Sharing the commissioning of the Indian Arrival Monument in East Berbice on Sunday, May 5, 2019, proved to be both inspirational and instructive.
Remarks by the Indian High Commissioner and Director General of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, were relevant and useful, as they both made a link between Guyana and a group whose fore-parents who came from India, now form the largest segment of our society.
The highlight of the event was the address by President David Granger, whose analysis and historical references were par excellence. Here was a Statesman openly saying the praises of a group of immigrants who continue to make an important contribution to Guyana.
I marvelled at the perspicacity of David Granger, when he identified two persons in each category of development in Guyana. No one could have done better.
In particular, he identified for business, two very decent and honourable persons — Sattaur Gafoor and Mrs. Lyla Kissoon— and others in areas of law, medicine and diplomacy.
In sports, he identified Rohan Kanhai and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Those who heard Shiv’s speech when the roadway was named to honour him, would understand my personal delight.
I spent my formative years in the Charlestown, Albouystown and La Penitence areas, which allowed me to learn much from mixing with the descendants of Indian immigrants, who lived in large numbers in these areas.
During the Second World War, my father started the first Indigenous bank in the city, known as the People’s Benefit Scheme. There I developed a great respect for the Indo Guyanese, who pooled their savings in the People’s Benefit Scheme. I marvelled at their penchant for deferred gratification and thrift.
I was able to save two of those large ledgers, which from time to time, the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the early depositors come for to identify the wisdom and ability to save of their forbearers.
Dear Editor, at any time you are free to bear witness to this initiative taken during the stress and tribulations of a British Colony during World War II. The ledgers are available for scrutiny and you may very well find an old relative who used this unique banking system.
It’s significant that the by-line of the Monument is referred to as ‘Ram and Khan.’
The commissioning of this Monument ushered in the Holy Month of Ramadan, a significant time for the Islamic community.
I must have been 12 or 13 years old but recall a very robust discussion with a group in my father’s drug store when an Indian Muslim brother said he didn’t know why all Muslims in British Guiana were referred to as ‘Fulla Men.’
My research showed that some of the slaves extracted from parts of West Africa were from the Fulani tribe, who were stout Muslims, so when East Indian Muslims arrived with their Hindu brothers, the rulers simply referred to all Muslims as ‘Fulla Men,’ a description which is hardly used today.
During that very energized discussion, I remember a very dark Indian, very elegant, contending that the system tended to trivialise the Madras people because they were the darkest of the groups. Of course, this was before the American Civil Rights Movement coined the term ‘Black is beautiful.’
I wish to make two comments: First, that those who are identified as leaders and for whatever reason, didn’t make it to Palmyra on Sunday, should get hold of the remarks made by the Director General, High Com-missioner and the Statesman-like address by the President.
They will find it both informative and helpful.
Second, I suggest to the Berbice and Georgetown Chambers of Commerce that they can do well to prove their nationalism by having excerpts of the three addresses printed and made available to television and radio for the benefit of the wider community, but in particular, our young people.
The two Chambers and the Media will do themselves proud if they accepted this as a duty and service to Guyana.
Let us do things that are positive and can certify our unity and diversity.