Jamaica Jerk Masala

A Tale of two Independence Days

On August 6th, 1962, fifty (50) years ago Jamaica gained independence from British rule…

Today August 15th, sixty five (65) years ago in 1947, India gained their independence and as I type this celebrations are in full swing all over India.

Two countries, worlds apart separated by 15010.15 km / 9326.87 miles… diametrically different cultures, yet the imprint of colonial rule has never fully been erased in either.

Colonialism brought together two worlds which other wise may never have crossed paths in the way that they did. In 1845 the British brought the first Indians to Jamaica to work as indentured servants [Indentured servants were people who agreed to work in the West Indies for periods of between seven and ten years. For this they received free passage and a promise of land once their servitude was completed. In theory, they already had masters to work for but many found that once they arrived they were sold at auction.] on the sugar plantations that had been abandoned by the African Jamaicans after the abolition of slavery. The first labourers came from Northern India, but others arrived later from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, the Central Provinces, Punjab and the North West Frontiers.

As with all other “migrants” to Jamaica they integrated into the culture there, inter marrying, blending the styles of cooking with that of the African descendants, bringing years of tradition to intermingle with customs of the other migrants, imprinting and at the same time adapting their culture to that of their new adopted land.

Jamaica is truly “Out of Many One people” as the culture reflects and mirrors a bit of all the peoples that collided so to speak on this little strip of island paradise. To this day two favorite dishes amongst Jamaicans is Curry Goat and Curry Chicken… the curry Jamaicans enjoy is somewhat different to the traditional curry utilized by Indians in Asia but there is no doubt that its usage in Jamaica is rooted in the influence of the Indian population. We also enjoy a good Roti as much as the next person, and I can remember my  mother cooking Dahl as a young child. It is not uncommon to hear a Jamaican look at another and make a comment such as “look at her hair, she must have Indian in her family”

I contemplate the irony that has brought my family here to India to live one hundred and sixty six (166) years after the first Indians touched Jamaican soil. My husband and I, like most Jamaicans come from a mixed heritage. His grandmother being the daughter of Indian immigrants like my maternal grandmother, my father being of mixed black / white ancestors and my maternal grandfather being Chinese who migrated to Jamaica in his twenties.

Today I celebrate Independence for both countries of whom I am irrevocably a part, who fought in different ways for the right to own and govern themselves, but yet I am saddened as I know and see firsthand the sad aftereffects of colonization… the raping of resources, the stagnant stench of underdevelopment, and yes the ever present, unending gift of Neocolonialism which is in its own way worse than  traditional colonialism, because of the illusion of independence that it strives to portray, while firmly enslaving the economy for yet another generation.

Still, in both countries there has been much to celebrate over the years and the determination and will that gave us the motivation to fight for independence so many years ago still runs in the veins of both today. It is that which will sustain us as we dig in for another fifty (50) and sixty five (65) years respectively.

I salute you both Jamaica and India!

One love, one heart, one people…




About the author