Blanche Rocha D’Souza, author of ‘Harnessing the Trade Winds’, a book that speaks the about cultural, social and economic history of the East African Indian, was recently in Goa. Speaking to NT BUZZ she elaborates on her book, trade history and why Indians are one of the best traders in the world
BY ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ
History has many secrets, legends and trivia within it which when revealed give an interesting perspective to present day situations. Revealing such historical facts is the book, ‘Harnessing the Trade Winds’ written by Blanche Rocha D’Souza, a Kenya-born Goan with roots in Colvale.
An interesting book, it traces the history and impact of the age old Indian trade with Africa. It is a topic that speaks about Indian traders and its impact on the world. The trade dates back to 1000 BC when the entire trading concept began.
“Indians are not very popular in Africa. This book is to tell the world about India’s contribution to the world of trade. The monsoon winds also called trading winds were responsible for bringing the trade concept to India, as they made transportation in water possible,” says Blanche. She spoke at length about the book during the Goa Book Club’s monthly meeting at Broadway bookstore at Panaji.
A former teacher at Dr Ribeiro Goan School in Nairobi, Blanche has been working on this subject for the last 10 years. She did her research in Goa, Zanzibar (Africa) and Mumbai.
When asked about the reason for choosing such a topic, she casually informs that the material was readily available and she just had to compile it in the form of a book. She adds, “Actually the topic chose me. Before I could write this book, I was already writing on traders and then I was exposed to this information.”
She further informed that the major trading component from India was spices and was also one of the reasons for the colonisation of India.
“From India spices were transported and from Africa came elephant tusks, rhino horns, skins, etc,” says Blanche.
Throwing light on the trade of African slaves, she confirms, “It all started after America’s independence as they needed people to work on their plantations,” sharing one other interesting fact that cotton was produced only at Mohenjo-Daro and nowhere else in the world. Cotton went to Egypt from India, as India shared a friendly relationship with Egypt.
According to Blanche, Indians were not only good in trading but were also good tax payers. “Indians were very good tax payers and the colonies ran on the taxes paid by them,” informs Blanche.
Even though Indians used to frequently visit Africa they never made it their home and always returned to their homeland. However, she further adds, “Indians migrated to Africa after a few centuries when railways were built. Many railway workers who used to work there planned to settle there as the land was very fertile.”
Most of these traders came from dry areas like Gujarat. “Places like Gujarat were very dry and it was next to impossible to do farming there. So, these people were involved with trading. Those from Africa were mostly from Zanzibar,” elaborates Blanche.
This is Blanche’s first book and she is of the opinion that it may also be her last. “This is my first and, may be, last book as I am 82-year-old,” says Blanche. But, in the same breath she confirms that for her writing was not difficult. “When you have a mental attitude towards what you are doing, then it is not difficult.”
On a concluding note Blanche maintains that Indians did play an important role by changing world’s desire for things. “In whatever they (Indians) tried they always succeeded as they are very true people,” concludes Blanche.