Hinduism is not a “religion” but a “way of life” – Sanataan Dharma (ancient). As there was no corresponding word for Hindu Dharma, while researching, one master stayed and then pointed to someone passing and said, “That is a Hindu”. The point is that Dharma can only be known in practice, and that those prescribed acts must be performed by humans, each practicing his “own (dharma) sharma”.
I have been involved in Hindu work on the ground for decades. And if there is one person we can point to as “Hindu” in the sense described above, “Uncle Rudy” of D’Edward Village, WCB, who died. It is actually Kumbkarran Rampersad, but “Uncle Rudy” was for young and old. This is my tribute to him.
He was born in D’Edward in 1952, then a satellite, backwater fishing village to the nearby Blairmont Sugar Estate. He attended primary school, passed his “Introductory Certificate” exams, then went on to the new secondary school established in his village after the ethnic riots of the 1960s. But after matriculating with five GCE subjects, there were no jobs in the pipeline. AS had been launched at QC with evening classes since 1963, but this was out of the question for a poor village youth from West Berbice.
He eventually landed a job as a laboratory technician at Blairmont Sugar Factory, but when his initiative was noticed and driven, he was soon sent to the cane fields as a “field foreman”, before being promoted to “field supervisor” ”. Although these were noisy titles, the pay was average at best. Especially since Rudy, in 1975, at the ripe old age of 23, was married to Miss Nirwatee of Village No. 2 across the Berbice River. He would become “Aunty Dato”, well known today and as a fine example of Hindu Dharma as Uncle Rudy. It was an arranged marriage that would make anyone believe in “by the book” arrangements. They were still together when he died 46 years later.
The couple planted a kitchen garden, reared chickens and ducks – even as Uncle Rudy did some fishing on the nearby Berbice River. All this to save enough to build a house – without a loan – on the lot owned by Uncle Rudy’s parents. Seeing no future on the sugar estate, the couple bought Rudy a car to run as a taxi, and then decided to open a “shop”. This started off more as a shed beside their house with a large “drop off” timber window installed when the shop was “open”. They started by repackaging and selling packages of “aji”, loose tea bags and cigarettes – staples in a poverty-stricken neighborhood.
They saved and “expanded” into groceries, with Rudy crossing over in his friends’ fishing boats to New Amsterdam, where he bought small quantities of basics, such as rice and “aloo” etc., from the market. Sometimes he would cross several times. They converted an oil drum into an oven, and Aunt Dato baked and sold salara – always popular. They continued to save, and decided to expand into hairdressers: board a bus to Georgetown and return with items in polyethylene bags. It quickly became necessary to hire a special bus to transport the goods. Special relationships were formed with merchants in Georgetown, which posed good credit risks to them. Then they bought their own station wagon, and eventually a canter. Their “Back Store” in D’Edward had become a contest.
All the while, they were deeply involved with the D’Edward Mandir, where their lives revolved outside their home. It was through this association and their charitable works that I came to know the couple. Their home became a stopping (and sleeping) point not only for me, but for any Hindu worker who visited from all over the world. They were enthusiastic participants in the annual Motorcade Divali, and their Mandir was always up and running.
Life would be incomplete if there were no challenges, and this came in the form of an impaired kidney at Uncle Rudy, who forced a trip to India in 2003 and then again in 2004, to get Anti Dato to donate one of his kidneys to his beloved husband. There have been other trips to deal with the ancillary complications of the kidney transplant, but, throughout, Uncle Rudy remained in stock, refusing to take painkillers. The kidney never failed.
May he remain forever in the arms of Sri Krishna.

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