Shri Kayman Sankar was known as a rice man and a wealthy person. But he was also a very humble simple and unassuming person. He was, above all, a humanitarian and cricket promoter. He also took a keen interest in supporting and institutionalizing Indian cultural traditions.
I had the good fortune of meeting Kayman-ji several years ago at his lovely home for an interview for a column in a New York newspaper as well as for his biography that was published by GOPIO in one of its publications some 15 years ago.
Kayman-ji was very kind and warm hosting me and a NACTA pollster colleague from Trinidad for lunch at his home as well as putting us up for the night at his guest house with all the compliments of dinner and drinks. My guest and I never forget that experience.
His wife and his granddaughter were very warm, courteous and kind to me and my Trini guest who had come to assist with the conduct of several NACTA surveys on the coast.
When I met him during the late 90s, his health was not doing very well and he talked about his debilitating condition. I offered him encouragement to overcome his medical condition. I brought greetings and blessings from a Hindu Swami from Mysore, India, who Kayman-ji knew very well and who was the developer of the magnificent Hanuman temple in Couva, Central Trinidad. The swami had prepared a tabeje (amulet) that he requested Kayman-ji carry with him.
On the coast, those I spoke with described Shri Kayman as an early developer of the rice industry. Shri Kayman got his big break under Dr. Jagan in the early 1960s and he went on to play a very pivotal role in the rice industry. He was the biggest rice man in the country for many years bringing in a lot of foreign exchange when foreign currency was very scarce. He assisted many rice farmers especially when crop yields were low and farmers incurred losses. With is help, they were able to eat. Rice was the dominant industry that sustained so many lives.
When the rice industry was neglected and rice farmers marginalized, Kayman played the right politics and was able to revitalize the industry. And his contribution was pivotal for the expansion of the agricultural sector in the economy.
He had his manager take me for a tour of his rice milling complex including the packaging of rice exported to Trinidad. What an experience it was. I was raised on rice farming (and even did some rice harvesting and milling) but the rice cultivation of my family and those of others in the Corentyne was no match for Kayman’s huge operations that were mechanized as compared with ours on the Corentyne that was small scale. Uncle Kayman’s withdrawal from the rice industry was a serious loss especially after Dr. Jagan was elected to office. Nevertheless, Kayman’s contributions to rice will always be remembered.
Uncle Kayman, as many called him, also played a critical role in the development of cricket sponsoring several tournaments in Essequibo and aiding several cricketers who did not have funds to pursue their career. As a result of his help, they went on to represent Essequibo and the national team.
As Brij Parasnath told me, no one contributed more to the development of cricket in the West Indies than Kayman. No one in the region spent his personal money to develop an entire cricket ground for regional cricket. He flew entire teams and reporters to Hampton Court to play four day and one day matches and flew them out at his personal expenses. No one ever did that in the region.
Kayman-ji also helped several poor families to marry their female children as well as to perform funeral rites. Kayman-ji told me in our interview that he could not stood by while poor families lacked funds to marry off their children. So he offered them loans to purchase jewelry and gifts (dowry) for the groom and groceries for a wedding.
It is a strong tradition among more prosperous individuals in village life and I want to applaud those who help the poor. He also supported religious functions like Bhagwats.
Shri Kayman had a terrific personality and was very compassionate to the poor and elderly performing seva (service to humanity). As some pointed out, he was never aloof in spite of his great wealth. Everyone I met in Essequibo had only positive things to say about Kayman.
I also interviewed his brother who hosted me for lunch about the rice industry in Essequibo and about Kayman. He was an extraordinary figure who was deeply admired by everyone who knew him.
People told me Kayman-ji lived a very simple, humble life and he was easily accessible. He never turned away anyone who came for help. He provided employment for so many at a time when job was difficult to obtain.
As some have pointed out, Guyana is better because of the contributions he made to the economy and towards the upkeep of Indian cultural traditions.
Shri Kayman was also very religious, a very devout person. He hosted Swami Datta of Mysore. Through his associates in New York and Trinidad, Swami-ji had asked me to convey his regards to Shri Kayman who hosted Swami Datta and his entourage in Essequibo as well as in Georgetown.
Kayman chartered an aircraft to take Swami to Kaieteur Falls allowing the touring party to experience the beauty and warm hospitality of Guyanese. Swami Datta was also flown around for religious services around the country.
My deepest sympathy to his son Beni, who I met a few times many years ago, and to the family and employees. May his soul have everlasting peace. Thank you Kayman for your contributions to Guyana.
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