Diwali Nagar provides a platform to enjoy the songs, music and dances, shop for bargains, eat tasty dishes and learn more about the various Hindu organizations and NGOs operating in the community.
On Tuesday night I visited the Diwali Nagar accompanied by Vishnu Bisram of NACTA poll fame and Bindool, a social and cultural activist from Barataria. Arriving inside the Nagar we proceeded to have our blood pressure, blood sugar and pulse tested.
We then proceeded to the Hindu Prayer Hotline Network ran by Pandit Roopnarine Robby Seenath, a Mathematics teacher at the Barrackpore East Secondary School. Pandit Robby said: “I receive two to three calls every day from people with mainly marital and financial issues,” and revealed that “suicide remains a major problem and only last week three youths committed suicide.”
Pandit Robby is the principal financier of this effort. His biggest need at present is to have the services of a psychologist to train personnel to operate the Hotline. Pandit Robby cautioned that “if amateurs are left to monitor the Hotline, they can cause more harm than good.”
I was happy to see my Hindi teacher Saismati Maharaj displaying a copy of Harriji, my latest publication. Sais had the privilege of being a member of the Cultural Exchange Tour to Guyana and Suriname in 1979 sponsored by the Hindu Jawaan Sangh under the leadership of Hariji. In this publication Sais shared that experience in her testimony on Hariji.
With Sais was Hafeeza, a student in her Friday night online Hindi class. Other familiar faces joined us including Sat Sookdeo and Vishwanath, first manufacturer of wax deeyas, an invention that has grown in popularity during Diwali. Vishwanath shared with us his trip to India sponsored by the Indian High Commission. Today he is learning Hindi through an online class sponsored by the Indian High Commission.
I was happy to meet Shastri Boodan, a freelance media personality. Enquiring about my writing, I showed him a copy of Hariji and he agreed to meet with me to do a story on the book. Boodan shared with me his visit to India and the people’s interest in Brian Lara. “When I revealed that I lived not far away from Lara, the Indian beseeched me to autograph a bat on behalf of Lara and I complied,” said Boodan.
On the main stage an orchestra was performing to a packed audience, A youth was walking about giving freebies such as soaps and toothpastes which we receive with a big thank you.
We then saw the President of the NCIC and Senator Deoroop Teemal and went across to give our respect. I learned that Deokinanan Sharma would be retiring later this year as head of the NCIC and Teemal is the prospective candidate to take over the reins. Vishnu Bisram felt that Teemal is an excellent choice for President of the NCIC as he has a record of service in the community.
We later interacted with Anand Maharaj, a member of the Indian Arrival Day Committee led by Ramdath Jagessar that oversaw the development of Indian Arrival Day -May 30-into a public holiday. I was happy to inform him that I mentioned his name in the book Hariji and he said that he remembered Hariji and identified him as a former teacher at the St Augustine Senior Comprehensive Secondary School.
I later visited the Blue Bird Sports and Cultural Organization and conducted an interview with Gowtam Maharaj. Like Pandit Robby, Gowtam is a relentless worker for Sanatan dharma. Gowtam revealed that all the workers in the pepper roti stall are volunteers and that the funds raised are used to sponsor annual programs including a Ramayana yagya, Ramleela and Diwali celebration and the ongoing Balvihar classes to train the children to walk the path of dharma. I was happy to be introduced to the youthful Franklin Andy Haripersad, the newly elected President of Blue Birds.
It was then bhojan time and we had a sahina each. It was nearing 9:30 p.m. and the crowd was thinning out. Making our way-out Vishnu Bisram posed for pictures with lit deeyas in the background.
NCIC is an enduring cultural organization. Cultural Persistence-50 years of the National Council of Indian Culture 1964-2014 is a comprehensive record of the history of the NCIC by Dr. Primnath Gooptar. Interestingly, when the first executive of the NCIC was elected in 1964 it had as its patrons Bhadase Sagan Maraj, President of the Maha Sabha and Kamaluddin Mohammed, a senior Cabinet- Minister in the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
Shubh Diwali to the ICDN family and may dharma continue to flourish and bring light to many of us enveloped in darkness.