The following is an address delivered by Dool Hanomansingh, author of Hariji & Hindu Revivalism in Trinidad and Tobago (1972-2015) at a Satsangh sponsored by Friends of Hariji to mark his 77th birth anniversary. The event was held on Saturday August 06, 2022 at the Sri Ram Mandir, Endeavour, Chaguanas, Trinidad.
I am happy that I have written Hariji & Hindu Revivalism in Trinidad and Tobago (1972-2015), a record of Haripersad Harikissoon’s social and cultural activism in the Hindu community of Trinidad and Tobago. I know that if I had not done this writing, the risk of losing altogether the contribution made by Hariji would have been high. In this fast-paced society where success is measured by wealth, it becomes extremely easy for the infirm and elders to be ignored and their sacrifices marginalized, if not forgotten altogether.
When I first set out to author this book, I had in mind the title Gentle Colossus- A Brief Biography of Hariji. When I completed the draft, it dawned on me that I had left out large sections of Hariji’s life: his lengthy career as a teacher, his relationships with his family, relatives, and friends, notwithstanding his health challenges. I discovered that what I had written was more about his role in Hindu revivalism. To confirm my thoughts, I revisited the tribute by Ramdath Jagessar and I discovered similar sentiments.
I want to thank those who, appreciating the value of this work, encouraged and supported my effort all along. I want to also thank the many people who have written tributes to Hariji- sharing how Hariji has impacted their lives. Much more earthy and flowing from the heart than the intellect, these tributes by activists help to better reveal the character and personality of Hariji.
Leaders have always fascinated and intrigued me…their unique traits that account for their successes and failures. In the case of Hariji, he had strengths that aided him along. An outstanding academic career, Hariji was also a life-long learner, attending lectures on Hinduism and Indian history by local and visiting scholars and Swamis. Hariji also had a huge library with hundreds of publications and found pleasure in reading.
Another strength of Hariji was his ability to package and present Hinduism through public discourses. Devotees in satsanghs, Ramayan Yagyas and especially the participants in Sangh’s Youth Development Camps felt inspired and motivated to recommit themselves to work for the uplift of the Hindu community after listening to his discourses.
Always a team player, Hariji abhorred the one-man show. In 1972 he collaborated with Pandit Ashram Maharaj to form the Endeavour Hindu Youth Organization; in 1975 with young graduates of Mausica Teachers’ College to form the Hindu Jawaan Sangh; with the Penal Rock Road Hindu Youth Organization to initiate Phagwa and Chowtaal; with Sat Maharaj and the Maha Sabha to increase the number of venues for Phagwa and Chowtal; with Ramdath Jagessar, Varune Persad, Sahadeva Rajkumar and former members of the Jawaan Sangh to form the Hindu Seva Sangh in 1983: with Pandit Rabinranath Maharaj to raise funds for needy cases; with the Hindu Society of the St Augustine Senior Secondary Comprehensive School to celebrate Divali; with Raviji to pioneer youth development programs; with Ramdath Jagessar and the Indian Arrival Day Committee to popularize Indian Arrival Day and with local groups to erect statues of Seedas Sadhu and Sundar Popo at Waterloo and Debe respectively; and the list goes on and on.
Hariji’s ability to treat all with love and respect was a rare and unique quality. A good listener, Harji was always slow to judge others. He had a high level of tolerance and always accepted people unreservedly.
A good host, Hariji always offered a beverage to visitors at his home. Traveling with him to or from a meeting, Hariji would always provide refreshments – doubles or roast corm. The celebration of his birthday was always an open invitation for Moze, Lord Ramphalie and his many friends. And even in these rendezvous, Hariji’s activism remained alert. This was well demonstrated in his reaching out to the Tobago Hindu Society during his holiday trips to Tobago. The presence of Srimati Phulwatty Beepath today, President of the Tobago Hindu Society, is acknowledgement of Hariji’s single-minded commitment to serve Dharma.
Managing conflicts was another trait of Hariji. His misunderstanding with the Maha Sabha resulted in the regrouping of former members of the Jawaan Sangh and the recruitment of tried and tested activists to form the Hindu Seva Sangh.
At two mandirs – Garth Road,Williamsville and Orange Valley – satsanghs stopped when the resident pandits felt sidelined. The Sangh identified new venues and the satsanghs continued.
During his activism, Hariji never abandoned his role as a member of an extended family. Though a bachelor, he made tremendous sacrifices to see his nieces and nephews through school and provided financial assistance to help them pursue careers, to purchase a vehicle or furnish a home.
Hariji played a test match innings with a T20 approach- he went for his shots and kept the score board ticking. Though his partners at the other end were losing their wickets – few running out on him- Hariji kept his eyes on the ball.
All great innings come to an end. Hariji played many big innings, and his statistics is adequately recorded in this publication for posterity.
I want to take this opportunity to wish Hariji a happy birthday and a sincere wish that he returns to good health.
The publication is available in Amazon and I hope that all of you would take the initiative to not only purchase a copy but to gain an insight into the workings of the mind of Hindu leader.