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Hindus and Muslims at peace in Trinidad and Tobago: Strong need to convey Indian diaspora stories to the world, says Author Aliyyah Eniath

Talking about taking Indian characters abroad, Eniath said no book had earlier focused on the East Indians

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New Delhi, September 1, 2016: Debuting with a book that gives voice to the lives of people of Indian origin in Trinidad and Tobago, author Aliyyah Eniath believes there is a strong need to convey the stories of the diaspora to the world.

People in this Caribbean nation- where nearly 40 percent of the 1.3 million population is of Indian origin- “still tightly hold on to a lot of cultural practices. Diwali is a huge festival which is a week-long celebration in Trinidad. There is no difference between Hindus and Muslims back home. Conflicts between India and Pakistan do not affect our lives”, Eniath stated.

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“It is very important that we get our stories to the world. We have so many stories to tell. It is important that our voices are heard, that the world should know about us too because India has a huge population and is a significant part of the world population. And it is not all about American writing — it should be about Indian writing too,” Eniath, the author of “The Yard” (Speaking Tigers, Rs 350, pp 272) told IANS in an interview during a visit here.

Although Eniath was born and brought up in Trinidad and Tobago, her roots lie in Uttar Pradesh.

As an author, she believes it is “unfortunate” that publishers in Britain and the US are not too keen on stories about the Indian diaspora. But the Indian publishing industry is doing its bit to fill the gaps. “When I got the offer from the Indian publishing house, I could not refuse as I see India as a big platform for diaspora writers,” added Eniath, who is director of a lifestyle magazine.

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For her, the book and its characters are a medium for telling the world how the diaspora has been living in Trinidad and Tobago.

“My book focuses on the experience of one family living in The Yard where the characters are compelled to live together. Many Indians living in Trinidad share similar experiences as well. I think that it does convey the emotional and family bonds as well as the culture, especially the Muslims, about whom I have written and how they have different views on religion,” Eniath explained.

Talking about taking Indian characters abroad, Eniath said no book had earlier focused on the East Indians. “Authors like Jhumpa Lahiri are writing on the immigrants’ experience, but in Trinidad and Tobago, it is different as we really don’t feel like immigrants since we have been there from the start. So it has always been a British-Indian-African community.

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“The writing is a bit different but is sort of trendsetting because I don’t think such a book has been written before with such a strong T&T and Indian connection. So I think it is a bit new as well,” said the author who wanted to become a writer ever since she read “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.

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Choosing Indian characters was inevitable as it is “easier to relate to characters based on my experience” she said, adding: “I grew up in the close network of an Indian family in Trinidad and Tobago where everyone was involved in everyone’s life. I wanted to write about the extended Indian family.”

And given her fascination with love stories, it was also inevitable that her debut effort is also a love story.

“I am a huge fan of love stories with happy endings, but like them with some layers to it. Mine is a little different; it is mainly a love story but it is also heart-breaking. I do like very much to write about love hoping that it will connect to readers in a big way and it is also what I love to write about,” said the author. (IANS)

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  • Manthra koliyer

    the Indian mythology has a great history and it should be propogated.

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Indian-American Diaspora Plays an Important Role in Country’s Development

Indian-Americans who want to share their success philanthropically with those in India can do so easily because of American-based groups such as AIF, Pratham U.S.A.

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US Embassy in Jerusalem drawing criticism from across the world. Pixabay

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US. The Indian-American diaspora has proven to be a vital resource contributing to the economic, political and social development of India.

Devesh Kapur highlighted the importance of the Indian diaspora in his classic 2010 book, “Diaspora, Democracy and Development: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India”. Kapur’s analysis focused primarily on the period from the late 1960s until the end of the 20th century.

Indian-American influence, impact, and contributions were significant then and have grown even more so as we move forward into the 21st century. Part of the reason for this is that the Indian-American population on average stands head and shoulders economically and educationally above those in other Asian American subgroups and the US population in general.

A Pew Research study released in 2013 disclosed that the median annual household income for Indian Americans was $88,000 compared to $66,000 for all Asians and $49,800 for the US population. The study also revealed that 38 per cent of Indian-Americans held advanced degrees compared to 30 per cent for all Asian Americans and 10 per cent for the entire population.

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US.
Around 38 per cent of Indian-Americans held advanced degrees compared to 30 per cent for all Asian Americans and 10 per cent for the entire population. Pixabay

Indian-Americans excel as high tech entrepreneurs. A study by Vivek Wadwha for the period from 2006 to 2012 showed that overall immigrant entrepreneurship “stagnated” compared to the period from 1995 to 2005. But start-ups by Indian immigrants increased seven per cent over the prior period and a full 33.2 per cent of all start-up companies were founded by Indian Americans.

It’s not just that Indian Americans are doing well. They are also inclined to stay connected with India through investments, philanthropy and personal involvement. The Indian Diaspora can bring broad economic benefits to India. They can make substantial contributions in the areas of Innovation and entrepreneurship; health care; education; and skills development. They can help in creating jobs and in creating new companies across India. They can create a platform by sharing best practices and technology with small and medium enterprises and helping them to access financing.

In its 2014 paper, “The Indian Diaspora in the United States”, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reports that “The Indian diaspora community is noted for being very well organised and having a deep and multifaceted engagement with the homeland. Many consider giving back an obligation and a welcome responsibility.”

I am one of those who feel that responsibility. Through the foundation my wife Debbie and I have established, we have underwritten the building of a new management complex, Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex, which was opened last year at my alma mater Aligarh Muslim University. We have also pledged to provide considerable financial support to develop a technical training school for women in India so that they can be empowered through higher education.

Indian-Americans who want to share their success philanthropically with those in India can do so easily because of American-based groups such as AIF, Pratham U.S.A. and Ekal which provide a structured and organised approach for giving across a wide range of areas. Thanks to the work of these organisations and others, a number of high-impact initiatives have been launched in India in fields such as education, poverty alleviation and job training.

Over 31 million people of Indian birth or descent are part of the Indian diaspora spread around the world. Of them, 3.1 million, or 10 per cent, are Indian-Americans living in the US.
The start-ups by Indian immigrants increased seven per cent over the prior period and a full 33.2 per cent of all start-up companies were founded by Indian Americans. Pixabay

Indian-Americans can reach out to have an impact in India through a wide variety of organisations. As the MPI notes in its study: “The Indian diaspora has established countless highly organised, well-funded, and professionally managed groups. These organisations address a broad range of issues and take on many different forms, including philanthropic projects to improve health and education in India, advocacy organisations, business and professional networks, media outlets, and societies for the promotion of Indian culture, language and religion.”

The Narendra Modi administration recognised the pivotal importance of the US-India relationship and that is why it established a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue during President Obama’s Republic Day visit to India in 2015. After Donald Trump became President, it scheduled an India-U.S. two-plus-two dialogue.

That dialogue was to revolve around India External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was tentatively scheduled to take place on April 18-19 but was postponed due to Tillerson’s firing by President Trump.

Now that Mike Pompeo has been confirmed as the new Secretary of State it appears that the two-plus-two dialogue will be set up for some time in May or June. This meeting is important to the future of India-US relations. But it is also important to note that two-plus-two only adds up to four.

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India has grand ambitions and the success of its Make in India National Manufacturing Policy depends on the US being one of its key partners. This requires much more than ambition. It demands multiplication and exponential assistance in order to achieve its India’s lofty goals.

Indian-Americans have been a vital resource in the growth and development of India to date and they have the wherewithal to be even more so. Because of their accomplishments in the US and understanding of India they are uniquely positioned to help India address pressing issues and priorities in order to achieve its full potential.

India needs to reach out to Indian-Americans and their organisations and make them central to its growth and development process. They will make the difference by being the vital resource and ally that India needs to convert dialogue and talk into action and results. (IANS)