Arrival Day should be preserved
Today is one of three national holidays to be observed in Guyana this month. Indeed there are people who believe that there are too many holidays in Guyana. There are the religious holidays and the national holidays. Then there are those holidays which may be granted for some governmental reason.
However, every holiday has its significance as today’s most definitely has. In the past the date was commemorative of the date the first East Indians arrived in Guyana aboard two vessels, the Whitby and the Hesperus. History would record that the first East Indians to Guyana landed at Windsor Forest.
They came as indentured labourers with the condition that at the end of their indentureship they could return to India. Many did and more than a few found that the people back in the homeland found that they were tainted and not readily accepted. They returned to Guyana.
History would record that the East Indians who came brought with them their culture and traditions. Guyana’s ability to cultivate rice is credited to the Indian immigrants. Two other public holidays are also because of the presence of the Indians—Diwali or Deepavali and Phagwah.
It must be tradition that is keeping some of the religious traditions alive. Cricketers from India came to this part of the world and witnessed, among other things, a wedding ceremony and a festival. One of these cricketers remarked that what was being practiced in this part of the world had disappeared from India more than a century ago.
However, they are coming back, if only to meet with those who have spread into the Diaspora. Perhaps the fact that those who are here are so rooted in things Indian that they are prepared to bring the major performers to entertain them.
Just a week ago one of the famous performers came here and brought out Guyana’s who is who. People are still talking about the show.
But those are infinitesimal things when compared to what the Indian contribution is in Guyana. When one considers that just a few decades ago the Indians were not as keen on education as they are today, when one considers that the Indians sought economic activities in every corner and succeeded beyond people’s wildest dreams, then one can see why Guyana is perhaps the economic capital of the Caribbean.
Today, there will be the celebrations. The foods will come out but there was a time when this date was not recognized. The colonial masters could not care less. The history of Guyana was not their history. The bottom line is that there were Guyanese who recognized the importance of remembering what was, so that there could be planning for what is to come.
In the end it took a vote of parliament to make today a holiday. There was the argument that others also came and that it would not be feasible to recognise the arrival of every ethnic group. And indeed every ethnic group brought with it its culture. The present political party in power argued that it would be good to consolidate the arrival of every group into one arrival. The name of this holiday is Arrival Day.
Today is for remembering but there is a tomorrow when the job of continuing to build on the foundations laid by our predecessors must be undertaken. It is note heartening that so many young children seem to ignore the efforts of their foreparents who are responsible for Guyana being where it is today on the global scale.
It is as if they have reached the end of the line. Sadly, the parents who are aware of the blood, the sweat and the tears that are now deep in the soil, allow the children to walk away. At this rate it may take new arrivals to develop this land. And that is not a pleasant thought.
Already there are new arrivals. The Brazilians are here and they are making an impact. The second group of Chinese has come and more continue to come and they too are making an impact. We may find that in time to come Arrival Day may have a different meaning.