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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Take pride in heritage – urges Guyanese living in Canada

As we move through our busy lives, hurrying to meetings, appointments, work, and school, it is easy to overlook our connection to and dependence on one another. It is our need for one another, this noble quality of human nature. Unfortunately, our society (Westernised Indian) has lost something since migrating to Guyana and Trinidad and then here to North America. Instead of recognising our connections to one another, our current culture, coupled with its marvellous technological advancements, we tend to bad talk our own people and lose track on a sense of who we really are.

But when tragedy strikes, whether in September 11th, 2001 or December 26th, 2004 (Tsunami), we are suddenly reminded of our shared interests. Once the shock of the moment has passed, it's easy to look around and ask how such a thing could have happened.

Like moving upstream from oceans to rivers to creeks to the headwater springs, acts of rage and hatred commonly stem from humble sources. Taunting, teasing, scorn of those different from oneself can be so common, yet so destructive. As water dripping on granite can wear a hole in stone, so can the constant drip of cruelty or intolerance dissolve our better natures.

I was particularly disturbed a few days ago, when a friend of mine, who is in her thirty’s, said that she does not like Guyanese people, because they are too “crookish”. I could NOT understand why she would say such a thing, when in fact, she is also a Guyanese.

After days of wondering what I can do to understand why she felt this way, I decided to talk to some of the youth that attend my classes at Shobha Talent and Cultural Centre as well as youths who attend the Devi Mandir, both based in Pickering, Ontario. These youths are Canadian by birth. Yet, they tell everyone that they are Guyanese/Trinidadians or Indians. I wanted to find out their views on why they feel this way.

I first approached my own 16-year-old daughter. She had these words to say:

“Although I was born in Canada and love living here and I do feel a strong allegiance to the country, I also feel a connection to Guyanese/Indian values. I still observe many of the religious and cultural practices associated with being a Guyanese Hindu. I don’t think it’s a contradiction; it’s something that you organically grow into. I don’t think you’d actually need to know the history in order to be classed as truly `Guyanese’ or `Trinidadian’ of ‘Indian’.”

Youth, girl, 16:
“I feel that I’m Canadian only because of the environment in which I live, but I’m grounded more by the fact that I’m Guyanese. Although I’ve never been to Guyana or India, I’m proud to say that I am a Guyanese and admire my family’s determination and the sense of family unity and the life we lead”

My 14-year-old daughter:
“Those Guyanese/Trinidad or Indians who are living in Canada and say that they are Canadians and do not identify their true backgrounds are characterised, among us as immoral and having no values or sense of who they really are. You cannot pick up someone else’s culture, religion or heritage and call it your own. You should learn more about your own first and be proud of who you really are. That makes you a better Canadian citizen as Canada is so diverse...”

Youth, girl, 18 years old:
“I am not surprised to see a Trinidadian/Guyanese or Indian flag proudly displayed adjacent to a poster advertising a cultural event in Toronto. This country is becoming so diverse that we are no longer ashamed of who we are. Despite living a largely Western lifestyle on a day-to-day basis, many young Guyanese/Trinidadian or Indian claim a connection with what they perceive as ‘core’ Indian values, such as the focus on family life and community spirit, religion and culture”

After listening to these young men and women, I was truly proud of being an Indo- Guyanese myself. I observed their pride in who they are, despite living in a vastly westernised world and despite actually being born here in Canada. I realised that they are the future. They are the ones who will carry on our heritage, our roots, our religion, our culture, our name, in this western world.

I felt proud that I have taught my children to identify themselves in this society and to be proud of whom they are. I commend the parents of those children that I have interviewed.

Many of the second generation’s proud declarations of being Guyanese Trinidadians or Indian, despite not necessarily having set foot on this soil, are also based on the many achievements made by their own, here in North America.

In recent years, young Guyanese/Trinidadians and Indians have made a prominent presence in several fields. These include entertainment, the arts, politics, law and banking as well as the more traditional sectors of IT, engineering and medicine. These achievements have led to a pride in the community. Values which are seen to enable success; that is, a pride that is brought to North America by Indians, be it from India, Guyana, Trinidad or any other part of the world.

I feel strongly that if we do not adhere to our heritage and our culture, then who are we really? I still do not understand why my friend would put down her own people, but I am proud to say that I have learned a lot more from the youths than from a thirty-something.

Shobha Maraj
Shobha Talent and Cultural Centre

Link Posted by jebratt :: Sunday, April 23, 2006 :: 0 comments

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