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Jankie Persad Sharma- My dada from Uttar Pradesh
« on: June 01, 2014, 10:46:34 AM »

Jankie Persad Sharma- My dada from Uttar Pradesh
Published: Guardian
Sunday, June 1, 2014
Yvonne Baboolal
 


Rajiv and Fahreena Ramkissoon’s daughter Anu and son Arav.

More than a century after Jankie Persad Sharma, born in 1894, crossed the Kala Pani on the Sutlej to come to T&T to work as an indentured immigrant, his great-grandson Rajiv Ramkissoon still holds him in awe and reverence. Sharma became the second Dharmacharya (highest Hindu spiritual leader) in T&T and began a family tradition of pundits, but Ramkissoon chose a different career path, in information technology. He went to pundit school for one day, he said.
 
 He is a 28 year old who lives on the East-West Corridor, and he attended South East Port-of-Spain Secondary school, in an area known for gang rivalry, Nelson Street. But Ramkissoon has, however, retained essential aspects of his Indian heritage, so jealously preserved by his great-grandfather. He learnt Hindi and can speak the language almost fluently, sings bhajans and is a strict vegetarian.
 
An accounts executive with Guardian Media Ltd, on the occasion of Indian Arrival Day, he pulled out records of his great-grandfather and proudly told his story and the legacy he left his descendants.
 
 
Born in Uttar Pradesh 120 years ago

One hundred and twenty years ago, Sharma was born in a small Village in Uttar Pradesh, India. At the age of 18, he was on the Sutlej ship heading to T&T to work as an indentured immigrant. Sharma was assigned by the colonial government to a sugar estate in Trinidad, where he worked for five years. While he worked as an indentured immigrant and lived in the barracks, his spiritual ardor was undiminished.
 
While he toiled in the sugar cane fields, Sharma served his community as a Hindu priest. According to records, he “was highly educated as a pandit in India and brought with him the principal scriptural texts.” He was awarded the title of Swami and called Swamiji, the highest spiritual attainment. After he finished his five-year term of indentureship, Sharma settled in Debe in south Trinidad. It was in this rural region settled largely by Indo-Trinidadians that he found his bride, Gangadaye and began his family.
 
He fathered five children, including Deokienanan Sharma, president of the National Council of Indian Culture. Ramkissoon’s mother, Radhica, was the daughter of one of Sharma’s children.
 
 
Thirst for spirituality
Family commitments did not lessen Sharma’s thirst for spirituality. An ardent Hindu, he built several temples and schools in the South, introduced Hindi religious festivals like the Ramleela, taught Sanskrit and Hindi, and composed Bhajans and Kirtans as part of his island-wide outreach programme. He “conducted thousands of yagnas” and “had thousands of disciples.” “He possessed a musical voice and devotees became enchanted by his mellifluous rendition of scripture, Shlokas, Bhajans and Kirtans alike.”
 
He was invited to several important state functions, including the first Independence celebration. Sharma was awarded the Hummingbird Gold Medal. He passed away in 1975. Ramkisson said, in a bid to continue the family’s tradition of pundits, he was sent, at age 16, to pundit school. “I stayed only one day,” he said, the kurtah and black pants his mother made him wear still stamped in his memory. “Being a pundit is something you have to be serious about. It’s a lifelong commitment.
 
“You have to be 100 per cent true in what you are doing. I felt I wasn’t ready as yet,” he explained. Hinduism was a major part of his life, though, and he was schooled at the Don Miguel Hindu School and at the Swaha temple in Aranguez, where he learnt Hindi. Ramkisson sings bhajans, recites mantras and gave up eating meat at age five. He loves all kinds of food, including Chinese, Italian and Arabian, he said.
 
His parents are ardent Hindus. His father Indarjit Ramkissoon is president of the Om Shakti Mandalee temple, and his mother is heavily involved in temple activities. Ramkisson’s exposure to a different type of lifestyle and culture while attending South East Port-of-Spain Secondary school between George and Nelson streets did not change him. “Before or after school, I would see a delivery van being robbed, or blood on the pavement from someone who was shot,” he added.
 
His career path took him to the School of Business and Computer Science where he pursued a degree in information technology systems. Ramkissoon said he has never been to India and would love to go. As for carrying on the pundit tradition started by his great-grandfather, he said, “Maybe later on in life.”


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Re: Jankie Persad Sharma- My dada from Uttar Pradesh
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2014, 10:46:57 AM »


Interesting story ....