Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj believes his book, The Line of My Ancestors, which traces his lineage and the later expansion of the families of his origin, is a story of all Trinidadians and not just Indians.
Speaking on Wednesday as an author and not a minister, Maharaj said it was never his intention to launch the book but rather to put together a keepsake that would go out to family members.
Tracing his genealogy was no easy task and took years, he said, but became possible with help from some of Trinidad’s better known genealogists, including Shamshu Deen.
Maharaj said he learned that oral history passed along mostly by elders is invaluable, though should be taken with a “shovel of salt” and lots of research into what has been documented.
But his most valuable lesson in the journey towards completing the book was that history is fast disappearing and should be recorded now.
Maharaj said history is lost with the passing of every elder, who may today be ordinary persons but would have in their own way led extraordinary lives.
He encouraged all members of society, from all ethnic backgrounds, to take the time to talk to their elders about the past before that opportunity is lost.
“There were many people who provided me with critical information for the book that are no longer with us,” he said.
Maharaj was also one of the pioneers behind the Indo-Caribbean Museum in Waterloo, and he said even documents of bits of history are being thrown away—literally.
“We have found artefacts in the dump at Claxton Bay,” he said of pieces that eventually found their way into the museum.