Sunday October 22, 2017
Home India NewsGram Excl...

NewsGram Exclusive: Seeta Durjan Begui talks about her Indo Caribbean Origin, Journey and her Radio Show ‘Seeta and Friends’

A good thing about Indians is that they are very resilient, says Begui

0
202
Seeta Durjan Begui

October 1, 2016: Age is no bar for 52-year-old Seeta Durjan Begui, who has an Indo-Caribbean origin and is full of surprises. She is quite happy to have her own radio show ‘Seeta and Friends.’ Apart from that, she is an author as well as a nurse by profession.

Currently living in Melbourne, Florida, she is a mother of 4 and is a practising Hindu. Needless to say, she is a woman of multiple professions. Her book ‘Eighteen Brothers and Sisters,’ is a memoir and will delight any reader. Recently, she has also started a natural skincare product line by the name of ‘Simply Seeta.’

A woman of multiple professions- Begui has her own radio show  helps and has written a book by the name of ‘Eighteen Brothers and Sisters’. Recently, she has also started a natural skincare product line by the name of ‘Simply Seeta.’

d6890d70085255d45e882e0d00b623c8ac82168680215cf0e5pimgpsh_fullsize_distr
Seeta Durjan Begui with US President Obama

At the age of 52, she is a mother of four and is a practising Hindu. As a woman of multiple professions she has her own online radio show by the name of ‘Seeta and Friends’ and has written a book by the name of ‘Eighteen Brothers and Sisters.’ Recently, she has also started a natural skincare product line by the name of ‘Simply Seeta.’

In an exclusive Interview with Reporter Anubhuti Gupta of NewsGram, Seeta Durjan Begui, a self-made woman talks about her origin, journey, and many other things.

Anubhuti: Being an Indo-Caribbean woman, how closely are you connected to India now?

Begui: In 1800, my great-grandfather emigrated from Bihar, India to Trinidad and Tobago when the British brought people to work on the sugarcane plantations as industrial workers. A lot of people didn’t make it to the ship and some of those who did, they died because of lack of food and medicines.

A good thing about Indians is that they are very resilient. They brought their culture with them to Trinidad. Hindus brought their deities and Muslims brought Islam. I think, the real wealth of people is their culture which they have instilled in the younger generation as well.

I feel very grateful when I think about the opportunity that they gave us to have a life in Trinidad and Tobago.

Anubhuti: You wrote a memoir “Eighteen Brothers and Sisters,” that mentions about seventeen siblings. What was it like to grow up between them?

Begui: My father had seven children and my mother had four before both they met. My mother’s first four children were Muslims by birth, as their father followed Islam. Later, my parents had seven children of theirs together.

There used to be a lot of tension in the family. Poverty was one of the prime reasons, but apart from it there used to conflicts in the family as well. My father didn’t particularly like the Muslim children to be around. At times, due to these conflicts and anxieties my father used to become violent towards my mother. But, they both did their best to raise us.

5b302fe48ee50b09b1824b1cffdf89800e60c6e3d2ffc94978pimgpsh_fullsize_distr
Seeta Durjan Begui with Hillary Clinton

I myself was also a victim of domestic violence from my previous husband. This is the reason why I have written this book; it was to show that you can survive domestic violence and move on, in spite of all the difficulties that one has to go through.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter

Anubhuti: You have also recently started a natural skincare product line. What exactly inspired to do it?

Begui: I started my natural skin care product line ‘Simply Seeta’ to honour my mother. While growing up, coconut was a ‘godly’ fruit for me. My mother used the branches of coconut to make brooms and gave us the jelly to eat, water to drink. The fibre was used to make the mattresses and the oil was used for our skin. When I came to America I was so shocked to see people suffering from several skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema and dry skin. I followed the same path as my mother did and started the skincare range here.

Anubhuti: How was your childhood in Trinidad and Tobago?

Seeta: We were raised as Hindus. On Sundays, we were insisted on to take a bath and to go to the temples and offer prayers. We were never allowed to wear bathing suits or show off too much of our skin. The intermingling of boys and girls was a strict no-no.

In fact, my father didn’t want me to work as he thought I would end up having a boyfriend. He wanted me to go for an arranged marriage. He was also very sceptical about taxi drivers. I knew he was over-protective but at the end of the day, he was just trying to raise us the best he could.

Anubhuti: After growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, how close do you feel you are to your roots?

Begui: Very much; every time I see a mirror I see an Indian woman staring back at me. A woman raised in Trinidad and Tobago and whose ancestors gave up so much.

One thing that you can’t take away from someone is their identity and I am Indian who loves Lord Krishna and who believes He keeps her safe all day. I was also very grateful to learn about the Islamic faith and so I know that true Islam is about peace and tolerance. I am grateful that I was born in a country to where Indians migrated to and they brought such love and culture that you can feel it here every moment. Trinidad taught me a lot but being Indian , and this is what gives me a sense of peace and love.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

Anubhuti: Can you enlighten us a little bit about the Indo-Caribbean community and your interaction with them?

Begui: They are very proud of me. My husband and I are a part of Brevard’s Indian Medical Association and the community is proud of anyone who invests their time to be a part of the events. Indians feel here a sense of belonging and I get a lot of invitation for gatherings, events, and parties from the community.

Anubhuti: Would you like to share a word of advice?

Begui: If there was any one thing that I would like to convey through this interview- Don’t judge or discriminate people who you do not know. Say Hello and try to know them. Discrimination doesn’t do any good to the society, spreading peace and love will!

-Reported by Anubhuti Gupta of Newsgram, edited by Pinaz Kazi of NewsGram .

Next Story

Forgotten Enslavement of Indians in the form of Coolies: A Compelling Argument for Reparations

0
105
Emancipation of enslaved Africans
Dr Vishnu Bisram

– by Dr. Vishnu Bisram

August 7, 2017: Every year since 1985, the emancipation of enslaved Africans is celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago on August 1st which has been declared a national holiday.

Slavery and indentureship were among the most heinous and inhumane crimes committed against African and Indian people in the diaspora. Slavery was similar to indentureship in more ways than one.

In fact, there is a book on indentureship entitled, A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas (1830-1920). In this seminal and comprehensive book, Professor Hugh Tinker gave details of the many similarities that two systems shared in common.

A research paper entitled “Cheaper than a slave: Indentured labor, colonialism and capitalism” also makes interesting reading. It was written by Dr. Tayyab Mahmud, a Professor of Law & Director of the Center for Global Justice at Seattle University.

As an epigraph, Mahmud quoted a passage from Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies (2008): “‘Do you mean slaves, sir?’ Mr. Burnham winced. ‘Why no, Reid. Not slaves – coolies. Have you not heard it said that when God closes one door he opens another? When the doors of freedom were closed to the African, the Lord opened them to a tribe that was yet more needful of it – the Asiatick.’”

On page 15 of his research paper on indentureship, Mahmud wrote: “The main successor to modern slavery was the institution of indentured labor, which is often portrayed as a bridge between slavery and modern forms of contract labor. This switch in the form of labor also involved a switch in the source of the labor supply from Africa to Asia.”

African leaders and historians have been given recognition and support by CARICOM governments. In 2013, CARICOM established a reparations commission (CRC) to pursue the path to reconciliation, truth, and justice for the victims of slavery and their descendants. CARICOM funds this body which has a chairman and several members – all of whom are compensated and are receiving stipends for their work and travel.

Indian community leaders and scholars feel that there should also be reparatory justice for the descendants of the victims of indentureship as well as the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the New World. They also believe that Chinese, Madeirans and Portuguese should also be part of the CARICOM Reparations Commission. African leaders and CARICOM governments cannot agitate for compensation for only Blacks in the Caribbean.

Paradoxically, CARICOM is violating the very concept of fairness, equity, and justice by excluding non-Africans in the Commission. There is not a single Indian or Chinese or Madeiran or Portuguese or indigenous Indian in the CARICOM Reparations Commission. The Chairman is Prof. Sir Hilary Beckles from UWI, Mona Campus.

Barbados is represented by Prof. Pedro Welch, Dominica is represented by Dr. Damien Dublin,

Antigua and Barbuda by Mr. Dorbrene O’Marde, Nasau by Mr. Alfred M. Sears and Mr. Phillip P. Smith, Guyana by Mr. Eric Phillip, Jamaica by Prof. Verene Shepherd and Ms. Laleta Davis Mattis, St. Kitts and Nevis by Ras Dabo Penny, St Vincent and the Grenadines by Senator Jomo Thomas and Mr. Curtis King, Suriname by Mr. Armand Zunder, St Lucia by Mr. Earl Bousquet and Trinidad & Tobago by Mr. Aiyegoto Ome.

After consultation with stakeholders, I would like to recommend the following persons be included in the CARICOM Reparations Commission: Suriname should be represented by Professor Maurits Hassankhan and Dr. Narinder Mohkamsingh, Guyana by Dr. Vishnu Bisram, Ms. Ryhaan Shah and Mr. Ravi-dev, Trinidad by Dr. Kumar Mahabir and Mr. Kamal Persad, St Vincent and the Grenadines by Dr. Arnold Thomas, Grenada by Mr. Jai Sears, Jamaica by Dr. Winston Tolan, and Belize by Ms. Sylvia Gilharry-Perez.

There should be compensation to the descendants of Indian indentured for crimes committed against their forebears who were duped into leaving India, underpaid and cheated for their labor, jailed and beaten wrongfully, and robbed of the land that they were promised.

There is a compelling argument for reparations for Indians in the book entitled Sat Maharaj: Hindu Civil Rights Leader of Trinidad and Tobago by biographer Dr Kumar Mahabir.

On page 147, Mahabir wrote: “During the hundred-year period of 1845 to 1945, all marriages not performed by the Christian church or at a warden’s office were not legally recognized by the State. Thus, widows and children of Hindu and Muslim land owners were unable to claim their relative’s estates after they had died. Children of Hindu and Muslim marriages were considered to be illegitimate and thus the land that they should have inherited was given over, once again, to the State.”

– Dr.Vishnu Bisram is an electoral pollster and political analyst

 

 

 

Next Story

Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

0
82
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

Next Story

How Whites collude with Blacks to exclude Indians- Latest example is Films on world-renowned Trinidadian Cultural Historian CLR James

Blacks are more likely to embrace Whites than Indians which can be explained by Frantz Fanon in his seminal book, White Skin Black Masks (1952). Having lost most of their culture and religion through slavery, Blacks have tried to appropriate, imitate and adapt the culture, religion and behaviour of their former colonizers

2
372
Trinidad and Tobago
Indentured Laborers taken from India. Wikimedia

Trinidad and Tobago. June 19,2017:

A noted Anthropologist from Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Kumar Mahabir has brought to attention how Whites collude with Blacks to exclude or marginalize Indians in the media or academia. He has given several instances. He starts with the latest example of a couple of movies made on CLR James and the cites other examples.

Mahabir starts with his recent visit to London.  He attended a memorial lecture on CLR James on June 17, 2017, in London which was one of his many recent tributes to the legacy of this world-renowned Trinidadian cultural historian, cricket writer, and political activist. The lecture was organized in partnership with Hackney Unites, a local UK coalition for social justice.

Dr. Kumar Mahabir
Dr. Kumar Mahabir

Although James (1901 -1989) was a champion of Pan-Africanism, and was named Chair of the International African Friends of Ethiopia (IAFE), he was not averse to keeping Indians as his friends and colleagues in multi-ethnic Trinidad.

There are at least two films on James: Every Cook Can Govern: CLR James and the Canon (2013) and Every Cook Can Govern: The Life, Impact and Works of C.L.R. James (2016). The first film is based on a panel presentation in London entitled “Documenting the life, impact & works of CLR James.”

The second film is a full-length documentary which reveals never-before-seen footage of C.L.R. James himself. It is filmed in England and Trinidad. Both films highlight speakers who knew James and/or his works intimately.

WATCH THE TRAILER: 

 

WATCH THE FULL FILM:

Informants/interviewees in the two films include Ceri Dingle (Co-director with Rob Harris), Claire Fox, Kenan Malik, Kent Worcester, Christian Hogsbjerg, Alan Hudson, Robert A. Hill, Selwyn R. Cudjoe, James Heartfield, Rachel Douglas, Scott McLemee, Paul Buhle, Roy McCree, Andrew Smith, Selma James and Darcus Howe.

ALSO READ: Hindus and Muslims at peace in Trinidad and Tobago: Strong need to convey Indian diaspora stories to the world 

What is noteworthy, says Mahabir, is that there are sixteen (16) luminaries speaking in these films, but not a single Indian was featured who knew James personally and/or through his work.

Any or some of the following living Indo-Trinidadians could have been included as an interviewee or presenter in any or both of the two films Every Cook Can Govern.

  • V.S. Naipaul, Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, who wrote about James in The Middle Passage (2011 edition), The Way in The World and The Overcrowded Barracoon. James himself refers extensively to the correspondences between himself and Naipaul in James’ lesser-known book, Cricket (1986). Naipaul resides in England.
  • Emeritus Professor Clem Seecharan at London Metropolitan University, who wrote a chapter entitled, “Empire and Family in the Shaping of a West Indian Intellectual: The Young CLR James, a Preliminary Assessment.” The chapter is in his book, Finding Myself: Essays on Race, Politics, and Culture (2015). Seecharan appears fleetingly in one of the films but is not captured speaking.
  • Professor Frank M. Birbalsingh who wrote and published “The Literary Achievement of C.L.R. James” in The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. 19, no.1 (1984).
  • Professor Kenneth Ramchand who interviewed James at the OWTU Guest House in San Fernando in Trinidad & Tobago on September 5, 1980. The interview is archived on film in Banyan Productions. Ramchand also wrote the introduction to James’ only novel, Minty Alley.
  • Basdeo Panday, former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who worked with CLR James to establish the Workers and Farmers Party (WFP). The Marxist political party contested the 1966 General Elections and failed to secure a seat. Panday lives in Trinidad but visits London regularly to spend time with his children.
  • Trevor Sudama who worked with James in the WFP which was organised by former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) leader, Stephen Maharaj.
  • Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath who compiled and edited a volume of essays entitled, Tribute to a Scholar: Appreciating C.L.R. James, published in 1990 in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • Raffique Shah who spoke to James (“Nello”) while the latter was lying in bed during his winter years at OWTU’s Hobson House in San Fernando. The conversations were published in the Express on September 29, 2012.
  • John Gaffar LaGuerre who wrote an essay entitled “The Evolution of the Political Thought of C.L.R. James” and published by the University of the West Indies (UWI) in 1972.

Thus, it emerges that not one of the nine (9) Indo-Caribbean persons above were included among the sixteen (16) speakers or interviewees in the two films. Naturally, the question arises: why?

The documentary film version of Every Cook can Govern was screened on March 21, 2017 in Trinidad at the Bocas Literary Festival, and would be screened again by The Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) in September 2017.

Dr. Kumar Mahabir asserts that Whites have colluded with Blacks/Africans in Trinidad and elsewhere to exclude or marginalize Indians in advertisements in the print and electronic media, the CXC CSEC and CAPE syllabi, the Bocas Literary Festival, and in many other areas that should be investigated empirically and statistically.

In her research paper entitled “The Representation of Indians in the Education System of Trinidad and Tobago, 1845-1980,” historian Dr. Sherry-Ann Singh commented on the representation of Indians in textbooks for primary school children.

She wrote that these textbooks, written by Whites, included “many African Anansi folk tales, illustrations and pictures of African orientation, references to local creole food and practices. Neither Indian names nor characters were employed in any of the general illustrations. The very sparse inclusions of Indians both stereotyped and clearly situated Indians as the proverbial “other” in the society …”

These examples of Black-White collusion against Indians can be explained by Orientalism and Post-colonial theories.

Sharing similar Western and Christian cultural traits, Blacks have found common ground with Whites and off-Whites – the French Creoles and Syrians in Trinidad, and the Portuguese in Guyana. Both groups see (East) Indians/Asians as the “Other” because they belong to a Hindu and Muslim Indian cultural tradition, indicated at least by their last name. Despite class and religious differences among Indians, Orientalism theory explains why the Black-White alliance views Indians as a “homogeneous cultural entity.”

According to Orientalism and Post-colonialism theories, first conceptualized by Edward Said and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak respectfully, the Western world has developed a thought system that treats non-Christian culture as backward, exotic, uncivilized and inferior.

In some societies, minority White elites have used Blacks against Indians to retain economic dominance through the political strategy of divide and rule. The powerful White elites in Trinidad fear the threat of Indians to their control and supremacy in business, international trade, the professions, and education.

Blacks are more likely to embrace Whites than Indians which can be explained by Frantz Fanon in his seminal book, White Skin Black Masks (1952). Having lost most of their culture and religion through slavery, Blacks have tried to appropriate, imitate and adapt the culture, religion and behaviour of their former colonizers.

Note: Dr. Kumar Mahabir is a faculty at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. He acquired his Ph.D. Anthropology from the University of Florida and B.A., M.Phil., Literatures in English, University of the West Indies. 

 

 

2 responses to “How Whites collude with Blacks to exclude Indians- Latest example is Films on world-renowned Trinidadian Cultural Historian CLR James”

  1. Really disappointing to see Indian academic playing the identity politics game. William Dalyrymple has a much better and nuanced account of the variations in Anglo-Inidian relations over time than this simplistic reading of Said and Spivak (although with less jargon than them to be fair). Really, if you want to seen an ‘Indian angle’ on CL James (whatever that is), why don’t you and like minded friends go and make your own film? Or you could just refuse to play this stupid identity game and watch and judge the film for what is actually there rather than what isn’t.

  2. This article is really upsetting. As an Indian woman who played a key role in making this film I strongly object to the frankly offensive idea that it suffers from some sort of colonial mindset. Not just myself, several other Indians worked on the film (watch the film till the end credits roll ).This is a fantastic film exploring several universal themes from a great human being.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.