May 1st 2010 marked the second year of official celebration of Indian Arrival day in Grenada. The Spice Isle's official Labour Day celebrations are now enriched by the participation of Indo-Grenadians in the May Day programme. Cognisant of the fact that East Indians actually came to Grenada as indentured labourers, contributing to replenish the depleted work force of post-slavery, both the Labour Unions and the Indo-Grenadian Heritage Foundation have partnered to celebrate Labour Day together. Mr. Wilbur Adams, President of the Indo Grenadian Heritage Foundation and a staunch advocate of the recognition of our East Indian history, culture, heritage, and tradition, was invited to address the crowd by the Technical and Allied Workers Union President, Mr. Chester Humphrey.
Mr. Adams expounded on the history of the arrivals of the Indians to Grenada, during the years 1857 to 1885. The maiden voyage to Grenada was via a ship, The Maidstone. The ship left Calcutta with 304 passengers, and after 89 days landed at Irwin's Bay in St. Patrick on May 01st, 1857 with only 287 survivors. Upon reaching Grenada, it is believed that the survivors were first taken to Belmont Estate as a holding area and were then distributed to about 15 plantations in St. Patrick. Over the next 28 years approximately 3200 East Indians arrived here from the cities of Calcutta and Madras. The new migrants entered into Indentureship contracts with plantations for one year in the first instant, and contracts were later extended to three (3) years. In 1862 five (5) year contracts were granted. Contrary to popular belief the Indians were also subjected to very severe working conditions on the plantations.
The period of Indentureship officially ended in 1890. Some Indians continued to work under existing contracts until 1893. In that year, a few Indians choose to repatriate to India, but most used their bounty funds, to which they were entitled, to purchase lands or to start a savings account in the local banks, and assimilated into the society inter marrying with the Africans, Europeans and other island inhabitants. Many adopted the names of the plantation owners, some retained their Indian names and others varied their names in the course of cultural assimilation.
Indian Arrival Day commemoration this year continued on May 2, at the La Fortune Junction, St. Patrick at 10:30 am. with an outstanding ceremony that officially named “ Maidstone Road ” and marked and recognised “Irvin's Bay”. The La Qua Brothers kindly donated a striking granite plaque with the following inscription: “On 1st May 1857, in this bay the sailing vessel “Maidstone” anchored and landed 287 passengers having left India three months earlier, with 304 passengers. Between the years 1857 and 1890 other ships anchored in this and other bays bringing a total of 3,200 persons from India to work as agricultural indenture labourers in Grenada. This monument is dedicated to those who became the genesis of the Indo-Grenadian population of our nation”.
The plaque was officially presented to the IGHF by Mrs Philomena La Qua.
His Excellency Sir Carlyle Glean, Governor General ,unveiled the plaque and gave brief remarks about Grenada 's Indo History and Heritage, and expressed extreme pleasure over the initiatives of Mr. Adams and the Foundation. Lady Glean graciously cut the red ribbon declaring Maidstone Road opened. The officials and guests were invited to traverse the noteworthy pathway to historic Irwin's Bay, paved only a year ago by the Government of Grenada. The ceremony chaired by Mr. Adams, commenced with a moving prayer by IGHF Secretary, Ms. Lauren Ramdhanny, and ended with thanks by well-known Indo-Grenadian business man, Mr. Kenny Lalsingh. Attended by several Indo-Grenadian and area residents, all were delighted at the initiatives and developments in the area, and expressed delight to know that the plans in the near future include the establishment of Irvin's Bay as an eco-park and heritage site, where a monument will be erected for the housing of the Maidstone Plaque.
The day took on a more celebratory mood at Belmont Estate, where about 300 guests enjoyed a grand Indian buffet lunch and cultural performances. In attendance were the Governor General and his wife, His Excellency Sir Carlyle Glean and Lady Glean; the Prime Minister Honourable Tillman Thomas; Minister for Communication, Works and the Environment, Honourable Joseph Gilbert and Mrs. Gilbert; Junior Minister for Housing, Honourable Glen Noel; the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Keith Mitchell; and Dr. Anurag Sinha, who represented the Indian High Commissioner, His Excellency Malay Mishra who was unable to attend. The two cultural performances featured a rich collage of dance, fashion, poetry, story telling and song, proudly and elegantly presented by Indo-Grenadian and Indians resident here in Grenada. Under the direction of Ms. Mondira Balkaransingh, the feature dance performance by the Trinidad based group Nrityanjali, fascinated the crowd with their remarkable classical dance pieces and stunning costumes. Also performing were Panchoo Indian Musicians, Amanda Dixon and Melinda Ratoo, Azam Rahaman, Shivanjalie Sethal, Prodjut Debnath and Anna Nyack Compton.
The Indo Grenadian Heritage Foundation is a non-profit organisation incorporated in Grenada in 2008. The Foundation is working closely with the Government of Grenada and the Indian High Commission's Office in Trinidad to recognise fully, and document the contribution of Indo-Grenadian, to develop the Irvin's Bay Heritage site, to establish a Resource Center and Museum, and to address the needs of Indo-Grenadians.
It was a day of friendly competition, kite flying, food, drink and fun as Belmont Estate in collaboration with River Antoine Estate hosted its annual family fun day and kite flying competition at Artist Bay, La Poterie on Monday April 13, 2009.
Held for the past nine years, the competition brought together the companies' employees, their families, friends and residents of the communities of Tivoli, Ahoma, La Poterie and St. John's in a very convivial and family friendly atmosphere. The day's activities included cricket and tug o'war competitions both of which were won by Belmont Estate; face painting and Easter Egg hunts for the children; and a dancing competition which brought the event to a close. Food and drinks flowed freely as Belmont and River Antoine had prepared several pots of rice and peas, salad, and oil down to share with everyone who attended the event.
The main activity, the kite competition saw Mr. Francis "Satan" Charles walk away with the prizes for the biggest kite and the oldest kite flyer for the third consecutive year. The youngest flyer was one year, nine-month-old Tévon Mignon, while the kite of the day prize went to Glendon Charles. Other prizes also went to Eric Mc Guire - smallest kite, Jonathan Andrew - highest kite, Anna Nyack Compton - most creative, Alicia Peters - ugliest and Lieshon Phillip - funniest.
The family fun day and kite competition falls under the charity arm of Belmont Estate - Hearts and Hands of Grenada, a registered non-profit. The event is part of the company's mandate to foster and encourage good relations and assist in the social and educational development of the community within which it operates.