`Through Faith & Luck: The Story of an East Indian Family in Guyana'

BOOK REVIEW
by Dr Odeen Ishmael,
Guyana's Ambassador to the USA
Guyana Chronicle
June 7, 1999


`Through Faith & Luck: The Story of an East Indian Family in Guyana, by Lal Balkarann. Foreward by Dr Frank Birbalsingh,rofessor of English, York University, 200 pp. Price: Cdn $24.95.

I HAVE just completed reading Lal Balkaran's book `Throgh Faith & Luck: The Story of an East Indian Family in Guyana'. Actually, I hav read it for the second time in two weeks.

The first time I did so, I breezed through it to see if I recognised any of the characters Balkaran mentions in the text.

The second time, I went through it at a slower pace - to digest it, and to pause at times to view, in my memory bank, the vivid pictures of the places he so adeptly illustrates with his appropriate choice of words. From time to time, I punctuated my quiet reading with chuckles and even loud laughter as I came across certain situations he so humourously interposes in the text.

I mention all this because I have been able to transpose myself to the time and places the author mentions. Somehow, I feel as if I am the person describing my own experiences in growing up, going to school, and working for a living, as is so vividly narrated in this book.

`Through Faith & Luck' provides refreshiing reading, and any Guyanese reader (of my age group) can quickly identify with the situationd described. For example, the school-days were similar to what we all experienced.

And the description of the employment practices and problems of the Burnham years bring back vivid memories of the collective economic and social pressures we faced at that time. A social and economic history of the West Demerara region, where the author grew up, is brought to life in this autobiography.

Of particular interest are the details of the author's sojourn in the Rupununi, and ir is obvious that he either kept the voluminous notes or he has a prodigious memory.

In the early 1970s, I myself visited the area, and Balkaran's narrative evokes memories of that stay there. His description of the vegetation and the landscape shows that he is a keen geographic observer who also has a knack for detail. I am also impressed by his objective interpretation and appreciation of the cultural practices of the Amerindians in the Rupununi. Despite being a very young man at that time, he certainly displayed immense maturity which belied his years.

I am thoroughly impressed by the details of the history of Balkaran's ownn family dating back to the period just before his ancestors left India to become indentured labourers in Guyana. His research into this `micro-level' aspect of history helps us to even better understand, in general, the historical evolution of the Guyanese nation, and that of Caribbean people of Indian ancestry in particular.

It also challenges other Guyanese readers to examine their own family roots by obtaining invaluable information, whiich can be provided orally by their parents or grandparents. Such a history must be utilised by succeeding generations to enable them to appreciate from whence they came and to encourage them to aspire towards lofty ideals.

I recommend `Through Faith & Luck' to Guyanese of all age groups. Those who are over 40 years of age will reminisce over their own experiences which are so identifiable to those detailed in this wonderful book.

For those who are younger, it also provides a social history of the decades of the '60s,'70s and 80s, and contains invaluable lessons on how we grew up, and deals with our struggles, our challenges, our failures and our aspirations.


A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples