Book Review: Indians in Singapore, 1819 – 1945 – Diaspora in the Colonial Port City
Diaspora is one of the highlighted topics in studying population evolution and its features. The book “Indians in Singapore, 1819-1945: Diaspora in Colonial Port City” written by Rajesh Rai focuses on the topic of Diaspora and its associated features. The meticulously researched data is taken from administrative and community-based reports, observation data, newspapers, oral testimonials, and intelligence reports. It elaborates on the history of the development of Diaspora in colonial port-city during the colonial rule of the British. The living conditions of Indians in a foreign location were a testament to the hardships of living as a minority. The lives of Diaspora Indians were affected by administrative, economic, colonial, religious, and socio-political changes in a port city. This reflected the flow of lives which later depicted its presence in the formation of their identity. The descriptive historical account highlights the journey of emigrant Indians reflecting its fight to eliminate the shackles of colonial rule.
The context of any book is essential to analyze its viability. The book “Indians in Singapore, 1819-1945: Diaspora in Colonial Port City” focused on the context of colonial rule to demonstrate how it influenced the lives of Diaspora Indians living in Singapore. The time frame utilized in the book encompasses the Second World War. This never diverges from the context of colonial history and Diaspora which makes it highly valuable to gather knowledge about Indian living conditions in Singapore. The term “India” caused the author Rajesh Rai to delve deeper into the life journey of Indians living in a port city and how it framed the community development in Singapore.
Diaspora is a much-talked topic in population history. Many countries have an elaborative history of diasporic populations framing their history and contributing to the socio-cultural development of their home country as well as foreign countries. Rai has focused on the diasporic movement of Indians in Singapore, which somehow remained an underrated topic for historical discussion. The research concentrated on the three-time frames that focused on the journey of Indian migrants and its evolution in the development of the social, political, and economic status of the community. The chapters of Rai’s books discussed a great deal about diasporic communities beyond the development of movements in Singapore during British rule.
The audience of any literary or written work demonstrates the aim with which the book is written. The book is focused on the social, political, and economic development of Indian communities during migratory movements studied over the time frame of British rule and the Second World War. The book filled with details and deeper insights into Indian diasporic history is intended for any history lover. The audience of this book also includes history researchers who can use this book as a tool for viable data collection.
Past History scholars have conducted studies on the colonial rule and the Second World War. However, the diasporic movements of Indians and their role in the Society of Singapore have remained an under-represented topic. The title itself gives an idea that the book is enriched with thorough details of ethnicity, religion, language, class, and caste systems along with varying aspects of diasporic movements, their impact on historical movements, and transnational themes. The work of Rai is supported and derived data from past scholarships for elaborating on Southeast Asian society, Second World War, and British rule. Rai made his book mention-worthy by writing about under-represented topics. The existing scholarship can be correlated with Rai’s work based on the history of British colonial rule and the changing environments during the Second World War. Furthermore, existing scholarship gets more detailed with this book by focusing on the diasporic history and community development as minorities in foreign port-city.
The key themes or ideas assumed in any book provide the basis of its strength. The viability of these ideas or themes directs the gathering of data from different sources and the extent of the meticulous search that follows. Rai’s book “Indians in Singapore, 1819-1945: Diaspora in Colonial Port City” has several ideas that are assumed. The central assumption of the book was the impact of the Indian Diaspora and the Indian minority community in Singapore during British rule. Although an assumption, it is obvious and backed up by the author with thoroughly searched data from diverse sources. This influenced trade and business in Singapore. The ideology of Indian diasporic groups changed which made them participate in business deals and trade. The author informs such data by writing “In Singapore, these Tamil Muslims came to be involved in a variety of trades— textiles, gems, cattle, leather, tobacco, tin, areca nuts, among others” (Rai, 2014, p. 7). The book chapters discussed the elaborate historical account of Indian influence shaping colonial history in Singapore.
The main purpose of this book is to determine and explain the historical information about the diaspora in the colonial port city. The book also evaluates the socio-political, religious and also cultural development of British Colonial rule and also the Japanese occupation. Indians in Singapore is the name of this book which determines the condition of living of the minority group in the port city that has multi-ethnic value. This book also expresses the changes in the colonial ideologies as well as focuses on the administration and economy and provides enough information about the development of communication technologies. It provides a scenario of this country at that time. It also gives enough information about the historical journey in which the complexity has present. It also provides the scenery of transforming into the trading centre of the city of Singapore and also marks the differences between the socio-economic profiles.
The book is printed from the Oxford scholarship online and it is copyrighted by Oxford University Press, 2020. The book Indian community in Singapore is edited by Gopinath Pillai and K. Kesvapany and evaluates the significant figure of the Indian Singapore community. The author of Indians in Singapore book is Rajesh Rai and he organized the important pieces of information about the analysis purpose (Rai, 2014). The author gathers different information from administrative archives, intelligence reports, observer accounts, newspapers, oral testimonies and also the community-based records. After analyzing the information he got several sides, reflects those into his written books and draw the important scenario of that period. After analyzing the political and sociological culture of India and Singapore he reflects his ideas in the books. He also identified the condition of the minority groups of that time and observed colonial ideologies, administration as well as the economy of that period.
The book has focused on the formation of the Indian diaspora in Singapore from the year 1819 to 1867. Based on the diverse concept, the book provides enough information about the movement of early Indian pioneers and points out the location of easy and well long-lasting Indian commercial present (Rai, 2014). The book is divided into 8 segments in which the first chapter expresses the positive development and the impact of Tilly’s work. The second chapter has focused on the Pakistani syndrome. It is known that the continuous flow of rent can disturb their economy and political structure. The third chapter recognizes the history of Pakistan and evaluates the emergence of the military and the fourth chapter recognizes the reason “why Pakistan is considered a garrison state” (Rai, 2014). This book also provides enough information about the Singapore-Indian community and identifies its significance and also makes a scenario of the Singaporean Indian past. In the third and fourth chapters, the author Rajesh Rai elaborates on the diversity of the Indian population and also describes the impact of changing demographic constitution on spatial distribution and Reproduction of culture as well as religion. He also described the factor of migration of off Tamil labour Merchant and global trade network. He also described the social life of Indians and the emergence of the Vernacular Press and which is mainly associated with the developing education of the Indian organization. He also examines the significant impact of Pan-Islamic solidarities and the activities of the Ghadar parties in the year 1915 of the Sepoy Munity. The author explores the growth of municipal diasporic identities in chapter 5 and explains the dramatic growth of Indian social organization and also the movement of Singapore at the time of the interwar period. The chapter also identifies the activities of the Indian Nationalist movement and the Dravidian movement.
The book Indians in Singapore provides enough information about the establishment of Singapore and it provides a transparent scenario about the foundation of Singapore today. This book also delivers an understandable timeline for the audience and clears the misconception as well as lack of knowledge of them (Rai, 2014). Additionally, this book also delivers several points regarding the history and also provides the scenario about the background of that time and themes. Based on several chapters of this book the audience can get versatile knowledge about India as well as Singapore. The main aim of this book is to focus on the Indian business in Singapore. The unique style of writing of the author provides different knowledge to the audience which encourages and enriches their knowledge about the history and the economic scenario of that time. It has been frequently seen that some authors skip several points in their books but in this case, the audience gets huge pieces of information.