Thanks to her visit, sleepy Bhelupur gets a much-needed facelift
The raw nip in the air failed to deter denizens of the nondescript village of Bhelupur, as massive crowds trooped to catch a glimpse of Kamla Persad-Bissessar — Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago — who, on Wednesday, ventured to get in touch with her roots in Bihar.
Ms. Persad-Bissessar's ancestors had immigrated from this village in Bihar's Buxar district to the archipelagic South Caribbean state during the latter half of the 19th century.
This sleepy village, embraced by the Ganges and inhabited by about 1,000 people, saw hectic activity in recent days to provide a fitting reception to its beloved ‘Granddaughter of the Caribbean.'
Ms. Persad-Bissessar, draped in traditional finery and accompanied by her husband, Dr. Gregory Bissessar, called upon her paternal aunt Janaki Devi.
“I owe my fame and fortune to Buxar,” she said in a speech filled with emotion. And, it evoked rousing cheers from the gathering.
Officials at the venue said the people in the tens of thousands had gathered from neighbouring villages to welcome ‘their' Prime Minister with Bihari roots.
India and Trinidad shared strong historical and cultural ties, noted Ms. Persad-Bissessar, her republic's first woman Prime Minister.
The villagers later gifted her with a chunk of soil and a silver crown, while the Prime Minister planted five saplings near her ancestral home of Sipariya.
Like other formerly ramshackle villages lying in wait for a celebrity visit, Bhelupur has undergone a profound facelift almost overnight.
Electrification, potable water, decent link roads are just some of the amenities that have been providentially handed down by the system to bolster Bhelupur's prestige as a Prime Minister's ancestral haven.
So much so, Ms. Persad-Bissessar's link has also spawned a website on the village which bears the introductory legend titled “Native village of Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister.” (www.itarhibuxar.com)
Emotional on the quay
Shiv Sahay Singh reports from Kolkata:
Nearly 166 years after the first batch of labourers from the country left the jetty at Diamond Harbour here to various countries of the Caribbean, the first woman Prime Minister from one such island country, Trinidad and Togabo, Kamla Persad-Bissessar walked up the quay on Wednesday to pay homage to her forefathers at a monument set up there.
“I was thinking of those who left with a heavy heart. Walking down the stairs of the jetty never to return…” Ms Bissessar said, talking to journalists here.
Ms Bissesar, who claimed that her forefathers from Bihar left from one of the jetties here, said that while for some the decision to sail was voluntary, there were others who were “dragged away” to work as labourers.
Describing how the spiritual and cultural richness of the Indian civilisation has enriched the culture in her country, she said the “jahajis and the jahajins” (the men and women who sailed away) carried with them in bundle the copies of the Ramayana, the Gita and the Koran.
Ascribing her success to the effort of her forefathers who worked hard in distant lands, she said that like several immigrants she rose from humble beginnings and worked in rice fields as a child.
Ms Bissessar's message to the people of a country she referred as her “grandmother” was to make all efforts to educate its children. “Let your children get education. This is the only passport out of poverty….the only way to lift the nation,” she said.