West Indian History Report By Dwd Comins English Literature Essay

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The excerpt detailed a report by DWD Comins who went to the British Caribbean to conduct a survey of the Indians in the colony. He arrived on a Sunday morning on one of the estates in St. Lucia and was astounded when one of the indentured labourers greeted him in French patois instead of Hindustani. It was realized that the labourer had lost much of his native tongue and his lengthy stay of about eleven years could have influenced such.

It was apparent that this said indentured labourer had lost part of his identity as much as his attitude had assumed those of his masters. He seemed to be comfortable with his living conditions and so instead of accepting his return passage to India at the end of his contract labour; he chose to stay. He also seemed to have severed ties to his homeland as he never contacted family and in particular his mother who would have been worried and ashamed of who he had become. He therefore decided to spare her the torment by not writing to her.

The report continued to detail the incessant use of alcohol and the almost persistence in having such; as even on the days when money was not forthcoming, credit was given. The bottle seemed almost as a catalyst to ease or mask the steer of the predicaments of some of the 'coolies'.

The East Indians first came to St. Lucia and other Caribbean countries as indentured labourers after the full abolition of slavery in 1838. As, such the estate owners had to source a form of cheap labour to work the estates which the slaves no longer wanted to work. Hence, they brought thousands of East Indians from Asia to work on the fields between 1845 and 1917.

This extract piece seem to be concern with the assumption of a new identity for the "coolie" when he is described as wearing European clothing and speaking French patois. "On the road I overtook an Indian dressed in European style, riding a pony. I addressed him in Hindustani, and he answered in French patois." This is a clear indication of the Indian "coolie" being influenced by the French he once worked for and neglecting his own ethnic wear and language from his mother land India.

There is also the concern of building a life for his wife and children in this new land. "He has a wife and two children, and has no wish to return to India, and a few months ago accepted £10 bounty to forgo his right to a free return passage." This shows how strongminded he is about not returning to his land of birth; even when given the opportunity.

Another major area of concern is the coolies need for rum. "Some of the indentured, though not all, get drunk there and spend much of their pay, and when this is exhausted they are allowed credit." This is a clear indication of their need for rum; since their expenditure on such a luxury commodity far exceeds their small income.

The piece chosen aids in understanding history by delivering a clearer insight on the life of a coolie as an indentured labourer in St. Lucia. It shows how they choose to accept the european culture and french influences to gain a new identity while some neglected their own. Hence, the Hindustani language, culture and the way they dress decreased. "The coolies are happy and contented, and look well and prosperous; they have nothing but good to say of the estate and their treatment" This suggest that some of the plantation owners treated them well enough to influence their thought of going back to their mother land. They prefered to stay, rather than go back to to India. This percentage that chose to stay would have influenced the indian culture that is carried out presently throughout the Caribbean in song, dance, music, clothes and religion.

It also aids the understanding that St.Lucia was strongly influenced by both the Europeans and the French. This is clear when they said he dressed in European clothes and spoke in French patois. "On the road I overtook an Indian dressed in European style, riding a pony." "He had forgotten much of his native tongue, and the patois seemed to come much more easily to him."

The piece selected therefore, have dealt with such historical events as Indian indentured labourers in the Caribbean and the strong European and French influence in St. Lucia






SECTION 2 - CALYPSO: Split Me in Two- Dougla

The calypso "Split me in two" by Clatice Ai better known as the Mighty Dougla recounts the displacement of the "dougla" from the dominant discourses of race. Verse four clearly advises during a race discussion, "He say, yuh shut your mouth ain't got no race." This stanza poignantly reinforces a "disallowed identity", a term, which constituted "the dougla" (Puri, 2004). The song depicted the social and cultural displacement of the dougla, who is literally silenced in those early "race discussions" (verse 4 , line 1) and ends by refusing to be labeled race-less and having to decide whether to choose the African or Indian ("instead of having one race yuh know I got two") .

As evident from the implied notions of the racial division, one can tell that the calypso related ideals of post-colonial Trinidad. Since, that time there was an elaboration of a racial competition between Africans and Indians; in this context, the dougla now occupied a considerably different position since he/she disrupts the racial accounting that depends on clearly differentiable races. The dougla was seen as the mixed descendants of Afro and Indo- Trinidadians. According to Puri (2004) these anxieties around racial ambiguity were often expressed as disavowals of the dougla - either through the discursive repression of the dougla or through explicit attack on the category. The Mighty Dougla in recalling, "Because they sending Indians to India and Negroes back to Africa. Can somebody tell me where they sending poor me." This aptly illustrates a demarcation of the races, where they seem to belong, and the lack of existence of a place for the "dougla".

There was also evidence of inferiority whereby the Indians in early post emancipation Trinidad were socially and economically inferior to Blacks and they adhered to established racial divisions. For the Indian orthodoxy any hybridization of Black and Indian identities threatens to compromise its construction of Indianness. It further considers douglarization and creolization (which they equated) is a contamination and dilution of Indianness (Puri, 2004). Dougla, in his rendition outlined this very inferior position as recounted in verse 2 below:

"Ah couldn't play with no other lil children

If an go by the Negro children to play

They say "you little coolie now run away "

Ah go by the Indian children next door

They say "Nowayrians, what you come here for "

Ah always by meself like ah lil monkey

Not one single child wouldn't play with me."

The underlying message no doubt seems to rest with the racial tensions that existed between the dominant ethnic groups - Africans and Indians. The Indo-Trinidadian commonly considered douglas to be creoles attributing them all the stereotypically undesirable characteristics of a "creolized behaviour " - vices, idleness, mental problems, vagrancy and thought that it was hardly likely that douglas choose not to identify as such . As a result the Indians wanted to retain their social and cultural identity their Indianness with no penetration from other diversities. There was therefore "no place" for the dougla. Such was the fixation of the Indo -Trinidadians that the word "dougla" did not appear in the dictionary of common Trinidadian Hindi.

In contemporary Trinidad there still exist pockets of Indo - Trinidadians who hold true to this philosophy of no interracial or racial mixing of Africans and Indians in an effort to retain their rich cultural influence. However, in some quarters this attitude is slowly being eroded and there now exist a multitude of ethnicities.

The Mighty Dougla, therefore, was quite proficient and effective in relating the concerns of identity, stereotypical notions, segregation, and racial division in his honest and comical presentation of life for the two dominant ethnic groups in the post emancipation and colonial period. This is quite evident in Stanza 2 mentioned above and also in stanza 3 below:

"Hear what happen to me recently

Ah going down Jogie Road walking peacefully

Some Indians and Negroes rioting

Poor me didn't know not a single thing

But as ah enter in de Odit Trace

Ah Indian man cuff me straight in meh face

Ah run by the Negroes to get rescue

'Look ah coolie!' and them start beating me too."

The Calypso "Split Me in Two" aids in better understanding the historical racial aspects in Trinidad after the slavery period when the East Indians came to Trinidad in 1845 to work as indentured labourers. Therefore, as the segregation of the races was revoked my some members of both ethic groups, and so evolved the "douglas". The indo-community and afro-community neglected and disrespected the douglas since both believe one was better than the other. They believed that each other's preservation and attenuation of tradition was compromised. The calypso brings to your attention how the Douglas were left without a true sence of identy as the last Stanza says -

"Some fellas having a race discussion

I jump in to give my opinion

A young fella watch me in meh face

He say, yuh shut your mouth yuh ain't got no race

What he say to me was a real insult

But is not right to blame, is meh fadder fault

When you see half a race talking to (?)

Instead of having one race yuh know I got two"