The Long Voyage of the Aapravasis


It has been a long journey from the time the system of indentured labour began. When one thinks of the shiploads of workers who were shipped away in uncouth conditions as from the 1840s to man the plantations in the various colonies, there is an awesome story to tell.

The beginnings were horrible. Many families in India lost their potential bread earners. Others were torn apart in the quest for better livelihoods. If we were to tell the tale of misery that followed in the wake, it would be a lot about fortitude against the most inhumane conditions those immigrants had to go through over a long stretch of time. 2nd November is a time to recollect the woes of those who consciously or unconsciously were laying down the foundation of other generations to come. They had little to go by. But they gave whatever they had to found a better future for their successors.

It may be said that this spirit of fighting it up has been characteristic of the immigrant class from India. Finally, VS Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for Literature. All his writings have been in English. He has excelled so much that commentators in England treat him as one of the best wielders of the English language today if not simply the best. He stands like a Shakespeare equivalent of modern days. Like him, many have asserted their excellence in so many domains, you name it! From research to business to academics, they have won a name for success in the leading countries of the world. It shows that, given the opportunity, they can climb to the greatest heights. It also shows their extraordinary adaptation to their new environments.

It is normal that in capitalist and democratic countries, where most of them have settled up, not all shine up all at once. There is not enough space for all to make it all at once. However, fundamental cultural values of these populations will prop them up and they should nurture ambition enough constantly to rise both inward and externally. At the level of the inward journey, they have to go on polishing the heart until the higher synthesis is attained by sticking to enduring values passed on to them right from the roots. In the world of mundane existence, this same deep rooted culture should push them to acquire the most complex skills and finally make it to the top.

This is the ray of hope that should hold up those who are still in the making. That should encourage them not to sink into the cheaper models of excessive self-indulgence which surrounds them. The role models should spring up to avert the decay and disaster that the facility of effortless environments draws the less well off into. Where are the role models? Why are they so absent, when there were so many of such leaders in the past when times were harder?

The fractures that have come within society among this group is testimony that all is not well. This is undoubtedly the best recipe to bring the superstructure crashing down some day. No one will pity them when this comes about. The uphill climb will begin anew, as if Sisyphus was condemned to roll the huge boulder up Mount Olympus once more.

Rather than having to face up such a bleak condition, people build up on the acquired momentum. This is done by holding hands, not by cultivating fissiparous tendencies for private advantage. A lot of work has gone into making the diaspora what it is today. It has many achievements to its credit. Teamwork can but consolidate such achievements. All it requires is an unstinting focus on goals, the next goals to be achieved, collective efforts to be made to keep rising and pulling the rest who have difficulty making it up. Do not think for yourself alone. Think of progressing a broader program embracing all. If the habit of pulling down those who achieve was studiously and carefully abandoned, this group could network itself into one great success story. You have to believe in a story if you want to make it happen. That’s what we can wish for all the actors involved in this unfolding drama for the coming 2nd November.

* Published in print edition on 1 November 2012

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