GRANDIOSE plans for the celebration of the Indian Arrival Day on May 30 has been scuttled by the coronavirus.
Since last year, the National Council for Indian Culture (NCIC) has set plans in motion for 2020 celebration which marks the 175th anniversary of the arrival of Indian indentured labourers from India to Trinidad, on the Fatel Razack, in May 1845.
The NCIC public relations officer Surujdeo Mangaroo said the organisation had planned a series of events, stretching over one month and culminating with a grand finale at the Divali Nagar site, Chaguanas on Indian Arrival Day.
On this day, awards were also given in recognition of the sterling contribution people of East Indian ancestry have made to the nation.
Earlier this year, the NCIC took the decision to postpone all upcoming events due to the unfolding covid19 pandemic.
“We were planning a conference, scheduled for May 28, to culminate on May 30 with a grand finale. As a build up to the conference, arrangements were being made to have cultural events across the country, including in Diego Martin, Sangre Grande, Point Fortin, Plum Mitan, Princes Town and other areas. All those plans had to be shelved.”
As part of the celebrations, this weekend, Iere Theatre Production was contracted to put on the Victor Edwards play, Sundar. Rehearsals for the play, which was scheduled for a three-night run at the Naparima Bowl, along with some school shows, had already started when the stay-at-home measures were implemented.
Sundar explores the contribution of Sundar Popo to the cultural landscape of TT and by extension the East Indian diaspora in the Caribbean and the wider world.
Edwards said he was a bit disappointed that the pandemic had put a damper on their plans as Indian Arrival celebrations had become static and this was an opportune time to celebrate those who have contributed to the development of East Indian culture and to have their contributions archived in more meaningful ways.
The play explores 30-years of Popo’s artistic life (1970-2000) and showed how his music emerged into a new cultural form, producing a new cadre of performers and giving rise to international fame and alternative genre of music.
He said he was also a bit disappointed as 2020 marked the tenth anniversary of Iere Theatre and the theatre company also had to shelve their celebratory plans.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the abolition of Indian indentureship. In an effort to recognise and commemorate the ordeals the ancestors suffered on the journey to Trinidad a unique and interesting event was planned for May 2 – A Pitr pooja on Nelson Island.
“This has never been done and I was so looking forward to this ancestral pooja in memory of all of our ancestors, people who came on that ship. But we had no choice. We had to cancel it.”
Mangaroo said he is not certain if the moment can be recaptured and restaged at a later day.
“We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last. Look at it this way, this is the 175 anniversary, the real effect would have been during this month, I don’t think having anything afterwards might gain that much interest."
What the NCIC, a cultural organisation, has pieced together is a three-hour virtual programme to be aired on Saturday.
“We really wanted to do something cultural and while the artiste could not come together to have a live concert, a number of them have put together a virtual concert. It is already recorded and currently being packaged to be shown on Sankhya TV between 2-5 pm on Saturday. It will also be carried live on Radio 103fm and on the station’s Facebook pave.
Mangaroo said the programme will also be posted to NCIC’s YouTube channel from Sunday.
The concert will feature artistes such as Veejai Ramkissoon, Ravi Jagroop and Nisha Ramkissoon, Lilly John, Shivannand Maharaj, Zee TV Shiv Shakti Dance Company, Shooting Stars Tassa Group, Latchman Bissoon, The “Biraha Raja” Naresh Timal, Dr Surujrattan Rambachan and Prema Shakti Dancers.
In addition to the cultural aspect, several politicians have been invited to send recorded addresses, including Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and former prime minister Basdeo Panday.
The Indian High Commissioner to TT A.K Sahu, and NCIC’s president Deokinanan Sharma will also deliver pre-recorded messages.