Tribute to Seeta Panday
By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
Yesterday, when we were young, there were many songs to be sung. You sang from the heart, and with a devotion that was unmatched. The songs stayed with us and stirred our emotions. It didn’t matter whether it was in a temple, or a charity event, you gave it your all. You combined professionalism with melody and a unique sense of timing, of which your mentor, Lata Mangeshkar, would be pleased. And it was not about material rewards. It was always about bringing joy, and making others happy.
You were born in Williamsburg, in Berbice, Guyana. You began singing at an early age and showed signs of promise. You married Pandit Shook, from Hampshire Village, and raised the children happily. There were Kajal, Meera, Uttra and Gajraj and you showered them with love and affection. Soon, you became popular and were a household name in Guyana. The international community beckoned, and you left the shores of Guyana, for America. There were challenges, but you placed your faith in a force that was higher than yourself. It did not take long for you to be immersed in the culture of New York. You played a prominent role in helping to shape and to mold the community. Your voice could be heard at the Phagwah Parade, the Diwali Motorcade, Ramayana in the Park, and other places, where good people gather to listen and worship.
In 2011, you became my ‘Profile of the Week.’ You said then that your aim was to serve the community. You felt blessed and privileged to be able to share your talents with folks that ‘would be your second self when you were gone.’ You shone brightly. There were smiles on the faces of seniors as they danced to usher in another year. There was a twinkle in your eye as mothers and fathers hugged you and showered you with their praises and thanks.
You teamed up with pioneer Ramesh D. Kalicharran (Kali) and helped to connect India with the Caribbean. You were the star that sang your way into the hearts of India and it was no surprise that you took the tours to India after Kali left us for heaven. It was on one of these tours that your daughter Kajal fell in love with India and decided to make it her home.
Seeta Pooran Panday brought unforgettable memories. Your charm, warmth, and simplicity, have left an imprint that is irreplaceable. Son Son Sonipersaud describes you as his singing partner, and says that the team of Gopaul and Randy Harris will find little joy in your absence. Roshan Shiwcharran, from Abee Chunes Radio, said that you devoted yourself to make others happy, and he thanks Geeta Bisram and Acharya Arun Gossai for their prayers. Terry Gajraj says that your departure is devastating. He admires your singing with the Dil Bahar Orchestra, and with Devendra Pooran. The fundraiser for Paradise Village was amazing and Terry sang with you too. Ralph Tamesh, from the Indo-Caribbean Federation, calls you an icon and a legend. H. Mohabeer, from Mohabeer Records, says we are poorer for your departure and this view is shared by Esther Ramdeen, Pandit Chunelall Narine, Lakshmee Singh, Rohan and Aminta Kilawan Narine, Imran Ali Ahmad, Anoop Dhanpat, Colleen Chattergoon, Shanaz Hussain, Ken Rampersaud, Mohamed Zaman, Vijay Ramjattan, Pandit Jagnanan, Suresh Sugrim, Vishi and Tanuja Raghoo, Lolita Singh, Paul Sanassi, the Phagwah Parade Committee of New York, and Pratima Doobay, who conducted the prayer services, and countless others.
When the time came, you left as you entered, with a peaceful smile, and with a legacy of which Meerabhai would be proud. There will be more songs to be sung. We can be sure, when we look to the heavens, that a nightingale is singing with the angels!