Indian Arrival Day, celebrated on May 30, commemorates the arrival of Indian Indentured labourers who arrived in Trinidad in 1845 on the Fatel Razack. Their sole purpose was to provide a labour force on the sugar and cocoa estates after African slaves were emancipated.
WE spoke to two women to find out what this day means to them.
“My forefathers would have known the consequences of their actions to boldly move across the Atlantic. Leaving their place of abode was not going to afford them the opportunity to return to the place they once called home. For many, it meant that they would have been stripped of their caste and deemed forbidden after crossing this large mass of water to relocate to a land far away from home. The strength in their actions, to this day, continues to inspire courage and remind my generation of the grit and resilience inbuilt within our DNA.
Indian Arrival Day, for me, is an opportunity to learn how to conquer fear, just as my ancestors would have done hundreds of years before me while paying attention to how they successfully overcame the boundaries of unfamiliar faces, unknown cultures, and surroundings. It is a celebration of making life-changing tough decisions and observing how these selfless acts of love and commitment had evolved into a pinnacle for my generation and future generations.
The importance of this day to me is more than being identified with a mass of land or a boat, but more so, when faced with the unknown I always find myself being energised by the strength of my deep ancestral legacy. It is being able to walk in their footsteps, share their endurance for bold life-changing decisions, and pay tribute to them for their absolute bravery in seeking a sustainable future for myself and my future generation.
Happy Indian Arrival Day from the granddaughter of an Indentured labourer.”
Ria Boodoo is the managing director of SRG Consultancy Services and a member of the Hindu Women’s Organisation of T&T.
“Childhood stories from my grandparents about the sacrifices their parents made as Indentured labourers always resonate with me. They came to Trinidad on contract to improve themselves financially because of the poverty they experienced in their homeland, India. Unfortunately in Trinidad, they were labelled as illegitimate, did not have access to education and prestigious professions. However, they were able to retain their culture with respect to food, dress, music, song, dance, family ties, rites and rituals with respect to weddings and funerals, religious practices and language. They were industrious people known for financial thriftiness.
As a fourth generation Indian descendant, Indian Arrival Day represents a day of pride. I am proud to be an Indo-Trinidadian. I am free to practice Islam, wear Indian attire, participate in music, song and dance in Hindi and Arabic, and worship at the mosque without discrimination and prejudice. I am free to access education at all levels as well as occupy any profession where I am suitably qualified. My birth, marriage and death are recorded as legitimate. I am free to vote in the political arena as well as make financial investments.
As with all rights, comes responsibilities. I feel privileged to be involved in areas of service to man and country. In my capacity as a Social Studies teacher, I get the opportunity to deliver my curriculum from an Indian, Muslim, female perspective. As a member of staff at Siparia West Secondary School, I get to showcase to my students and colleagues Eid-Fitr and Eid-Adha as well as expose them to my infamous sawine dish.
As a member of the San Fernando Muslim Women’s Association and the National Muslim Women’s Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago, I get the opportunity to propagate my religion, culture and offer service to man and country. As a mother, I have the responsibility and privilege to teach my daughter all that was instilled in me, to be proud of our heritage.
I recognise my responsibilities to continue the legacy of strong family bonds, morals and values, religion and culture that were retained from India and passed on from my foreparents.”
Waheeda Shahid is a teacher, Head of Modern Studies
Department at Siparia West Secondary School. She is also a member of the National Muslim Women’s Organisation of T&T.
Happy Indian Arrival Day to all who have toiled, sacrificed
and left an invaluable legacy for generations to follow.