December 2020 \ Interviews \ COVER STORY—GOPIO SURINAME
“We have a lot to offer to the Indian economy”

Head of the Gopio Suriname Chapter Mrs Drs Sharmila H. Ramadhin spoke to India Empire on issues ranging from the role of Surinamese Diaspora to how Suriname can become a hub for India in the Caribbean ...

You have a President of Indian origin in your country. Many of your country’s top leadership have been of Indian origin. You have a lady ambassador representing Suriname in India. Given this advantage do you feel Suriname can play a leadership role in India’s engagement with the Caribbean?

It is the first time in history that Suriname has an elected President of Indian origin. This President is facing a tough time to lead Suriname through the economic malaise, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Actually, India is not the main focus of many Suriname leaders (including business leaders), because of the lack of knowledge of mutually benefiting opportunities. Any quick wins with the help of India or the Indian Diaspora which help Suriname to survive this economic situation, may be used as a success-story within the Caribbean. In addition, Suriname can be used as an “Economic and Communication Hub” for India in the Caribbean.

We understand that Suriname has preserved the Bhojpuri language very well, and many people of Indian origin are conversant in India. Please talk us through this…

Yes, many people of Indian origin consider the Bhojpuri their own language, however the local Bhojpuri has been enriched with other languages like Dutch, French, English and Hindi. Nowadays the younger generation is adopting Dutch and English as their main languages. It is important to acknowledge the changing society of Suriname which means increasing ethnic plurality, cultural and religious diversity and respect for each other. More than 10 different cultures and religions live and work together, nevertheless younger generations are still looking and asking for their roots.

If we don’t focus on preserving this language, then it will slowly disappear. In the Netherlands some organizations put a lot of effort into preserving the language. A grammar book has recently been published. It is remarkable that not only is the Bhojpuri language preserved, but also other traditional values like marriage-style, eating habits and religious practices are maintained and cultivated, however Bollywood has a huge impact on the traditional values.