Indo-Caribbean Life – 6 Unfiltered Sweet and Sour Scenes

indo-caribbean life

Indo-Caribbean life and culture is a vibe. Sweet, sour, bittersweet, and everything in between.

Welcome to my blog! I’m Sadia, a women’s health nurse practitioner, women’s health content writer, and social commentator. I do many things, but mostly, I write and speak my mind. All views my own unless stated otherwise. Grab something to drink and scroll away with me. It’ll be good for both of us, promise.

Don’t let the fancy degrees and description fool you. I’m among the few Indo-Caribbean women in America who live without their parents, don’t speak to their abusive family, am single, am childless by choice, and run their own business without external financial support.

Pretty sweet, right? Pretty controversial, too. We’ll get to that later on. 😉

This is a reflection on all things Indo-Caribbean as part of my own self-growth and reflection. 2022 is the year I redefine, reexamine, and revamp my life.

Whether you’re coolie or have no idea what anything I just said means, hello.

To begin with, my decisions were primarily out of survival and growth. I never wanted to live a stagnant life, and I knew I deserved a good life.

First, the term Indo-Caribbean seems so formal and fancy compared to what I heard in my childhood. I don’t think I ever even heard the term Indo-Caribbean until I was in my 20s and started racial justice work. Often times, my family just said we were Guyanese or coolie.

Now, my culture is complex. Second, my life is ever-evolving. Third, I rarely, if ever, learned about my people from my K-12 education, in the media, or years in academia.

Let’s define Indo-Caribbean first before diving into all things sweet and sour.

Indo-Caribbean Identity Defined

According to Wikipedia, “Indo-Caribbeans or Indian-Caribbeans are Indian people in the Caribbean who are descendants of Indian indentured laborers brought by the British, Dutch, and French during the colonial era from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. From 1838 to 1917, over half a million Indians from the former British Raj or British India and Colonial India, were taken to thirteen mainland and island nations in the Caribbean as indentured workers to address the demand for sugar cane plantation labour following the abolition of slavery.”

Other terms for Indo-Caribbean include West Indian or coolie. Coolie is a slur, though, so if you’re not one of us, don’t say it. Got it?

So, Wikipedia basically summed up my mom’s ancestry. Her grandfather worked (eh hem indentured labor) on a farm for a white man and bought his freedom in his 20s after working for a white man. I’m not too sure of my great grandparents on my mom’s dad’s side.

Great grandfathers ended up doing OK-ish. Sugarcane, coffee, and other crops made indentured servitude a hot commodity since it wasn’t legally slavery. But, it was similar conditions, but not legally slavery. You know how that works. Plus, you know white people can’t work for themselves.

indo-caribbean culture

1. How This Relates to Me

My Indo-Caribbean culture is complex. In fact, complex is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t even know where my ancestors came from originally in India. Hell, I don’t even know if I have any family still in India. I never heard of any stories of my family beyond my great grandparents.

While some people talk about the memorabilia or property their grandparents left them, I have none. I have no jewelry, real estate, or anything tangible from my grandparents or older generations. I have no generational wealth. I’m running a one woman show building wealth from the ground up.

Indentured servitude left a lot of issues among Indo-Caribbeans. Alcoholism, domestic violence, no therapy, poverty, and chronic health conditions as a result of overworked conditions and structural oppression. Even more issues exist within family dynamics and still affect families to this day.

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2. Some Like It Sour

I never knew exactly what I wanted to do in my life. Like, you know how some people just wake up and they want to be a doctor or lawyer or plumber. Yeah, that’s not me. It never was, and I doubt it will ever be me.

On the other hand, I knew I wanted to make money and embrace my culture at the same time.

But, I needed to be realistic.

First, I grew up ass broke. When I say ass broke, I mean ass brUK, like how real coolie gyals speak. I never had access to consistent health care. My home had rats, roaches, and fleas. Medicaid and food stamps were the norm. Lights and water got cut off every so often. I was almost placed in foster care.

Now, my life is 10000% better than growing up, even as the recession hits America hard.

My mom wanted leave the marriage, but he always threatened to kill her if she did. My mom also didn’t have support from her mom.

You know, typical Indo-Caribbean hood life. With the Toyotas, roti, peppa sauce, dutty wine, and more. Plus, a side of Linkin Park and brown gyal disobedience.

3. For Indo-Caribbean Moms

Naturally, my mom carried the burden of our family, as Indo-Caribbean women are taught to do from birth. My mom was physically, emotionally, sexually, and financially abused by her husband until she died. Her mom also abused her, too. It was a non-stop cycle of abuse from one generation to the other.

Honestly, my mom was my best friend. No, really. Even though my mom had a shitty mom, my mom and I talked about mental health, sexual health, abortion, racism, and so much more. It was great. Often times, I wondered what life would be like if it was just us and my sisters.

I’m so glad mom taught me how to set boundaries and love myself from a young age. Setting boundaries and saying no does wonders for my skin and mental health.

My mom and I definitely disagreed on things, but it was definitely the best and greatest relationship I could ever ask for.

Even though I was a young gyal, I saw clearly that a lack of money couldn’t afford that luxury. My mom had cancer, diabetes, depression, and a lot of other shit I’m not going to get into now. That’s for my book later on.

I saw from a young age that money buys you things in this world. Money speaks. Money makes tings happen at rates you can’t imagine.

Not a day goes by without you in my mind.

4. Money Hot Like Peppa Sauce

I knew I had to be smart to make money long-term.

One thing people don’t tell you about making money is that you have to set boundaries with people. I’ve read a lot of money articles, but none talk about the importance of boundaries. If you associate with people who always take from you, you’re always going to be broke. So, I set boundaries with my abusive family and people in general.

If you always hold onto things that weigh you down, take from you, or treat you less than what you deserve, you’ll be broke forever.

Seeing multiple women in my neighborhood get beat and abused regularly made me never want to get married.

Watching married women basically be single moms with worthless husbands made me want to have kids on my own when I was ready, if I ever got ready.

Even now, I see women in their 30s and 40s talking about how their man doesn’t help with the bills or groceries or child care. And I’m like, gas is $6/gallon, rent is through the roof, and your man isn’t helping you? At all?!

What kinda kissmeass man ah dis?

Gyal…………..

The ways women are normalized and conditioned to stay with ain’t shit men.

P.S. Are you still reading? If you are able to afford to do so, consider compensating me for my time and labor with a one-time amount via PayPal (https://paypal.me/nursesadia) or Ko-fi (https://ko-fi.com/nursesadia). Thank you!

5. Bittersweet Coolie Respectability

This right here is why even the most wealthy Indo-Caribbeans don’t give a fuck about the poor hood ones like me.

I never vibed with mainstream Indo-Caribbean culture since gyals like me don’t belong there. Sure, poverty is rampant among Indo-Caribbeans. But, rich coolies gonna stay rich and act up like always.

Looking at my life, I grew up poor, I was raised in the hood, and I had no aspirations to lead a socially conventional life. For many years, I openly discussed abortion, racism, and culture (and still do). Sure, I have fancy degrees, I’m light-skinned, and I can hold a conversation. But, that’s not enough to make those in power happy.

The truth is, mainstream Indo-Caribbean culture doesn’t like to acknowledge gyals like us. The ones who defy social norms, remain single by choice, cut ties with abusers, and so on.

Simply put, setting boundaries is a threat to social order. Social order is how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Social order maintains the thinly veiled fabric of whatever culture remains of Indo-Caribbean heritage. Wealthy coolies associate with wealth because they know money is power. They know that power sets the tone when people come into the room.

Respectability politics are rampant in the Indo-Caribbean community because everyone knows everyone. People are so quick to judge and be stigmatized for existing because there is so much community within our culture, yet so much of our community does not care for each other.

Indo-Caribbean culture has several unspoken rules for those who go against the norm.

6. Gaffing Like Rass Will Get You into Some Real Rass

Indo-Caribbean women are raped, beaten, and killed at unspeakable rates. Every so often, it seems like Jahajee Sisters hosts another vigil for another Indo-Caribbean woman murdered by a male partner. And of course, like any tragedy in America, we say our thoughts and prayers without any real concrete next steps.

Because who cares about accountability, right? There are severe lack of discussions on mental health, violence, sexual health, and so much more. There are so many Indo-Caribbean parents who let their sons run wild, yet their daughters are to never leave the home.

The lack of continuous change also results from a lack of funds to sustain change. Remember, wealthy coolies get wealthy and then judge the poor. The cycle continues, which is why most Indo-Caribbean initiatives are severely short lived (because of short funding). Also, it’s really hard to get funding from outside of the community since most people don’t know we exist.

Oh, and the ways Indo-Caribbean people love it when their kids marry white people, but would have a stroke if their kids married a Muslim. Islamophobia in the coolie community is a whole other issue y’all. Phew, that fullaman drama wild.

Suicide rates in Guyana are among the highest in the world. Almost every Indo-Caribbean person I know can speak of alcoholism, domestic violence, double standards, abusive families, inability to set boundaries, toxic perfectionism, and more.

So, what’s the future for my people looking like?

Sweet Rass Tings

All these moments, yet my culture is something I still enjoy.

Not the respectability or the toxic abusive shit. But, the food, the music, the vibe.

Also, disclaimer, Florida coolies better than New York coolies. That’s a fact. Those Richmond Hill coolies got nothing on Miami peeps. And Indo-Caribbeans exist and have existed outside of New York for decades.

Here are some of my favorite words, courtesy of my sista.

Rass – pronounced r – ah – sss / used to express annoyance or shock depending on context. Similar to the phrase oh damn.

Kissmeass – pronounced kiss mi ahss – comes from the phrase kiss my ass, used to express frustration towards people

Skunt – the same meaning as cunt but gender neutral
Skuntrass – a stupid woman
Skunthole – a very stupid asshole
Skunting – when someone can’t stop fucking up, a verb. Example “This skunting bastard won’t stop leaving the toilet seat up. His mudda shoulda buss he rass.”

Cockahole – pronounced qak – ah – hole / an asshole, specially for insulting men but can also be gender neutral

Belaway/belaweh – bee – la – way / to do more for people than for yourself, to be a doormat. Example, “Stop belawaying your ass for other people.” the phrase “belaweh ass” also is common when people are sacrificing themselves for others and suffering. This term is literally means to give away. The phrase give way your ass is an old folk story about men selling themselves for desperate times and money. Hence the phrase Belaway ass.

If yah Guyanese, yah already know.

Jook – to have sex, literally means to fuck
Jook up – to fuck up

Pinga – penis
Looli – lu – li, slang for penis but also for a small dick
Patticake – patty – cake, slang for vagina
Pachinga – to trust forward literally or as a slang for throwing yourself into a situation without thinking
Sweetman – a male lover, bf or gigolo depending on context
Sweetwoman – female lover, gf or prostitute depending on context

Babulal – bah – boo – la – l / an idiot
Battiwash – bah – tea – wash / a huge idiot and failure in life, literally means toilet water mixed with shit comes from the term asswipe
Batti – bah – tea, literally mean butt or ass
Lagubagu – la – goo – baa – goo / a bum or lazy useless man who doesn’t contribute to society

Battiman – a man who likes anal sex, can be a negative term for gay men, more insulting than positive. A lil bitch
Antiman – auntie – man / a term to describe a shitty man or a man who does not act like a proper man. An insult. Also a slur for gay men depending on the context. A real harsh cuss word.
Rasspass – r – ah – ss – p – ah – ss / someone who can’t stop fucking up and never learns from their mistakes. A failure in life. Total screw up. Can also mean someone who loses out on good opportunities due to their own bs.

What Now?

Simple, I just continue to do my own thing and be my own self. No, I’m serious. Like, being myself and living as a threat to social order are more than what my mom would have wanted and definitely my ancestors wildest dreams. I get to live the life that so many Indo-Caribbean women die for – literally.

A life without abusers, without trash men, and without resentment. I’m exploring a life where I can make money on my own terms, help people with direct patient care, and be a genuine change in a world where everyone talks about change without any action behind it.

What about you? What did you learn from this post? Keep me posted and see you next Wednesday!

References


https://cultureatkamelia.wordpress.com/tag/muslims-in-guyana/
https://opencitymag.com/guyana-country/
https://moonsammy.wordpress.com/my-guyana/guyanese-dictionary/
https://www.sakhi.org/we-mourn-stacy-singh-statement-and-call-to-action/
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/06/29/622615518/trying-to-stop-suicide-guyana-aims-to-bring-down-its-high-rate

https://immigrationhistory.org/item/act-to-prohibit-the-coolie-trade-2/
https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/11/25/247166284/a-history-of-indentured-labor-gives-coolie-its-sting

https://www.jahajeesisters.org/
https://demerarawaves.com/2019/12/17/new-yorks-ozone-park-indo-caribbean-community-gathers-to-mourn-and-heal-in-the-wake-of-spousal-murder/
https://pitchengine.com/pitches/f8c05ca3-6748-4115-ab9f-8bdf10a7a701
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-indocaribbean-experie_b_8799132
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-value-of-an-indo-caribbean-womans-life_b_584ad23be4b0171331050fb1?timestamp=1481307116635
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/opinion/sunday/on-being-queer-in-the-caribbean.html
https://yourstory.com/2017/12/indentured-labourers-india/amp

Thank you from Nurse Sadia

DISCLAIMER: Nurse Sadia is a licensed and board-certified women’s health nurse practitioner and registered nurse. All information on this page and on www.digitalhealthcommunicator.com is for educational and informative purposes only. It is not meant to be used for self-diagnosing or self-treatment of any health-related conditions. While the information presented has used evidence-based research and guidelines for accuracy, Nurse Sadia cannot guarantee any inaccuracies as healthcare is rapidly evolving.

This information should not be used to substitute professional medical advice. Nurse Sadia is not responsible or liable for any damages, loss, injury, or any negative outcomes suffered as a result of personal reliance on the information contained on this website. Nurse Sadia also makes no guaranteed positive outcomes. Information is also subject to change as needed without notice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions and ask about guidance for specific health conditions. Please do not disregard the advice of your healthcare provider or delay seeking care for health care conditions.

Sadia

Sadia is a women's health nurse practitioner, reproductive justice advocate, and digital writer.

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