How can social groups move away from petty gossips to bigger narratives? I think that that is a big challenge that needs addressing. Are there small talks leading to conflicts in my family relations? I doubt very much because there is limited social interaction. We usually come together for a pooja, wedding or funeral, not to cut a cake to celebrate a birthday or to curry a duck and drink a nip of rum. It is not that birthdays are not celebrated; birthdays are celebrated at the respective homes but are not occasions for the extended family to gather.
I am for socializing, but there must also be a big agenda. To come together to gossip and drink a nip of rum provides the setting for idle talk and gossip that lead to conflict. It is common to meet individuals who have all the wisdom to solve the world’s problems but do not go beyond. Their egos are their biggest hurdles, hence their reluctance to work with others. In fact, their wars are usually with the very own family members – a brother, a sister, or a nephew.
I must congratulate those among us who belong to a social group-mandir, cricket club or PTA. This only demonstrates that a few can shut their BIG MOUTHS and listen to others’ points of view; more so they can lift their minds above their narrow self-interests and walk into a wider social arena.
I had the distinguished privilege of working with Haripersad Harikissoon (Hariji) through the Endeavour Hindu Youth Organization, the Hindu Jawaan Sangh and the Hindu Seva Sangh throughout Trinidad and Tobago (1972-2005). My long association with Harikissoon provided me the opportunity to put together an account of Hariji’s work in a book titled Hariji and Hindu Revivalism in Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to my account of Hariji’s social and cultural activism, the book also carries 27 tributes by individuals who served with Hariji. Had there not been a deadline to have the text ready for the celebration of his 77th birthday on August 06, 2022, it would have been possible to get another 27 people to write glowingly of Hariji’s commitment, dedication, and simplicity.
Hariji’s acceptance as a leader was not his excellence in academia but his ability to respect all. He did not have to boast about his achievements or laments about his failures. Strong and dignified, his ill-health today has not dampened his spirit as he has accepted that whatever life throws up, one must accept – Duniya mein hum aye toh nahi parega (Mother India 1957).
Hariji was a voracious reader and while he taught Spanish Literature and read novels, he never failed to read the works of the many saints, sages and philosophers of India. Self-taught in Hindi and Sanskrit it was easy for him to quote verses from the Ramyana and Bhagavad Gita. Thus, while many recognized this ability in their tributes to him, they did not fail to underline his humility and simplicity and readiness to listen.
Petty conflicts erupts because of a culture of small talk and idleness. This is a deadly poison that is threatening to devour families and communities. The solution is to lift the conversation, that is, to aspire toward some higher goals- challenging and even impossible. If that is done, there would be little time for conflict.
Thankfully, a few workers of the Sangh have adopted the modus operandi of Hariji and are engaged in meaningful social projects in their communities. Wayne Lalchan, a product of the Hindu Seva Sangh and the Hindu Society of St Augustine Senior Comprehensive, is a man of few words. As president of the Bamboo No 1 Mandir he has successfully rebuilt the mandir and is now in the process of completing an educational complex. Additionally, the mandir host a weekly satasangh and observe all festivals including Janmashtami, Ramnaumi, Phagwa, Indian Arrival Day etc.
Another exemplary product of the Hindu Seva Sangh is Ramcharram Motilal of Barrackpore. In addition to the work in the mandir and the annual portrayal of Ram Leela, the Satya Dhristi has taken the pioneering role to launch the Hindu Parivar Credit Union. This project is a demonstration of faith and trust in the resilience of the Hindu community. It is no mean task and only an individual with big dreams and mouth shout can undertake such a task.
And then there is Mother Parvati Babwah- always smiling and bringing goodwill to all. Her infinite patience, as huge as the Pacific Ocean, has rallied the Hindu community of Orange Valley under the leadership of Pandit Narine, an exemplary leader in his own right.
It is time for Hindus to get busy. Wayne, Ramcharan and Parbatie are busy and hence not known for idle talk. They always have new projects to develop thus leaving no room for gossip and empty rhetoric which is the passion and identity of idlers and bullshitters.