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Observation on the Indian Diaspora

The Shattered Link
Perception, Realities & Social Distance

Gary Girdhari

Part I deals with the Indian Diaspora, showing that the link between the Diaspora and the mother country India has been shattered. Over the years the social distance grew wider. People in the Diaspora underwent (still are) varying degrees of assimilation and indigenization.

Part I

The metamorphism of the Indian Diaspora is analogous to an infant who is naturally and socially bonded and dependent upon its mother; but as he grows older, matures and marries, he develops an independence from that parent….

The topic that I am presently writing about bears reference mostly to Guyana Indians, which obviously has many similarities with Indians from countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Tanzania, Uganda, Suriname, Trinidad, Jamaica and other smaller islands of the English, Spanish and French speaking Caribbean.

When I was a boy I used to hear music of two types in Guyana. They were categorized as ‘blackman’ music and ‘coolie’ music. Indians in my village would generally not listen to ‘blackman’ music, and vice versa. That was the status quo. There was no animosity; every one accepted this benignly as a matter of fact. Incidentally, in the early years (before the mid-1950) the only music heard in Guyana was English-Western oriented. Also, only a few individuals could have afforded a gramophone, or a radio to listen to the ‘Indian Hour’ on Sundays, which came later. There was however lots of Indian music in Indian communities, that were not on the public airwaves, e.g., gana bhajana, moujh and tassa drumming at weddings and tadjah, bhajans at the mandirs, and chowtal during phagwa.

Nowadays, if one visits my village or anywhere in Guyana (and in New York), one finds lots of Indian music, some quite different, whose identification or rhythm was unknown in my early days. The new music is mostly reggae, soca, and a new variant called soca-chutney – the variant sung by artistes such as Drupattie, Kanchan, Rickey Jai, Apachi Warrior, Soca Raja, and others. The dance is also quite different, and the lyrics (as well as general speech pattern) have been ‘rasta-ized’. Why the change? What happened to the typically conservative Indian during this relatively short time? It is obvious that some cultural metamorphism has taken place, partly due to the immense forces of Western schooling, religion, philosophy, dress, food, music, and partly to miscegenation, both biologically and culturally.

In the earlier years (i.e., during indentureship 1838-1917) the cultural patterns and modes of behavior were fairly stable. There was still a strong devoted cultural link with the ‘Mother India’. Indians in Guyana were very interested in India, and yearned for news from their homeland. This they would obtain occasionally only when fresh batches of immigrants arrived. They wanted things that they were accustomed to. They brought their village technology, their customs and traditions, the music of their villages, and the songs of their festivals and religious ceremonies – such as the use of the ‘coolie’ plough, the juat, the jaata, the chulha, tawa, belna, the sarangi, bansuri, dantal, jhajh, lathi, hackia and so on. They brought seeds and plants, such as rice, mango, jamoon, sem, karaila, barahar, jingee, ninwah, and so on. Indians in Guyana were still very much Indians. During the Indian Independence movement in India they were vociferous in support of India, and idolized the Indian freedom fighters (Gandhi, Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and others). When independence was won for India (and subsequently) there was obvious Indian pride: on India Independence Day they would wear as much as possible their Indian national garb, including the Nehru cap; they would march; they would sing Indian patriotic songs; and they would assemble at the mandirs for services. They were still Indians, only temporarily out of India; or so they empathized. (Partition in India however did cause some estrangement between some Hindus and Moslems.)

Many Indians repatriated after their contract ended. Most did not, for various reasons:

    1. They were free of indenture. They bought land and farmed rice and other crops – and could make a living;
    2. They did not want to return to conditions of poverty and scarcity;
    3. Or to extortionist landlords;
    4. Or to the authorities (the Sepoys who emigrated to escape prosecution) after the Indian Mutiny in 1857.
    5. Some who wanted to return found the choice difficult because the contract (1873) catered for the return of the individual, spouse (who were indentured) and only children under 15. Note that many got married, and the contract did not provide for any family member outside of the contract.
    6. Many felt liberated from the confines of caste, from the obligation of the oppressive dowry system, from the practice of sati (sutee) and other negative social customs, such as the semi-slavery in Bihar (‘kamuiti’), thuggie, and infanticide practice.
    7. Also, they did not want to be subjugated to the defiling ‘purification’ practice, having crossed the kala pani and losing their caste.
    8. Although there was considerable emotional pressure to return to families and friends in India, the "pull" factors in the colonies outweighed the nostalgia. Eventually, they developed new kinship. They had their ship brothers, their jahagi. They were not alone anymore. Now that they were free, they could do as they wanted, having been liberated from the reprobate traditional practices and oppressive cultural constraints. Some even became upwardly mobile by changing their caste in transit and after.

How were the indentured immigrants looked upon by their kith and kin back in India? Basically, since they broke caste (by crossing the kala pani ) they were automatically ostracized, tainted, and regarded as impure untouchables (pariahs). Their kith and kin had a low esteem for them – they knew that most were of the lower castes, or were poor, unsophisticated and uneducated. They knew that many of the women folk were recruited from the bazaars in India. (The low sex ratio of women to men resulted in polyandry, wife-murders and suicide in all recipient sugar colonies – conditions compelled by the shortage of immigrant women in the colonies.)

Despite the obfuscating barriers, the Indians in the colonies developed stable communities with remarkable resilience. They lived a relatively insular life which was largely due to the isolationist policy of the plantation. The majority withstood efforts to be christianized and acculturated in the western culture. Many refused to send their children to school for fear of the christianizing influence. All of this helped in their uphill struggle to preserve their identity. For this they were ostracized, called heathens, and were spoken of in a pejorative manner. Inevitably, a few fell by the wayside – the wife murderers, alcoholics, drug addicts, and beggars.

However, the fervor and cultural affinity with India remained with these pariahs for a long time, and for some, up to this day! Religion was important and played a pivotal role in cementing the fragile links. Thus, there developed a dual loyalty at different times. As noted, this was seen at India's Independence Day celebrations. Recall also the India cricket team to the West Indies in the 1950’s (and subsequently) when Guyanese Indians welcomed and revered the presence of the Indians cricketers (such as Poly Umrigar, Mandregar, Apte, Gupte, Sunil Gavaskar and others). Many supported the Indians fully, others with mixed feelings of loyalty. Some even remarked that they supported Rohan Kanhai and the India side – at the same time.

Assuredly, the link became tenuous since the commencement on the kala pani. It was just a matter of time that the psychological transmogrification would take place. Among themselves, there was an assimilation process, i.e., the indentured peoples from the different regions of India were becoming one – a new Guyanese Indian, the jati. The first generation born in the colonies developed with a lesser affinity for India, and defined home as Guyana (or Trinidad, Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Jamaica, the French West Indies, South Africa and other East African countries). As later generations came into being the social distance grew wider. Yet, for many there was/is still a cerebral connection which is more of an amorphous aspiration than a real yearning for any desirable reality.

An acquaintance of mine, after listening to his mother’s stories of life in Tamiland, wanted to trace his roots and meet his blood relatives in India. He traveled to India about 25 years ago; his meeting with his relatives was friendly and sincere, but mostly was one of curiosity. It seemed that there was no mutual relationship or connection – they did not speak the same language, eat the same kind of food, listen to the same kind of music – they were total strangers, with a degree of apprehension.

Many Guyana Indians simply desire to set foot on Indian soil just to make that incarnate connection to their ‘motherland’. A couple of years ago my mother visited India partly with that purpose in mind. She stopped at Kanpur to possibly find anything regarding this place of her father’s birth. Again, a similar kind of apprehension – she experienced a profound sense of insecurity and fear when she ventured out, and her flight of fancy was betrayed.

Some Guyanese Indians make claims that non-resident Indian nationals (NRI) generally exhibit an air of superiority. These NRI in Guyana treat Guyanese Indians with a measure of disdain, presumably knowing of, and stigmatizing Guyanese Indians as the sons and daughters of the wretched of the then India soil. They appear aloof and arrogant and, very often, they would attempt to exploit the Guyanese Indians. This observation might be either an accurate indictment of those NRI (Kirpalani, Thani, Puri, Kant), or may not be a true reflection of NRI generally, since the Indian nationals in Guyana were of the business or professional class, and presumably treated their compatriots in India in that way also – a simple matter of class prejudice.

If indentured Indians looked at India as ‘Bharat mata’, how did the Indian nationals feel about the Indentured Indians? Were the Indentured Indians regarded as true children of India? Are Guyanese Indians today regarded as Indians? The answer seems to be rather equivocal. India never assumed a motherly / fatherly / hegemonic position regarding Indians in the Diaspora, even when there were/are known injustices, as in Guyana, Fiji, Uganda and other places. Instead, India maintained a benevolent neutrality, and played by international rules of nation states autonomy. In recent times, ‘cultural’ education was offered by the Indian Cultural Center in Georgetown, Guyana. Other forms of ‘education’ were offered by Indian movies, missionaries and swamis, but these were more business-oriented or proselytizing in nature.

The link is certainly shattered, and there is a yawning social distance. Nowadays, contacts between Caribbean Indians and Indian nationals (including NRI) are rare, just cordial, and mostly inquisitorial. Most decidedly, they are not mutually accommodating. This is evidenced in New York among the second Diaspora of Caribbean Indians where there is little commingling with NRI. India's attempt to proffer all Indians (PIO) access to visit India without restriction (but with payment of $1000) cannot be viewed as magnanimity, but as a subtle and benign form of financial lure in its favor.

Despite the many commonality borne out by the obvious physiognomy, the fact remains that the Indian Diaspora have changed and we (them and us) are now different. The familial continents have move apart as the social and cultural tectonic plates shift. This is true, not only for those in the former colonies, but also in the large metropolitan countries – and between the NRI and India, and the Caribbean Indians. (As an example, the most notable bigoted outburst, showing polarization (and ignorance) was made in 1998 by Probir Roy of the Federation of Indian Associations in New York, see Guyana Journal, Nov. 1998.)

Assimilation and acculturation are occurring fast, especially among the young, whether from the Caribbean or from India. They are slowly but certainly adopting Western mores and values, aided of course by the bi-directional flow of the Bollywood scene. The popular bangra, which is not unlike the American rap, also helps in the process. These pressures notwithstanding there seems to be a re-awakening (in Guyana and New York) among some young people vis-à-vis Indian movies, songs, dance, fashion, religion, and food, which is leading to a revival in the search for roots, albeit minimally. Our religions, moral and cultural underpinnings may still be Indian, but I daresay our psychical bond – closeness and affinity – is now Guyanese or Trinidadian, Surinamese, as the case may be, albeit in a hyphenated state.

IN CONCLUSION, I should point out that this is the apparent general feelings of the Indians in the first and second Diaspora: that they were abandoned, considered outcasts; and that just when they needed help from India, at the times when they were/are threatened with ‘ethnic cleansing’, brutal political and social victimization, and actually forced into a second Diaspora, India, like the rest of the Caribbean and the entire Western World, turned its back. Is this an indictment? Maybe. Is there room for co-existence and reconciliation? Maybe. Are the ethnic Indians in Guyana, Trinidad, Fijian, Tanzanian and other countries now regarded as Guyanese Indians, Fijian Indians, Trinidadian Indians, etc., or are they now hyphenated Indo-Guyanese, Indo-Trinidadian, Indo-Fijian, etc.?

The same questions may be posed for any other ethnic group, and obviously, the same kind of wrinkled eye brows and forehead will develop.

Perception and Reality of the Caribbean Indians
(or is it the Indo Caribbeans?)

Part II shows that even though there has been assimilation and indigenization, the Indian Diaspora is still being marginalized.

Upon thumbing through V.S. Naipaul The Overcrowded Barracoon one can read the following lines:

    "Trinidad," I said. "In the West Indies. And you?"
    He ignored my question. "But you look Indian."
    "I am."
    "Red Indian?" He suppressed a nervous little giggle.
    "East Indian. From the West Indies."

This is precisely the kind of quizzical encounters that I also experienced many (29) years ago when I was a student in Wales, UK, when supposedly educated people would query, "But how come you are not black?" Obviously, the perception was that all West Indians are Africans. About 10 years back, I often met with a number of non-Guyanese at a real estate office in Richmond Hill, New York. Here, they were accustomed to meet customers who were predominantly (East) Indian Guyanese. And when they met, for the first time, a Guyanese family who was black they were astonished because they felt that all Guyanese were Indians with a special accent. Here was the opposite perception. Thus, perception can be a result of ignorance. In New York and elsewhere however the popular image of the Caribbean is generally that it is of African people.

This article calls for a recognition of the false impression, and then for a release from the myth.

The Perception – in the Caribbean and the United States
The perception has evolved in a rather benign manner as to cause a perpetuation of a myth. Allahar & Varadarajan (1994) note that "the East Indian has historically been defensive, inward-looking, thwarted, endogamous, excessively protective of his culture, of his women, children and the land." Throughout their history, the Caribbean Indians have been deliberately ostracized, marginalized, scorned and dismissed as uncivilized 'coolies', initially by the sugar planters, and later by all others in the colonies. But this does not answer the basic premise of the perception. Caribbean historians, educators and leaders have allowed the status quo to remain unchanged within their own confines, in all areas of learning experiences. And migration to other countries eternalizes the assumption.

Here are some negative perceptions of Caribbean East Indians:
Rex Nettleford (UWI, Mona, Jamaica) referred to "the 'centrality of people of African ancestry' to shaping of the new Caribbean ethos". I believe it was Errol Barrow (Prime Minister of Barbados) who once said that the Caribbean man is the black man. I believe also that it was Vivian Richards in 1989 after the 5-1 defeat of England referred to the West Indies cricket team as the only black team in the world. Richards was then captain of the WI team; and he meant black. Also, one must recall Tom Dalgety's 'house that Africans built'.

In New York, the Caribbean (or West Indian) culture is also presumed to be Afro-centric, as is observed in the annual (Labor Day) West Indian Day parade on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. Also, the television and radio perpetuate the fallacy with TV programs such as Caribbean Classroom, Caribbean Dancehall, Culture Show, Caribbean Body Talk, Caribbean Up Close, Caribbean Billboard, Caribbean International Network, etc., and WLIB radio.

Then there are some established institutions that nourish the perception:
In Washington, DC, there is an Institute of Caribbean Studies that speaks of the Caribbean Diaspora in the U.S. Its Board of Directors, officers and staff, who are from Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and other Caribbean countries, are Africans; membership is African; its activities and programs relate to Africans. In fact, it is 100% pro-African. While it is all right to be pro-African, it is nevertheless sending an illusory connection regarding Caribbean peoples. It should say correctly Institute of African (or Afro-) Caribbean Studies, to be accurate, or to be inclusive to all Caribbean peoples.

Again, in the U.S. some Universities and Colleges conduct courses in Caribbean Studies. To name a few: The Virtual Institute of Caribbean Studies at Iona College, NJ, Indiana University, Florida International University, Hunter College, Medgar Evers College, York College, and St. John's University. The Caribbean Research Center at Medgar Evers publishes Wadabagei, a Journal of the Caribbean and its Diaspora. There is no mention of (East) Indians in any program or study, nor on the journal editorial board and editorial staff! Again, the wrong message which incidentally is not only subliminal, but also fairly overt.

(Comment by query: Why is it that other colleges do not conduct studies on the Caribbean when the neighborhood that they service has a large Caribbean population?)

Now, even among those Colleges that conduct Caribbean Studies, none has included (East) Indians (or any other ethnic group) in their curriculum development. York College has recently started a History course called The Caribbean since Columbus where 'Indian Immigration and Indentureship' is taught by Dr. Basdeo Mangru. In fact, all the other course studies are related either entirely to African or African and Hispanic history and culture.

There has always been the myth that the Caribbean is comprised exclusively of African peoples. Of course, the Caribbean has been perceived as the place of sun, rum-and-coca cola, calypso, steel band and reggae. It is perceived of as a homogeneous ethnic people with a common feeling, history, food, music and other essentials of culture. Close observation shows that this assumption is false; but nevertheless, the perception is being communicated sanitized out of a presumed ignorance, or insensitivity to the other inhabitants, or there is policy of a deliberate alienation of the excluded, or there may be a combination of reasons. Carnival in Trinidad and Mashramani in Guyana are examples of present day exhibition of this alienation, which is not reflective of the inhabitants.

Indians are not just a marginal group; they are about 20% of the Caribbean population. In Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname their numbers speak for themselves. Allahar observed that "While comprising in the majority in Guyana and perhaps Trinidad too, the East Indian is in the minority in the macro-Caribbean milieu. Historically, this has made him defensive, and conferred on him an alien ethnic identity...."

This view and political behavior prevailed during the Cold War era and persists even afterwards. Why is this so? Unlike the cognitive dissonant behavior in the Africans, some argue that typically East Indians were resilient to rapid and easy acculturation and creolization, and this was an impediment to their acceptance and exposure. Because of the contractual nature of indentureship East Indians fought against all forms of cultural congruence, at least during the early years. By their logic, it made sense for them to maintain their identity because they always felt that they would be returning to India after their sojourn of indenture. Or, so they thought! Acculturation and assimilation have been relatively slow, but there have been many, albeit limited changes.

The Re-emergence of Identity
Now that the Cold War is over, there have been varying degrees of salience of identities throughout the world, including the Caribbean, and with heightened secularization, resulting in anomie among peoples of different ethnicity and religion. In contemporary global affairs, ethnicity has been the defining cause of conflicts and separatist movements in Bosnia, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda/Burundi, Sudan, Liberia and Guyana. (See Yusuf Bangura, 1994). Previously, peoples, population and nations debated issues on an East/West, Communist/ Western basis, that is, ideological considerations assumed precedence over ethnic/ religious/national values. Now however, the tendency for integration and assimilation into the current mainstream has slowed down, and a reverse tendency is operative, which encourages individualistic identities within the nation states throughout the world; the former USSR, Yugoslavia and East Timor are prime examples. And with serious consequences!

In the past, colonialism robbed peoples of their history and culture, replacing these, fully or partially, with foreign and sometimes ambiguous values that have been insulting to the psyche of the colonial people. But later, the fight for political independence saw new blood whose intellectualism disavowed the conflicting values, and sought nativism. New nation states asserted their own history and culture, self-respect and national pride. Three notable personages whose works explain this scenario are Eric Williams, Cheddi Jagan and Walter Rodney. During that time nationalism and the song of freedom surfaced above individualism; the common good in unison assumed paramountcy, even in plural nations. In a similar manner, the identities of tribes, religion and ethnicity were de-emphasized in societies that embraced the Marxist or socialist ideology. In either case, the all ahwee is wan mentality was a mistaken path in the political process in many plural societies. Explaining and directing the political and economic processes on the basis of class alone without giving recognition to and dealing with 'race', ethnicity, religion, and culture in the Guyana context (or in any plural society) stifled the cultural and spiritual growth of most of the people. There should never be mutual exclusion.

The Reagan-Gorbachov era and glasnost brought about, among many changes, the fall of the USSR, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War, with consequential sweeping 'democracy' movements. In many countries thenceforth the tendency for integration and assimilation into the dominant mainstream was rejected, and an identity assertiveness was embraced within nation states. Unfortunately, extreme demands are resulting in violence, bloodshed, and war – all in an attempt to regain some primal identity and cultural pride.

In Guyana
Similarly, upsurge of ethnic pride is observed in the Caribbean, especially in Suriname, Trinidad and Guyana. In Guyana, it is not only that peoples are gradually moving away from the ideological prescriptions of the Cold War, but also the fact that formerly alienated groups greet the new freedom with an abundance of spirituality and creativity – since democracy was restored in 1992. People thereafter strive to assert their rights to their ethnicities and culture with pride, and demand their rightful place in society, that is, a pluralist society. In general, this is a good thing, but can become dangerous when there are extreme demands.

My thesis generally is that just prior to, during, and post independence, the colonial nations and their people adorned themselves with the symbols and emblems of freedom, independence and nationhood. All the shackles of colonialism were shorn away, and self-assertion and a sense of national pride gained prominence. People learned of their own past – their history, writings, customs and religious practices, art forms, music and dance, and all the other things that collectively reflect culture and nationalism. These are the tangibles and intangibles that define culture of a people and the psyche of a nation; and in Guyana these eroded during the '28-years' of arrogance, deceit and dictatorial postures.

Therefore, it is not only that peoples are gradually moving away from the ideological prescriptions of the Cold War, but also the fact that formerly alienated groups greet the new freedom with an abundance of spirituality and creativity. In Guyana, this happened after democracy was restored in 1992 under the leadership of the late President Cheddi Jagan. People thereafter strive to advocate their rights to their ethnicity and culture with pride, and demand their legitimate place in the pluralist society. Many Afro-Guyanese saw Indo-Guyanese cultural emergence and visibility as "they pon top".

In Guyana, freedom and democracy augured an ambiance for the expressions of those cultural values that were denied certain sections of the population. Indeed, the largest section, comprising of Indians, felt a deep sense of relief. They saw a new beginning, and embarked on resuscitating diverse aspects of their culture, such as in writing, poetry, music, dance and religion – without enduring fear. Indo-Guyanese culture (which has been isolated for too long) expanded, and quickly gained momentum, and was discharged openly in a matter-of-fact manner – as it ought to. In response to this, presumably, other groups of people (but particularly African people), not accustomed to seeing this overtness during the '28-years', felt somewhat subjugated psychologically, and threatened in a sentient way. Thus presumably the birth of the Association for the Cultural Development of Africans (ACDA), the Pan-African movement led by Tom Dalgety, and the National Emancipation Trust, led by Lorri Alexander. This explanation may be subject to criticism since the Afro-centric groups may have been born for the same reason put forward for the Indo-Guyanese cultural re-emergence, i.e., they too (as were all Guyanese) were denied their freedom under the undemocratic PNC regime, and simply wanted an assurance of their identity. Further, since both arguments may be valid, dual determinants may be operating synchronously.

Is this new awakening good or bad? It seems clear to me that there is always a great need for historical and cultural continuity of any group of people. But specifically, the answer depends on how the leaders exploit the situation. It is alright to embrace one's culture without acrimony, without antagonism, and without deprecating other people, recognizing that other cultures are not better or worse, but merely different. Hence, it is quite appropriate for anyone to propagate his/her culture without being (or being labeled) a racist. If however ethnicity (and other facets of culture) are blindly pursued in a fundamentalist and ultra chauvinistic manner, in isolation, then there is serious cause for concern. And such ethnic formulation must be denounced. In other words, the promulgation of ethnic and cultural parallelism must clarify and diffuse, rather than obfuscate and befuddle the thorny issues.

For too long East Indians in the Caribbean have not been given their true place in the history of the region. Their absence in the cultural and political milieu has been condoned with benign denial through history, and later, according to some, by a deliberate policy of alienation. And thus the false perception, not only in the Caribbean, but also overseas.

There is overwhelming evidence that numerically Caribbean East Indians are not a marginal group. They are also very vibrant economically in Trinidad. Guyana, Suriname, and to a lesser extent Jamaica. They participate and often excel in all spheres of life. By their profound leadership they have also helped to mould the political culture of the Caribbean.

Therefore, East Indians cannot and should not be excluded from the political process in the Caribbean and the U.S. Perhaps, Caribbean East Indians should not now be labeled as "sojourners" any more. Indeed, the overarching political and economic culture should take full cognizance of their presence and their contributions in all spheres of life, and be sensitive to their varied cultural and social needs at all levels – so that they become mainstream. Further, the different nation states in the Caribbean should be radically reformed to reflect their ethnically plural characteristics. And public education within the region and overseas countries like the U.S. should be the vanguard effecting the change in mindset and false perception, rather than aiding in the false image.

Fundamentally then, there must a mandate for a reification of the so-called Caribbean culture, and a full recognition of the diversity of all its peoples. Nehru's utterances are so appropriate: "A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance. . . . I'd like to modify this to read: "… when the spirit of the people long suppressed finds utterance...." Gayatri Spivak's challenges us when she asks, "Can the subaltern speak?" Maybe, it is time that all progressive and well-meaning people collectively implore: "Will the subaltern please stand up and speak?" Shani Mootoo speaks of the East Indian "floating rootlessly" in her story, and observed, "Roots diluted, language lost. Religion held onto only by the thin straps of festivals." As observed by Frank Birbalsingh (York University, Toronto), V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas (1961) is centered especially with the Caribbean Indian "fundamental sense of placelessness, marginalization and homelessness". And even now, a deprived Caribbean identity! The "multiple Caribbean cultures, each consisting of distinctive ethnic elements, are in a continuous process of indigenization or creolization. African elements are further along the process because they have been in the Caribbean longest, except for the aboriginals and Europeans… the predominantly Caribbean model undoubtedly prevails, but not in Guyana and Trinidad (and Suriname), where the large influx of Indians has altered and is continuing to modify historic African predominance." This observation by Birbalsingh cries for faithful and honest recognition of the equal rights of all peoples in a plural society.

Gary Girdhari is the Editor of Guyana Journal.
Post Script: This article addresses a specific issue as it relates to Indians in the Caribbean and the United States. It is clear that many other groups will find resonance with the generalized thesis.

Lost horizons
by visions
golden gains

"Cheene Chalay"
an easy game
eager talk
earnest faces
life's ambition
a train ride away

from Gorakhpur
Oudh's Palace

tormented soul
"coolie lines"
hearts, clan and caste

Kidderpore Docks
heart-rending shocks
the tide
swung the Whitby
the Kaala Paani

(From "Lost Horizons"
by Laxhmie Kalicharan. 1985)