Tag Archives: india

Don’t Forget About Us

In May of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a formal apology in the House of Commons for the 1914 actions of the Canadian government when they refused entry into Canada to nearly 400 British citizens, mostly Sikh men, who had traveled from India to Vancouver on board a Japanese ship called The Komagata Maru. After spending nearly two months in the Vancouver harbor the ship was forced to return to India at naval gunpoint.  British soldiers boarded The Komagata Maru upon its arrival in Calcutta and a riot ensued during which twenty passengers died and many were arrested. The Canadian immigration rules at the time discriminated against people from South East Asia, rather favoring immigrants from England, Europe, and the United States.  In 1914 British Columbia was home to some 2000 people from India mostly Sikhs from the Punjab who had come to work there. Other citizens who knew very little about India, its historical achievements, religious diversity, or rich culture, worried they would eventually become outnumbered by Indian immigrants. The Canadian government had put all kinds of rules and regulations in place to make it very difficult for people from India to enter Canada but the passengers on board The Komagata Maru claimed the rules didn’t apply to them because they were British citizens. Their pleas were rejected. 

Don’t Forget About Us by Jagdeep Raina 2014

I learned about The Komagata Maru because of a current installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery that is part of our Vision Exchange exhibit.  It contains work by Jagdeep Raina an artist from Guelph Ontario who used archival documents from Kashmiri and Punjabian Sikh diaspora communities as inspiration.  His mixed media exhibition includes a drawing based on a 1914  photograph of men who had traveled on board The Komagata Maru. He has entitled it Don’t Forget About Us. 

Wikipedia photo of the passengers on board the Komagata Maru

In his apology in the House of Commons in 2016 Prime Minister Trudeau said that The Komagata Maru passengers were no different than millions of other immigrants to Canada.  They were simply seeking refuge and a better life for their families. They had much to contribute to Canada and we failed them utterly.

Nimrat Randhawa with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident, May 18, 2016.

Nimrat Randhawa, the great, great granddaughter of Gurdit Singh the man who organized the attempt by the Komagata Maru passengers to gain entry into Canada. The photo was taken at the time of Canada’s formal apology to the Komagata Maru passengers. 

During his apology the Prime Minister urged people not to forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community in Canada. Jagdeep Raina’s artwork is a good reminder of the Prime Minister’s request.   You can read more about the Komagata Maru incident on the website of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

Other posts………

A Carpet Conversation About the Universe

Sports Equipment and Salt

Hyphenated Lives

Wrestling Farmers

 

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Sports Equipment and Salt

This half circle of salt that features marble sports equipment is part of an installation by artist Sarindar Dhaliwal in the Vision Exchange exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The cricket bat, field hockey stick, and badminton racket represent sports that were brought to India in their modern form by British colonizers although a game very similar to field hockey was played in the 17th century in the Punjab state of India called khido khundi.  Khido referred to the woolen ball and khundi to the stick.  

A team from India wins the Under 19 World Cricket Championships in 2018

India has become a formidable force in the world of cricket.  India’s elite took up the sport in order to build relationships with the British and its popularity spread to the general population.

India’s national women’s cricket team

This led the way for the creation of some superstar cricketers and India’s international success in the sport.

Why is the sports equipment lying on a bed of salt? In 1882 India was under British rule and the British passed a Salt Act which banned Indians from collecting or selling salt.  Salt had to be bought from the British and they added a heavy tax to each purchase.

Gandhi was joined by thousands on his Salt March.

In 1930 to protest the salt tax Indian leader Gandhi led a salt march.  Thousands of people walked down to the sea to collect salt from the salt flats there.

Gandhi bends down to pick up a lump of salt

Gandhi was arrested after he bent down to pick up a small lump of salt.  Gandhi’s actions led to peaceful protest demonstrations all over India. The British police force responded and in the end, some 60,000 protesters were arrested. Although India would not gain independence from the British until 1947 the salt march and the civil disobedience it inspired gave Gandhi a seat at the table in the discussions about India’s future.

Salt and sports equipment. Two symbols of India’s past as a colony of the British but also symbols of a future when India would control its own natural resources and make its own name in the sports world. 

Other posts……..

A Different Kind of Snow Angel

Hyphenated Lives

India Assaults the Senses

The Heros Walk

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Filed under Art, India, winnipeg art gallery

Hard To Watch

A woman whose face has been damaged irreparably by acid gives a lesson in make up application. 

We went to the Cannes Lions Commercials show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently.  There were many excellent advertisements in the line up but the images I saw in two are still with me many days later.  

The commercials featured a woman named Reshma who has a face grotesquely scarred by an acid attack.  In the first she gives a lesson in applying lipstick and in the second she shows viewers how to put on eyeliner. 

The ads draw attention to the fact that in India there are more than a thousand acid attacks on women a year.  Women have acid thrown in their faces as revenge for rejection of a marriage proposal or sexual advance.  Some attacks are due to religious differences, conflicts over property or are gang related.  

I found a website called Stop Acid Attacks that details the problem and presents demands for stopping it. Some hopeful signs are a Supreme Court decision that hospitals in India are obligated to provide care to victims and victims will receive some compensation. Last year the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited with victims of acid attacks on a trip to India thus drawing much-needed attention to the issue. 

Acid_attack_victim creative commons

Acid attack victim

Acid attacks don’t only happen in India they are a problem throughout South East Asia. 

Other posts………

India Assaults the Senses

Skin Color

Beggars Everywhere

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The Hero’s Walk-Canada Reads- My First Place Choice

I think The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami should be the winner of the Canada Reads contest beginning in less than a week.

a hero's walkThe book takes place in India and the author makes the city on the Bay of Bengal where the story is set come alive for readers with her haunting and often humorous prose.  

Sripathi Rao, the main character is about my age. He’s trying to be a good son at the same time as he’s trying to be a good grandfather and he’s having a hard time adjusting to the fact that his roles as a husband and father have changed dramatically .  His two children anger and frustrate him because neither is following the path he thought their lives should take.   

Who is the hero in The Hero’s Walk?  There are plenty of candidates. 

Sripathi’s best friend Raju who must decide whether or not to take his severely handicapped daughter’s life before he dies because there is no one else to care for her. 

Sripathi’s daughter Maya who surmounts many odds to build a successful academic career and has the bravery to flaunt tradition and family expectations to be with the man she loves.

Sripathi’s son Arun who is a political and environmental activist and envisions a better future for India, one he feels responsible to work toward. 

Sripathi’s grandaughter Nadana who must leave her home in Canada to start a new life in India with her grandparents after her mother and father are killed in a car accident. 

Sripathi’s wife Nirmala who refuses to play the role of submissive wife and daughter-in-law. She starts her own business and continues to have a relationship with her daughter even though her husband refuses to. 

Sripathi who eventually realizes that while moral integrity has value, when you stick too rigorously to your pre-determined ideas of what is right and wrong you can be very unhappy and ruin your relationships with the people you love the most. 

The Hero’s Walk is about a family in India but it could be about a family anywhere.  The issues and problems Sripathi’s family faces are ones we can all identify with in some way. 

Note: I read this book while we were in Costa Rica.  We went on a night hike to watch sea turtles nesting.  In The Hero’s Walk Sripathi and his son Arun watch sea turtles digging nests and laying eggs one night and it brings about a change in their relationship. 

Other posts……….

Bone and Bread- Canada Reads- My Third Choice

Turtle Night Walk

India Assaults The Senses

 

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India Inspiration

recycling workers dehli india

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it. – Lou Holtzcamel on the highway india

Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error.- Moliere
women with cows in indiaWhen you walk with purpose you collide with destiny. – Ralph Buchanantaj mahal at dawnMarble I perceive, covers a multitude of sins. – Aldous Huxley

little boys playing ball in india

Peace begins with a smile.- Mother Teresablind beggar in dehli india

“When I lost my sight…… people said I was brave……But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”- Marie-Laurie-a  character in Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot Seeman selling foot in dehli india

Presentation is everything.- Amanda Clarkmonkeys in india

Being a mother is an attitude, not just a biological relation. ― Robert A. Heinleinchild begging in dehli

Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not.. for of such is the kingdom of God.  Luke 18:6

woman in sari in india

Rest and be thankful.- William Wordsworth

I took all these photos on a trip to India in 2008.

Other posts about India……

 Seeing the Taj Mahal At Dawn

Indian Tiger Safari

Beggars Everywhere

 

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Beggars Everywhere

 

blind beggar in dehli india

Blindness is an epidemic in India as I discovered when I visited there

A blind man stands outside our van window, his cupped hands raised in a silent plea for money. Two children dance along the street at our side, their hungry eyes imploring us to share the cold fruit drinks we’ve just purchased. A family huddled around a fire on the highway median breaks rank as our vehicle approaches. They jump up and down begging for rupees. children begging in dehli indiaThe images of India that will haunt me the longest are the faces of the beggars. I’m ashamed to say their persistence exhausted me, but we could hardly walk a step in India without being stubbornly followed, repeatedly touched or verbally assailed by beggars. I admit at times I was honestly afraid of the beggars. It embarrassed me, especially because most of them were elderly or children. gypsy beggars in jaipurOne late afternoon we were walking down the streets of Jaipur and my husband Dave decided to take a short cut to a coffee shop, by crossing an empty lot where a group of gypsies were camped. Indian cities are full of these communities of itinerant workers who come in from the countryside to do construction jobs. Their families accompany them and using sticks and blankets create makeshift shelters anywhere they can find space. They have no water supply, dependable food sources, or sanitation facilities and their children don’t attend school. Many rely on begging to supplement their meagre temporary income. beggars at a gypsy camp in jaipurDave was walking quickly and was way ahead of me when a whole group of gypsy children surrounded me asking for money. A half-dozen of them were shouting, grabbing my arms, snatching at my purse and pulling on my clothes. I was scared I would fall down or be pushed down. I shouted for Dave. He turned around and took a step back towards me. This was enough to send the children flying off in all directions as I hurried to catch up with Dave. beggar in indiaIt was difficult to know if we should give money to beggars. We were advised not to do so by our tour guides.

I had read Rohinton Mistry’s book A Fine Balance before going to India. It paints a moving portrait of beggars in India but also makes one aware begging is really a profession with many different middlemen and entrepreneurs involved. Often the beggars themselves receive little or none of the cash they collect.boy begging in dehli We spent an evening in Delhi at the family home of one of our Hong Kong teaching colleagues. Our colleague’s sister is a doctor. She told us about a Delhi physician arrested recently for operating on homeless children to deliberately maim them. The children’s ‘bosses’ had arranged for these surgeries to make the beggar children seem more pathetic to potential donors. blind beggar in jaipurOur colleague’s father, a retired newspaperman, told us people routinely fly into Delhi from different Asian countries to make their fortune begging on the streets. They dress up to look destitute and once they’ve raked in enough cash they head back home.

street woman in jaipurI’m sure it is best not to give money to beggars, but it is very hard to turn your back on them. My husband Dave found this particularly difficult and I would often see him slipping money to people.

beggar near ranthambore national parkOne way I dealt with the situation was to offer the beggars rupees for taking their photographs. It gave them a way to ‘earn’ money, but perhaps I was only taking advantage of their desperate situation. I certainly don’t need photographs to remind me of the beggars of India. Their faces will continue to haunt my memory for a very long time.

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Indian Tiger Safari

The three friends from Hong Kong who were our traveling companions on a trip to India are visiting us here in Winnipeg. Yesterday we were reminiscing about our Indian tiger safari.

My husband Dave had his heart set on seeing a wild tiger on our visit to India, so we carefully planned our itinerary to include a safari in Ranthambore National Park.  We arrived at Ranthambore late at night and stayed in a rather seedy lodge with frigidly cold rooms, water stained walls and thin fraying bedding. After a less than ideal night of sleep we were awakened at 5 in the morning to have breakfast before departing on our 6 am safari.

The temperature was a chilly 4 degrees as we clambered into our open-air jeep to begin our tiger hunt. I was happy to be wedged in tightly on the rather short seat between Dave and a banker from London named Sidney. The two large men on either side of me blocked the wind and helped keep me warm. I enjoyed chatting with Sidney as our jeep swerved over rutted trails and lurched up steep inclines. Sidney had grown up in Guinea South America, and had moved to England to attend university. He’d gone on to a successful career as a London financier. Sidney had flown into Delhi a few days before to attend the arranged marriage of one of his banking colleagues. He had decided like Dave, that if he was in India anyway, he’d like to see a tiger.

It is not easy to see a tiger in the wild in India. There are only about 1000 left in the whole country. 26 are said to live in Ranthambore National Park. I had read before our visit, that even in areas protected by India’s Tiger Preservation Authority poachers kill tigers. Just two years ago there were 3,000 tigers in India. Apparently China is the main culprit in the decline of the tiger population since tiger organs are used in the making of traditional Chinese medicines. Poachers do a brisk trade in cross border selling of tiger organs. The tiger population is also dwindling because of a lack of forested habitat in which they can live. There are twenty- three villages in the Ranthambore Park and their residents are continually cutting down trees to use for fuel.

We had heard though that Ranthambore was the place where we had the best chance of seeing a Bengal tiger. The park is on the grounds of a former royal hunting ground with a palatial lodge where the Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal used to bring his guests on tiger shooting expeditions. Royalty have continued to visit the area. Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth came hunting there before a ban on killing tigers came into effect in India in the 1970’s.

We spent three and a half hours looking for a tiger. Our jeep stopped several times so our driver could talk to tiger-trackers who roam Ranthambore looking for the elusive beasts. Despite their best advice, the closest we came to seeing a tiger was to see the paw prints of one in the sand. We did however see any number of monkeys, exotic birds, wild boar, various species of deer and even a moose……..but no tigers.

Due to international pressure India has just begun a new initiative to try to increase its tiger population. Hopefully it will be successful so that if Dave returns to India in a few years he will get a chance to see his tiger. A few years may be what I need before I’m ready to embark on another freezing cold pre-dawn safari. If you’d like to volunteer to accompany my husband next time, I’ll gladly give you my seat in the jeep.

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We Placed Our Lives in His Hands

Highway driving in India is a life –threatening adventure. We covered some 1500 kilometers traveling through the northern part of the country. The fact we escaped unscathed is nothing short of miraculous. Every single car we saw in India had numerous dents and scratches. There are no enforced traffic rules.
Roads are shared by such a variety of vehicles and beasts of burden that navigating your way safely is a feat of skill and daring.

We were lucky enough to be chauffeured about by the intrepid Mr. Singh, a tall swarthy young man with a broad smile, yellow crooked teeth, shiny black hair and a wardrobe of white suits. Mr. Singh could stop, start, swerve and blast his horn with enough determination to get us through the most snarled traffic jam.

On several occasions buses and carts loaded with produce veered into our lane suddenly, but Singh always turned just in time to avoid them.

Once a camel loaded down with logs careened across our path. Its rider was talking on his mobile phone instead of watching the road. Somehow Singh anticipated the animal’s contrary movement and pulled onto the shoulder to avert certain disaster. One morning a white haired grandmother in a bright red sari, with spectacles perched on her nose, and four huge shopping bags in her arms, stepped off the highway median right in front of our van. Singh had noticed her out of the corner of his eye and came to an abrupt stop. He had some kind of sixth sense.

Every time we were sure a collision with a herd of goats, rickety donkey cart or stray cow was imminent; Mr. Singh managed to maneuver his way out of it.
Although Mr. Singh was a man of few words I managed to find out he had been a driver for thirteen years and had three school -aged children. His job as a chauffeur for tourists meant he was away from home a great deal. Mr. Singh was unbelievably accommodating. One day we stayed too long at a wildlife sanctuary. The guide we had employed insisted we see every species of bird and animal living there. This meant Mr. Singh had to do several hours of night driving.

This was a risky venture since there are no lights along the highway to illuminate the potholes, cyclists, stray pigs and teams of boys hurrying home after a cricket match that can appear suddenly on the road. Mr. Singh didn’t complain but stoically smiled when we apologized. He drove us safely and expertly to our next destination a hundred kilometers away.

We visited the family of a teaching colleague in Delhi. Mr. Singh took us to their home. It was in an area of the city far from our hotel. He waited patiently outside for many hours while we visited and ate dinner.
Before we left Delhi on the first day of our journey, our tour organizer took my husband Dave aside for a man- to -man chat about the need to tip our driver Mr. Singh adequately at the end of our trip. After just a few hours of driving we realized what an invaluable asset he would be on our travels.

Our complete confidence in him allowed us to concentrate on the marvelous movie- like view of India we had through the van windows while he transported us safely down a highway filled with all sorts of dangers. I have no doubt we owe our lives to Mr. Singh. I suspect no matter what size tip we gave him it would never have been enough to thank him adequately.

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India Assaults the Senses

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