Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 12th 2013 Contents Contiuned from Page A33
Then there was the contention that the sugar industry
was anti-innovation. The characterisation might have
been true in Jamaica and Barbados, but not in Trinidad.
In Trinidad, the sugar industry made every attempt
to modernise itself.
Before Indians came in the 1840s, there had been
changes, the economy was being restructured, the
English brought their mode of management, and the
sugar duties were allowing Britain to import other
sugar, which meant a drop in price. And shortly after
that you had a depression, which caused a lot of estates
to go out of business. So you had a changing situation
which brought new estate management, new personnel
and so on.
If you look at the data for the importation of machin-
ery, you see every time there is an economic problem
you see machinery imports peak. So to say the sugar
industry was backward is rubbish.
Your thesis was one of progress and optimism.
I don t want to romanticise. Indentureship was a
hard thing. There was nothing easy about it. I mean,
they signed up, and yes, they would make it work for
them, but it was a very difficult thing. Like immigrants
everywhere, they had second thoughts. Did I make the
right decision coming here? People committed suicide.
There was one case of a woman--- something happened,
and her husband scolded her, and she put on all her
jewels and her best clothes and committed suicide
It was not easy, you have to admire those people for
their stamina and courage. I take my hat off to them.
Their belief as demonstrated by their action---they
were simple people, but they had a set of values that
carried them through.
What do you think of the Indian community now,
having studied their origins?
It seems like they ve made a lot of progress.
I wonder sometimes about their moral development.
It s gone a long way from where it started. Previously,
they were part of the ethos of caste, and the basis of
that was ascription---everything was predetermined,
ascribed to you by virtue of being born.
But here in Trinidad, everybody got compressed, all
that went out.
Well, not entirely. The Maha Sabha still insists it s
a Brahminical organisation...
Well, in terms of priestly point of view, but the
correlates of caste do not function, the things that
make caste function do not exist. You might use it
as an epithet---you might say a guy is a Brahmin, or
What happened to Indians was that they were shoved
into a new situation and they had to learn something
new. They had to learn that their own self-interest
was foremost and not subsumed into class.
What do you hope this book will accomplish?
I wrote it for the average person. I know it s daunting,
but I tried to write it in such a way that you didn t
have to be a scholar, or have training in history, to read
it and follow the argument. So I hope that everybody
would be able to read the book and understand what
Indians themselves went through. This idea of looking
at Indians through black eyes I reject totally. I don t
mean anything racist by that.
Do you plan to do any follow-up?
I want to be able to locate the logbook for the ship
on which my father came. And I m going to be looking
at sources nobody has done.
Your father came from India, and how
did that inspire or influence your work?
It was one example of wanting to under-
stand of why people came...to get some sense
of the motivation for people coming, you
have to look at the district magistrates notes
of the people they were examining. How
many people didn t know what they were
signing up for? Who was rejected? What were
the circumstances of their recruitment?
From my own research, I found accounts
written by about eight persons in the church
archives in Canada.
Anything to close on?
My hope is the average person can read
this. And when you read a book, you ask
yourself certain questions about the book.
You don t have to be a scholar to do this.
But you want to be sure, when you read a
book, what you re getting is based on fact,
An Indian girl in Trinidad from around the
PHOTOS COURTESY ANGELO BISSESSARSINGH
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Indentureship was a hard thing
Indians working on a sugar estate in the 1890s.
A group of indentured Indian musicians
from the 1890s.
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