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Interview: Dr Patricia Mohammed on Indo Caribbean Women

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In The West Indies countries, the people of Indian diaspora make a significant percentage. They arrived here more than 130 years back as indentured labor in sugarcane plantations from India. They constitute what many term as Indo-Caribbean community.- NewsGram

Dr Patricia Mohammed, in an interview, spoke on the status of Indo Caribbean women. Dr Mohammed is currently Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies and Campus Chair, School for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and Trinidad.

She is also a pioneer in second wave feminism and the development of gender studies at Tertiary level in the Caribbean and has been involved in feminist activism and scholarship for over two decades in Cultural Studies.

The Interview will be published in The Journal of International Women’s Studies (2016). Below are a few excerpts from it:

One purpose of this interview in this column is to bring more visibility to Indo-Caribbean women in the region, whom arguably, have been marginalised in almost every domain of life, including the domestic sphere.

The current regime in Guyana has only a few Indian women in its Cabinet.  This is not encouraging to young inspiring Indian women who want to pursue a career in politics.

Lomarsh Roopnarine (hereafter LR): One of the most interesting debates on Indo-Caribbean women is whether or not their indentured experience has led to more freedom than in India or they simply exchanged one oppressed environment for another. In other words, are Indian women better off in the Caribbean than in India?

Patricia Mohammed (hereafter PM): Indian women benefitted from migration in many ways. Many were leaving lives of destitution or in fear of violent husbands and as unpaid and undervalued help in households and perhaps living under conditions that offered them little hope of advancement for themselves and their offspring within their lifetimes.

They were brought into a system that offered advantages of being wage earners in their own right and being in much shorter supply than men. For the entire period of indentureship to the Caribbean, the female population constituted between 25 to at most 40 per cent of the male population.
The rules pertaining to arranged marriages, dowries and female virginity in India rapidly underwent change as femininity was a more prized commodity and they were able to bargain for greater power in many spheres.

LR: Do you think that women entered into a new caste/class system in the Caribbean?

PM: Migration offered Indians the possibility of challenging the fixed caste system from which they were drawn although there emerged another caste hierarchy mediated by a parallel class system that the migrants would be fitted into in the new society.

Women perhaps had greater flexibility with the caste system as, again, being in short supply, caste endogamy could no longer be binding. At the same time, women were also vulnerable as a result of their sex. We are not sure how many women were at risk of unwanted attentions on plantations from overseers and sirdhars (headman on the plantation) but this would have been one of the new threats they faced in the Caribbean, although I am sure there was no shortage of this in India itself.

The difference in the new society was that the family and village network that provided protection was not available in the earliest days of the indenture and both men and women were more vulnerable as migrants always are…

LR: What are some newly emerging trends and thoughts on Indo-Caribbean?

PM: Even as we speak, there are new groups of Indians entering, under different migration schemes, changing the landscape of what is constituted as Indo-Caribbean.

Hajima Degia, a scholar at Cave Hill Barbados, has for instance written about the new migration of Gujarat populations into this society, while in Trinidad, groups of commercial and professional Indians are settling into the society.

So the first thing is that we cannot constitute Indians as a homogeneous group who travelled on the same ships around the same time.
The second trend might be the real class differences, between and among the very wealthy and entrepreneurial class, the professional classes who comprise part of the expanded middle class especially in Trinidad and those who still survive barely above the poverty line. These exhibit vast differences in values, cuisine choices, vacation destinations and so on.

The third trend might be the antagonism again between two ideological groups within the Indian communities, those who feel that they have remained and should remain “authentic” to received values and religious traditions from Indian that has not been tainted by western mores and those who view their birth and presence in a multicultural western society as allowing them to combine the best of both worlds, the home as a safe culturally-defined Indo-Caribbean space, the world as the mixture of many cultures that they contend with on an everyday basis…

The significance of this interview in this context is that it adds to Dr Baytoram Ramharack’s series on the Indian mind as well as providing alternative discussions and discourses on Indo-Caribbean women. (Image source: cooliewomen.com)

(The article was first published in guyanatimesgy.com)

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Mallika Sherawat Wants To Be The Voice Of Women Who Don’t Have One

She wants to inspire women across the country through her story on facing her stalker in ZEE5's anthology series

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Mallika is also supporting a plant-based nutritional tour in medical schools across India. The first part started in Bhopal on July 26 and went on till August 7.
Mallika is also supporting a plant-based nutritional tour in medical schools across India. The first part started in Bhopal on July 26 and went on till August 7.

Mallika Sherawat is bold, fearless and outspoken. The actress, who works closely with an organisation that fights against human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children, says she wants to be the voice of women who don’t have one and that activism is important for her.

She was teargassed and beaten up in her Paris apartment in 2016. She also had to deal with a “crazy terrible stalker”.

Does she fear for her life?

“I can’t stop living my life. What’s good if I don’t get to use my voice for the cause that I believe in? I believe in women empowerment and to be the voice for women who don’t have a voice.

“I get mails from Haryana… from women saying, ‘Show us the way’. They want to make something of their life. My activism is very important to me,” Mallika told IANS on the phone from Mumbai.

She wants to inspire women across the country through her story on facing her stalker in ZEE5’s anthology series, “The Story”.

Talking about the episode of the digital project, she said: “It was kind of reliving the nightmare, but it was important for me to speak up about the experience. In India, a lot of people think that the life of a famous person is very simple… but actually, it’s not. We all have our own challenges and problems.

“I had this crazy, terrible stalker. Also, what’s happening in India right now with all these gang rape cases… there is a need to take self-defence seriously.”

Recalling the incident, the “Murder” actress said: “This took place a few years ago in Mumbai. This crazy guy was against the idea of me wearing short skirts. He said ‘You are going against your culture. Women like you should be put behind bars’.

“My clothes were an obsession for him. He just couldn’t believe that a girl from Haryana could wear short skirts and that too on screen. I know that regressive mentality towards women exists, but I didn’t know that it could go this far.

“I think, for him, it was like, ‘I am going to set her right. I am going to teach her the value of wearing a sari’. He even had a gun with him. I talk about women’s rights. He just didn’t want me to speak. He hated what I stood for — independent, modern Indian women. That guy was put behind bars.”

She is positive that the audience, especially women, will relate to it because a “lot of women are facing harassment” at work and at home.

Mallika sherawat visits twitter HQ
Mallika sherawat visits twitter HQ. Pixabay

“I have faced harassment. It is a very common thing with women,” she said.

Mallika has also got the rights to adapt “The Good Wife”, an American legal and political drama TV series, for Indian audiences.

“Again, it is a women’s empowerment show. By the end of this year, we will start shooting for it. I will play the central character,” she said.

“It will be shot in India in Hindi. I am really excited to share it with the Indian audience. I think the time is right,” added the actress, who featured in the American show “Hawaii Five-0”.

Mallika has made frequent appearances on the Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet. She has also featured in Chinese films like “Time Raiders” and “The Myth”.

She feels proud that the audience abroad “absolutely loves Bollywood”.

Also read: Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

“Bollywood is really making its presence felt abroad. A lot of Indian actors are working abroad. They love musicals of Bollywood as they are so unique. Now, realistic cinema is also coming from Bollywood. They help to form a good image for Bollywood.” (IANS)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)

 

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The Invisible Coolie Shines in ‘The Cutlass’ (Comment: Special to Newsgram)

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The Cutlass
Dr. Kumar Mahabir

Aug 21, 2017: “Coolie” is the name of the character played by Narad Mahabir in the play directed by Errol Hill titled Man Better Man.

The local play was performed at NAPA in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in June and an excerpt was staged in August during the premiere of the CARIFESTA festival. Mahabir was given a minor role as the lone Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) villager in the musical which was laced with humorous dialogue, Kalinda dances and calypso songs.

Except for recent plays written and directed by Indians like Victor Edwards, Seeta Persad and Walid Baksh, Indian actors and actresses have been given minor roles or none at all (“invisible”) in “national” theatre and cinema. In this context, The Cutlass is a movie with a difference. And indeed, the tagline of the movie on the cinema poster is “A breakthrough in Caribbean Cinema.”

Surprisingly, Arnold Goindhan is given the lead role (by the non-Indian TeneilleNewallo) as of the kidnapper named “Al” in The Cutlass. Paradoxically, he is given only a fleeting presence in the film’s trailerHe is the only Indian actor and the only character who is Indian, in a movie that is based on crime, race and class.

As a villain, Al is portrayed as an evil Indian Hindu. A calendar painting of the anthropomorphic Hindu god, Lord Hanuman (The Remover of Obstacles) is captured fleetingly on the wall of Al’s forest camp. In the film world of poetic justice The Cutlass, light must overcome darkness, whiteness must overwhelm blackness, and Christianity must conquer Hinduism. The pendant of Virgin Mary in the hands of the white kidnapped victim must overpower Hanuman.

Goindhan is a full-time Indian actor from Malick in Barataria who also sings and plays music. The “Island Movie Blog” on August 11 noted that when Goindhan “keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines.” The July/August edition of the Caribbean Beat magazine stated that The Cutlass has delivered “compelling performances” to audiences.

The kidnap movie premiered to a sold-out audience at the T&T Film Festival in 2016 received rave reviews. It copped the T&T Film Festival’s Best Trinidad and Tobago Feature Film and People’s Choice awards. The Cutlass was also screened at international film festivals such as the Cannes Film Mart at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

The last time an Indian was chosen for a major role in a local feature film was 43 years ago in 1974. That film was titled Bim which featured Ralph (Anglicised from Rabindranath) Maraj playing the role of Bim/Bheem Sing. Bim was based on the composite life of a notorious assassin, Boysie Singh, and aggressive trade unionist and Hindu leader, Bhadase Sagan Maraj.

As an actor, Ralph Maraj was preceded by Basdeo Panday who became the first Indian in the Caribbean to appear on a big screen in Nine Hours to Rama (1963). The movie was about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Panday also acted in two other British cinematic movies: Man in the Middle (1964) and The Brigand of Kandahar (1965).

But the Indo-Caribbean actor who has earned the honour of starring in the most movies – Hollywood included – is Errol Sitahal. He acted in Tommy Boy (1995), A Little Princess (1995) and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004).

Valmike Rampersadand Dinesh (“Dino”) Maharaj is rising stars to watch. Originally from Cedros, Dinesh is the lead actor in Moko Jumbie, a new feature film by Indo-Trinidadian-American Vashti Anderson. Moko Jumbie was selected for screening at the 2017 LA Film Festival.

Dinesh acted in the local television series, Westwood Park (1997–2004). His cinematic film credits include portrayals in Klash (1996), The Mystic Masseur (2001) and Jeffrey’s Calypso (2005).

Nadia Nisha Kandhai is the lead actress in the upcoming screen adaptation of the novel, Green Days by the River.

There is a real danger in marginalising Indians in theatre and film when they are in fact the largest ethnic group in T&T according to the 2011 CSO census data. Cultivation theory states that images in the media strongly influence perceptions of the real-world. This theory was developed by communication researchers George Gerbner and Larry Gross of the University of Pennsylvania in 1976.

The Cutlass can transmit the following wrong perceptions of reality: (1) Hinduism is evil, (2) Indians are one percent of the population, (3) there are few Indian actors, (4) Indians constitute the majority of kidnappers, and (5) the majority of kidnapped victims are white.

I presented a research paper in 2005 based on 40 cases of kidnapping in T&T. My findings revealed that 78% of the victims were Indians, and according to the survivors, the overwhelming majority of the kidnappers were Afro ex-police and army strongmen.

Watch Trailer: The Cutlass

 

The Writer is an anthropologist who has published 11 books


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