Diaspora has now become a catchword and is quintessential to understand the humanities today. The Indian diaspora has become quite a phenomenon ? its multitude divested by geographical dispersion, historical contexts, temporal frames, authorial positions and political affiliations charting its own trajectory in more than 100 countries. ?This volume is thus an assemblage, not a narrative? holding its delectable platter to the erudite cognoscenti while it might appear uneventful to a dilettante reader. This book is the brainchild of academics working at the Centre for the Study of Indian Diaspora, Hyderabad. The annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations have provided impetus to the contributors.
This volume does not manifest in mapping ?a new boundary around diasporic identifications but instead the chapters contrapose to provide ?complementary, sometimes competing perspectives, on diasporic locations, identifications and representations?. The volume is segregated into four sections though with blurring separation. The first two sections spell out the genesis of Indian exodus and thereupon harp on threadbare analysis. The third and fourth section stand contrapuntally to the former sections ?to tell the stories of the diaspora, how they represent the diaspora?. through the historical lens?. The book encompasses a whole gamut of events and circumstances as evident from the name itself?Contexts, Memories, Representations.
The tentacles of the contemporary Indian diaspora spread during the nineteenth century colonial domination by the British and the exploitation of cheap indentured labour from the Asian subcontinent in different parts of the colonial empire. These ?indentured coolies? were virtually slaves. In 1884, the British consul in Paramaribo stated ?the Surinam planters?found in the meek Hindu a ready substitution for the Negro slave he had lost?. This book elaborates on the various forms of modes of indentured labour migration.
A similar case proliferated in South-East Asia where Indian and Hindu influence was palpable from the third century on account of itinerant traders and religious missionaries. Perhaps Kautilya'sSwarnabhumi indicted this geographical axis of Funan, Champa and Kambuja. But then in a tailspin, the indenture, kangany and maistry labour systems upset the apple cart and ensured that the Indian community remain poor and exploited as ?minions of colonialism? in contrast to Chinese labourers. The British defeat in Singapore in February 1942 led to Japanese ascendancy in the region and provided ?impetus for the growth of a pan-Indian nationalist consciousness amongst Indians in South-East Asia.? Later the Indian National Army led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose also served to rouse Indian morale. The book takes its readers into nooks and crannies of the region and relates its entire saga down the ages. The book also relates discriminatory policies as the Bumiputra policy of Malaysia that vehemently ostracised Indians.
And so was the state of affairs in Fiji where the Indians and the ethnic Fijians remained at loggerheads remaining socially segregated. The situation was of a ?three-legged stool?, in which indigenous Fijians provided the land, Indians the cheap labour and Europeans the capital. The book tells us, ?fear of a united protest movement galvanized the colonizers into repressive action?. But then things did take an upturn. ?Indo-Caribbean leaders were among the first to break the barriers of political isolation imposed upon the people of Indian origin by colonialism and indenture?.
Celina Genn'schapter on Chistiya diaspora focuses on a transnational spiritual/ religious movement spearheaded by Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan during the earlier part of the twentieth century. He led a mission to ?harmonize East and West? that led to the creation of a worldwide Indian Chishtiyya-origin Sufi Diaspora of Inayati Sufi order. In yet another chapter on a Muslim diaspora ? ?Hyderabadis abroad?, mulkis form a scion of old Hyderabad state who now reside in Pakistan, UK, UAE, Canada, Kuwait or in the US profess a sense of belonging to their old past. In the words of Parvati Raghuram, co-editor??it offers an evocative account of the multiple strands through which belonging to a cultural milieu that has now disappeared is forged.?
The final section of the book considers ?under what global conditions of fragmentation and homogeneity one way of reclamation gains precedence over the other in the bourgeois Indian diaspora.? The entire section revolves around the practice of writing, performing and viewing of texts?plays, films, novels and the ways in which diaspora is invoked through these media. In this section Hindu femineity with a new makeover is discovered. One of the chapters is devoted to ?Indian writers who have contributed to the rich tradition of English literary studies in the post colonial era.? The chapter details on the memory of trauma in Meena Alexander'stexts. In her autobiographical novel, Fault Lines, she writes: ?I am, a woman cracked by multiple migrations. Uprooted so many times she can connect nothing with nothing.? Nandidni Bhattacharya has devoted a chapter on BJP/Hindutva-specific phenomenon. The final two chapters delve into the psyche of the Indian diaspora.
The book offers rare vignettes of globetrotting forays of Indians to regale its readers with the globetrotting Indians. The book divulges prognosis with acuity to prove this mobilisation not to be a lemming-tide syndrome.
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