Written by Rebecca Dass
“When I was back home, I saw [planes] flying in the air, and I always had in mind that one day, I will be up in the air too. And God has given me that opportunity, that I could come to a country for betterment.”
Ramzan is moved to tears as he retells his story of leaving Guyana to come to Canada almost 50 years ago. Currently located in Mississauga, Ontario, Ramzan Mohammed juggles many titles as an Imam, Chaplain, and Member of the Board of Directors in the Peel District. Turning 80 years old this past September, Ramzan shares with us many stories and recounts of his colourful life.
Ramzan made the courageous journey to Canada alone at the age of 28. His eldest brother, Usman, came to Canada five months before him. “I came on the 11th of September, 1972,” he says, recalling the dates in detail. “It was a Monday. I leave Guyana at 10:30 a.m., and I land at the airport at a quarter past 6 p.m. The most amazing thing for me, was when I came out of the airport and got on the plane [to Canada]. I’ve never seen a plane in front of my face. It was a real shock to me,” he says....Read More
Written by Ian Harnarine
As Indo-Caribbean people, we are natural storytellers. Most of the time it is informal - when we’re cutting up vegetables, cooking, eating, drinking or just hanging out at family gatherings there is always someone telling a joke or an old time tale. When it is formalized, mostly in books, the results are beautiful. I’m talking about Gaiutra Bahadur, Shani Mootoo, Rajiv Mohabir, David Chariandy, etc… (I’m leaving out V.S. Naipaul, that’s a whole other op-ed!). Then of course there's music, which is a long tradition that continues to evolve, but paradoxically stays the same.
Growing up in Toronto, my parents are from Trinidad, I didn’t see many people that looked like us on screens (big and small) or up on stage in a theatre. There were people in the news: Ian Hanomansing on CBC, and Harold Hosein doing the weather and those gentlemen are true legends, but aside from on the news, I didn’t see them. There was a cool British TV show called Desmond’s, about an Afro-Guyanese family in England which was really groundbreaking....Read More
Written by Joy Mahabir
My mother’s grandmother, Maharajiah, traveled across the kala pani from India to Trinidad in 1907. Maharajiah’s father was a child during the 1857 Siege of Cawnpore. Hiding in a boatman’s hut, he observed the orange flames as British soldiers, unrestrained in their revenge for British lives lost during the Siege, burnt villages to the ground. Black ashes covered fields and the Sati Chaura Ghat on the bank of the Ganges. Decades after the Siege, when Maharajiah was born, villagers remained impoverished.
As young adults, Maharajiah and her husband were forced to leave Kanpur to survive. They served a period of indentureship in Fiji, where my grandfather was born. The family then took on a second term of indentureship in Trinidad, where they remained....Read More
Written by Anna-Liza Badaloo
Growing up as Indo-Caribbean woman in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), I learned as a child that most Canadians of European heritage assume that everyone from the Caribbean is Black. The more history-savvy folks know that Black people were forcibly brought to the Caribbean from various African countries via the Transatlantic Slave Trade. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t start seriously looking into how Indian people got to the Caribbean until about a year ago.
What took me so long? I was the first generation of my family born in Canada, and my mother was keen to raise me as a Canadian. It’s not that she wasn’t proud of her Trinidadian heritage. But when she and my father separated when I was about 7 years old, she made the difficult decision to stay in Canada to give me a better life as a female. Raising me as a single parent in a new country wasn’t easy. And working to put food on the table left little time to educate me about Trini culture....Read More