Beyond the Hesperus and the Whitby
Excerpts from a presentation by Ashook Ramsaran on Indian Arrival Day Commemoration in Guyana on May 5
Two years ago, I vividly recall that on this date, and on this very stage when it was inaugurated and the special feeling it evoked among so many – a truly historic milestone of cultural preservation in the Indian Diaspora.
Today, I want to talk about “Beyond the Hesperus and the Whitby” – from whence we have come but more so where and how we traveled together since landing here, where we are going and prospects for that tomorrow - as the lessons of journeys past have taught us to use wisely and effectively.
That journey in 1838 from Kolkata to Highbury followed the journeys of so many others from Africa and elsewhere but was the beginning of wholesale Indian labor as a commodity for profit and led to a new era in Guyana and the Caribbean region.
We have come to pay homage and commemorate an historic event which took place 177 years ago and recognize the journeys, hardships, travails and perseverance of a people – while looking at today and tomorrow which can take lessons from that history of not so long ago. While acknowledging that past, we can triumph by bold leaps and decisions same as those who came to this land with just a promise and with lots of hope and determination.
Our ancestors came here partially by choice, many forced but resolved and persevered under very difficult and harrowing conditions. That shared experience, that saga of shared history, fostered an unusual kindred spirit of resolve, togetherness and kinship – a triumph over obstacles and difficulties with dreams and aspirations of a destiny intertwined by history and fate.
We pay homage to those who came before us – from Kolkata, Madras, Madeira, Macao, Gambia and Congo. We have roots in India, Africa, China, Portugal and the Americas, yet we have nurtured stronger roots here, molded in this land, from whence the descendants have gone to other lands and established themselves with remarkable successes. Such is the special nature of a Guyanese – making it better with each journey, looking for opportunities and excelling in pursuits.
I trace my own roots to my great grand father Pooriya who arrived here in 1853 and settled in Tuschen De Vrinden, and my great grandmother Radhah who arrived here in 1860. They married and raised a family which went on to settle in Berbice, with now many in USA, Canada and UK. We are all product of this land of many waters and opportunities – that we shall never forget.
In Guyana, we were thrown together while being used as labor for profit yet managed to establish a nation born of necessity, born of diversity yet unified in the continuing quest with determination for prosperity and progress in a national agenda of shared destiny -- a single nation with diverse ethnic origin but common national spirit and singular national agenda.
Messy at times, traumatic and heart wrenching – yet the larger goal of national loyalty takes precedence for the common good, common future and mutual benefits as a people of a nation knitted together in unison with shared dreams, aspirations and hopes for a better day each and every day. It is the totality of a people and we must take pride and courage in that fact. It is a work in progress for nation building, Guyana being a relatively young nation with a unique history.
History has thrown us together and history would look kindly on the success of the human spirit that is triumphant in a shared destiny. Our paths met – actually we were thrown together - we stayed put, remained intact and we have forged a new path for our shared destiny. By the way, some in several countries of the colonial past have taken that word in the literal sense, unfortunately.
Together, we have weathered the storms of slavery, indenturedship and colonialism to emerge with common and shared aspirations and energy to mold a new nation.
We are of the salt and sugar of Guyana.
Molded by common aspirations of survival and success, a shared experience and shared purpose are the ingredients for a common destiny. Each of us adds to the fabric and successes of the nation, not take away from it - to form a special mosaic and envy of so many other countries.
We are a special people thrown together by the winds and whims of history but with a unique experience which can guide us better than the winds of the Atlantic which flapped the sails of our journeys.
We pay homage to those who came before us–from Kolkata, Madras, Madeira, Macao, Gambia and Congo. We have roots in India, Africa, China, Portugal and the Americas, yet we have nurtured stronger roots here, molded in this land, from whence the descendants have gone to other lands and established themselves with remarkable successes