By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, June 4, 2023: Few days back some news was there in BBC how a man of the Indian origin was trying to unite families in the Caribbean Island with their relatives of the ancestral past in India. This took me back to 1989 when I was posted as India’s Permanent Representative on the Council of ICAO in Montreal. During the Assembly of ICAO,

I came across a person by the name Mike Nancoo who was the Chief Delegate of Trinidad and Tobago. He impressed me very much because of his professional knowledge on air transport having served as the Regional Representative (now called the Regional Director) of ICAO in the Office of Mexico City. Although he was recruited as a professional at P3 level for his aero-meteorology expertise, over the years he rose to become a Director (Level 1) by his sheer competence and width of knowledge.

His country during the Assembly session was elected to the Council of ICAO, and he was appointed by his government to be the Permanent Representative on the Council of ICAO with the status of Ambassador, and thus became my colleague. I learnt a lot about working of ICAO from him as he had spent more than a quarter century in the organization in professional capacity.

He was fluent in Spanish apart from his mother tongue English having worked in the Central American region. One day he disclosed to me that he was of the Indian origin which I suspected as much because of his last name Nancoo which gave me an impression of the Indian link. As we became closer,

I suggested to him and his wife Claudette who was from Jamaica and also of the Indian origin possibly from Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir that they should visit India. Those days the Indian Airlines was promoting a package for visit to several cities where airline was flying with a decent amount of money. They agreed to take the offer and flew to Delhi by Air India.

Their visit also coincided with my visit to India. Apart from visiting many cities they decided to go to Calcutta (now called Kolkata) where they visited the port from where from Mike Nancoo’s forefather, possibly gregreat grandfather had taken the ship as an indentured laborer to work in the sugarcane plantation in Trinidad and Tobago. He was disappointed because he was not able to find out from which province or district or sub-division, Tehsil, or village his forefather came from although he knew the name of the ship which sailed from Kiddepo.

Mike made a name for himself as a Permanent Representative and was responsible in formation of the Technical Cooperation Committee to review the technical cooperation program of ICAO with UNDP assistance for developing countries. The members of Geneva Group, those who represent the Western countries, were opposing the creation of this committee as it would have brought to light, after the scrutiny, the working of the Bureau which was traditionally headed by someone from a Western country. Later, Mike stood unsuccessfully for the post of Secretary General. He served as a consultant to ICAO after retirement in Africa. He passed away in sleep quite early in his life.

His wife is a writer who alternates between Jamaica and Montreal. Her books on her visits to many different countries including India with many anecdotes are interesting reading.

Mike had many friends of eminence, one of them being his compatriot, the famous Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul the author of “India, An Area of Darkness”. Mike also knew Pierre Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada. He had introduced me to him at an Indian restaurant called Le Taj, between Stanley Street and Sherbrooke Street, which used to be frequented by Trudeau as he enjoyed Indian spicy food.

Mike had introduced me to another West Indian of the Indian origin from the British Guyana. His name was Irving Boodhoo who had migrated to Canada after early education in his country and served in quite a high position in the Department of Air Transport under the Government of Canada. He had told me the story how his surname became Boodhoo.

When his forefather was boarding the ship from an Indian port possibly Calcutta, the British Immigration officer asked him “What is your name” in English. It seems he replied in Hindi “Hum to Budhu Admi Hai” and the Immigration Officer promptly recorded Boodhoo as his name, and that is how Irving inherited the surname, Boodhoo. However funny, ridiculous, or hilarious it may appear, that is how the names were recorded when indentured laborers were being carried across many seas and oceans to reach their destinations in the Caribbean islands.

I had come across an exceptionally brilliant lawyer, by the name Ken Rattray who had served as the Attorney General to Jamaica during many Air Law Conferences including one on the Convention on Marking of Plastic Explosives which had acquired tremendous international political significance after the Lockerbie (Scotland) Crash of Pan Am aircraft which followed the Air India Kanishka Crash near Cork in Ireland. He also had Indian connection.

When I served as Director on ICAO there were two staff members who were proud of their Indian origin -one was a young man who claimed he was a Brahmin and other one was a lady who said she was from Kashmir.

Interestingly, there was another staff member in my Bureau who was great grandson of the famous West Indian cricket player, Dudley Nurse.

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