Malay Steps out of His Crease

By Stephen Kangal
February 06, 2012

PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar in IndiaIn the aftermath of the current euphoria and unbridled optimism generated from the highly successful recent State visit conducted by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar to India in connection with the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas it is very disconcerting to hear HE The High Commissioner of India to T&T, Malay Mishra using an occasion to promote his mission’s Hindi language program in T&T, to unleash unwarranted and undiplomatic criticisms of her alleged inability to connect with the people of her ancestral village of Bhelupur because she spoke in English- the official language of T&T.

There was simultaneous translation into Hindi at the event. Here is what Peggy Ramesar a noted T&T Linguist, National Scholar and lecturing at the Jawaharlal Nehru University says of the speech:
“I think they would have been satisfied with a few words in Bhojpuri or Hindi at the start, which is exactly how she spoke. The rest of her speech, in English, was their greatest dream come true: one of theirs had reached the top of the world!”

The adulation that the PM received from the Government and People of India, the Indian media and the 100,000 people gathered in Bhelupur in particular does not substantiate this diplomatic indiscretion.

The HC proceeded further to condemn local Indian artistes for singing Hindi songs/Bhajans the lyrical meaning of which most did not understand. The Indian community has had to deal with a similar unjustified criticism from within T&T. The conclusion to be drawn is that these artistes must stop singing until they learnt Hindi without realizing that it is the vibrations emanating from these songs such as the Aum sound that connect us. The lack of appreciation of some of the lyrics does not reduce our passionate enjoyment. The Hindi Nidhi has been doing a lot work in Hindi language skills development.

The effect of his statement is to cast an unnecessary damper on and to diminish the PM’s outstanding performance that warmed and seduced the hearts of a billion Indians including the Indian Media and 30m Indian diaspora by the envoy’s own confession and admission. No foreign envoy should arrogate unto him-self the audacity to embarrass and criticize the sitting Prime Minister of the host state especially when it involves her unique stewardship during the just concluded official visit to the envoy’s sending state of India. That is crossing the border of diplomatic good sense, discretion and sound judgment -hallmarks of a true diplomat.

It would appear to me that His Excellency may not have recovered adequately from personally witnessing and facilitating the sheer intensity of the taxing visit as well as from the disorienting effects of the jet lag on his return to his posting.

That statement constitutes compelling grounds for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to summon HE Malay Mishra to bring to his attention that he has brought the stewardship of his PM on an overseas assignment without good reason into odium and disrepute- that he should apologise and be informed that an appropriate complaint will be dispatched to New Delhi.

Pandita Indrani Rampersad who mounted a defence of the High Commissioner fails to appreciate that whatever she said at the function relating to Indian singers not knowing Hindi and the need for inclusion of Hindi in the school curriculum cannot be said by the foreign envoy because unlike her he is not protected by the freedom of speech principle and can be declared persona non grata for interference in the internal affairs of T&T or criticizing a member of Government. The fact she said or echoed what the HC said is no defence or justification for the indiscretion of the Indian High Commissioner. She is a national of T&T and she needs to appreciate the subtle difference.

This is no storm in a tea-cup and foreign envoys must appreciate that ours is a vigilant and population even on the conduct of foreign affairs and diplomacy.

HE Malay Mishra, High Commissioner of India
HE Malay Mishra, High Commissioner of India

13 thoughts on “Malay Steps out of His Crease”

  1. “The rest of her speech,in English, was their greatest dream come true: One of theirs had reached the top of the world”? Speaking English is the greatest dream come true or being the PM of TNT? Someone clarify this for me.
    On another note, it sounds as if it is time in TNT for people to wake up and further assimilate to what is to become the cultural norm of TNT rather than trying to undo what has been chosen for them by their ancestors.
    If you’re a Trini, be a Trini and stop trying to remake yourself into something else. I don’t know of any other countries that are facing such a identity crisis.

  2. What is meant is that the ability to speak English, Curtis, in India is a sign, symbol of having succeeded in life and a PM speaking English is indicative of the ultimate success in the eyes of the Bhelupuris as they will view her speaking to them.

    1. Would you then say Stephen Kangal(this is off topic) that people who have grown up in the “West” (in regard to the former English colonies) have an advantage that they may not have realized?

  3. Imposing the Hindi cultural ethos upon The Bhoj pouri dominant language view means the indentured linguistic experience and the and the emerged Trinidad Indian dialect are viewed as low class and caste tongue.Reinventing history to make beleive Hindi is the mother tongue of the indentured worker. Re-didacting socio-linguistic population types to prove that Tribals and Low castes from Bihar and surrounding northern Indian population mostly spoke Hindi is nothing but a Super false narrative. Most of the social problems of shared heritage and cohesive need to stimulate national pride cannot endure false narratives and rejection of true cultural indentity which treasures the Indian past but remains critical of continuing Aryanizing trend that is often driven forme Tribals and other “lowcastes” Thinking it makes for better human beings when this cannot even correct wrongs promulgated by laws of manu,varnasmrmti, and downgrading advaisi history.

  4. The Indian HC has always viewed Indo-T&T from their own economic and social interest and not from what is culturally uplifting for the Indians and their own cultural legacy that they preserved against all odds.The imposition of Hindi in T&T while promoting English in mercantile and commercial India is a case in point.They have always wanted to impose modern Indian Dance and Delhi-based singing as part of the plan to dominate us Indians culturally, socially and in the way we dress on which the fabric merchants are making a killing. They want to tell us how to cook, eat, dress, sing, dance, worship our God, speak but not to develop our tassa, indigenous classical singing, Ram Leela, Phagwah, Divali and most important the remaining vestiges of our own form of unique Bojpuri dialect that is slowly dying because they want to sell us their Hindi books and to see their Hindi films and imitate modern Indian way of life to the suppression of our own unique and preserved legacy and to pujay their diplomats.

  5. Hmmn, papa-yo. What seems to be happening here Caste maintenance and control. The HC canot help himself in this; you see he is from a high caste in India-his position shows that- so he is accustomed to dictating to the lower castes which comprises the entire Indian diasporic population in T&T. The fact that he is criticizing a sitting PM is of no consequence to him and his staff.

    Also as the HC, Mishra is seeking the interest of the buisness class of his own country by instilling the ethos previously mentioned by Mr Kangal

  6. Sorry but i hit the enter key by mistake. To continue my last point; I am not of Indian origin so you might say it is none of my buisness. To the Indian peeps in T&T, be very careful of people like Mishra, they tug at the heartstrings of Indos due to your undying love for everything Indian. Yet they will always try to control you because they see you as being beneath them-much like the correlative relationship that exists between Africans from the continent towards those from the diaspora-CONTEMPT.

    1. There are Africans that have that attitude. But from my experience in Washington DC, this has not been the case. DC has one of or if not the biggest African population in the US. Buy and large they are receptive and welcoming to all people of African descent. They don’t DEMAND we be like them. Each african country has many different tribal issues that they vae to resolved since colonialism. West Inadians and American blacks take what they like from African culture and resist what they don’t like about African. Unlike Indians in the Diaspora, people of African descent in the Diaspora has had tremendous influence of the continent of African. rastafarianism, reggae, zouk,salsa, samba. Education, politics, business and commerce.

      1. I wonder how many Yoruba Nigerians that you have run into there? When they think of African Americans, they think of Kuttas. They may hold less contempt in their hearts for those whose ancestors where forced to cut sugar instead of pick cotton, however, on many occassions I have whitnessed them posture as if they where somehow superior. It’s a love hate relationship. Some wonder how it is that a people who left as slaves became so influetial globally especially in the United States when they who have not suffered the same stain that is U.S. history. People in the motherland always try to control the identity of the masses. The difference between the Indian diaspora is that they all pay homage to India, while the African Diaspora is largely split with significant numbers in the African Diaspora unable to identify a single country and culture that they should pay homage to.

  7. I will not indulge in a debate outside of my purview… But my concern is about an apparent emboldened diplomat who operates as a ‘LOOSE CANNON’… This is not his first breach of diplomatic protocol (remember the Tobago Temple issue) and I ask why?… Diplomacy is an ULTRA-SENSITIVE field of endeavor and diplomats are trained in the art of not offending the sensitivity of the host country or be accused of interference in the internal affairs of the host nation.

    But this diplomat may be reading into the prevailing perceived trends and behavior of this government’s subtle and undeclared ‘AFFIRMATIVE ACTION’ policy Trini Style… To many in this nation, the present administration’s attempt at LEVELING THE PLAYING has resulted in reverse racism, ethnic cleansing (touted as disgusting & insensitive when in opposition), discriminatory practices, religious bias in favor of Hindu organisations & leaders etc. etc.

    Furthermore, I have on records an interview obtained on a website prior to the last elections…. At the time then candidate Winston ‘Mr Clean, New Politics’ Dookaran (hope I spelt it right) was asked his view on why, though ‘indians’ in TNT are the majority that afrocentric (my phrase) government are in control? He rambled his way through an answer but in essence concluded that the situation was about to change for the better & persist thereafter.

    I am always wary of answers that subtly hint of hidden agendas and questions slanted to solicit predictive skewed analysis. I felt that our present Minister of Finance should have argued on the strength of our democratic tradition and the people’s right to choose their government and not be seduced into the foolishness of the predictability of outcomes and voting patterns / behaviour based solely on race.

    MAYBE THESE ARE THE SIMILAR SENTIMENTS and NUANCES REFLECTED IN THE UTTERANCES OF AMBASSADOR MALAY MISHRA. He is probably just following our ‘Leaders & Exemplars’ or is it a case of ‘FOOT IN MOUTH’ diseases suffer by most of them!!!!

  8. The HC of India had placed an ad in the Guardian stating the very position contradicted by Professor Peggy Mohan relating to the teaching of Hindi/visit and speech to Bhelupuris. The HC must now apologise to the people of T&T by way of a similar ad to save face.

  9. More Indians in India are learning to speak English because it opens more doors and opportunities for them. Trini Indians need not worry about learning Hindi, since India have over 300 languages and even more dialects. Each State has it’s own language. People in Tamil Nadu speak Tamil, in Gujarat -Gujarati, in Punjab–Punjabi, in Bengal–Bengali etc

    So many langauges, of course Hindi is the official language but most people are learning to speak English.

    1. However, isn’ it threatening to some if TNT Indians opened doors of upward mobility to those from the parts of India where they originated?

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