Are Indians victims of history? Have we overcome the fact that we are children of indentureship or has that historical past become part of our subconscious being?
A study of the rise and decline of empires would reveal that when there was a great leader to unite the people there was tremendous progress and when there was internal quarrels and civil wars it led to decline with foreigners exploiting the situation.
The Hindu temples with its leaders are like village republics. Each leader holds on to his throne and his followers are attached to him for their psychological comfort. The followers in these mandirs are not allowed to be healed and venture into the wide world but to remain eternal servants.
While the doors of the mandir remain open to all, the leadership is zealously and jealously guarded and to the detriment of these institutions in the long run. If there is a culture of merit and free enterprise, there would be growth and prosperity. But unfortunately, it is not so. The insecurity of those who are in charge is too grave for such an outcome.
What passes for a mandir today is truly a struggle to protect turf. In fact, mandirs are born because a pandit wants to have total control so that when he retires, his son can continue as its unfettered leader. The reality it that the mandir kills meritocracy.
Nepotism, cronyism, and dynasty have become the norm and few organizations are structured to open their doors to all. It is like the leader wants to rule from his grave so he ensures that the mantle is given to his son whom he expects would be suppliant to his whims and fancies- how would my father have done it?
The Indians who came as indentured laborers were drawn from the lower stratum of the Indian society. Arriving in Trinidad, they were valued only for their labor and left to wallow in ignorance. The PNM further kept down Indians and when it became unbearable, a few joined with them for bread.
To get approval to open an insurance company is an insurmountable task in Trinidad and Tobago. Sat Maharaj was bold and courageous to take the government to the Privy Council to win a license to operate a media house but not all will have the courage to do so for fear of victimization.
This repeated denial of opportunities has pushed us into a hole which we have come to define as our world. The mandir is no longer a place of inspiration to replenish our spirits to fight the battles of life but a place of refuge and escape. No wonder our pandits have so gloriously affixed the honorific Maharaj -great ruler- to compensate for the decimation and loss of Hindu to other faiths.
Singing two bhajans, chanting a few mantras and eating mohanbhog is today the height of being a Hindu. Congo lala leaf, dube grass and application of sindoor are the topics for discussion. One friend told me that one individual asked him to name Ravana’s horse to test his knowledge of the Ramayana. Another individual asked when did Hanuman said “Jai Sree Ram” to Sita-while on the tree or when on the ground?
I have worked with the Hindu Jawan Sangh and the Hindu Seva Sangh and both organizations have served the community well. Now that these organizations are no more, I would like to believe that their demise are for the better, that is, to accept death and bring closure. Unfortunately, many organizations that are not growing can be in a coma, waiting to pass on.
But an organization is not an individual and organizations can merge and morph to become relevant and meaningful. It is time that Hindu organizations consider merging with others for their survival. In 1979 when the Hindu Jawaan Sangh was short of cash to carry out its work, it negotiated a merger with the Maha Sabha. Several projects such as Phagwa and Student Cultural Exchange Tours were now held under the banner of the Maha Sabha. Phagwa was expanded ten folds and the commemoration of Indian Arrival Day was launched.
The Hindu leadership must stop playing dolly house and start asking the government hard questions. To pretend innocence to the misdeeds of a government and accept pittance from the State is not dharma but helplessness. It is like Arjuna’s bewilderment in the battlefield in the face of an enemy. To turn and walk away from his duty as a warrior was Arjuna’s intention and for this he was rebuked by Sri Krishna, thus was born the message of Bhagavad Gita. Have the message of the Bhagavad Gita sunken into the heads of our leaders?