4 -11 December 2010
I don't live here in Ghana amongst Indians and have not come here with an intention to do so. Volunteering is not about living amongst your own countrymen but experiencing the real life of the host country, which you are living in. Still luckily I have got opportunity to meet so many Indians and have Indian volunteer friends that I can make some general statements about Indians in Ghana.
The impression which majority Ghanaians carry about Indians here is that they are good traders and businessmen. Compared to businesses run by Ghanaians, certainly they are doing well. Indians are running shops, trading companies, manufacturing units, import and export firms and many types of businesses. Some Indian run business firms have been operating here since 100 years or more. Most of the Indians are concentrated in major business hubs like Accra, Kumasi, Tema and Takoradi. The population of Indians here in Ghana is approximately 3,000 as per a Government of India website on Non Resident Indians. Since it must be based on the number of people who have registered themselves at the Indian High Commission office and does not include those who have not registered themselves, actual number must be far higher than the official figure. In city like Accra, sighting of Indians is so common that if one Indian sees another Indian on the road, many times people don't even bother to smile.
Like you observe everywhere in India, there are certain communities engaged in their traditional occupations. Majority of the shop and trading firm owners are Sindhi and Gujaratis. There is a large number of Tamils engaged in the businesses like timber, borehole digging etc. Most of the skilled workers and executive class employees of the companies here are Bengalis, Telugus, Maharashtrians and north Indians.
Most of the Ghanaians, with whom I have met, have been very respectful of Indians. Some even said that they are doing a great service to their nation by helping to develop their economy. India and Ghana have had very good ties since Ghana became independent. The presidential palace of Ghana has been built with help from India. First president of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru were good friends and both tried to take the Non Aligned Movement further. The road opposite to presidential palace is called Jawaharlal Nehru Road. Many Ghanaians know about Gandhi, at least his name and he came from India.
Indians here live peacefully and seem to be mostly concentrating on their businesses rather than other political issues. I think, country like Ghana is so peaceful that there are very little other issues to look into. With majority Ghanaians, living their happy go lucky life and not taking much of stress to achieve the big money dream, Indians have found their niche here and doing very well as there is little business competition here. Many Indian companies like Tata Motors and Airtel are prominent here.
There some negative points or moreover points of concern about Indians in Ghana. Ghana is considered as the friendliest country in whole of Africa. As I do not have much of experience about rest of Africa, I can surely say that people here are much friendlier than Indians. They like to smile and keep their conversations polite and lively. Talks always start here with greetings. Ghanaian society is not hierarchical as Indian society is and people cleaning the toilets can also proudly greet the super bosses in the office.
I have not seen many Indians taking into consideration all these points and interacting with their Ghanaian employees or customers. When in an Indian shop, local helper was very polite and helpful in finding the right items, I found the shop owner unnecessarily barking at him. When I was invited in one house of an Indian, I found him speaking loudly and impolitely with his maid when she was not able to attend to him immediately because of being busy in the kitchen, while the person did not even care to move from his couch to take the water which he seemed to urgently need. I have seen some Indian customers getting very bitter and crude during bargaining, while the shop keepers and taxi drivers though initially try to maintain their coolness; do not do so after a while.
Once I met an Indian executive who made some purely racist and bad remarks about black African people and was wondering how I have been able to live amongst them unprotected so long and moreover friends with them. When he was expressing that he also mentioned that he has been living in this country for last 4 years. He did not have any shame blundering this while he was earning his bread and butter by living here. Majority of the executives working for big corporations here live in protected bungalows with watchmen and chauffeur driven cars. They know little about the way common Ghanaians live. I wonder whether they at least care to know that.
As against these examples, I found that some Indians have really mixed well with the local people. One shop manager whom I met has learned the local language well and has many local friends. His behaviour with his staff in the shop was very good and most of the people seemed to admire him a lot. I met one person whose son has been brought up in Ghana. His son has been given a Ghanaian name and it is their in all of his documents. I was told a story about Vic Baboo’s Café, a 70 year old establishment run by an Indian. Seeing the way its founder Vic Baboo got mixed with the local people, the local chief helped him to establish his business and encouraged him to develop it further.
Bringing an end to this subject, I shall like to write here that being from the typical Indian middle class and having little sources of my own to go to a distant country, volunteering has proved to be a great opportunity to experience a new culture and environment. What makes me sad though is that majority of my fellow countrymen living here and some wishing to fulfil their money making dream (which is not wrong at all,) do not even try to experience it. This is something Indians coming here should remain aware of and be respectful about the local culture. Only then we can really say that Indians and Ghanaians are friends of each other.