BOOK REVIEW: Lal Balkaran’s Biographical Dictionary of Guyana

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Published by LBA Publications, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.
www.lbapublications.com; Price: US$65. Email: lalbalkaran@rogers.com

REVIEWED BY KEN PUDDICOMBE
Renowned Toronto-based Guyanese Award-winning
Author who has written Racing With the Rain,
Junta, and Down Independence Boulevard and Other
Stories which won the 2022 Guyana Prize for
Literature (Fiction).

This dictionary provides profiles of over 1100 people who, in relation to Guyana, have either made an impact, achieved a great deal, or were recognized in their own disciplines. Whether in the fields of sports, science, arts, law, medicine, politics, education, religion, community or social work, entertainment, travel, exploration, academia, or business, this book showcases the profiles of both those prominent and unsung heroes who have left their mark regardless of political stripe, religion, ethnicity, or belief.

Balkaran lists 25 resources on page xix preceding the Introduction to the book and I can imagine the energy and time involved in his research. Three of his own books form some of the study: including Timelines of Guyanese History 2007 (in my library). Other notable names mentioned in the list include: Professor Frank Birbalsingh (Guyana: History and Literature); Dwarka Nath (History of Indians in Guyana); A. J. Seymour (Dictionary of Guyanese Biography) and Cheddi Jagan (The West On Trial).

In his Introduction, Balkaran states that Each entry has been painstakingly uncovered, edited, and validated for accuracy with its source acknowledged. Looking at my own Biography on Page 330, I can vouch for the accuracy of the entry, Balkaran having contacted me on several occasions for information.

The Biographical Dictionary covers prominent Guyanese from all walks of life. Accomplished cricketers who made it to the West Indies team include Basil Butcher (Page78), Rohan Kanhai (Page 226), Joe Solomon (Page 412) “best remembered for his historic fielding in the first test WI against Australia, Brisbane, 1960, when his throw from square leg hit the stumps to run out Ian Meckiff by inches to rescue to secure the first tied test match in cricket history”, and Alvin Kallicharran (Page 225), including the latter’s controversial participation in South African cricket during the apartheid era. People who steered the course of modern-day politics in the country: Cheddi Jagan (Page 211) considered as the “Father of the Guyanese Nation”; L.F.S. Burnham (Page 76) leader of the PNC and “Guyana’s First Executive President”; Peter D’Aguiar (page 113), Leader of the United Force and coalition partner to the PNC, leading the country to independence in 1966.

Internationally recognized personalities like Sir S.S. Ramphal (Page 347) who was the first Third World Commonwealth Secretary General; Dave Martins (Page 269) International Singer/ Song Writer and Cultural Icon and founder of The Tradewinds. Roxanne Persaud (Page 317: New York State Senator; Dr. Mohamed Shahabuddeen (Page 336) who was a judge in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.

A number of personalities—people whose path I was lucky to have crossed over the years, are listed. Including Professor Cecil Ramnarine Dipchand (Page 130) who was my mentor at the Income Tax Department, Inland Revenue, Guyana back in the 60’s. Dipchand co-authored Fundamentals of Financial Management (1975) which, to my pleasant surprise, I had to study when I pursued my Management Accounting Designation. Dr. Frank Birbalsingh is featured (Page 60), author of over thirteen books and Professor Emeritus, English, at York University, Toronto. Two of my novels (Racing With the Rain and Junta) were reviewed by Frank, to my utter delight. Literary Icon, renowned poet, Sportsman and Columnist Ian McDonald is featured (Page 273) in the book and I’ve had the pleasure of publishing three books of poetry (People of Guyana, Mary’s Garden and The Garden by him through Middle Road Publishers. Dr. Kennard Ramphal is also featured (Page 346) and I am currently editing and publishing a new book (Snaphots) co-authored by him, for publication through MiddleRoad. Open any page randomly and be excited and amazed at the wealth of information contained within this book.

The author has written eight well-received reference books on Guyana including the Encyclopaedia of the Guyanese Amerindians and Bibliography of Guyana (now in its fifth edition) and nine educational documentaries including the 4-part Geography of Guyana, all on YouTube. The National Library, UG Library, and the National Archives have all acquired copies of these.