Tag Archives: indian history

Indian Diaspora in Africa

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Indian Diaspora in Africa

May is a special month in my household, well, for my mother at least! Because it’s Mothers day (May 13th), my parents anniversary (May 8th) and her birthday (May 24th). She’s had it good lol. So I wanna talk about her, her history and where she is from.

My mom was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. So basically she’s African ha. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get information about my family roots and history just because it’s something that interests me and I think its important to know my roots. Supposedly my family (on my dad’s side) has some list tucked away in some temple or something in India with names upon names of relatives from back in time to now to create a family tree (I💖this!!!) My next trip home (I mean India when I say that) I have to inquire about this more from relatives who told me about it and GET MY HANDS ON THAT LIST!!!!!

I guess these days a lot of people don’t realize how large the Indian population is in Africa – because it seems like we are all in America, Canada, UK and Australia, outside of the motherland, obviously. I have met brown people in England who have such strong Africa roots, that they are clueless about their Indian roots. It’s just sad that down the road it’s going to become more blurry for all Indians in the diaspora. I remember once meeting someone in England, and when I asked them where they are from (expecting either a town/city name or region in India) and they said “Tanzania”…and I was like “okay, where are your grandparents from”….same answer. 😬🤯🤦 I kept trying to get the answer I was looking for but they just wouldnt budge. They didn’t have any details on India because they claimed that their great, great, great grandparents have been settled in Tanzania and they don’t know anything about India (🤨!) even though I can’t remember their name right now but it was either Khan or Patel!

Thankfully, I’m not that kid!! And I know where my grandparents are from 😁 lol – my mothers parents are from a village not far from Amritsar and moved/settled in Nairobi after they got married for my grandfather’s work related reasons. She’s told me stories of how beautiful a country Kenya is and I used to wonder if she ever missed it or wanted to go back for a visit, because she left right before my parents got married and never returned. The only couple other noteworthy thing she’s told me is that she went to an all-Indian school and also they had a family servant who they taught how to speak fluent Punjabi in our house.

Here are a few facts about Indians settled in Africa:

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  • The Indian diaspora in Southeast Africa consists of approximately 3 million people of Indian origin.
  • South Africa is home to the largest population of people of Indian descent in Africa, at 1.3 million, mainly in Durban. In fact, Durban is sometimes called the “largest Indian city outside India” – though this claim has not been determined conclusively.
  • Although most East Africans believe that the people of Indian origin in the region are descendants of the laborers who built the Kenya-Uganda railway, this is not actually the case. About 32,000 indentured workers were brought in from India (mainly from the Punjab) to build the railway, but the majority returned after their contracts ended. Only about 7,000 chose to stay.
  • After the railway opened up East Africa for trade, and large numbers of “free” emigrants, mainly from Gujarat, followed in the years after many of the laborers from Punjab left. They came and set up trading posts deep in the interior, and became the traders and merchants of East Africa.
  • Remember that little boy named Gandhi (😜hello history lesson!!😂) he was 24 when he arrived in South Africa in 1893 to work as a legal representative for the Muslim Indian Traders based in the city of Pretoria. He spent 21 years there before returning to India.
  • In 1972, military dictator, Idi Amin, announced the expulsion of all persons of Asian origin in Uganda. The majority of those expelled went to the UK, Canada and Kenya. (so yeah – explains the British kids who think they are African when their last name is Patel – ALSO explains why in England they refer to Indians/Pakistani’s as “Asians”)
  • I need some less boring facts…….
  • One of India’s biggest cultural exports to Africa has been Bollywood, and it’s popular not just among the Indian diaspora. One unlikely place where Bollywood has long enjoyed immense popularity is Nigeria, particularly in the Muslim-majority north – which does not have any significant Indian immigrant community whatsoever.
  • One of the most popular of all Indian films in Nigeria is the 1957 classic film Mother India. A record from a popular entertainment magazine noted in 2013 that some people in the audience of a theatre showing the film had already seen the movie 15 times and sang along to all the Hindi songs (although their native language is Hausa).

SINCE THAT WAS KINDA BORING, HERE ARE SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT NAIROBI:

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  • Just like New York has yellow cabs, Nairobi has “Matatus” which is a slang word for mini buses used for transportation.
  • Matatus are famous for their hype graffiti! Art representing pop culture, music, celebrities, etc are all painted colorfully on the body of the buses!

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  • The Nairobi National Park is set in the city’s southern suburbs and is the most famous aspect of the city. What’s so amazing about this is you will find a sprawling field with wild animals with a backdrop of the city’s magical skyline! It’s the only place in the world you can capture lions hunting in the morning, and in a few minutes you are in a fancy shopping mall looking at Cartier watches.

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  • Nairobi has the most number of malls in Kenya. The top shopping malls include Thika Road Mall ( TRM), Yaya Centre, The Junction and Garden City.
  • Nairobi was once a swamp. The skyscrapers of Nairobi sit on what was once a large swamp that Maasai pastoralists referred to as a place of cool waters. Over the century, this city has grown and extended over three counties to form the greater Nairobi metropolitan area. Now, Kiambu, Kajiado and Machakos counties are part of the greater Nairobi area.

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Anyways, just wanted to give a shout out to my very favorite human on this planet and the place she grew up during her most special month. 💖 Her history, her life, culture, traditions, values, ways, teachings, blessings, ssacrifice, etc all make me, so gotta be thankful!

Everyone has their own rendition of where they think they are from. Living in a city like New York, people get asked a zillion times a day where they are from – the question can mean multiple things, and people will most likely answer with what they consider to be the strongest culture they represent – or what they assume the other person means. Travel and this melting pot of a world, we come across many different people from everywhere and not all of them look what one figures is “typical” of that region. We also come across many people from other parts of the world that immigrate and assimilate (forgetting or maybe not forgetting their roots) and I always have to stop and stare when I see someone who looks of a certain culture speaking fluently in a completely different language (example: Chinese people speaking fluent French – or I don’t know a black person speaking perfect Hindi)

hashtag traveldiscoveries 🙂

-Karen Bahri

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Trinidad’s Temple in the Sea – A determined Man’s Masterpiece!

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Trinidad’s Temple in the Sea – A determined Man’s Masterpiece!

This Hindu Temple at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad is testament of one man’s love of Hinduism. The Temple was the 25-year attempt of Sewdass Sadhu to construct a worship centre at no-man’s land: THE SEA. Sadhu was denied land to build his beloved temple and took his struggle offshore, toiling and unloading buckets of dirt into the Gulf in an effort to create artificial land.

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A well known site of worship for Hindus and a tourist attraction, the Waterloo temple was built by Sewdass Sadhu, an indentured laborer who came to Trinidad from India in 1907. This Hindu temple was built through perseverance and strength.

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The story is well-known: Sadhu built his first temple in 1947 on lands owned by a sugar cane company. Needless to say, it was broken down and Sadhu was charged with trespassing and given the choice of being fined or 14 days in prison.

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Declaring that if he couldn’t build his temple on the land then he would build it in the sea, Sadhu began the work that would become his dream.  For the next 25 years, Sadhu dedicated himself to completing the temple. On his bicycle, he carried two buckets and in a leather bag. Stone by stone, he assembled the base of the temple in the sea, steadily determined.

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In 1994, the government at the time helped finish the temple in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the coming of Indians to the country. A pier was added to ensure the Waterloo Temple could easily be accessed during high tide. Five hundred feet into the quiet waters of the Gulf of Paria, today it continues to stand on the very spot Sadhu first built it.

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Over the years, Hindu devotees and tourists alike have made the journey to the Waterloo temple, also named Sewdass Sadhu Shiv Mandir, in dedication to Sadhu, but better known as the Temple-in-the-Sea, once described as the first of its kind in the western world by Dharmacharya Pundit Krishna Maharaj. The Waterloo Cremation Site is also next to the grounds of this Temple.

The Temple in the Sea, is an octagonal- shaped colorful structure. At the entrance stands a statue of Sadhu himself. Flags and statues adorn the temple’s perimeter. Before entering, as a Hindu custom, you must remove your shoes as once inside you are on holy ground. The beauty of reverence is reflected in the well-crafted murtis (statues/idols) of Lord Hanuman, Lord Ganesh, Lord Shiva and Durga Maa with beautiful flowers ornamented around them.

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Just as a bit of background, Indo-Trini and Tobagonians have now become interchangeable with West Indians. These were people who were escaping poverty in India and seeking employment offered by the British for jobs either as indentured laborers, workers or educated servicemen, primarily, between 1845 and 1917.

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The demand for Indian indentured laborers increased dramatically after the abolition of slavery in 1834. They were sent, sometimes in large numbers, to plantation colonies producing high value crops such as sugar in Africa and the Caribbean, largely in Trinidad and Guyana. These days their culture is a vibrant blend of Indian and Caribbean mix, which is quite colorful and apparent in their music, speech/dialect and cuisine, in particular.

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In summary, this Hindu Temple at Waterloo in Carapichaima, Trinidad is testament of one man’s love of Hinduism. The Temple was the 25-year attempt of Sewdass Sadhu to construct a worship centre at no-man’s land: the sea. Sadhu was denied land to build his beloved temple and took his struggle offshore, toiling and unloading buckets of dirt into the Gulf in an effort to create artificial land.

 

-Karen Bahri