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Friday 6 December 2019
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Commentary

Sat Maharaj: It is all illusion

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There are some people whose death you can never conceive of as possible. Sat Maharaj was one of those. After the number of articles published, I had decided to refrain from writing, for I couldn’t imagine that I would have anything new to say. But I suppose I do. Because to say nothing feels disrespectful and in no way does this death conjure any of these feelings.

He was not a man who angered me although he irritated me at times. I felt the annoyance one feels sometimes when there is a generational struggle, between yourself and a grandfather who says something like, "Don’t get up from your food even if God standing by the door." Never mind that same God is probably the provider of the food and you want to argue that. His conviction is the final say and you would do best to keep your opinion to yourself because you decide it might be a waste of time. It is with a mixture of amusement and mild annoyance that I navigated that relationship, a relationship many of us had without actually interacting with him in any depth. But this time, I was unprepared.

For Hindus, the manner in which he passed on might be interpreted as a good sign. I certainly intend to do it that way. He passed peacefully and quickly, "no karma to burn," as some would say.

I have always felt a sense of admiration for this strength, the strength of conviction, not to bend to someone else’s vision of propriety. There was nothing unintelligent about many of his arguments. They just were what they were. You know a foolish argument when you hear one.

Sat Maharaj certainly didn’t strike one as a foolish man. Not even a tyrant, for that would suggest cruelty. There wasn’t anything cruel about his views. They were sympathetic, strongly rooted in the Hindu cause, and strong therefore in the cultivation of a national identity. For anyone, I argue, who is not rooted in their own traditions cannot by extension be loyal to their country of birth.

This is a diaspora, however, and the matter becomes complicated here because to be rooted means to look to India for legitimacy.

In Maharaj’s case, it seemed less a rooting in India than it was in a religious tradition, a tradition that would allow him to argue and win the case for the changing of the Trinity Cross to the Order of the Republic of TT. It now includes all people regardless of their religious persuasions.

The case of child marriage, a "safety net," as he described it, while having many angles, for him, represented what to me, was his gruff way of saying "children can get themselves into trouble at times, and this legal age allows for a merging of families to provide support in such instances." It was an acknowledgement, I felt, of the reality that parents are faced with.

We all had our say on this, and while my views at the time that I wrote it may have come across as working against his, it was to me, a generational difference of opinion. His, born of an experience that would have crucified a woman, leaving her bereft of choices, relegating her to the home to "mind child," leaving the opportunity for education a pipe dream; mine, however, from the experience of knowing that we have choices, that women are much more empowered now.

This space has changed shape. Apart from the humourous spin we took at home by saying. "But who we going to argue with now?" it is, all jokes aside, a loss that leaves a gaping hole. His death feels unreal.

But I am unable to ignore the feeling that passing as silently as he did was a final act of strength, a loud statement after a lifetime of speaking out. That to leave quietly and in an expeditious manner is him leaving on his own terms. It is a dignified way to make an exit, with a silence that remains echoing. It is a Sat Maharaj thing to do, change the narrative. But this time, with a different spin, as though marking an entry into another era.

His death coincided with the CAPE scholarship results and the success of Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College. For the fifth consecutive year, the President’s Medal is a fitting tribute to him. That the girls’ college should take the lead is a sign of the times and what looks like a promising future.

It all feels like a well-written play, maya at its best. This world is just an illusion and Sat Maharaj played his part well, making an exit that has left us, at least me, with a feeling of satisfaction that it was a job well done.

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