Pandit Rishi B Misir, formerly of Top Side, Corentyne, Guyana, passed away last month. Glowing tributes were paid to him by fellow pandits and others who knew him.
Pt Rishi served as the Dharmacharya (spiritual head) of the Hindu Federation of Mandirs in America and the USA Pandits Parishad, bodies comprising of Indo-Caribbean Hindu leaders. He served as the spiritual head or guru of both organizations for almost two decades. He is well versed in the Hindu scriptures and pandits usually sought his guidance and interpretation of the scriptures. He was also well versed in Hindi. At the Parishad and Federation, he provided respected leadership and great impetus to serving the Indo-Caribbean Hindu communities dispersed around the New York metro area. He guided the annual Phagwah parade and supported the annual Diwali motorcade. He also was among the founders of the annual Ramayana in the Park. He had a soft voice, but he was firm and principled on religious matters.
Pandit Misir is a Berbician who migrated to the US during the 1970s like hundreds of thousands of Indians who were persecuted by the racist ONC regime. He, like two of his elder brothers, became immersed in panditai activities. He comes from a family of pandits including his father, several brothers, nephews, children and grandchildren. He was a great exemplar of righteousness and a good, moral life. He made a significant and lasting contribution to the Guyanese diaspora in America in the field of faith. He was also at every function of visiting Presidents from Guyana from Jagan onwards as well as of former PM of Trinidad Kamla Persad Bissessar. He met with President Ali last year September during his visit for the UN Assembly.
Pandit Rishi has been ailing for the last year but that didn’t prevent him from attending organization meetings. He only recently retired. He was 82. He will be forever be remembered for his personal courage, his love of people, and his Hindu qualities.
Pandit Rishi dedicated his time, talents, and interests to the work of Bhagwan (Lord). He has been a sterling example of kindness, generosity, and love for his fellowmen as well as animals. He worked with the city government for several decades and retired just over a year ago.
As the USA Arya Samaj Balram Rambrich said, “Pt. Rishi was a simple, straight forward, humble, pious man”. He was a strong no nonsense leader of the Parishad and Federation. Pandit Rishi and I interacted a few times over the phone and in person. He was always praiseworthy of my commitment to community work and volunteerism and my political activism especially as relates to Guyana and the diaspora in America; an activism that dates back to the 1970s in the struggle against the dictatorship. His love of God and country touched those of us who know him. He did not get involved in political events or squabbles about politics in Guyana or in New York and America. He did not take sides publicly but inside it was known which side ge backed — righteousness. He was concerned about the lack of democracy in Guyana post 1966 thru 1992 and again post no confidence vote in December 2018 to August 2, 2020. Although he did not get involved in political struggles, he quietly supported and saluted those of us who were involved in the struggle against authoritarianism in Guyana and the attempt to steal the government in March thru July 2020. He gave moral support and encouragement to oppose injustice and bad governance of the PNC. He recognized that only a few of us were committed to the struggle against Burnhamism and the oppression of Indians. He praised my activism in the struggle for restoration of democracy in Guyana and protection of the ballot in 2020 and my prolific writings about Indians and Hinduism in America.
Glowing tributes were paid to Pandit Rishi from heads of organizations in the US. The wake on Wednesday night attracted hundreds including countless religious figures of the Guyanese and Trinidadian diasporas. As they said, they have lost a dear friend.
As Pandit Hardowar of Surya Mandir said, Dharmacharya Rishi Misir was a great Guyanese and Hindu leader in America, deeply beloved by thousands, who will be greatly missed by the Federation of Hindu Mandirs and the USA Pandits parishad and by Hindus in America. “Dharmacharya Rishi ji encouraged, lifted, and inspired many chelas (followers) as demonstrated by word and example the path to godliness and spirituality”.
May the Lord bless and keep ever alive the memory of his devoted life of faith and service to others. We pray that his family and Hindus and all affected by his passing will be consoled with the knowledge that he lived a very good life and that in his death his soul now goes to heaven with dharmic reward.
As a tribute, his photo was prominently displayed at the Ramayana in the Park at Surya Mandir.