As I entered the Central Market on Beetham Highway in Trinidad, I was assaulted by the aromas of cumin, coriander, tamarind and curry coming from the countless spice shops lining the market. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and for one fleeting moment it was as if I were home in New Delhi in northern India, sitting under a shady jack fruit tree and eating spicy goat curry, roti bread and chutney. When I opened my eyes again, I found myself unmistakably in the Caribbean. But because of the many similarities between India and Trinidad, I was as close to home as I could be. In the Caribbean, Trinidad stands out. Although British, French and Spanish influences are widely evident throughout the area, it is the Creole culture that dominates all of the Islands--all except Trinidad, where it shares the stage with the East Indian culture. When slavery was abolished by the British on the sister islands of Trinidad and Tobago in , all those of African descent immediately abandoned the sugar and cocoa plantations, causing a severe labor crisis.
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When Christopher Columbus reached Trinidad in on his third voyage, the island was inhabited by Arawakan-speaking tribal groups originally from the Orinoco River delta region and a smaller number of Cariban speakers. In the 16th century many of these Trinidadian Indians were captured by Spanish slave traders and sent to work in other Spanish possessions, but there was no effective Spanish presence on the island until Even after the development of the island proceeded slowly. Few Spaniards immigrated to Trinidad; only a handful of African slaves were imported; and there was little production or export. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, tobacco and, later, cacao were cultivated , using Trinidadian Indian labour, but after a disastrous failure of the cacao crop in the s, the industry declined. The island remained undeveloped until the late 18th century. From the Spanish government encouraged Roman Catholics from the other Caribbean islands to settle in Trinidad with their slaves. Most of the settlers were French, and French influence became dominant.
On Nov. Forced to seek work after famines ravaged large parts of the subcontinent, they were often exploited and overworked , received little medical care and suffered from high mortality rates. Even as Indian politicians turned Oct. Indian labourers travelled across the British Empire to work—and many stayed back, building new families and communities in lands far removed from those they had left in search of employment. The labourers who arrived in Fiji, Lal notes, were a diverse group encompassing a wide range of home districts, family structures and castes. And even here, the lower castes typically suffered the brunt of evictions and increases in taxes and rent, while the higher castes paid lower rents and were often able to resist outside interventions by banding together. Most of these were married couples, including some men who were accompanied by more than one wife. Many of the women who came to the island were brought from cities and towns in India, and were thought to have already been separated from their families. On his way back from Australia, when prime minister Narendra Modi visits Fiji later this month, he will meet members of an Indian community that dates back to
By Namit Arora. Can I be forgiven for that? Set in a large hall, the museum had no other visitors. Its curator, Saisbhan Jokhan, 69, came out to greet me.