Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 8th 2013 Contents Prof Brinsley Samaroo addresses the guests at the launch of Ranjit Kumar---Bridging the East and the West.
Looking on from left, are Kumar's daughter Catherine, and the book's authors Primnath Gooptar and Prof
Bridget Brereton. PHOTOS: WESLEY GIBBINGS
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, November 8, 2013
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Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism
A few words of advice.
One: Go now to the nearest bookstore
and get a copy of Ranjit Kumar -- Bridg-
ing the East and the West.
Two: Make sure you have enough
time to read it cover to cover in a single
sitting because you will not want to put
Three: Try to remember it s not a
work of fiction.
From page three s runaway horse-
drawn buggy which almost kills baby
Ranjit along a narrow street in the north
Indian district of Rohtak, to when he
joins the church choir at St Clements
in London, to his "footprinting"
escapades as a police officer in Punjab
the Bridget Brereton/Primnath Gooptar
biography of the India-born T&T icon
takes readers on a roller-coaster ride
through the life of the man who brought
the first full-length Indian feature film
to Trinidad, led the construction of
Wrightson Road, and shook the world
of politics in an adopted land.
And there s more.
By the time he was through with us,
Kumar had built Wrightson Road, super-
vised the construction of the Trinidad
Hilton as chief engineer, founded the
Hindu Maha Sabha, driven a taxi to
make some money during one low point,
held office in the Port-of-Spain City
Council, entered the island s Legislative
Council in 1946 as the only independent
candidate (becoming a loyal, lifelong
Butlerite one year later) and, in 1981,
asked that Indira Gandhi not find out
that he had fathered 15 children from
two marriages---six from his first mar-
riage, to Suscilla in India, and nine from
his union with his late wife, Grace.
Prof Brereton describes the book as
"a very readable biography" about "an
absolutely remarkable man." But the
story of the book, as described by Dr
Gooptar at the November 5 launch, was
itself "a journey" that started with
research work on his doctoral thesis:
The Impact of Indian Movies on East
Indian Identity in Trinidad.
How could the journey toward pub-
lication of a biography on Kumar be any
Prof Brinsley Samaroo, who spoke of
Kumar s contribution to Caribbean
thought, focused on the Indian expa-
triate s defiance of the political orthodoxy
of the time saying he was never a mem-
ber of any of the "Indian parties" in
Trinidad throughout his political career
which ended in 1956.
"He preferred to be in the larger polit-
ical scene because he never saw the
question of development in ethnic
terms," Samaroo said at the November
5 launch. "His politics was too
"We are still too honed on the politics
of ethnic divisiveness to see otherwise,"
the former government minister said.
"Kumar," Samaroo added, "would
have been appalled at the current nature
of our politics. We have gone back into
the ethnic womb in which the majority
of the population finds enormous com-
Kumar had however played a leading
role in ensuring that Trinidadians---
elderly Indo-Trinidadians in particular,
who would have otherwise been required
to pass an English language test, were
not subject to such a provision. This he
did by joining with trade union leader
Adrian Cola Rienzi in opposing such a
proposal from a Franchise Committee
set up to prepare for full voting rights
for the Trinidad population ahead of
the 1946 Legislative Council elections.
His intervention eventually appeared
to have cleared the way for his resound-
ing victory in the Legislative Council
elections that year in the electoral district
of Victoria with 24,170 of the 40,469
votes. As an interesting aside, 1,888 bal-
lots were rejected in that district.
"The picture," the authors conclude
about his political career, "is of a broad-
minded individual who was not a racist
---though, like so many others then, and
since, he would make an ethnic appeal
to voters during a hard fought electoral
But Bridging the East and the West
is much more about the politics of one
of the most intriguing public person-
alities the country has ever seen.
Kumar s granddaughter, Rebekah
Shirley, writes in an introductory remark
in the book: "Though not a born
Trinidadian, he embodies our most
unanimously fundamental virtue: unity
---caring for those other than your own."
"Here was a man for all seasons, link-
ing East with West," Samaroo adds.
Then, of course, were the times he sang
"Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me" to the chil-
Ranjit Kumar: An absolutely remarkable man
Ranjit Kumar Bridging the East
and the West by Primnath
Gooptar and Bridget Brereton.
From page three's runaway
horse-drawn buggy which
almost kills baby Ranjit along a
narrow street in the north Indian
district of Rohtak, to when he
joins the church choir at St
Clements in London, to his
"footprinting" escapades as a
police officer in Punjab the
Gooptar biography of the India-
born T&T icon takes readers on a
roller-coaster ride through the
life of the man who brought the
first full-length Indian feature
film to Trinidad, led the
construction of Wrightson Road,
and shook the world of politics
in an adopted land.
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