India in Princes Town.
When the High Commissioner of India, His Excellency, Shri Biswadip Dey touched the feet of ICDN featured Centenarian Sadhvi, Phool Jankie he won the hearts of a village with his words, “Today I am a son visiting his mother.”
He received a ceremonial from Newsday writer, Seeta Persad and presented Sadhvi Jankie with a gift before taking his seat among the guests. Jairaj Singh sang “Sawan ka Mahina” a Hindi song from the 1967 classic “Milan” which was later translated to English by the visiting head of India relations in Trinidad and Tobago.
The visit took places at the Jankijyotir Ashram, 120 Mandingo Road, Princes Town last Saturday.
Arjune Teeluck welcomed the High Commission and other dignitaries on behalf of the Jankie family. He said that his mother, the matriarch of the family always cherished her rich Indo-ancestral, religio-cultural heritage.
"It is noteworthy to mention, however, that while we have always maintained this sacred loyalty to India, our loyalty to this land of our birth has not in any way been compromised. Here we always refer lovingly to Trinidad and Tobago as ‘mother Trinidad and Tobago’ and to India, as ‘grandmother India’, he said.
He said that his parents came from a line of ‘Sadhus’ with Jankie Sadhu, his grandfather from the rural village, Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, India.
"My father, Sadhu Teeluck Jankie was well versed in Hindi (Bhojpri) and had a good understanding of Sanskrit. He would read religiously form the holy Ramayan and the Mahabharata daily. He would lead in regular nightly ‘satsangs’ both here at home and at the homes of villagers. Ma, on the other hand, had an exemplary grasp of our oral folk traditions. She would tell us stories in her own unique style that were oftentimes filled with humour but which were always as intellectually stimulating as they were soulfully edifying."
Teeluck related a story about a ‘dotish’ (foolish or simpleton) king who ruled over a dotish kingdom. One day while the dotish king was having a dotish meeting with his dotish ministers, a dotish ‘sepahi’ (policeman) disturbed the meeting shouting, “King, king, somebody just killed somebody in the courtyard”. The king promptly replied, “Well, go and hang the killer.” The sepahi left but soon returned shouting again, “King, king, our noose does not fit the killer’s neck”. The king replied, “hang anyone who the noose fits!”
Consequently, Teeluck continued, all the people of the kingdom constantly reminded each other of this incident and so were always vigilant in ensuring that no one killed anyone. There were no other murders in the kingdom to this day! The moral of the story, he added was that no one should be hanged just because their neck fitted the noose!
He said that the story and many others told in his childhood before the advent of television were in the process of becoming a book so that the future may not be denied a rich literary legacy.
Teeluck also announced that an authorised biography titled, “Centenarian Sadvi Phool Jankieji” was in the making.
"This publication will surly serve to remind us of one who is the very embodiment of our Indo-Caribbean experience. Ma Jankie, family, relatives, villagers and the entire Indo-Caribbean diaspora, can justly be proud of this legacy," he said.
The High Commissioner explained in English the lyrics of Hindi songs and told an enthusiastic audience that he was delighted to be part of the village experience.
“I want to hear all your stories,” he said inviting an informality that set the stage for a memorable visit.
Other speakers included Setrohan Jankie who related one of the many teachings of his mother that helped to shape his character.
“Ma used to say that if the clothing is old, it is nothing as long as it is clean. She taught me humility, kindness and honesty and I can truly say that in the words of the prayer, “Tumhi Ho Mata, Pita Tumhi Ho. Tumhi Ho Bandhu, Sakha Tumhi Ho,” mother and father is everything to a child.”
Bonding with the villagers, His Excellency promised to visit again and again to share in the stories the villagers were eager to tell.
Also in attendance were singer Chandra Katwaroo, Ryan Baba, Nasaf Mohammed and others.
The Jankie home has been a venue for religious and cultural events for over 100 years.