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I celebrate my Indian ancestry because India was born in me !
The above-captioned statement is an adaptation of the words of the late Ghana President Kwame Nkrumah. Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, repeated the axiom at the September meeting of CARICOM and African States, by saying: "I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me."
The Indian Diaspora should be inspired by Blacks' affirmation of their race, ancestry and consciousness, and strive to emulate it. Dr. Rowley's public statement of his pride in his race and roots met with no public outcry. We should all have the freedom to do so without criticism from others. He is a leader of a country with a large Indian-origin population. They did not rise up to call him racist or call for an apology.
Yet Indian leaders in Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname cannot speak in like terms without being attacked and called racist. They are afraid to publicly express their pride in themselves and their ancestry.
Africans in the Diaspora are very proactive in fighting for equality and attacking racism by others against themselves, as they rightly should. Yet, they take umbrage when others speak out against racism. Open your mouth about it and you are immediately called racist. I call this type of aggression: "bullyism."
All races stood with the Black Lives Movement (BLM) to protest the injustices against Blacks, myself included as a person of Indian descent. Justice and equality do not come in varying shades, nor is it partial. It is time Black leaders speak up for other races when they are attacked by individuals, institutions and governments.
The world condemned apartheid in South Africa. White American leaders also stood up for justice and freedom for Blacks and marched with them and Martin Luther King. Indians in Uganda were expelled, and recently there was racial violence against Indians in South Africa. Did Black leaders speak out against this? No. Instead, they embraced South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa at the CARICOM/Africa meeting in September.
Imagine if the Indo-Presidents of Suriname and Guyana held a summit with India, and both leaders publicly affirmed their pride in their race and their ancestral homeland. What would be the reaction? Imagine President Chandrikapersad "Chan" Santokhi and President Mohamed Irfaan Ali echoing Rowley by saying: "I am not Indian because I was born in India, but because India was born in me." There would surely be an outcry of racism? Where is the sense of fairness? Are there two sets of rules for judgement? Wouldn't this be hypocrisy?
All peoples everywhere should publicly take pride in their race, culture and ancestral land if they so choose. Indians came from a great ancient civilisation and culture. They should be given the freedom to celebrate that. They must not be afraid to say so publicly because of the threat of criticism from others who boldly embrace their own heritage. Dr. Rowley, thank you for your bold statement. Your affirmation and pride in your African race and ancestry mean we can all do the same, hopefully without any outcry.In celebration of my ancestry, I have created a repository to store information about Indo- Caribbean history and culture. Please visit us at INDO CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL on Facebook.
(This article is originally written by Julie Rahra for indo-carribean.com)
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WASHINGTON - The late Cambodian American writer Anthony Veasna So once reportedly described his work as "post-khmer genocide queer stoner fiction," a narrowly defined niche blown wide open by widespread critical acclaim for his collection of short stories, Afterparties.
So's book is hailed as an exciting and highly original work that captures what it is like to grow up in contemporary American society as a child of Cambodian refugees. Enthusiasm for So's work bridges seemingly dissimilar universes – literary critics who see its universal appeal and the Cambodian American community that sees family.
Uniting the two are So's vivid descriptions – full of humor and compassion – of families grappling with the traumas of surviving the murderous Khmer Rouge while navigating the cultural dislocation and socio-economic challenges of refugee resettlement.
Until now, most depictions of Cambodians in English-language writing and film have been memoirs, nonfiction books and a few well-known movies that focus on an older generation's stories of surviving the Khmer Rouge killing fields -- the "purification" of Cambodia that resulted in the deaths of at least 1.7 million people in a quest by Pol Pot to create an agrarian Marxist utopia in the 1970s.
As The New Yorker magazine observed, "Classics of immigrant storytelling can feel sparse and solemn. The stories in So's Afterparties fill the silence, spilling over with transgressive humor and exuberant language."
"He writes the voices of our Cambodian elders in a way that just feels so accurate," Monica Sok, a poet who was a friend of So's, told a recent panel discussion at Book Passage, a Bay Area bookstore. Sok said that as she read So's work, "I was always thinking like: 'Yeah, I do know an auntie like that, I know an auntie who thinks she knows how I should live my life."
Khmer rouge survivor Image source: wikimediawikimedia
The well-known American literary house Ecco launched Afterparties in early August, printing 100,000 copies after it reportedly signed a $300,000 deal for two books with So, who died in December 2020 of an accidental drug overdose at his home in San Francisco. Another book based on segments from an unfinished novel is expected in 2023.
The New Yorker, which first published some of his early stories, described So's death at 28 as "cutting short a literary career of extraordinary achievement and immense promise."
The headline of a glowing Washington Post review called Afterparties "a bittersweet testament to the late author's talents."
Alexander Torres, the writer who was So's partner for seven years, told VOA Khmer "the humor, the lightheartedness, the jokes, but also the really beautiful descriptions" are what made So's writing unique with a style that "combines humor with high art and with low art."
So's writing captures the second generation's perspective on the effects of lingering trauma and other issues at the heart of the Cambodian American community, while touching on more universal contemporary themes such as the complexities of race, youth and sexuality.
As any Cambodian born to Khmer Rouge survivors can attest, the horror stories and traumas inflicted by the murderous 1970s regime are part of growing up.
So's sharp observations about his parents' coping mechanisms and the effects of their traumas on their children offer an unflinching look at the multigenerational impact of war and violence. Yet, he never overlooks the humor and absurdity this can create for an Americanized second generation. In one incident he describes a father shouting at a teen drinking iced water: "There were no ice cubes in the genocide!"
Afterparties contains nine short stories, including Somaly Serey, Serey Somaly, about the Buddhist belief in reincarnation set in an Alzheimer's and dementia unit. Generational Differences is about a 1989 shooting at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, a small California city that is home to one of the largest Cambodian communities in the U.S. Most of the victims were children of Southeast Asian descent. Five died. So's mother, who worked at the school, witnessed the violence.
So's book built on a reputation from work published in various outlets, including a 2018 story in n+1 magazine called Superking Son Scores Again, about a legendary badminton player turned grocery store owner who tries to relive his glory days.
Mark Krotov, the magazine's co-editor and publisher, told VOA Khmer that So's work would likely affect many young writers. "There is so much wisdom in it, there is so much adventure … so much risk-taking, so much beauty, so much intelligence, so much provocation. And all those things in combination suggest to me that this is the book that's going to be remembered," Krotov said in a recent phone interview.
N+1 magazine recently established an award called "Anthony Veasna So's Fiction Prize" in his honor. The first recipient is Trevor Shikaze, a writer for n+1 from Canada.
Cambodian celebrate genocide remembrance Image source: wikimediawikimedia
'Centering' Cambodian Americans
So's parents fled northwestern Cambodia's Battambang province and settled as refugees in Stockton, a river city in California's Central Valley. His father ran an auto repair shop and his mother worked as a civil servant. So was born in Stockton in 1992.Cambodian American intellectuals said So's fiction masterfully conveyed their experiences, family life and sense of community.
"Reading through Afterparties, it was so resonant, it was so refreshing, to see the Cambodian diaspora, which is not represented in literature – apart from the survival literature," said So's friend Sok.
"Anthony is really centering Cambodian people in America and the second generation as well, those who are born in this country and inheriting their parents' traumas, but also trying to find their own way in life," she added.
Sokunthary Svay, a Cambodian American writer and librettist from New York City, told VOA Khmer, "I think what makes his writing particularly important for our diaspora is that he would speak about experiences that a lot of us knew growing up here in the States."
So was from a large family, and all the children were high-achieving students. He graduated from Stanford University, where he enrolled for computer science and graduated with a degree in English, a switch that initially dismayed his family. He earned his MFA in fiction at Syracuse University.
According to his sister, Samantha Lamb, So loved television shows and movies and he discovered his talent while trying to write a script for a television show about a Cambodian American family based on his own life.
Lamb reacted to So's stories with recognition. "OK yes, yes, that is the story about my grandma's sister, that's the story about my aunt," Lamb told VOA Khmer. "This person represents this person in my family."
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Image source: wikimediawikimedia
Lamb said Khmer Rouge-era experiences are a recurrent theme in So's work, as "it is a big part of who we are and growing up my parents talked about it all the time."
In Duplex, a story published in The New Yorker, So wrote, "I had grown up hearing the stories of the genocide, worked to help build our new American identities, and mourned, alongside everyone else in my family, the gaps in our history that could never be recovered."
Lamb said her brother found a way to process this family history and turn it into a new, contemporary experience.
His work "tells the stories of the Cambodian genocide, but from a young person's perspective," Lamb said. "There hasn't really been any book or movie or TV show about Cambodians in the Western eyes, you know in the American eyes, that has been about just like who we are as Cambodian Americans now. So, I think that's what makes it more relatable to people."
According to Lamb, the family continues to struggle with So's death, although they are immensely proud to see his writing being so well received. His father sleeps in So's bed to console himself, while his mother is going to a therapist and their grandmother is claiming So may soon be reincarnated.
"I am pregnant right now,'' Lamb said, ''and it is a boy. … And especially my grandma has been like 'Oh! Anthony is coming back. He is being reincarnated.'" (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Cambodia, Diaspora, East Asia Pacific, Genocide, Khmer Rouge
This is a chronicle of five-hundred years of Indian immigration to Britain as it explores the adventures of the imperial capital and how its saga fuelled the journey of Indian independence
In September 1600, Queen Elizabeth and London are made to believe that the East India Company will change England's fortunes forever. With William Shakespeare's death, the heart of Albion starts throbbing with four centuries of an extraordinary Indian settlement that author Arup K. Chatterjee unfolds in "Indians in London" (Bloomsbury).
In five acts that follow, we are taken past the churches destroyed by the fire of Pudding Lane; the late eighteenth-century curry houses in Mayfair and Marylebone; and the coming of Indian lascars, ayahs, delegates, students and lawyers in London.
A Beautiful Street Of London.
From the baptism of Peter Pope (in the year Shakespeare died) to the death of Catherine of Bengal book covers all. Photo by Arvydas Venckus on Unsplash
From the baptism of Peter Pope (in the year Shakespeare died) to the death of Catherine of Bengal; the chronicles of Joseph Emin, Abu Taleb and Mirza Ihtishamuddin to Sake Dean Mahomet's Hindoostane Coffee House.
Gandhi's experiments in Holborn to the recovery of the lost manuscript of Tagore's Gitanjali in Baker Street; Jinnah's trysts with Shakespeare to Nehru's duels with destiny; Princess Sophia's defiance of the royalty to Anand establishing the Progressive Writers' Association in Soho; Aurobindo Ghose's Victorian idylls to Subhas Chandra Bose's interwar days; the four Indian politicians who sat at Westminster to the blood pacts for Pakistan.
India in the shockwaves at Whitehall to India in the radiowaves at the BBC; the intrigues of India House and India League to hundreds of East Bengali restaurateurs seasoning curries and kebabs around Brick Lane, the book details all this and more.
London East Side from The Shard
London over half a millennium of Indian migrations-reborn as independent India. Photo by Giammarco on Unsplash
Photo by Giammarco on Unsplash
"Indians in London" is a scintillating adventure across the Thames, the Embankment, the Southwarks, Bloomsburys, Kensingtons, Piccadillys, Wembleys and Brick Lanes that saw a nation-a cultural, historical and literary revolution that redefined London over half a millennium of Indian migrations-reborn as independent India.
Arup K. Chatterjee is an Associate Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University. In 2014, he was a recipient of the Charles Wallace fellowship, to United Kingdom. His interests are in the history of British imperialism, politics and philosophy; British cultural and historical encounters with India; and colonial and postcolonial historiography of India; Vedanta and Nondualism; and Indian philosophy and psychoanalysis. (IANS/RN)
Keywords: Indian immigration to Britain, Indians in London Immigration, London, Arup K. Chatterjee
By Tharini Ilanchezhian
The billionaire investor Radhakrishnan Damani, the owner of the D-Mart, a retail chain has took it to the list of 100 top richest people in the world. The Bloomberg Billionaire Index has listed him in the 98th position with a lavish net-worth of $19.2 billion. The Bloomberg Index has a good share of Indians who hold a ranking in the list which includes Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Azim Premji, Lakshmi Mittal, Shiv Nadar and Pallonji Mistry.
Mr RK Damani, as a young boy, grew up in a very simple family and has now achieved the position of 98th rank in the 100 richest people of the world, according to the news agency IANS. He was raised in a simple Marwari family in a compact one-room apartment in Mumbai. He took admission for his undergraduate degree in commerce at the Mumbai University.
RK Damani's father worked in the Dalal Street. After his father died, he left back his business of ball bearing and came to the world of stock market as a broker and investor. The market boomed after the Harshad Mehta's Scam 1992 came to limelight.
After a while, he also left the job of a broker. Leaving the stock market, RK Damani who has always been a part of the success stories of others by being an investor, now wanted to create his own success story by starting his big business. Such an initiative is the start of his hyper-market chain D-mart in the year 2000. The company established its first store in the 2002, at Powai. In the year 2010, a total of 25 stores were opened. The company that had tremendous reach went public in the year 2017 and there was never looking back.
In the year 2020, he rightfully became the fourth richest Indian with a total net-worth of $1650 million. The billionaire has always chosen to live a low profile and has always stayed out of the headlines of the media.
He has taught some highly valued investing techniques to Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, an Indian billionaire.