Eulogy on the late Sankar Mahabal
Delivered by Stephen Kangal
at the Funeral Service held on
Tuesday 26 February 2013 at 10:30 a.m.
At Arbuckle Street, Frederick Settlement, Caroni.
Members of the bereaved Mahabal family especially those who journeyed from abroad to pay their final tribute to their late father and grand-father
The Honourable Rudranath Indarsingh, Minister in the Ministry of Finance and local Caroni Boy
Commissioners of Affidavits
Sisters and brothers
Sita Ram! Good Morning! Assalam Alaikum!
2. Let me express my thanks to the surviving Sankar Family for the opportunity given to me by them to pay farewell to on their behalf to my mentor and father-figure, the late Sankar Mahabal.
3. I wish again to convey my sincerest condolences to the members of the bereaved Sankar Mahabal family. I met and knew them from my frequent visits to my late mentor and father figure, Sankar Mahabal. Here was a man who played and was ordained to play many big and major parts on the stage of life. No canvas is big enough to depict adequately and fittingly the life and times of Sankar because Sankar was bigger than life.
4. I first met deceased Sankar 63 years ago in 1950 when I came to Caroni to live in Arbuckle Street, 5 houses away.
5. We the people of Caroni are very proud, benefitted from and are truly blessed and honoured to have had him in our midst. We thank the Almighty for the life and legacy of this noble but simple and humble son of Caroni. He was truly a great human asset to his community and to Caroni Ltd.
Sisters and Brothers
Death in Hinduism
6. I know of the first lines of at least three bhajans that are dedicated to focusing on death in Hindu thought and philosophy:
1. Eke din hemay bhijaana hai
2. Ayebhi akala jayaybhil akala.
3. Jaab pran etansay nikelay
- The first addresses the certainty and inevitability of death. One day you will die and you will go to the great beyond.
- The second talks of coming into the world alone and going back alone in a physical sense. It does not take into account what legacy and impact have stamped among your children, your society and in your karma.
- The third is more philosophical. Death signifies that the soul is released from the imperfect human frame and joins the soul world. The soul never dies. It is impregnated with all the happenings of life that we call Karma. We pray for the peace and tranquility of the soul of our late Sankar Mahabal because his is good karma and is deserving of Mookthi and Nirvana. Bhagwan please grant him peace and harmony and a smooth journey to his permanent resting place.
Celebrating the life and Legacy of the late Sankar Mahabal
7. We are not gathered here this morning principally to mourn the demise of the late Sankar Mahabal. Yes. we will miss this late gentleman for he has left his huge footprints on the sand sands of time. He has created a huge emptiness amongst us.
8. We are here today to celebrate, pay tribute to and extol his full and events-filled life and legacy of 90 years. He has bequeathed to us a fine legacy of goodness that outmatches and exceeds his small and lean frame and rustic abode in Caroni.
9. We want to recite briefly and recall how this small but well-endowed and educated man stood up against and conquered over-whelming social and economic adversity and challenges. How he transformed them into success and avenues for achieving social and economic mobility for himself and his family and emerged as a caring husband, devoted father, adoring grand-father and selfless community activist. He was a supreme exemplar to all with whom he came into contact.
10. The late Sankar will not "jayabee akala". He has stamped his personality on his family, his community, his work-place, his mandir and left a memory and legacy that will survive and cause us to remember him for centuries. He is not alone. He is buoyed up and indeed sustained by our memories of him. He embedded his easing and pleasing personality on all of us especially his family and friends. He will not be easily forgotten. But we will treasure our relations with him and how he shaped our lives and made us happy. Helping us in many ways provided him with pleasure and fulfillment of life.
The Several Roles of Sankar Mahabal
11. The late Sankar Mahabal was:
The education of Sankar and Hinduism
- a humanitarian par excellence
- a community worker and Treasurer of the Sita Ram Mandir
- a faithful employee as a checker/Book-Keeper of Caroni Ltd all his working life
- a member of the Board of Film Censors
- a Commissioner of Affidavits
- a political activist and commentator and a man who earned the respect of all his peers.
12. Sankar was a bright pupil at school. His father would show him the jhalka in his hands and urge his son to seekheya in school so that his hands will not be the same from working on the cane-fields of Caroni Estate. His Head-master Jitman wanted to make Sankar a monitor or apprentice teacher but he had to convert to be a Presbyterian. When he approached his father to make this change, his father opposed the choice offered to remaining a dedicated and strong Hindu. Sankar listened to his baap and had to turn down this teaching assignment. He respected the decision of his father to continue in his Hindu faith and up-bringing.
13. But you could not suppress this bright, ambitious highly motivated young man. Soon the overseers at Caroni Ltd, especially Chief Chemist Mr Getty noticed his ability and he was inducted into the fundamentals of a good book-keeping that became his life-long career path that allowed him to provide for his family.
The Demise of the Traffic
14. Is it not significantly symbolic that the office compound where Sankar spent a substantial part of his working life in the Traffic for Caroni Ltd, as we know the place, is being destroyed to make way for a new facility just when our brother has passed on. The traffic was a huge part of the life of the late Sankar Mahabal and Foreman Seepersad. It is as if the death of the late Sankar Mahabal is opening up a new janaam in the physical development of the Traffic site and closing another chapter in the history and demise of Caroni Ltd.
The Last of the Caroni Barrackians
Sisters and Brothers, Punditji
15. The late Sankar Mahabal was one of the last surviving elders of the Caroni Barrackians who were re-located to Frederick Settlement in 1946 when the Caroni Barracks were dismantled. He was in fact married to his devoted wife Rhoni from Warrenville in the Barracks. He always told me of the warm reception that he always received from his in- laws and whom he adored especially his father-in-law.
16. He was a credible authority to me on the social, economic and cultural vagaries of life on the Caroni Barracks as well as on the rise and fall of sugar and the mixed fortunes of the Caroni workers in the Caroni community. I interviewed him on radio on this subject. It is a pity that this archive of local history and knowledge has not been documented and will pass on with Sankar.
17. Now time we want to also recall other village elders such the late Driver Jacko, Balkaran, Mohammedally, Popes Maharaj, Sookhai, Ragoo, Cumberbatch, Birbal, Naidu, Prince Elcock, Eversley, Beharrylal, Driver Reesal, Sanhai, Amjad Mohammed, Shamshair, Allum, Koonoolal, Hybal, Matbar, Ramsaran, Chunilal, the Ramaya boys and dad, Nanga, Chatees, the Hoseins, Harry Singh and many other villagers who preceded our brother to the great beyond. He will be in hallowed company.
Sankar The Politician
18. Since my return from Canada in 2000 I grew very much closer to the late Sankar Mahabal. I took him to many political meetings and he would relate significant moments in his life. The Minister of Foreign Affairs credits Sankar as the one who introduced him politically to the people of Harlem. He was a faithful supporter of Winston Dookeran. He also supported Karoo Ojah Maharaj, Ragbir Gunness and Rangasammy Chatee as local councilors.
The blessings of his father
19. He told me of the rich blessings that he received from his ailing father whom he looked after very lovingly in his old age. He internalized all the wisdom that his father transmitted to him during their many unending conversations and acquired a competence in Bojpuri Hindi that made eligible for the membership of the Board of Film Censors.
20. This is the text in Bojpuri and English that his father used to bless him:
Jab mata aur pita ko sewak karo hai
To ahirvaad milti hai
Too such say geeay ga
To dar wajaah Bhagwan Vishnu
To khulaay gay rahay ga.
When a child takes care of his parents
With love and joy
He will have a long and happy life
For all the days of his life
The gates of heaven will be opened
To him by Lord Vishnu himself.
21. Sankar with his small physical frame was a child product of both longevity and leadership in the community. He lived 90 fruitful years. His father lived to 103. His grand- father-Bandu Ji would have also lived a full life. Bandu ji, Sankar's grand-father was the headman of the village from which old man Mahabal (Big Frame) came in India.
22. Sankar was more English than the English time-wise. He was a sticker for time and was on time whenever I arrived to pick him up for about 10 years.
The Institutional and Village Memory
23. The departure from our midst of our brother and father-figure will leave a great void in the life of this rapidly changing community. He represented all that was good, uplifting, noble, humble, historical, religious, caring, articulate and paternally loving in Caroni. He was the institutional memory of the Caroni area when sugar was King and the Caroni overseers and Sahibs reign supreme. He worked for many years in the Traffic with Seepersad Bhola who is here present with us.
24. Sankar would always praise the work of the Canadian missionaries in establishing the Caroni CMI School where he got his primary education. He would always attend functions at the Caroni Church when I invited him and make a substantial offering. He never forgot the Presbyterian role in his education and edification.
Assistance to Caroni Employees
25. His good humanitarian work extended to the Caroni employees here and in Chaguanas and Felicity. He assisted them in getting their pensions and pay on time whenever they could not produce their badges and documents. His legacy will live on the minds and hearts of these workers beyond the confines of Caroni. Their happiness will redound to the karmic branding of the late Sankar Mahabal.
26. Sankar will always tell me of his friendship with Leo Seebaran to whom he remained eternally grateful. Leo is ill and could not be here but his wife is amongst us. We ask Amina to convey the appreciation of the family to Leo for all that he did to assist the Mahabal family.
27. But today I want to pay tribute to his daughter Radha who cared for and looked after the needs of her father. On your behalf let me thank Radha for her devotion in making her dad comfortable and well. She was always there for him after the demise of her mother whom Sankar virtually adored and worshipped as the Lakshmi of the household. Thank you Radha for being such a devoted daughter and minding your father so lovingly.
Commissioner of Affidavits
28. Sankar's pro bono role as Commissioner of Affidavits to the poor people of Caroni will always be remembered.
29. To our dear late and beloved Sankar Mahabal as you lie in your coffin:
"a thousand words
Will not bring you back
We know because we tried
And neither will a million tears
We know because we've cried
You've have left behind
Our broken hearts
And emptiness inside too
But we still have
Our precious memories
Of time spent with you
You will not go away
You will walk behind us every day
Unseen, unheard but always near
Still loved, missed and very dear"
30. Thank You Sankar for blessing us with your wisdom, strength and love,
We will always love you. We want to and will remember you as loving us dearly.
Peace and rest in paradise that is your natural and well-deserved destiny. Farewell dear father figure, father (Papa) and grand-father.