Lakshmi Persaud wrote on the Indo-Caribbean Experience

Dear Editor,
It is with a heavy heart that I read of the passing in England of celebrated writer Lakshmi Persaud (nee Seetaram), who had taught for a time at Queen’s College, when she lived in Guyana with her Berbician husband Prof Bishnodat Persaud; who, at age 82, pre-deceased her in 2016. She had also taught in Trinidad and Jamaica, and had spent time in Barbados, where her son is a prominent economic advisor.
She was admired for her writing skills and articulation of views and positions on issues. Lakshmi had a large following of Guyanese and Caribbean literary enthusiasts in UK, Canada, USA, Guyana, and the Caribbean. Those she had taught at Queen’s have said she was an outstanding teacher. She and her husband had loved interacting with Guyanese and other West Indians wherever they travelled.
In New York, the diaspora honours the memory of Dr. Lakshmi Persaud and her important contribution to the field of literature, and specifically of Caribbean women’s writing. Whenever she (and/or her husband) visited USA, they were hosted by Guyanese writers for lectures. It was an honour for me to have met her and Bishnodat in London, New York, and Trinidad on multiple occasions, and to have heard them sharing personal experiences.
What a lovely couple! They had been very good to Guyanese and other groups at home and in the diaspora, sharing their books and experiences, and hosting several of us at different locations.
Lakshmi was born in Trinidad, and studied in Trinidad and at Queen’s University in Belfast, where she earned her doctorate. There she met Canje-born Bishnodat (called Vishnu), who was doing a doctorate in Economics, and they later got married.
Bishnodat was an eminent economist who headed the Economics Department of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. He led the group that prepared the ERP of 1988 in Guyana, and several other missions on economic reforms in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. He was a shy and private person who did not like to share economic views publicly, unlike wife Lakshmi. They had held me in confidence, and had related several private incidents, anecdotes, and engagements they had had with Guyanese politicians, including Sir Shridath Ramphal, Desmond Hoyte, Clive Thomas, Cheddi Jagan, Bharrat Jagdeo, Hamilton Green, JE Green (when he was lecturing at Mona).
Dr Bishnodat had worked closely with Ramphal to reform several state-centric Commonwealth economies. He was at one time the leader of a research group that comprised Manmohan Singh, who went on to become Finance Minister and Prime Minister of India; he advised the Indian Government to pursue market reforms. He had also worked with the eminent economist Prof Clive Thomas. Bishnodat and Lakshmi had hosted several visiting Guyanese at their home in Jamaica. He had also hosted me at a private, posh exclusive club in London, where we had reviewed economic policy of Guyanese rulers. Bishnodat had a special bonding with me, and trusted me with revelations on the lives of prominent Caribbean individuals, including Guyanese politicians. We had also had many conversations on the phone, and he had clarified several economic concepts that I thought I understood. He had spoken of the errors of Jagan, Burnham, Janet, and Hoyte in economic policies; had praised some of Jagdeo’s policies, and had been critical of others. Given his experience and prominence internationally, Bishnodat had felt that Jagdeo should have accepted a trans-global leadership position, like head of an international organization (on climate, or on economic reform) even of Caricom (that would have required an exemption, since a host country national can’t head the organization).
Dr Lakshmi, who had also done a postgraduate Diploma in Education at the University of Reading in England, had made immense contributions in the field of Indian Caribbean literature. Her novels were masterpieces depicting real life. She had written with great feeling and warmth, and her writings have helped to focus literature on Indo-Caribbean people. She elevated the reach of Indian Caribbean literature to a wider circle in the UK, North America, and the Caribbean, where she had large number of admirers. Her novels focused on the Indo-Caribbean experience, and she had revealed to me her first-hand experience of the marginalisation of Indians in Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica, and UK.
She had been a forward thinker, and her novels were focused on different subjects, including on the most difficult period of living in Guyana during the 1970s and 1980s, and about exploitation of women. She had shown women a new light in being a strong, independent individual. Her intellect, knowledge and experience about writing and literature, and her teaching skills were a guiding spirit for many youngsters to write in English literature. Her usage of simple language as well as usage of mellifluous words would continue to remind us of the power of expression. The vivid imagery of her writings about life in the societies where she had lived will always remain a rich encapsulation of the Indo-Caribbean experience.
She had deservingly been recognized for her prize-winning novels and contribution to literature and education by universities in England, and at UWI with an honorary doctorate. She had also been a recipient of several other honours, including by the Government of T&T.
In NY, those who had met Lakshmi and Bishnodat have only words of praise for their kindness and generosity, and of her writing skills and his brilliance as an economist. They both have left behind a cherished memory, and great works for us to read and enjoy. On a separate note, Bishnodat had been a cricket enthusiast and an outstanding player, captaining his university’s West Indian team while he was a student.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram