(The undermentioned was the opening remarks by Ariti Jankie in her capacity as chair of ICDN Wednesday Night Zoom session (30th September, 2020) on the Life and Times of Bhadase Sagan Maraj. Titled Bhadaase: Man, Saint or Devil? the presenter was Ramdath Jagessar, journalist/author and former Secretary of the Hindu Seva Sangh and the main ideologue for Indian Arrival Day to be declared a national day.)
Bhagwan Shri Krishna
in the Bhagwat Gita taught us to
fight for justice and defend our dharma.
These words a father was willing to die for.
Words his son lived by….
Early on a Sunday morning, in Caroni Village, Mathew Sagan Maraj, his thick black hair still wet from his morning bath and clad in sparkling white cotton lounged in his usual meditative space, 30th September, 2020. The presenter was Ramdath Jagessar, former journalist with the local dailies, former Secretary of Hindu Seva, and father of Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad.)
The sound of a gunshot pierced the air. The Gita dropped to the floor, blood flowing upon it.
The year was 1932. Bhadase Sagan Maraj looked at his father’s lifeless body. He was 13 years old. Boyhood ended abruptly. He now had to run for his own life. The smoke was still rising from his father pyre when he caught a bus and went to live with relatives in Tunapuna.
There was no time to cry. He now had to shoulder the responsibility of looking after his mother and younger siblings. He went to work. No job was too small for the boy who walked tall in his father’s shoes. Collecting empty bottles to sell, running errands, taking odd jobs, loading cane on trucks, bought and sold scrap iron… on a hustle he grew big and strong and like his father was fearless. It was time to return home to Caroni.
Luckily, the tension had cleared. There was money to be made in wrestling and Bhadase went for it.
He then bought a truck and began doing transport work.
When Bhadase heard of a shortage on nails on the Naval base at Waller Field, he bought old boards, hammered out the nails and sold it to the Americans. He began supplying sand to the projects and when the base was about to close, Bhadase had enough money to purchase surplus materials which he sold for a huge profit.
He was now 30, and a millionaire!
Uniting Hindu groups to form the SANATAN DHARMA MAHA SABHA, building multiple schools and mandirs throughout the island, Bhadase was a trend setter. In almost every village there was a Bhadase. Tall, strapped men who wore thick leather belts and were armed with cutlass if not guns. My own uncle Seecharan Bunsee drove a truck, wore the signature belt and carried a shotgun. He was feared as much as he was respected in my home village.
In the 1960s, Bhadase staged a grand nine- nights yagna at Gopal Lands, Marabella. Night after night the hundreds attended. I was then, a girl of 8 or 9 and the only time I saw Bhadase, king among men. This yagna inspired the Indo-Caribbean community to become a regular annual ritual in almost every village. It also led to what is today, DIVALI NAGAR moving from Mid Centre Mall carpark to its permanent home on Narsaloo Ramaya Marg.
The story of Bhadase also needs nine days to be told. Sufficient is the holding of the dream by the thousands of children passing through the Maha Sabha schools and the Indo-Caribbean community. We reawaken his spirit to light the lamp in an ever increasing darkness.