…he did it his way!
On August 31 2012, we celebrated fifty-seven years of independence and one would have thought that over such a period of time, we would have matured, we would have developed a sense of honesty and we would have developed a culture where our words meant something.
I would have never believed it if I had not read it for myself and listened to the many narratives uttered by people of substance, the platitudes rained upon Satnarayan Maharaj since the proclamation of his death on Saturday, November 16 2019.
I would have never believed that in my lifetime I would have seen it chronicled anywhere that Sat Maharaj was a patriot, a hero, and one of the noblest sons of the soil who helped to shape the educational development in our country.
All seems forgotten and forgiven
I would have never believed that I would have read anywhere that this country needed Satnarayan Maharaj to keep our democracy alive.
It is difficult to comprehend how the PNM Women’s League after all that party had said about Sat Maharaj can now valorise him recognizing the estimable value of his leadership and focus in the fields of religion, culture and education. And I would have never anticipated that the Prime Minister thought of this man as a tireless advocate who dedicated his life to fight causes he thought were worthy of his attention.
Was this not the same Sat Maharaj who was defined as a racist and religious bigot in our country?
Was this not the same Sat Maharaj upon whom scorn was poured when the country joined together fearlessly to fight for the right of the child against child marriages?
Last Sunday, as I sat reading the praises, poured upon Sat Maharaj I could not help but muse that this was the same man who, just earlier this year, was nationally condemned for his off the cuff statement of Tobago men whom he viewed as lazy and rapists of white women.
Yet in his death, now all seems forgotten and forgiven and the Sat that was once demonised is now being viewed as a national icon and a saviour to this country.
History will never be unkind to Satnarayan Maharaj because all of the tributes which have come pouring in after his death are well deserved. Such was the measure of the man.
But history will be unkind to us because we allowed him to die without spending at least one moment letting him know how much we as a people appreciated him.
The media are littered with stories positioning him in a negative context. Yet now after his death dozens of pages have been dedicated to his work as a champion in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago OMG!
This was a man who now would never be forgotten, who politics and religion collaborated to make a pariah in our country.
This was a man who was never afraid to challenge old traditions and forge a identity for his people yet it is only in his death his contribution is recognized.
He challenged the unjust systems
He singlehandedly changed the name of the national award because of the religious undertones it carried in a way that was prejudicial for one enclave. This caused us to now shift our highest national award from the Trinity Cross to the Order of Trinidad and Tobago.
He fought for the right to broadcast, challenging a very unjust political system all the way to the Privy Council and won to ensure that the East Indian voice also has residency in our twin Republic.
He fought to ensure that within Hindu schools, images that were non Hindu never took root thus polluting the values that he viewed were critical for the development of Hindu boys and girls.
The problem is why couldn’t we celebrate Sat before he died? Why did we have to wait until after his death to tell the world what a great man Sat Maharaj was?
Our actions display a lack of maturity, underline our shortcomings and demonstrate the fickle nature of our leadership.
Sat Maharaj was never recognized alive because somebody would have felt that the mileage gained may have accrued to votes at some elections; and rather than celebrate his life with him while alive we chose to suppress it and only echo his goodness at a time when he cannot even know that we appreciated him for what he has done for Trinidad and Tobago.
We could never deny that his contribution to education is immeasurable. There is no one alive in our society who can lay claim to child development as Sat Maharaj has in the establishment of the many Maha Sabha-controlled schools in our country.
From a social perspective, the number of East Indian jurists, history will record owe their current position to this man.
Because when it is written, history will remind us of the investment made by over 150 SDMS Mandirs to the development of their young people who today are not only lawyers but also doctors, engineers and teachers, just to name a few. The sad thing is that Sat is not alive to know that he is recognized for carving such a path for East Indian boys and girls.
A grave injustice during his life
We have done Sat Maharaj a grave injustice during his life. And I am sure that some politician seeking to capitalize on this moment will suddenly recognize that he should have been a recipient of the Order of Trinidad and Tobago; an award he should have been given while he was alive.
But our hypocrisy, our selfishness, our religious bigotry denied us all of recognizing this man for whom he truly was and now in his death, we are trying to play catch up.
I met the man and he was funny as he was austere, benevolent as he was belligerent, self-opinionated as he was erudite. He was truly what we all can say now the full measure of a man.
I hope that we will do something to cherish the memory of this controversial character in a way that generations many years to come will understand that it was because of his contributions our nation now stands tall.
I hope we build something permanent, something lasting, something that will facilitate the continuation of his legacy even after he is gone; that we do not treat him like Vidia Naipaul and Dr Rudranath Capildeo both of whom very little is heard or known of in spite of their contributions. And this is all because of their race and ethnicity and our politics.
We will miss Sat Maharaj even if it is for his raucous outbursts but this nation will never be the same without him.
May he rest in peace and may lessons learned from this faux pas be manifested in the way we treat our national champions and do not wait until they are departed to celebrate them.
May you rest in peace Satnarayan Maharaj, a son of the soil never to be forgotten.
He did it his way!!!