By Shalima Mohammed
The Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre (ICC) weekly Sunday ZOOM Public Meeting is a pioneering and landmark initiative created by anthropologist Dr. Kumar Mahabir of Trinidad and Tobago.
Established in 2020 as a non-profit initiative during the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, the forum provides voice and visibility for people of Indian descent, who are often ethnic minorities in the countries in which they live. Inspired by the US-based Black Lives Matter movement, this forum has a mission to eradicate inequality, injustice, discrimination and systemic racism against people of Indian origin. In addition, it seeks to ensure that minority groups in the Caribbean and elsewhere are seen and heard.
The objective of the weekly Sunday ZOOM Public Meetings is to facilitate discussion on matters mainly of concern to Indians. However, the discussions are not for Indians only. The hosts welcome all, regardless of ethnicity, to their virtual forum held every Sunday from 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm EST. Although based in the Caribbean, it is international in content and scope.
Now, Dr. Mahabir and his team are venturing into another non-profit initiative: ICC Indian Diaspora Country Tours, intended to bring people in the Indian Diaspora physically together – even if once annually – to all former colonies at which ships bearing indentured Indian immigrants had once docked.
The organisers state: “We hope to continue the Indian tradition of extended family get-togethers. Family may not necessarily be defined by blood relations, but also by historical, heritage and cultural connections, as we are seeing with the ICC ZOOM family. As Trinidad and Tobago is the home of the ICC, we welcome all of you in the Indian Diaspora to this inaugural ICC Indian Diaspora Country Tour carded for August 4 to 11, 2022.”
Invitations have gone out to tourists to come and enjoy the tastes, sights, sounds, flora, fauna and peoples of the scenic twin-island republic to which 143,939 Indentured immigrants came and established their legacy. The cultural experience would include a cross-country drive to Debe in the South for delicious doubles, sumptuous snacks and marvelous sweetmeats.
On the return drive, visitors would pass through the Ward of Montserrat in Central Trinidad – the ward in which the largest number of land grants (7,875 between 1871-1879) was accepted by Indian indentures in lieu of return passage to India. They would visit the Indian Caribbean Museum, the world-famous Temple-in-the-the Sea and the unique and sacred 85-foot Hanuman statue. On another day, they would return to Central to visit the library at the National Council for Indian Culture (NCIC), and shop at Indian expos for authentic Indian clothing, footwear, jewellery, skin care products and make-up. They would also be taken to the Lion House, immortalised in the book A House for Mr. Biswas, where the author Sir VS Naipaul once lived.
Part of the cultural experience would include Hosay/Muharram in St James, North Trinidad. Visitors on the tour can participate in a procession unique to the Western Hemisphere that occurs only once annually. In St James – known as “the town that never sleeps” – visitors can enjoy the nightlife and eat roti made hot on the spot.
For nature lovers, Naema’s Estate in the scenic Maracas, St Joseph Valley, is where they can immerse themselves in the lush green surroundings and reconnect with nature while exploring and learning about the various medicinal plants flourishing in the terrain. They may opt to wade in the pool or choose to take a 10-minute scenic stroll along a trail to a majestic mountain for a breath-taking view of Trinidad.
Before leaving for home, the tourists can tie the brotherhood threads of Raksha Bandhan.
Options for lodging include Morton House – the 141-year-old historical home of Reverend John Morton. Morton was a Presbyterian missionary from Nova Scotia, Canada, who, of his own accord, came to Trinidad in 1868 to minister to the East Indians just one year before the first land grants were made to Indian Indentured labourers. According to author Gerard Tikasingh, “His diary represents, perhaps, the only first-hand account of Indians in the settlements and villages during the late 19th century and remains a priceless source of information”.
Attractions of this location and other details, including COVID-19 country protocols, will be shared with interested persons. Kindly click on this link and complete the form as an expression of interest in joining the ICC family for our Caribbean “lime” in Trinidad and Tobago from August 4 to 11, 2022.