Kaieteur News – In a column, “Ian McDonald should be careful what he writes because of his ethnicity,” of Monday, February 8, 2021, I observed that he overlooked the obnoxious side of the scientist, James Watson. Mr. McDonald is doing a series of articles on great people he has met.
His latest identification (last Sunday’s Stabroek News) is the well-known literary personality, Mahadai Das. Mr. McDonald should be careful how he writes any biography. It has to be backed by extensive knowledge of the personality under focus.
A biographer may eulogise the character they are describing, but he/she runs the risk of being criticised for omission of crucial details. This could attract criticism of faulty writing. Of Mahadai Das, Mr. McDonald notes, “She had gone abroad to study and there she encountered tragedy.”
This is actually a misleading statement, which would do harm to a factual assessment of the life of this beautiful young lady who succumbed to schizoid paranoia, which led to deteriorating physical health which eventually led to death. I could certainly dispute Mr. McDonald’s statement about mental deterioration occurring abroad. Mahadai Das began to show signs of psychosis shortly after her voluntary service in the Guyana National Service (GNS).
There were two Indian cultural artists and an African film actress in Guyana whose life ended tragically – Das, Latchmie Kallicharran and Gloria David. Of the first two, I knew Kallicharran far more than I knew Das. I never met David who was older than me. It is outside the scope of a newspaper column to write brief notes on Das alone, much less all three women.
Of Kallicharran, I believe she was murdered with fire set to her rented home. Her life was equally tragic as that of Das. Das and Kallicharran were cruel victims of race, class, colour and politics of this troubled nation. David’s untergang had more to do with class. Had they just have a working knowledge of Guyanese society they probably would have been alive today and be iconic figures.
Here now are brief analytical notes on Das. She was a protégé of a famous pro-Burnham Indian Guyanese woman, Rajkumari Singh, who helped to preserve Indian cultural forms in Guyana. I think Singh was driven into the world of Burnham because her famous father, Dr. Jung Bahadur Singh, was a person who Cheddi Jagan did not have flattering words to say about.
Since Jagan and Burnham were rivals and Burnham was the permanent oligarch of Guyana, Singh found it strategic to offer Indian support to Burnham, though I think she didn’t care for politics. Under Burnham, her Indian cultural platform flourished. Knowing Burnham, Rajkumari Singh had to reciprocate. This is where she used Das and Burnham used Das too. Das then was simply living in victimhood and she died in victimhood.
Since Das was emerging as a Caribbean cultural artist, Burnham who needed prominent Indian faces, appealed to Singh for Das to openly embrace his regime. Das thus voluntarily joined the GNS at a time when it was compulsory and the opposition PPP was harshly denouncing it, especially the interior hardship UG students had to go through.
But Das like her idol, Rajkumari, were not intellectually equipped to understand the mind of a demonic autocrat like Burnham. Das thought she would have been treated like a queen by the Burnham regime. Beautiful by any standard, and gifted in literary forms, Das entered GNS thinking she would stand out as a value to the Burnham regime. She did but in ways, she never anticipated.
Long after she left GNS, Das told me outside of Austin’s bookstore that she was raped in GNS (for details of the sexual abuse of Das in GNS, see my column, “Mahadai Das told me she was raped,” June 18, 2006). This was the beginning of her mental troubles. She expected that there would have been serious repercussions but the PNC regime took no action including two high state officials that were Das’ lovers.
From the time Das became disappointed with the Burnham regime, her mental health was never the same. It would be factually wrong to say that she did not control it. She did. She continued to work. She went abroad to study. I don’t think it is correct to say, as McDonald stated, that the tragedy started abroad. She returned to Guyana and was quite normal.
As Das settled in, she maintained her relationship with the PNC government but it was a confusing relationship. Her poetry reflected ambivalence with the PNC government she had put her faith in. Her idol, Rajkumari, had died in 1979, so she lost a huge gateway to the power establishment.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
Apr 13, 2021Kaieteur News – The rapid development taking place in the Ancient County of Berbice continues at a very fast rate with Vitality Inc through the Vitality Foundation coming on board to sponsor a...
Apr 13, 2021
Apr 13, 2021
Apr 13, 2021
Apr 13, 2021
Apr 13, 2021
Kaieteur News – I received several inquiries about my column of Friday, April 2, 2021 titled, “PNC will have to rig... more
Kaieteur News – There are a great number of suspected mentally ill persons walking around the streets of the country.... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders Kaieteur News – Officials of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]