Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Weekes: They ‘breathed new life into the economic, social and cultural fabric’ of T&T; Happy Indian Arrival Day!

Weekes: They ‘breathed new life into the economic, social and cultural fabric’ of T&T; Happy Indian Arrival Day!

“[…] With their religions, customs, values and hopes for a brighter future in tow, they came ashore and breathed new life into the economic, social and cultural fabric of their adopted homeland; and, well over a century later, the torch of their legacy of sacrifice, perseverance and temerity is ably borne by their descendants. 

“Our country is all the better for it…”

The following is an Indian Arrival 2021 message from President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Paula-Mae Weekes ORTT:

Image: An artistic tribute to Indian Arrival Day by Indra Persad-Milowe.
(Copyright Indra Persad-Milowe)

Today the nation marks 176 years since the Fatel Razack dropped anchor at the Port of Spain harbour with 225 travel-weary but relieved passengers on board. With their religions, customs, values and hopes for a brighter future in tow, they came ashore and breathed new life into the economic, social and cultural fabric of their adopted homeland; and, well over a century later, the torch of their legacy of sacrifice, perseverance and temerity is ably borne by their descendants. 

Our country is all the better for it.  

The indentured labourers, drawn from villages and cities across India, have enriched Trinbagonian society beyond measure, their music, dance, food and festivals becoming part of a common cultural heritage in which every creed and race freely shares. However, the real and enduring impact of their coming is more, much more, than those tangible cultural goods. Their experiences have proved a wellspring of guidance and inspiration from which we all have the privilege of drawing. 

Indian Arrival Day is a golden opportunity to reflect on their remarkable journey and in so doing, revisit the foundational values and ideals upon which they thrived—a salutary exercise in these perilous times. 

Our approach to dealing with adversity should mirror that of the pioneers who braved treacherous seas, toiled in an unfamiliar and hostile land, and suffered oppressive working and living conditions before they ultimately triumphed. Theirs is a tale of resilience, courage and determination to succeed. 

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes (right).
(Copyright Office of the President)

In the same way that they understood the value of sacrifice in order to reap a benefit, we too must make the necessary changes to our accustomed behaviour in order to make inroads in our current struggle against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Let us set aside the cleavages—political, social and racial—which plague and frustrate efforts to rid our nation of this deadly virus, and bond to confront the common enemy. 

We cannot celebrate Indian Arrival Day with the usual large family gatherings and re-enactments of the Fatel Razack’s historic landing, but in honouring those intrepid voyagers who dared to search for a better future, we wholeheartedly embrace the values which drove and sustained them.

I wish the national community a safe, happy and reflective Indian Arrival Day.

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