Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 2nd 2013 Contents A9
June 2, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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Dr Kumar Mahabir, who is also an assistant
professor at the University of Trinidad and
Tobago and author of several books, said his
contention about those who celebrated Indian
Arrival Day was that it was an historical event
or commemoration of it and therefore should
not look like a celebration such as Divali.
He said, "When I go to events for Indian
Arrival Day I would like to see emphasis on
history and education.
"I find the holiday should have a wider
national appeal than Divali because we are deal-
ing with a part of the history of Trinidad and
"I want to see more presentations and lectures
on indentureship and the Indian cultural her-
Mahabir said the re-enactments that took
place were few and far between.
He said there should be more educational
presentations which should be linked to history
"Divali is a cultural event but Indian Arrival
Day should be an historical event," he said.
Mahabir said the majority of the audience
who attended shows did not know and could
not understand Hindi and almost all the songs
were in Hindi.
He offered two suggestions to come to terms
with the language barrier---let the emcee explain
the songs in English or provide a screen with
subtitles while the songs were being rendered.
"I think this is a practice that should be stan-
dardised because you would appreciate the
songs that are being rendered and at the same
time you are learning Hindi," he said.
Culture loss is not peculiar to the Indian
"We are more Americanised than we know,"
The growing number of fast-food outlets
and constant viewing of cable television con-
tributed to Indians being Americanised, he said.
Whether people wanted to accept it or not,
Mahabir said American culture had seeped into
the culture through the manner of dress, lan-
guage, food and songs.
"Yes, there is culture loss but it is not peculiar
but we have to transcend the imitation of Bol-
lywood film songs and compose more sensible
"Chutney provides a forum and has potential
for addressing current issues in our society."
Maharaj said his organisation s main concern
had always been preservation and continua-
He said, "Whatever we do, we try to preserve
the traditions as close as possible to what our
ancestors brought here.
"In the present world of instant communi-
cation it is difficult to maintain that kind of
posture without being influenced by other cul-
"So like everybody else, we Hindus and the
Indian cultural traditions are also being influ-
enced by other cultural forces."
Maharaj said for instance, Bollywood was
starting to resemble Hollywood.
He said the most important message was
the scriptural injunction.
"We follow that rigorously but the form and
format of how you worship, that has been
"Sixty years ago, if you went to a temple---
what was regarded as a temple---everybody sat
on the floor with what was called a paal (rice
"Today, that is no longer the case. Many of
the temples are air-conditioned and they have
carpet and comfortable chairs."
Maharaj said those adjustments to suit the
times were taking place.
He said the scriptures were sung in Hindi
and Sanskrit in previous times and the inter-
pretations in Hindi. Today, he said, they were
done in English since the younger generation
knew very little about the Hindi language.
"All these various adjustments to moderni-
ty...we are responding to the modern times
otherwise we will become irrelevant," he said.
Hindus were regarded as illiterate around the
However, with the establishment of the Maha
Sabha, Maharaj said "our people now have the
highest offices in the land."
"I stand back amazed. In every area of activity
we are there because of education.
"We cannot be slotted back into anonymity
and the credit must go to the Maha Sabha
because all this transformation started after
On education, Maharaj said Hindus only
came into the system in 1952.
"At that time, the Hindus were regarded as
totally illiterate, as a matter of fact there was
a statistical digest in 1950 which said that over
50 per cent of Indians were illiterate.
"And if you took away the Christian-Indians
it meant that the Hindu-Indians were about
75 per cent.
"We had no schools."
Maharaj said now "little Indian girls" are in
the engineering and construction professions.
Women have made great strides, said pres-
ident of the Indian Women s Group of T&T,
She said, "Starting from the very top, we
have the first female prime minister and that
in itself...politically, we have reached.
"Definitely in the political arena the glass
ceiling has been broken and of course in the
economic arena women are managing so many
She said most times women have always
been self-sufficient and moreso because there
were quite a number of single-parent families
because the divorce rate was high.
"But this is an historical fact because women
have always managed," she said.
Persaud-Juteram said women have also shift-
ed from being subservient to becoming inde-
She said, "That is primarily due to the fact
that women are being educated. Long ago,
especially, Hindus, they preferred to educate
boys but now I think there is a more even dis-
tribution where they are educating the girls
and they are succeeding so well.
"The trend has really changed."
'Indian Arrival part of T&T history'
...it's more than a celebration---Kumar Mahabir
Thursday marked 168 years since the arrival began of approximately 150,000
registered indentured labourers to these shores from India.
History books state that 154 ships made 319 voyages from India to Trinidad; many
labourers died on the ships. Each ship accommodated up to 500 passengers. However,
the famous Fatel Razack, the first ship to bring indentured labourers from India,
carried 225 on its one and only voyage to T&T. The Fatel Razack left India in February
1845 and arrived in Trinidad on May 30.
Indian immigration to this country spanned the period 1845-1917. Immigrants
endured deplorable living conditions on the journey. When they finally disembarked at
Nelson Island, they were fed and were able to rest for a while before they were sent
to the estates.
Last week, the Sunday Guardian got perspectives about Indian culture and
traditions since the arrival of the Indian labourers.
Anthropologist Dr Kumar Mahabir said he believed that Indian Arrival Day was an
historical event and not a celebration like Divali. He said there should be a wider
national appeal since the arrival of the indentured labourers was part of T&T's history.
Secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj said his
organisation should receive the credit for the progress by Indians.
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