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A Non-Conventional Arrival Day Message – by Dr. Josh Kanhai

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Dr. Josh Kanhai, left, speaks with a fellow Guyanese on horseback.

First Published: 6th of May, 2021 by Patrick Carpen

Last updated: July 1, 2022 at 1:46 am

The conventional Arrival Day message seeks to glorify the East Indians’ arrival in Guyana and to celebrate the achievements and contributions of the East Indians in and towards Guyana. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But under the peaceful waters of cultural pride rages a deadly current of racism that few like to acknowledge. It is this unseen aspect of racial pride – the disunity created by unity – that Dr. Josh Kanhai seeks to address in his non-conventional Arrival Day Message.

We the People

This isn’t going to be the conventional speech for Indian Arrival Day. We are all equal at the end of the day. Cut my skin and you’ll see blood: the very same blood you have without a doubt.
We the people are of this nation without hesitation, we were birthed on a soil claimed to be Guyana, a soil they once called “El Dorado”. We beg to differ, I am El Dorado and you are as equal of an El Dorado as you can be.

They the people have grown, they have evolved on principles not of Darwin but on principles of race, heat, and hate. And they try to filter it down to us. They try to deviously deviate us from the narrow way of culture, tranquility, and peace which leads to progress. We will not blame them. However, we have to accept that this was something within the magnitude of a generational curse. Are you cursed my Guyanese brothers and sister?

Are you cursed with racism? Are you cursed with that need to just hate and unfortunately, horrifically hate an entire culture and label them within a class system. Are you going to figure out that I, that We, are not your enemy! Nobody is your enemy. No man is an island, and if he be an island, may he not be a volcano and erupt in his own ego.

We the people are going to move together for the better. We the people will continue to build on a foundation left by all of our fore parents and those before them. We the people have had enough of the time machine that only goes backward on one nugget of rhetoric. This is one nation, with #OnePeople working towards One Destiny.

By order of the #keepmovingforwardorg.

-Dr. Josh Kanhai
5th May, 2021.

Read More: People, History and Culture of Guyana

As I Reflect – An Arrival Day Story – by Mr. Frank Satnarine

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First Published: 5th May, 2020

Last updated: July 3, 2022 at 1:08 am

My great great grandparents were the first batch of Coolies who came from India and settled in Guyana in 1838. My great great grandfather came willingly, aged 21: young and strong and looking for adventure. He came with 2 brothers. One brother died on the way and was buried at sea.

My great great grandmother was kidnapped, aged 15. She had gone to the shop, saw a crowd, went to investigate and ended up in a holding area. As night fell, from where she was held, she saw her father. He was looking for her, but he could not see her. That was the last time she saw him and India. The boat departed the same night and she left without saying goodbye.

During the 3-month journey, in order to save herself from being abused, she aligned herself with my great great grandfather and their union would last for 50 years. None of their descendants ever returned to India.

Their granddaughter was my grandmother. I grew up with her, and she told me everything I needed to know about life in India, the dreaded journey at sea and life in the colony when her grandparents arrived.

She told me also that without the help, support, and encouragement of the ex slaves, none of the Coolies would have survived. They needed food, medicine, and clothing, and this was provided in part by the British, but a greater part was provided by the ex-slaves. Some of the men also took for themselves young wives from the ex-slaves since the proportion of men were greater than women who came.

As I reflect today, 182 years later, I must be grateful for those who braved the oceans seeking a new life and those who were already here ( the ex slaves), thanking them for my very existence.

I have no photos, no names, just their stories. I have no one in India with whom I can connect. Guyana is my land, my people and my home.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Team Guyana, South America or the general Guyanese population. Do you have a Guyanese story to tell? Email us at: guyanasouthamericagy@gmail.com.

Read More: People, History, and Culture of Guyana

Indian Arrival Day – May 5th

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This article was first published on the 5th of May, 2020 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: May 5, 2021 at 17:01 pm

In Guyana, South America, the 5th of May each year is set aside as a national holiday to celebrate the Arrival of East Indians from the subcontinent of India to Guyana.

A Little Background Information

The first people to have arrived in Guyana were the Amerindians who came from Asia via the Berring Straight in search of food. This ice passage later melted. After the Amerindians came the Europeans in search of the Golden City of Eldorado. The Europeans never found El Dorado. However, they set up sugar plantations in Guyana.

To fulfill the labor needs of the plantation, the despicable practice of slavery, particularly the enslavement of Africans, was accelerated. Slaves were brought from Africa to labor on the plantations. But when slavery was abolished in 1838, the need for cheap labor caused the Europeans to set their sights on India.

The East Indian Indentureship System

As mentioned above, when slavery was abolished, the plantation owners in Guyana needed laborers to fill the void. They created a system of indentureship. This saw the arrival of the first batch of East Indians in 1838. India provided a steady supply of laborers who were able to stand up to the hard labor of the plantations, particularly manual cane harvesting. These unskilled laborers were often colloquially referred to as “coolies.”

The East Indians were transported via ships from 1838 to 1917 in a voyage that lasted three months. After failed experiments with Portuguese and Chinese indentured laborers, the East Indians, of all races, proved most able to tackle the hard labor of the sugar plantations in searing heat. They were also willing to work cheap. In exchange, they were facilitated with houses to live in and also paid a low salary. At the end of the five years period, they had the choice of either renewing their contract or return to India. Most chose to stay in Guyana.

The stories of indentureship vary significantly and are often contradictory. Some East Indians express great satisfaction, relating that indentureship in British Guiana rescued them from a life of drudgery and stagnation in India while others tell stories of a harsh life meted out to them in early British Guiana.

It is my personal opinion that indentureship was a good thing. It brought new opportunities and provided a better life for those who migrated from India. Many East Indians took advantage of the opportunities in Guyana to advance their education, create businesses, and migrate to the United States and other first world countries.

What is your opinion of indentureship and the British system of government in Guyana? Tell us in the comments section below. Or, feel free to email your stories to: contact@guyanasouthamerica.gy, or message us via our Facebook Page.