Member of Parliament, and Minister of Government raised similar concerns about East Indians in a series of columns in the Express Newspaper between January 1990 and October 1991. The articles were compiled in a book titled The Political Uses of Myths or Discrimination Rationalized. In the preface Sudama wrote: “I have addressed the question of their role and significance in the economy, polity and society; the unequal treatment to which they have been subjected and the rationalization of discriminatory practices against them.”
I am not at all asking to rate Hindus vis a vis these institutions on just performance. For example, many Hindus hold the view that they are doing well in the field of education in terms of winning scholarships and graduating with professional degrees. My area of concern is the shaping and influencing of policies and making decisions. For example, do Hindus make policies for education, that is, do they determine the contents of the curriculum and the choice of textbooks?
What about Hindus influence in media? The efforts of Jagriti TV & Radio, Bhakti TV, ICDN, Sankhya Television are commendable. Is there a media house to rival Guardian Media Ltd and Caribbean Communication Network? Can we say that these two mainstream media houses have been fair in their reportage on the Hindu community?
If there is some glimmer of hope, creativity, and innovation, it exists in the field of entertainment. Kudos must go out to our chutney singers-Ravi B, Raymond, Rakesh, and several others who have kept the culture going. I must also congratulate the Mohammed family for reviving Children of Mastana. This initiative continues to provide a forum for our youthful talents to find expressions. I must not forget our tassa groups and the singers of folk songs at maticors and weddings. Divali Nagar and Ramleela must be added to this list and the many kirtan and bhajan groups across the country.
I must also compliment the teachers who provide classes in Bharatiya music, song, and dance such as Rana and Susan Mohip, Sandra Sookdeo, Shivanand Maharaj, and others. The teachers and volunteers who help prepare students for the annual Baalvikas must not be forgotten. The effort to keep alive our Phagwa must not go unrecognized.
One area where we continue to make big strides is in our traditional cuisine – roti, doubles, pepper roti, geera pork, kuchela etc. Family enterprises continue to market the culinary skills of the community before the nation, and they have been well received. Mia Motley, the Prime Minister of Barbados, can testify to this truth!
I must also recognize many of our small business enterprises and professionals who are doing very good in their respective fields. The big challenge for them is to expand and this would entail availability of capital. With the capital markets limited in the country, it can be a daunting task.
Our aim should be to graduate from house coolies to entrepreneurs if we wish to find our salvation in this country of Trinidad and Tobago. The ruling class in this country, less that 1% of the population, does not work for anyone but have others working for them; even the officers of the State are at their behest!
We need to build financial institutions to pool our resources so that we can raise capital for investment. It is not enough to be employed as CEOs or managers in others’ businesses. We must become majority shareholders and directors of businesses so that we can make decisions and shape policies. Hindus must take charge!