Future Directions for Indo-Caribbean Culture:
Values and Ethical Challenges in managing Indian Culture in a Westernized Society.

For any culture to manage itself, not only to survive in a westernized society, but to grow, is no mean feat. Many believed it could not be done. Why?

In the West, both reason, and the rights of the individual: the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression for all, freed men’s productive capacity from the tyranny of the state as well as from religious dogma.

This new cultural environment led to the blossoming of what is now identified with the West: the exploration and utilisation of the capacity of science and technology, the rapid creation of wealth and the substantial improvement in the standard of living. Many from the developing world left their poverty and its conservatism behind and emigrated to Europe and the Americas.

During ancient India’s long historical period, a significant number of invaders entered its domain; many remained, and in time their culture was absorbed into that of the host country. The cultures of the invaders were: Hellenic, Chinese, Islamic, Persian and English. India’s inherent philosophy of inclusivity, enabled it to assimilate the cultures that came to its shores, so further enhancing its own culture by increasing its sustainability, and expanding both its depth and width of understanding of what it is to be human.

But what makes India unique, despite its population of 1.27 billion and growing, its sub -continental size and regional differences?

It is its commonality, the underpinning of all aspects of the lives of its people by religion. In addition, its healthy, working democracy, (so difficult to have in developing societies) influences its inclusivity and tolerance of differences. An example of this is that there are far more Moslems living in India, a secular state than in the Moslem state next door— Pakistan. India’s philosophy, Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) has enabled the process of inclusivity of all comers and its own independence struggle from the most powerful Empire, the world has known, to take place peacefully.

Westernized Society, especially in the past 50 years, with its invention of the internet have revolutionised the speed and ease, in accessing a wide range of information, as well as in contacting anyone on the planet, at anytime at little cost. Time itself has lost its long duration; it has become a moment at the click of the button “send.” Because the internet is available to all cultures, and because of its ease of use by anyone, rapid changes to an individual’s thinking and so to all conservative, family oriented cultures are taking place. The internet opens doors to progressive, profitable ways of thinking and doing that are occurring elsewhere. This leads to the quiet evolution of conservative cultures into becoming more progressive and creative.

To summarise, Indian culture has managed exceptionally well in the West. India’s important ceremonies of life: its birth, marriage and death ceremonies form an intrinsic part of Indians’ identity. History has shown they are in very good health. Many religious festivals like Diwali, Shivatree: the birth of Shiva, Kartik–ke-nahan, the narration of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata; the architecture of temples and mosques; Indian films and music are all popular.

However, there is a note of discord. India’s history of inclusivity indicates that one should embrace children of a mixed heritage, encourage them to learn about their Indian cultural heritage; they should be welcomed warmly by Indians and encouraged to understand and benefit from all aspects of their two cultures, joyously offered at their birth.

The culture of India was brought to the Caribbean mainly by those who came as agricultural labourers through the system of Indenture. Its poor wages, and poor living conditions, its long periods where the low ratio of Indian women to Indian men (40 women to 100 men) were not uncommon for many years, led to a period of much misery, overburdened frustration and violent deaths, heightened by the abuse of power.

One of the most important things lost is the use of the Hindi language which would have enriched our vocabulary.

However as soon as these destabilising factors, described above were expunged, the inherent resilience and depth, of Indian culture, its values of thrift and hard work enabled it to restore itself with speed and energy and so, the quality of life of the Indentured in their new Caribbean home.

Despite the discriminatory religious and other cultural impediments placed before them by an antagonistic civil service and government, the children and grand children of the indentured made remarkable progress, with many attaining some of the highest positions in the land.