Lion of the Legislative Council
Father of Hindu Nationalism in Trinidad and Tobago
By Darius Figueira
Introduction: The Crucible of Hindu Trinidad
Such is the poverty of intellect and the paucity of recorded history in the primitive papier mache educational institutes of Trinidad that there is no history of the man who was and is the crucible of orthodox Hinduism in Trinidad.
Few, if there are any alive, know that Simbhoonath Capildeo was the second of three sons of Pundit Capildeo and his wife Soogee of Main Road, Chaguanas. The first son Omkar died in his infancy and Simbhoonath, the second asssumed elder son status. The youngest was Rudranath. How would Trinidad have reacted to three Capildeo brothers is left to the imagination.
Simbhoonath was born in 1914. His father left for India in 1926 after building what is the authentic statement of the Indian indentured immigrant in Trinidad, the Lion House on the Main Road, Chaguanas.
At age 12 Simbhoonath became the patriach of the Capildeo clan. The scion of the Lion House. Although guided by his mother Soogee, Simbhoonath was essentially self taught. Fluent in Hindi and Sanskrit. Encyclopaedic in the knowledge of Hinduism and its rituals, Simbhoonath was also conversant with the great philosophers of western civilization.
His greed for books has been immortalised in V.S..Naipaul’s, his nephew, Mystic Masseur. In the nine line biographical sketch of Simbhoonath in the Indian Centenary Review 1845 -1945 his hobby is listed as: Reading.
He rapidly assumed intellectual leadership of an impoverished Hindu Society and from an early age beginning in 1928 he set about creating the structure of Hindu society attempting to put spine, bone and muscle in its supine state.
He was, in his day, the single intellectual genius of Hindu Trinidad. He laid the foundation of the most powerful Hindu organisation in the history of Trinidad. And simultaneously prepared the way for the political evolution of the Hindu politician.
His recorded speeches in Hansard demonstrate the breadth, width and depth of his vision and thinking. But there is an untold story of what provoked Simbhoonath into action.
It was crop time. Early thirties. Simbhoonath was a young cane farmer. Perched on his bison cart loaded with cane Simbhoonath was ambling down the narrow dusty Chaguanas Main Road home to the Lion House. One foot dangling the other propped on the cart. Hat askew on his head. Blade of grsss twirling between his lips. Simbhoonath was the typical cane farmer doomed to the bitter life of sweet sugar.
Suddenly there was the noise of what was unmistakably a motor car. A rarity on the Main Road at that time. The noise grew closer. He looked up. To his surprise the car stopped in front of the Lion House.Simbhoonath reigned in the bison. Spat out the grass. Straightened his hat. A fair young Indian man had alighted from the car and was leaning on the door looking at the cart.
Is that you Simbhoo?
The young man was Dalachant Harripersad Sinanan. A classmate of Naparima College. Recently returned from studying medicine in Ireland.
The cane farm world of Simbhoonath went up in flames. He who had a full Cambridge Certificate with distinctions had the distinction of driving a bison cart. He went to Soogee. He wanted out. A profession. A University. Anything but cane. Soogee did not have the wherewithal. She suggested, as a temporary measure that he take up where his father left. Become a Pundit.
In desperation Simbhoonath agreed. The first Puja was easily arranged. It seemed as if the whole of Chaguanas came to hear him recite the sacred scriptures. He did not disappoint. He was word perfect. Murmurs of approval greeted him. After all, it was Capildeo ‘s Pundit son reciting. Simbhoonath looked forward to receiving his first payment as a Pundit. This was the new beginning. Soon he too, would be in a car.
When it was over, he discreetly looked at the tariah. Then he looked all over. There were five copper pieces on the brass plate. His fee was the grand sum of five cents.
Eventually Simbhoonath was articled to a San Fernando Solicitor Irwin Cameron and passed his finals as a Solicitor and Conveyancer in 1943. He never looked backed from that day even to this day when from the burning ghats of Caroni he guides the destiny of Hindu Trinidad.
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