In the Footsteps of Rama


Ariti Jankie

In the Footsteps of Rama is the story of the Indian Diaspora in Trinidad narrated in an engaging manner and style with a human touch. The protagonist of the story, Rama, is born away from his Motherland to which he is passionately attached. While the tale revolves around Rama, it spans generations of Indian settlers, ever since the first shipment of Indians arrived in Trinidad. The descendants of the first settlers had never seen India and yet grieved for their ‘motherland’:

That is because she is all we are and know. We follow in the footsteps of those who were breast fed at her bosom. We know only of her culture. We are children of India (p. 104).

So much so, even after a century of being settled in Trinidad, the news of India’s independence was “intoxicating” and celebrated in Trinidad with a puja and a thanksgiving ceremony in a mosque. The culture and religions of India had become the base of family life. The story encompasses vivid and colourful accounts of the prayers for Kali, the Goddess of whom Rama is a devotee and the Divali festival in which both Hindus and Muslims were involved.

Rama who lost his mother at a tender age continuously seeks her throughout his life. Similarly the Indians in Trinidad lost their Mother India and seek to replicate her ways and culture in Trinidad. In spite of the hardships of ‘exile’, slowly their village in Trinidad by the dint of their hard work and effort changes and starts becoming prosperous. By 1962, with Trinidad’s independence it dawns on Rama that Indians had become equal citizens in the country and that he has started thinking of it as ‘home’. So, he realizes that:

Trinidad is my home. It is my janmabhoomi, land of birth and while India remains my beloved maternal grandmother who lives far away, I am home among my people (p.158).

Rama is also disillusioned with his daughter’s husband from India who does not have any dignity and is not worthy of any respect. Over the years, with age comes enlightenment and the Ramayana gave Rama “answers to life’s puzzles”. Having lost Mother India, “Mother Earth had been the savior. She produced abundantly and gave the Indians the chance to continue to draw strength from Hinduism and the Muslim religion in the fields under colonial rule” (p.238). Rama towards the end of his life saw Goddess Durga in his mother, in his wife and his eight daughters and realized that he had indeed lived a full life with his Mother’s blessings—be it in form of the Goddess, his motherland, his wife or his daughters.

Ariti Jankie’s latest book may be termed an emotional history of a diaspora that had to deal with many hardships—physical and psychological but through sheer grit and determination, emerge admirable winners.

—Reviewed by Ms. Priti Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The Collected Speeches of Somnath Chatterjee
Publisher: Westland
Author: Somnath Chatterjee
Price: INR 695/-
Pages: 596


Address at the function for launching two satellite channels for the live telecast of the proceedings of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, Central Hall, Parliament House, New Delhi, 14 December 2004. It is indeed a great honour for me to launch a dedicated satellite channel for the live telecast of the proceedings of Lok Sabha from today onwards. With this, India joins a few other nations such as Canada, USA, UK, Denmark, Iran, Hungary and Bulgaria which have been telecasting live the entire proceedings of their Parliament.

We are grateful to the honourable Vice-President for his kind consent in proceeding with this programme. I also extend my thanks to Honourable Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Shri Jaipal Reddy, officers of Doordarshan and of the Lok Sabha for their cooperation.

We have moved ahead step by step towards telecasting live the proceedings. I recall that it was on 20 December 1989 when the President’s address to Members of both the Houses of Parliament in Central Hall was telecast live for the first time by Doordarshan.

Close, Too Close
Publisher: Tranquebar
Edited by: Meenu & Shruti
Foreword by: Vikram Doctor
Price: INR 395/-
Pages: 216

Traditional Medicine and Women Healers in Trinidad: Postnatal Health Care
Publisher: Chakra Publishing House Ltd.
Author: Dr. Kumar Mahabir, Ph.D.
Price: TT $100, US $25
Pages: 212

  Dr. Kumar Mahabir, Ph.D.

The first observation I would like to make is that Traditional Medicine and Women Healers in Trinidad: Postnatal Health Care is a Labor of Love. Love in the sense that Dr. Kumar Mahabir’s care and respect for the practices he documents, and the women who so generously carry and reproduce them in the face of innumerable obstacles. It is refreshing to read social scientific work in which the author so clearly cherishes the people with whom he works.

Yet this work is also a Labor of Love in the sense that Mahabir takes great care in the way he so meticulously documents an entire range of ethno-medical ideas and practices that have become marginalized, but not entirely recessive among Trinidadians. These practices are deeply connected with Hinduism and yet reach well beyond the Hindu sphere, not only to Indo-Trinidadians of all faiths, but also in fact to people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds on this lively, happening island. This alone is a noteworthy contribution, but I want to highlight two further points raised by Mahabir’s study that deserve mention: one substantive, and the other theoretical.

Firstly, not all so-called “traditional” practices suffer the same fate under the rise to dominance of biomedicine. Indeed, Mahabir has shown how various practices have changed differentially through time, as well as how some practices have remained resilient - such as midwifery and childbirth care in the present case - and which become casualties in the face of biomedicine’s hegemony in our late modern world.

June 2012

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