Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 4th 2015 Contents As I ve been thinking about
Indianness in the
Caribbean, I ve been par-
ticularly struck by the represen-
tation of Indian men in our his-
tory, in scholarship and in novels
by Indian women.
These representations have
prioritised necessary honesty
about male violence and domi-
nation in family life. Yet, they
also overwhelmingly engage
national stereotypes of Indian
men s patriarchal backwardness.
I ve been left looking for nar-
ratives and analyses that track
an alternative story, one of an
emancipatory tradition in Indian
communities and families, and in
Indian men s ways of articulating
I first began to wonder about
this when reading my students
essays in my course on Men and
Masculinities in the Caribbean.
For this assignment, students
had to interview their fathers or
grandfathers about how gender,
or ideas and power associated
with manhood, has shaped their
understanding and experience of
A decade ago, there were far
more stories about their grand-
mothers and mothers experi-
ences of violence, rural hardship,
self-sacrifice and fear, and their
grandfathers or fathers alco-
holism, emotional unavailability
and investment in a sexual divi-
sion of labour that eschewed
shared responsibility for care of
and in the home.
This year, far more essays than
ever before wrote about fathers
care, nurturing, housework,
commitment to be different
from men a generation or two
earlier; support for their daugh-
ters independence and empow-
erment, and more equitable co-
operation with their mothers. I
noticed that shift particularly
among Indo-Trinidadian stu-
dents essays, which had long
provided insight into generations
of their families gender negotia-
tions. What are the changes to
Indian masculinity that we may
not be noticing? The fathers
who astound by quietly and lov-
ingly accepting their lesbian
daughters choices and partners,
the ones who surreptitiously see
their daughters and their chil-
dren when even their mother
has stopped speaking to them
for marrying the wrong kind of
man, the ones who d rather their
daughters be well-educated and
single than pressured to marry,
the ones whose children felt
they could talk to them about
Was this new or had I become
more familiar with one side of
the history of Indian masculinity
and fatherhood? The one that
Indian women had to challenge,
manoeuvre, survive and even
escape? Although definitely real
since migration here, it s the
other side that I began to also
want to trace.
This is the story of fathers,
even indentured labourers, who
sent their girl children to school
from the late 1800s. I had
always valued the fact that my
great grandmother went to
school as a child in Princes
Town, just after the turn of the
century, but had not ever con-
sidered it as only one example of
Indian men s progressive
approach to their daughters
education. This led to women
like Stella Abidh, born in 1903,
becoming the first Indo-Trinida-
dian woman medical doctor in
1936. It was her father, Clarence
Abidh, a trade unionist, school
master and County Council
Representative of Couva in the
1920s, who insisted that she
could travel to Canada to study
to be a doctor not a nurse. Place
his encouragement against both
her grandmother s wish to see
her marry a suitable boy at 16
or, the head of the Presbyterian
Church, Reverend Scrimgeour s
view that, "I would not send my
daughter to study medicine,
because Indian girls are morally
weak and would not be able to
stand those pressures."
And, there s the long progres-
sive tradition in local Ahmaddiya
practice of Islam, one which has
critiqued imposition of hijab,
encouraged Muslim women s
public speaking from the 1930s,
challenged taboos that disal-
lowed menstruating women
from bodily embrace of the
Qur an, and considered women
breadwinners, not only wives.
Decades of Caribbean feminist
scholarship has argued that Indi-
an women were never just
oppressed, docile, passive
dependents, but were active
makers and movers of their own
desires and histories, whatever
the expectations of men, family,
religion and state.
Though I never fully noticed,
that scholarship also documents
men s support for women s
rights and equality, how their
gendered beliefs changed over
their lifetimes and how they
easily accommodated changes
desired by girl children.
Now, I m thinking, if I wrote a
book on Indo-Caribbean femi-
nist trajectories through study of
Indian men s histories, what
could I tell about their myriad
investments in women s free-
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Firstly, let me state publicly that I
am not against the number of
public holidays we enjoy in this
country. I wish that be made abun-
dantly clear. I think we deserve
Those who have to work have a
unique opportunity to increase their
income and those at home can
spend some time with their family.
Not all time spent with a family can
be deemed quality though. It de-
pends on the calibre of the family.
My concern is our knowledge of
the specifics of each holiday. We
must be made aware of all the rele-
vant data pertinent to each particu-
lar day. We have public holidays for
example Christmas, Eid, Divali, non
public holidays eg Carnival, and cre-
ated holidays examples being Mon-
days, Fridays and days before and
after public holidays.
The Prime Minister in his or her
wisdom can allocate a public holiday,
say if we won a gold medal at the
Olympics or qualified for the Fifa
World Cup. In light of what is tran-
spiring now, this alleged qualifica-
tion needs to be seriously
questioned, but then again Spain
won a World Cup.
When the public blocks a road to
highlight a particular problem or the
police have road blocks, voilà, you
guessed it---another holiday.
Today is Corpus Christi, a public
Saturday, May 30, 2015 was In-
dian Arrival Day, a public holiday. Fri-
day, June 19, 2015 will be Labour
Day, a public holiday.
Although I am not a betting man I
am putting it to you many Trinis will
make Friday June 5, 2015 another
holiday because of its close proxim-
ity to the weekend. If I lie, I die.
Prove me wrong, I dare you.
All beach houses and hotels have
been fully booked from Wednesday
to Sunday. Ah lie?
The country will be in the auto
Corpus Christi is a Catholic public
holiday celebrated in Grenada, Saint
Lucia, Austria, Brazil and T&T.
I am grateful for the holiday but I
believe all those who enjoy it must
be made aware of its significance.
The day celebrates the tradition
and belief in the body and blood of
T&T has 14 public holidays and
two days for Carnival.
India and Colombia have 18 each.
Finland has 15. Holland, Hungary and
the UK have eight each. Note well.
T&T is a model for the rest of the
world to emulate. Many religions at
work peacefully. Take a bow people,
we deserve it.
We in T&T celebrate all religions,
events and holidays.
What about a Heroes Day to cele-
brate winning a world beauty title, a
gold medal, qualification for a world
cup, all things that we have done
and will do again? We will revisit the
past and plan for the future.
We are all brothers and sisters
with different mothers but one fa-
God bless our nation on the occa-
sion of Corpus Christi.
Be safe on the roads and at the
By the way, Corpus Christi 2016 is
going to be on May 26, a Thursday.
Here we go again.
What has Sepp Blatter's resig-
nation from Fifa got to do
with T&T politics?
The answer is everything. Having
written recently that it appears
that Blatter and Kamla Persad-
Bissessar seem to have a lot in
common, some people might think
that I have a crystal ball, but on the
contrary I am just connecting the
Realising that, led by the US At-
torney General, the Huns are at the
castle gates, Blatter has decided to
run, but on his terms for the time
being. If his decision was not self-
serving he would have left immedi-
But expecting to stay in office for
maybe a few months, it would
seem that there is some house
cleaning to do before leaving.
Knowing that there is no honour
among thieves, Blatter must realise
that having displayed no remorse
over the demise of some of his for-
mer executive officers will likely re-
sult in some of them singing like
Pavarotti, the late great Italian
tenor, with possible adverse conse-
quences for him.
What's the link with T&T politics?
Since Kamla has denied any knowl-
edge of Jack Warner allegedly fi-
nancing the UNC-led 2010 election
campaign (an open secret) and the
THA election, using his Sunshine
newspaper, Jack has started to sing
with promises of more verses and
choruses to come.
But in typical Trini style we are
all consumed by the latest baccha-
nal and not looking down the road.
Just supposing (reminiscent of
Composer's famous calypso) that
Warner can establish without any
doubt his role as a major financier
of the UNC, which he is likely to do,
then the really critical question be-
comes the true sources of his
funds. This is where our politics can
become commingled with Fifa's pol-
And just as Blatter needs a few
months to do his house cleaning, it
seems that Kamla may need some
This is a classic case of observing
the letter of the law but not the
spirit of the law.
Fifa's politics like T&T's politics
are both machiavellian in style and
DIARY OF A MOTHERING WORKER
CHANGING ROLE OF THE INDIAN MALE
The wonderful land of public holidays
Fifa politics same as T&T's politics
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