Dr Prahalad Sooknanan, a former lecturer in Mass Communication at the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business, pays tribute to Hariji in the publication Hariji & Hindu Revivalism in Trinidad and Tobago by Dool Hanomansingh. Unable to attend the Book Launch held on Saturday August 06, 2022, Dr Sooknanan speech was read by the Chairperson.
Paying tribute to Hari, a cherished and esteemed fellow-villager, spontaneously calls attention to the adage – “it takes a village to raise a child.” Typically, the village represents the network of people and relationships that nurture the values which serve as a foundation for life. Endeavour Village is proud of its iconic son, Hari! Notwithstanding his accolades as an educator, and religious and cultural activist, nationally, regionally, and beyond, his modesty endures as an endearing trait. No wonder I feel privileged and grateful for his silent role as my mentor. More poignantly, I feel driven to declare – I am who I am today because of Hari’s influence! This reverence is evidenced by my humble accomplishments, to date, as an academic, tertiary educator and devotional singer.
My initial encounter with Hari was most timely; fortuitously, it occurred during my nascent years in secondary school. As the first university graduate in his family and our village, he pioneered free tuition at the Endeavor Hindu School for students preparing for GCE exams. Like others, I benefitted from his subject area expertise but more inspired by his profound sense of social responsibility in rendering service to the community. I subsequently landed my first job as a teacher and promptly embraced Hari’s social, religious, and cultural crusade in Endeavour and the wider national community.
The Endeavor Hindu School served as the epicenter for these initiatives, and I enthusiastically participated in all activities during my formative years. Hari’s vision is credited with the establishment of the Endeavour Hindu Youth Organization and subsequently the Ramanand Kirtan Mandali. While the former exposed me to the value of religious and social work, my enthusiasm in singing and music found expression in the latter. Hari’s expanding network provided opportunities to showcase the Mandali’s singing and musical repertoire throughout the country as well as the wider Indian diaspora in the Caribbean. To this end, I had the good fortune to accompany secondary students and teachers on cultural exchanges to Guyana and Surinam on two occasions gaining further acclaim for my talents. Later, I parlayed this success to Hindi film songs with several of our leading orchestras locally and abroad.
Hari’s philosophy on the role of education and its transformative potential for social change and personal empowerment resonated deeply; it fortified my perseverance and ambition for further education. He voluntarily and dutifully arranged for my travel and accommodation in Leicester, England to read for the MA degree in Mass Communication. Likewise, he supported my aspirations to pursue my terminal degree in the US on an OAS fellowship. Hari is not given to bravado and sparingly offers praise. This remains the mark of his characteristic humility.
In retrospect, my life has been gratifying with little to no regrets. For this, I am indebted to Hari and, therefore, thankful for the opportunity to document this confession about our “unsung hero”! His sterling qualities as quiet confidence, steely resolve, perseverance, modesty, hospitality and tenacity, among others, are worthy of emulation not to mention his penchant for planning social events as public spheres for advancing educational, social and cultural change. I remain eternally grateful for his company, counsel and qualitative influence on my life. May God continue to richly bless Hari Ji!
By Prahalad Sooknanan