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How Indians shaped Barbadian culture

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Photo: www.operationworld.org

By Romar Parris

FOR OVER 100 YEARS, Barbados has been home to immigrants from East India, specifically Bengal, Gujarat and Hyderabad Sindh. Over the years, they have played a significant role in shaping Barbadian culture and contributed to the advancement of the Barbados economy.

They still maintain this role today. Unlike our African ancestors, the Indians residing in Barbados today were not brought here through means of slavery or indentured labor,infact, they came of their free will.

In the early 1900s, the underprivileged of India (then a colony of Britain) were in a very bad state. Being poor and without land, they found it very difficult to acquire wealth and status. Many poor Indians lived in small villages owned by landlords while having to “work like slaves for about 50 cents per week” (Nakhuda 2013:11).

Diseases such as cholera, smallpox and leprosy were common among the impoverished. Seeking a better life, many Indians travelled to Mauritius, Fiji, South Africa and other countries. However, the West Indies saw its first movement of the East Indians prior to this 20th century migration. After slavery was abolished across the British colonies in the Caribbean around 1838, a call for indentured labourers was made, particularly in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St Lucia, St Vincent, Jamaica and Grenada.

The British brought East Indians to these islands to work the plantations since the newly freed slaves no longer wanted to be a part of the plantation system. None of these East Indian labourers was brought to Barbados, however. The British brought in “poor Whites” from Britain as indentured labourers to Barbados and unlike in the neighbouring islands, many slaves continued working the plantation. Therefore, there was no need for the East Indians on our shores. In Barbados most newly freed slaves stayed with the plantation because they had little option if they wanted to survive.

The plantation system dominated the sugar-based Barbados economy and its workers were in high demand. However, the island was considered to be overpopulated, thus access to workers was plentiful. The white overseers took advantage of this and mistreated their workers while paying them very little per week, knowing that if a worker chose to leave, another one could be easily hired. This continued until the 1937 Riots, which led eventually to labor reforms and better working conditions.

The arrival of the first East Indians was due to their personal decisions, not as a matter of national policy. According to Sabir Nakhuda, the first East Indian to reside in Barbados was a man called Bashart Ali Dewan. Nakhuda’s research showed that Dewan left India around 1910 heading for Trinidad after news of his father-in-law’s settlement there. He stayed in Trinidad for a while.

There he learnt the itinerant trading business from Bengalis based there at that time. Itinerant trading is the business of a door-to-door salesman trading on a credit basis. Hearing of a niche market in Barbados, he decided to go there for better financial profits. Dewan resided in various areas in Bridgetown, settling in Suttle Street and later Milk Market. He started his trade by purchasing products from the merchants in Bridgetown, and traveling to the countryside to sell them.

He eventually opened a store on Swan Street selling shoes, haberdashery and raw materials for ladies and gents. Dewan hired a “caller” to advertise for him. It is said that his voice could be heard from one end of Swan Street to the next.  By the laws of Islam, a man is permitted up to four wives. Not being able to afford to send for his wife in India, Dewan married his second wife by 1920, but within four years she left. He then married his third wife, Pauline Taylor, and had two daughters.

During the 1937 Riots Dewan fled Barbados and returned to India; sources said he was heavily in debt. Bashart Ali Dewan was the first East Indian merchant from Bengal on our shores and the pioneer of an aspect of Barbadian culture that is still a norm today. Stories of his venture ignited a trail of merchants to follow. Mentionable names are Mohammed Abdul Rohul Amin, Sheikh Nasrul Huque, Atar Ali, Arshad Ali and Babujan Dewan.

They all engaged in itinerant trade and built a close-knit network that served to support other Indians who later immigrated to the island. These merchants lived under one roof, sharing rooms and meals to save money for business use, and to send back to their families in India. Those already living in Barbados took the newcomers under their wings, giving them a place to stay and teaching them the ins and outs of the trade.

(The story first appeared in The Nation News)

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An Average Indian Spends One-Third Waking Hours on Smartphone: Survey

The survey, conducted online as well as face to face across top eight cities -- found that 75 per cent of the respondents agreed to have owned a smartphone in their teens

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Smartphone
The result of Smartphone addiction is such that 30 per cent fewer people meet family and loved ones multiple times a month. Pixabay

An average Indian is spending one-third of his or her waking hours on phone – nearly 1,800 hours a year — and three out of four respondent said if smartphone usage continues at this rate, it is likely to impact their mental or physical health, a survey revealed on Friday.

More than half of the respondents have never tried to switch off from their social handles and confessed to not being able to live without their phones while almost all respondents prefered having virtual conversations with friends and relatives, said the joint survey by Cybermedia Research (CMR) with Chinese smartphone maker Vivo.

“The results demonstrate that the dependency over smartphones has increased. While smartphone will continue to be the primary go-to device, users have realized that periodically switching-off would help benefit their personal health,” said Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CMR.

The result of smartphone addiction is such that 30 per cent fewer people meet family and loved ones multiple times a month.

One in three people felt that they can’t even have a five-minute conversation with friends and family without checking their phones while three out of five respondents said that it’s important to have a life separate from mobile phone and that could help them lead to happier lives,” the findings showed.

“As the ‘born in the net’ generation grows up as digital natives, there is a fundamental change underway within society — redefining relationships, interactions and the very fabric of human emotions and exchanges,” said Nipun Marya, Director Brand Strategy, Vivo India.

“This transformation is also an opportunity to harness and drive positive change, reinforce balance and responsible proliferation of technology and its usage among consumers,” he added.

Smartphone
An average Indian is spending one-third of his or her waking hours on phone – nearly 1,800 hours a year — and three out of four respondent said if smartphone usage continues at this rate, it is likely to impact their mental or physical health, a survey revealed on Friday. Pixabay

The survey, conducted online as well as face to face across top eight cities — found that 75 per cent of the respondents agreed to have owned a smartphone in their teens and of them, 41 per cent were hooked to phones even before graduating from high school.

The total number of respondents was 2,000 out of which 36 per cent were women and 64 per cent were men.

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“For results based on a randomly chosen sample of this size, there is 95 per cent confidence that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 2.2 per cent of what they would be if the entire population had been surveyed,” said the survey. (IANS)