The Island Alien

On Indian Arrival Day and Identity

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Once again, this time of the year comes around.
And once again, I have my thoughts on it.

Indian Arrival Day always fills me with bittersweet thoughts and a sense of loss.

We commemorate and celebrate the arrival of a large percentage of our current population. Our history would be so different if the East Indian indentured labourers had never come. Trinidad and Tobago would be a different place entirely.

And yet, this day just makes me think about my confusing feelings of identity. I don’t know my ancestors’ names. I know that my mother’s grandmother came here as a child on one of the boats. But which one? What was her name? What about my mother’s father’s grandparents? What about my entire father’s side of the family? I don’t know what I am, and though that might not seem important to some, it is something I struggle with often.

I think about how history is written and recorded. How it is twisted and changed. I think about all the labourers who were denied passage back to their homes. The ones who were bribed and lied to. I think about what it would’ve been like for them, living on barely enough rations, with only enough money left over to buy rum. Where do you think the association between Indians and rum comes from? In a time where depression, homesickness and loneliness were rampant, how else would they ‘heal’ the pain?

I think about the effects of colonization. The pain that still remains. How the white men told the Indian workers that they were ‘better’ than the African slaves,who were dirty and stupid, and how the Indians believed them because at least they were getting ‘paid’. How the white men tried their very best to keep the two races separated, instilling hatred and fear in their minds. I think about how that racist mentality still runs rampant through this country.

This day needs to become more than just a day to eat curry and dress up in pretty outfits.
This day needs to be a day of healing. A day when we can acknowledge and heal from colonization. A day where we hold workshops on dealing with pain and mental illness. A day where we can work towards undoing the racism between Indians and Africans that only exist because of white men.
When will these things ever happen?

So here I am, stuck in the middle of people celebrating all around me. Wondering if I’m having too many thoughts, or too little. Wondering who my ancestors were. Wonder how I can pay my respects to them properly on this day. Wondering if T&T will ever be able to get to a healing start.

The Island Alien

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the last showing of “Takdir: the greatest true love story of Indian Arrival”, a play written and directed by Victor Edwards and researched by Shamshu Deen. It was a wonderful experience. The play itself was beautifully written and directed, the actors were brilliant, the set design was amazing, and the music was breathtaking. 

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On Being Compassionate at Work

Hey everyone. This post is dedicated to those who find it hard to remain compassionate to others when there is a lot of tension at work. If you’ve found yourself thinking about others as being very distant from you, or if you’ve been feeling cold toward your coworkers and even your loved ones, this is the post for you!

Personally, in times of struggle, what I try to do is focus and let go of my anger. I think that’s a normal thing people deal with. I want to make sure I can keep myself in check during those moments where too much is being asked of me and I feel like I’m about to snap.

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On being a Chronic Job Quitter.

I’m starting a new job soon (yes! A real job!), and boy am I feeling that anxiety. Everyone gets those nervous and anxious feelings about any big new step in their life, right? But here I am feeling double the anxiety and nerves, since I’m just a generally anxious person to begin with. All I can think is ‘I really hope I can do this’ and ‘I wonder how long I’m gonna last this time’. Cause let’s face it, I’m a chronic job quitter. Do you know someone like this? Lasts about a few months to maybe a year, then quits and moves on to something else. That’s me. For me, it’s not because the job itself gets difficult. It’s either it gets too monotonous and I get bored with the routine, or I get really fed up with the environment and my coworkers and it starts affecting my mental health.

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Professional learner.

When I was 3 years old, I started singing and dancing. I was obsessed with music and Indian culture. I was told by many people that I had a ‘natural talent’ for singing. I spent the next 12 years singing in competitions, appearing on television, and starting writing my own songs and thinking about the type of music I wanted to create. Eventually, I was told that these things were “hobbies”, and I needed to focus on a more realistic goal.

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On weddings and tradition

“You can’t date till you’re an adult! No boyfriends allowed!”

*sneaks around*

“You can’t do that in my house! Not under my roof!”

*“Okay, well I’m 21 now, I wanna get my own place!”*

“Move out?? Why do you want to leave??? Do you hate me????”

*finally leaves home at 24 after finishing school, etc*

“You’re 25. Why aren’t you married yet??? When will I get grandkids?”

Do these scenarios sound familiar? If it’s something you’ve experienced, I empathize. I am Indian. From the Caribbean. Specifically, I’m West Indian with East Indian roots. These are my parents. Overprotective, overbearing, strict, traditional, conservative. I have a question for them that I could never ask them. “If I literally just started dating because I was raised so strict, how am I supposed to get married now and have kids?” Now that’s considered being rude. But honestly, what do you expect from me?
Now, this isn’t exactly my situation, and it might only be an exaggerated version of most Caribbean young adults’ actual life and relationship with parents. But why is it someone can look at this and laugh along? What is with parent’s strictness, then overbearing expectations on their children, especially their daughters?

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Dear Younger Me Series

Dear 20 year old me,

You are so tough. I wish I could be as tough as you are. Somewhere along the line I think I lost some of that raw nerve you had. I mean it’s not all bad, don’t worry. I’m pretty sure you’d think I look cool. I still have wildly coloured hair. I have 7 more tattoos, and a couple more piercings. Yeah, I know, totally rad. Job wise? Eh, well. I’m looking I guess. I was going alright there for a bit, you know. It was pretty okay. But I think I’m taking a break and going back to trying to “be happy”. I’m sure you remember what we used to want to do in life. I’m trying to realize those dreams once more. So I’m back to the drawing board. Literally. I’m drawing again, can you believe it?! And I’m painting, crafting and sewing. But, oh no. Please don’t be upset. I barely sing anymore. And I definitely don’t perform anywhere. I haven’t given up! I’m just….waiting. I wanna finally make my own stuff, like you wanted.
There are things about you I wish I still had. How are you so fearless? I have terrible anxiety every single day. Some days, I can’t even leave the house because of it. I wish I could figure out how you do it. You’re the strongest person I know. I think about the things you go through and know that I wouldn’t be able to do it myself. You are so funny and charismatic. But I wish I could tell you that you don’t have to hide everything like you do. You don’t have to mask all the bad stuff. There are people in your life who genuinely care about you. Don’t be so guarded. I know why you do it, and I know you feel you have to, but your true friends will help you and remain by your side. They’re still here. They’re proud of you. And so am I. I am so proud of you.

I love you,
25 year old you.

I’m going to be doing an entire series of these, to various ages. Stay tuned.
Also, I invite you to join me!