June 20, 2007 issue

Arts & Entertainment

Rain does not really affect my parade

The earth waits for the rain,
Like a lady waits for her man.
In the dry days of summer, I long for rain. The farmers want rain, the grass wants rain, the flowers want rain. The smell of the earth refreshed by rain is intoxicating. By and large, we don’t get enough rain these days. Global warming I am told.
I like to fall asleep to the rhythm of the rain. It’s the sound of the pan man in the sky, cutting up the night air, playing on the galvanized roof of my childhood home in Guyana, the sound of a ting, ling, ling, and a sweet, melodic ping, pong, ping.

Have you ever bathed in the rain? You can feel the sting on your skin. If you were a shirt tailed governor (scantily dressed), you got stung on all parts of your anatomy!
I love the rain for coming to my rescue when I didn’t want to go to school. As soon as the rain ‘set up’, I ran to my mother and begged her to allow me to stay home for the day. I didn’t want to face a spelling bee and my teacher’s wrath in school. I got so good at this tactic, my teacher used to call me “salt” and “Putagee bumba” and a few other things that may not sit so well these days.
I remember there was a poem by Tennyson in the Nelson West Indian Readers which went like this – They say we ought to love the rain, that beats upon the window pane; they say it makes the green grass grow, and all the little rivers flow. That’s all very well, but what of me? It doesn’t make me grow, you see!
Rain is good for my body and soul. Rain was also good for the large, 10 foot high vats (cisterns) made of concrete, or of wallaba staves secured by iron hoops, which people had in their yards for holding rain (drinking) water in the old days. My father as a sanitary inspector had to inspector these contraptions and actually fell in, clambering over the top, on more than one occasion! Luckily, a resident or home owner came to his rescue.
I was born in Georgetown (Guyana), not far from the Amazon rain forest, in the great flood of 1945. It was a storm papa! It almost prevented the midwife from reaching our home in time for the birth. As my father recalled, there was thunder, and fork lightning, and buckets of water for hours on end, what he described as “rain pouring sweet ‘ile”.
Rivers of muddy water, flooded gutters and drains, and a swamped bottom house and yard, made it very difficult for my father to find a place to bury my caul, the covering (membrane) with which I was born. This would ensure that I not only see spirits but do weird things after, all of which I must confess, came to pass..
I was born in February and am an Aquarian (Water man), but to tell you the truth, I am so afraid of water, I never learned to swim properly. That was not helped by the fact that my father instilled the fear of water in his children by saying things like “Watah got nuh back door. Stay out of it! Yuh hear meh!”
I must share this with you. Love making for me is enhanced by the rhythm of the rain. In fact, I am convinced that all our kids were conceived in the rain, so to speak. Some folks speak highly of a vibrator but I prefer a rainmaker.
In the Caribbean, there are rain birds, whose presence is associated with the coming and ending of rain. I remember seeing swallows, all lined up sitting on the electric wire, a sure sign that rain was coming. Other rain birds apparently include varieties of cuckoo, flycatcher, swift and thrush. There is also the rain fly that swarms in with wet weather, rain bush, rain crow, rain flower, and rain tree.
We have sayings in the Caribbean like, “rain set up”, “rain build up”, “rain bus’”, “rain come”, “plenty, plenty rain,” “rain fuh so”, “rain, man, rain,”, and “rain killing country”.
There is at least one occasion that you don’t want to see rain and that is when a cricket test match is about to begin. At such times, fans are prone to curse the rain. Of course, if your team is on the verge of being defeated, then the heavens can open and all the rain pour down, hence the saying, “saved by the rain”.
As you see, I have a number of connections to the rain.
If the creeks don’t rise (too much rainwater) and the sun still shines, I’ll be talking to you.
Indians in the heart of darkness
Rashmee Roshan Lall
Times News Network
Exactly 35 years after Idi Amin expelled 70,000 Indians from Uganda, thousands more are amazingly flocking there every year straight from India and once again colonising vast swathes of the country’s economy. But this time around they’re taking out unprecedented political ‘insurance’ against a repeat of the 1972 pogrom.
Many say the Ugandan Indians’ brand new strategy of entering political life and making friends with black leaders of every political hue across the heavily Indian-populated three-country swathe of East Africa Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania may literally be a lifeline.
On April 12, riots broke out in the heart of the Ugandan capital after a recently-arrived Indian salesman Devang Rawal was stoned to death by a black mob, which was protesting against an Indian sugar firm’s plan to develop part of a protected rainforest.
Though much of the outside world saw the riots and Rawal’s murder as a gruesome re-run to the dark days of 1972, Uganda’s newly-reestablished, largely prosperous 18,000-strong Indian community insists this is only half the story. They say the world has changed and with it, much of Uganda and the Indians themselves.
Says Mahesh Wadhwani, who left India in 1994 and now owns Mima Fashions, a company specialising in business suits: "We know we have to support this country, we have to support the locals, we don’t have to be harsh on them."
Wadhwani’s reference is to a key complaint against the Indians’ alleged cruel mistreatment of black Ugandans before August 7, 1972, when Amin gave them 90 days to leave with one suitcase and $100 each.
After thousands returned under a forgiveforget and financial reparation deal offered by Museveni’s government from 1988, and many others arrived direct from India, the Indians were more wary, less arrogant and more polite.
Says Patrick, a black Ugandan student, "Before, the Asians used to treat us blacks so badly, we couldn’t understand why. Now they are better-behaved but they still don’t let us marry their daughters. A black man can marry an English, American, Canadian or any other woman — never an Indian."
Adds Sanjiv Patel, leading light of the 1000-member strong Indian Association of Uganda: "The new generation of Indians coming from India are very different from the old. They just would not call a black man a kala to his face. They know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not."
But that is only one part of change. In a significant break with the past, says Patel, "We are now looking at politics even though we have traditionally focused on economics not politics. So, we have a very good relationship with President Museveni and his governing National Resistance Movement."
Interestingly, Patel claims his association is the only one in East Africa that can speak up for Indians. In Kenya, he says, "The Indian association is the Hindu Council and Tanzania has no Indian body." Uganda’s Indian Association, therefore, is piously playing the good politics.
"We want people who matter to know we’re active and we’re concerned," says Patel. This extends to the realpolitik of elections and party affiliation. Last year, the Ugandan parliament welcomed its first Asian, 34-year-old Sanjay Tanna, who refused Museveni’s request to take an NRM ticket and instead fought the election as an independent. Meanwhile, another Indian, Parminder Singh Marwah cannily accepted the President’s nomination for the elected party post of deputy national treasurer.
As a sign of affectionate regard, Museveni bestowed the tribal name ‘Katongole’ on Marwah. And Tanna, who proudly says he speaks a host of African languages "Swahili, Japadohola fairly well also understand Samai and Lugishu and basically most of the Bantu languages" along with English and Hindi, is proud to claim two tribal names.
But there is a jarring note in this African-Asian rhapsody. Underneath the bonhomie, the Indians appear still to want a get-out clause.
Says Gopalan, another Indian from India, "We just cannot understand why the Indian government has given dual nationality to NRIs in UK, US, Dubai etc but not Uganda".
Patel, who holds an American passport, while his wife, mother and father have British, Indian and Ugandan passports respectively, admits he would only acquire Ugandan nationality if he could have another as well. "Yes, it is true we want a get-out clause, just in case. But frankly, I don’t think we’ll need it again."
GOPIO joins in Arrival Day celebrations
Members of GOPIO International and of GOPIO regional (Caribbean) chapters in Suriname for the celebration of Indian Arrival Day, From left, Ashook Ramsaran (GOPIO Int'l), Harold Ramdhani and Ambassador Krishna Nandoe (GOPIO Suriname), Yesu Persaud (GOPIO Guyana), Ministers Maurits Hassan Khan and Gilds (Suriname), Inder Singh (GOPIO Int'l), VPP Jules Ajodhia (Suriname).
A delegation from the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) International comprising its President Inder Singh and Secretary General Ashook Ramsaran participated in the annual anniversary of Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad on May 30, in St. Vincent on June 1, and in Suriname on June 4, 2007.
Dr. Vijay Ramlal, the Trinidad Indian Arrival Day Coordinator was part of the GOPIO delegation in Trinidad and St. Vincent while GOPIO Guyana Chairman Yesu Persaud and Dr. Chan Misier of the Netherlands became part of delegation in Suriname.
In Trinidad, President Inder Singh spoke at the Diwali Nagar NCIC annual commemoration event reminding the audience of the first arrivals of Indians, recognizing “their pioneering spirit, determination, persistence and endurance under extremely harsh conditions”. He also recognized "the invaluable contributions they have made to the diverse culture and economic development of Trinidad and Tobago”.
Both Inder Singh and Ashook Ramsaran were interviewed on “Sunshine Live” WIN-TV where they stated that “GOPIO is not a political nor religious organization”. Interviewed on live radio, Ramsaran reiterated that “GOPIO is a secular, non-political organization working for the interests and concerns of Indians throughout the Indian Diaspora”.
The delegation met with T&T President Dr. George Maxwell Richards, Deputy Prime Minister Lenny Saith, Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar, COP Leader Winston Dookeran and Shamshu Deen of GOPIO/MOIA Tracing The Roots Project that is of interest to many PIOs.
The delegation attended the Indian Arrival Day celebrations in St. Vincent on June 1, organized by the Indian Heritage Foundation (SVGIHF) and Dr Arnold Thomas, GOPIO member. Government of India Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) Vayalar Ravi was the chief guest along with Indian Ambassador to Suriname Ashok Sharma. Present at the meeting was Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
The members of SVGIHF agreed to establish a GOPIO chapter in St Vincent.
In Suriname, the GOPIO delegation attended various Immigration Arrival events that were coordinated by GOPIO’s Regional Vice President (Caribbean) Ambassador Krishna Nandoe and GOPIO Suriname Secretary Harold Ramdhani.
There was a group lunch on June 2 hosted by Madam Ghisei Doobee of Commissioner of Saramacca, one of the 10 districts of Suriname and a dinner on June 4 for the delegation. On June 3, following a GOPIO business seminar at Lalla Rookh, a visit was made to the Commemorative site where wreaths were laid at the monument to the 24 Indians killed at that plantation in 1902. On the same day Ashook Ramsaran and Yesu Persaud attended the Immigration Commemoration at Mai-Baap where Suriname’s President, Vice President, ministers of the government, India’s Ambassador Ashok Sharma and representatives laid wreaths at the two statutes at the site of the first landing of Indians in Suriname.
The GOPIO delegation also visited Guyana and had meetings on June 6 with Priya Manickchand, Minister of Human Services and Social Services; Dr. Frank Anthony, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports; Clement Rohee, Minister of Home Affairs; Samuel Hinds, Prime Minister; and President Bharrat Jagdeo. The delegation also met with India’s Ambassador to Guyana, Hon. Avinash Gupta.
Among the topics discussed with President Jagdeo was the hosting of a regional Caribbean 2008 conference in Guyana to coincide with Guyana’s commemoration of its 170th celebration of Arrival Day on May 5, 2008, the preservation of arrival records of various groups of people who came to Guyana, and other issues pertaining to GOPIO’s global efforts to address issues of interest and concern to the global Indian Diaspora.
'Indo-Canadian trade can shoot up to C$10Bn quickly'
Toronto, (IANS) — Trade and investment between India and Canada is expected to shoot up to C$10 billion a year quickly, according to Ajit Khanna, the outgoing president of the India-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC).
In 2006, trade and investment between both countries totalled $3.5 billion and the bilateral trade between both countries is currently increasing by 22 per cent a year.
"With some efforts, we can increase it by 35 per cent. And very quickly you will achieve C$10 billion," Khanna said at the 30th anniversary celebration of ICCC here Saturday night.
Some 1,200 guests attended the function. India's Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath and Canada's Minister for International Trade David Emerson were also present.
Emerson said that he found India "very, very positive when you consider we had a really underdeveloped market there for the last 10 to 15 years".
Nath noted that there was a bright future for India-Canada economic partnership.
Several Indo-Canadian businessmen and entrepreneurs were honoured at the function: Bhim Asdhir got the ICCC Male Entrepreneur Award; Raj Anand the Professional Male of the Year award; Manishi Sagar the Female Entrepreneur of the Year award; Budhendra Doobay the Humanitarian Award; Shelia Kumari Singh the Female Professional of the Year award; Bharat Masrani the Corporate Executive award; Ankit Kapur the Young Achiever award; Shivendera Dwivedi, the Humanitarian of the Year award; and Nishith Goel received the Technology Award.
'India support for Fiji wrong'
Support of Fiji in the wake of the coup has been condemned by an Indo-Fijian community leader in New Zealand.
Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program reports that vice president of the Fiji Indian Association in New Zealand, Salim Singh, says the pledge by India's Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh to continue assistance to Fiji is despicable.
Salim Singh told Pacific Beat's Bruce Hill that although the Indo-Fijian community in New Zealand is divided on the coup, many have made private representations to the Indian government that it should not help a government which was installed illegally.
"I can't speak for all Indo-Fijians but I think it is despicable that the biggest democracy in the world is supporting a government which has removed another democratically-elected government virtually at gunpoint," Salim Singh said. Mr Singh said India should use its influence to return Fiji to democracy.
Amsterdam University gets Indian Diaspora Chair
The Indian Surinamese community accomplished a rewarding achievement last month by an initiative launched by the Foundation for Diaspora Chair Lalla Rookh. The University of Amsterdam will have a chair on Hindustani migrations within its Social Studies faculty.
The objective of this chair is to research the migration of contract labourers from India to Suriname and gather more information on the Indian migrants from Suriname. The first boat that left India for Suriname was called the Lalla Rookh. Until 1916 around 34,000 Indians helped to maintain the plantation economy of Suriname.
Rajendre Khargi, secretary of the Foundation called the Indian migration a so-called “white stain” in Dutch History. He appealed for an increase of research into million Indians who left India as contract labourers. The chair will be financed by the Foundation for five years and depending on its success the foundation intends to finance the chair for another five years.
There is a search for a lecturer preferably from the Diasporic community. For more information: rajendre.khargi@ world-psi. org, Tel: +33 623632929.
Advocates appeal for greed barrier tax to save Ontario jobs
Resolution adopted demanding action plan to deal with job loss crisis
Trindadian worker Mustaq Mohamed of the Canadian Auto Workers addressing the public forum on manufacturing job loses at Toronto City Hall.
By William Doyle-Marshall
Creation of a greed barrier tax for corporations that shift operations out of the country; establishment of a green job strategy; mobilization campaigns to force government into reviewing impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and demand that the Government of Canada not sign a Korea Free Trade Agreement. These were among recommendations, which came out of a public forum recently on lost, manufacturing jobs from the Province of Ontario.
The Toronto and York Region Labour Council held the session in the Council Chamber at City Hall. Eight workers testified before the gathering about the negative impacts of company closures that affect them and their colleagues. Many now are unemployed and others have to settle for low paying jobs that are creating tremendous stress as they are unable to honour their commitments to their families.
Raymond Micah, executive director of the African Canadian Social Development Council, a panelist suggested that government be pushed to introduce policies that say profitable companies that are trying to make even more profit by going to the Third World and other cheap labour sources would be penalized. He suggested institution of a greed barrier tax and possibility of imprisonment for violation of the policy.
Other panelists supported his recommendation. Marvin Novac, leading contributor to the social policy field in Canada, a Ryerson University professor wants this city to be on the side of workers. “We have workers with a work ethic. We have owners with a greed ethic and the time has come for city governments to be on the side of workers because what we are dealing with is an issue about the kind of community we will have. We are dealing with health. It is a community health issue,” Professor Novac added.
Workers told stories that indicate their workplaces did not close because they were not economically productive. Indeed, each testified that they lost their jobs because the corporations wanted larger profits.
Hassan Yussuff, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress was confident workers can win this fight. But he cautioned “we are not going to win it unless we stand together as one, unless we unite as one. But more importantly, unless we act as one and speak with one voice”.
The meeting adopted a Labour Council resolution demanding a plan of action to deal with the job loss crisis. John Cartwright, president said the council is calling for a full discussion with labour councils, the Ontario Federation of Labour, Canadian Labour Congress and affiliates around the need for a province-wide mobilization to challenge the laissez-faire attitude of political leaders in Ottawa and Queen’s Park.
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