Members of the Hindu Seva Sangh and Jawan Sangh and Friends of Hariji met with him at his home in Endeavour on May 30, Indian Arrival Day, to enjoy a morning of choka breakfast, live entertainment and reflections on the struggles and survival of the girmityas and the challenges of their descendants.
Wayne Lalchan, a former President of the Seva Sangh, and President of the Bamboo No. 1 Mandir recalled his involvement with Hariji through the Hindu Society at the St Augustine Senior Comprehensive School where he was a pupil, and Hariji was a teacher. “Hariji trained us to sing folk songs and then sent us to participate in Indian Arrival Day commemoration events at several venues: Claxton Bay, Orange Valley, Cedros and Felicity.
Wayne also recollected the contributions of Ramdath Jagessar to the development of Indian Arrival Day. “I recalled Ramdathji and Hariji visiting the temple in my village to mark the occasion of Indian Arrival Day with the presentation of gifts to the elders and reflecting on their toil and sacrifices that built this country.”
Also speaking was Dr. Kirk Meighoo who recollected his return to Trinidad to identify with his roots. “Growing up in Canada, I saw my family losing their ethnic identity. I began reading Malcom X and that awakened in me a desire to search for my cultural identity,” said Kirk Meighoo who now serves as the PRO of the United National Congress.
Siew Babwah saw Indian Arrival Day as another Pitri Paksh to pay homage to our ancestors while Ganesh Bidesi suggested that we develop the concept of Girmit Puran to recount the struggles and contributions of our jahaji ancestors.
Also speaking was Pandit Satyanand Maharaj who appealed to the community to come together to fight the scourge of crime in the community. Member of Parliament Ravi Ratiram agreed with the pandit but stressed that the effort should be directed to bringing all the people together to fight crime since the entire society is suffering.
The occasion was not without songs by Vijai Seelal and Beeshramji accompanied by Parbatie Babwah. Praises were showered on Dr. Kenneth Parmasad and Professor Anant Rambachan for the composition O’ Children of Noble and Ancient Culture and Dr Suruj Rambachan for popularizing it in song.
Choka with sada roti was a major dish of our ancestors and the Seva Sangh had introduced Breakfast Choka on May 30 and for several years Hariji spearheaded the event at venues across the country. For this occasion, we had five chokas: tomatoes, aloo, coconut, baigan and eddoes, to go with sada roti and hot drinks.
The Sangh holds a regular monthly Satsangh at Hariji’s residence on the 2nd Tuesday. On August 6, Hariji’s birthday, Friends of Hariji would be joining with family members to celebrate the occasion. Last year the Sangh joined with Pandit Rabindranath Maharaj at the Sri Ram Mandir, Endeavour, to celebrate Hariji’s 77th birthday and the launch of a biography on Hariji titled Hariji and Hindu Revivalism in Trinidad and Tobago. The book is an account of the leadership role of Hariji in the revival of Hinduism in Trinidad and Tobago between 1972 and 2015. Written by D.H. Singh, the book also has contributions by 27 people who have worked with Hariji in social and cultural activism across the country.
Hariji and the Seva Sangh are an unfinished story. This saga must rejoin with the contribution of Ramdathji and Mungal Chattergoon and a host of others who braved the storm and steered the ship of dharma to a safe harbor during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Their contributions and that of so many others must be captured on canvas, stories, anecdotes, and prints for future generations to appreciate the struggles of their forebears for the survival of their cultural identity in this land and the diaspora at large. If not done, the charlatans and opportunists would be left to distort the facts to suit their megalomaniac posturing.