No doubt there are politicians out there anticipating that the outcome of tomorrow’s local government elections may foreshadow a coronation night in 2015 or even sooner.
Perhaps we may have to await the St Joseph by-election result before anticipating who is likely to get their hands on the national cash register.
Unfortunately whenever we next have a political coronation night it is not likely to do much for ordinary upright citizens, like the Hindu Prachar Kendra, for example, who keep a part of the Enterprise/Cunupia community on the right track on a shoestring budget while the greedy, wastrel politicians squander public funds.
I refer to this Kendra because I had not been to a Ramleela for many years and was feeling a need to return to the simple warmth of community expression of a festival of light, particularly now when we need an antidote to the coarseness of the political platforms.
Ramleela is the dramatic re-enactment of the life of Lord Ram drawn from the texts of the Hindu religious epic the Ramayan. It tells the story of Ram’s exile with his wife Sita and one of his faithful brothers and Ram’s defeat of the demon king Rawan.
Moreover the Ramleela contains strong themes of trust, humility and good governance. The centrepiece of coronation night is Ram’s throne speech, which deals with keeping the kingdom in trust for the people, ruling justly and not acting contrary to dharma (righteousness), a massive irony at this time in the heart of Central.
In Trinidad and Tobago Ramleela is performed annually over several successive nights in open-air venues in as many as 20 communities shortly before Divali. In its religious origin and annual manifestation it is analogous to the biblical epic of the Nativity.
When I learned that the Kendra put on a Ramleela, scripted and performed by children from five to 15 years old, and also included young university graduates from the community, I knew there was no other place for us to be, two Saturday evenings ago.
With the aid of Champa Maraj, the PRO of the group, and the ubiquitous cellphone, we trundled down Monroe Road into Cunupia, thence into Raghunanan Road, Enterprise, and found the savannah. There I was privileged to be a guest at the last of the six nights of the Kendra’s Baal Ramdilla, which portrayed the coronation night of Ram after his many years in exile and the defeat of Rawan.
Ravi Ji is the founder of the Kendra and Geeta Ramsingh holds the positions of president and spiritual adviser. Along with Mr Nelson they took exquisite care of their guests while not deviating their attention from guiding the children.
As reported in this newspaper, earlier this month, the Kendra runs a Community Heritage Programme that brings together children between the ages of five years to 15 years for approximately five weeks during the August vacation. The children become familiar with texts of the Ramayan and are exposed to many avenues for accomplishment, which form the contents of the vacation course. Singing, dancing, character study, acting, language, narration, effigy and prop construction, yoga, scout discipline and face painting are all taught and practised during their training.
The children use the skills and knowledge acquired during this course to present and perform their Baal Ramdilla, in an open-air theatre constructed on the Conquerors Sports Ground as the final activity of the Community Heritage course.
In a spirit of enlightenment the script had been modified to include African drummers and chanting, (Eintou’s daughter and grands) and an invocation from Mr Christo Adonis, a shaman of our first peoples.
What is also impressive about the work of the Kendra is that they use the Ramleela as an instrument for grounding the community’s children. The use of cultural pursuits to build discipline and positive values and draw youngsters away from emptiness of spirit has my full support as the number one prescription to raise a better level of civilisation in this fractured island society.
Parallels in the work of the Enterprise Kendra with the work of the academies of Birdsong, Skiffle and so many other panyards are obvious as are the absence of investment from an objectively administered arts and culture funding policy.
When will our rulers see the light?