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Dougla dilemma

Dougla dilemma

Lecturer sees westernisation of East Indians

by Wayne Bowman
Express Newspaper

Dr Elizabeth Rosabelle Sieusarran delivers the feature address at yesterday's official launch of the Indian Arrival Day Heritage Village being set up by the El Dorado Shiv Mandir at its Caura Road, El Dorado compound

East Indians in Trinidad must decide whether they are going to accept douglas, mixed-race people of Indian and African ancestry, or ostracise them from their community.

This was the declaration of Dr Elizabeth Rosabelle Sieusarran, when she gave the feature address at yesterday's official launch of the Indian Arrival Day Heritage Village being set up by the El Dorado Shiv Mandir at its Caura Road, El Dorado, compound.

Sieusarran teaches at the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Education, San Fernando, and is also involved with several social organisations.

She commented on what she defined as the westernisation of local East Indians, calling on Trinidadians of East Indian descent to hold on to their heritage.

"In our quest for establishing unity among our people it is imperative for us to note a rapidly increasing phenomenon from the rise of a western system of education and the consequential westernisation of the Indian community. This has resulted in the prevalence of inter-caste, inter-religious and inter-racial marriages. The Indian community has to decide how to handle the offspring of this significant group locally referred to as douglas. Do we accept them or ostracise them? Whatever course is adopted, the fragmentation of the Indian community must be avoided. Above all, we must always remember that Trinidad and Tobago is our patrimony. Our ancestors gave their blood and we have laboured to enrich our country. We live in a multi-cultural society and co-existence is a necessary ingredient for our success in the future," Sieusarran said.

At one point during her statement, Sieusarran stopped and looked around the mandir for several seconds before telling the people that she was looking around to see if there were any douglas present.

Sieusarran also expressed sadness over the acceptance of the nation's young East Indians of certain aspects of western culture. Indicating to her audience that they were well aware of those things East Indians were imitating, Sieusarran said she would make special mention of just one thing, alcohol, which she said is responsible for the breakdown of family life as well as the destruction of the morality of East Indians.

She blamed the owners of the sugar estates who she said gave rum freely to the indentured servants, causing them to become hooked on it and then selling the same rum to them and earning immense profits.

"This is causing serious problems among Indian families today, resulting in the disintegration of family life through divorces and murders. The Indian community, in its quest for a better tomorrow, need to implement such measures as orphanages or foster care for displaced children, cultural youth groups for the preservation and conservation of our culture and pre and post-marriage counselling to stem the tide of the break-up of marriages. It is noteworthy that the Maha Saba plans to embark on a Health Awareness Programme focusing on the prevention of AIDS," Sieusarran said as she called for the East Indians to adopt as their watchword "Unity in diversity."

Secretary General of the Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj, took up from Sieusarran, accusing the State of "ignoring the presence of East Indians in Trinidad and Tobago."

He said that whenever there were official Government functions such as welcome events for visiting international dignitaries, the programme features "just one East Indian dance in a programme that has about 15 items. Even in our National Awards it is only now and then an East Indian will receive a token award".

He, too, called on the local East Indian community to do all within its power to preserve its heritage, which he said is at risk of being lost. "It is good to worship our ancestors who gave us so much," Maharaj said.

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