In Memoriam —
Bhismadev Seebaluck: Writer, Play
wright, Educationist, Littérateur
Bhismadev Seebaluck, the well-known literary figure of Mauritius, left us on Saturday 8th April at the age of 75 at his home in
Saran Villa, Belle Etoile, after a long illness. He was cremated at Chebel the following day.
It is said in the Bhagvad Gita
“The soul is never born, nor does it die
Nor after having been, does the soul cease to be
Unborn, eternal, unchanging, ancient
The soul dies not when the body dies.”
— Gita II.20
Illustrious family background
Bhismadev Seebaluck comes from an illustrious, avant-garde family. He was born at La Queen (Victoria) on 21 November 1941. His nana (maternal grandfather) was a great Arya Samaj stalwart, educationist and social worker – the revered Gopichand Chuttur commonly known as Chuttur Master.
Hari Seebaluck, his father from Medine-Camp de Masque, belonged to the noble teaching profession in an age when few Indo-Mauritians could avail of education and join the Civil Service. He was a strict father and stoic persona, who steered the family with discipline. His mother, the soft spoken, endearing Mowsi Lutchmee, daughter of Gopichand Chuttur, who campaigned selflessly for the education and advancement of girls, had also studied till the Monitor’s Certificate like her sisters, Mrs Saraswatee Ramlallah, and Mrs B. Mohonee. Nonetheless, after marriage she remained a housewife.
Bhisma, who derives his name from the great patriarch of the Mahabharata, had his primary education at the Queen Victoria RCA. Being a brilliant pupil, he was admitted to the Royal College Port Louis where he completed his Higher School Certificate.
He then joined the public sector as a Clerical Officer at the Railways in Port Louis. Later in the 1970s he decided to further his tertiary education and completed his BA Honours in English at Delhi University. He taught English for several years as an Education Officer at the Royal College Port Louis and later moved on to the Ministry of Education. He was thereafter appointed Adviser to the Minister of Arts and Culture.
Bhisma was the eldest of a family of five children – four brothers Satiaved, Vijay and late Pravin and one sister Chandrakala, all of whom have had successful professional careers. His brother Satiaved reached the top of the civil service as Secretary to Cabinet until last year when he became Special Adviser to the Minister Mentor, Sir Anerood Jugnauth.
Since his childhood Bhisma was a child set apart. He loved freedom and detested control of any sort. He was full of humour and wit and had the zest of life. He was a bon vivant but also a debonair. He enjoyed the many splendours of life to the brim. Indeed it is this wit which nurtured and nourished as well as embellished his creative writings later on.
Bhismadev grew up with the Mauritius Times at Bourbon Street in Port Louis. This is where he got his grooming in journalism. His column “Scorpio Replies” which appeared regularly in this paper in the 1960s was very enticing and spicy. At the Nalanda Bookshop, opposite the Mauritius Times, he devoured the books and the great classics, as also periodicals such as Filmfare and Screen. This is where his love for Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry, plays and novels grew intense. He was also a great adept of Shakespeare’s works, which he would craft passionately and skillfully on stage not only in English but also in Creole. He staged not only Shakespeare’s plays such as the ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ but Tagore’s famous ‘Geetanjali’ – Lym Pour L’Eternité (in Creole), Post Office and also the Mahabharata as “The Eternal Conflict”.
Bhisma wrote profusely and ceaselessly. He produced some 25 books including plays and educational volumes such as ‘SC Without Tears’, ‘SC With Love’ and ‘SC Without Fear’. His literary and dramatic skills evolved with time. His impeccable hold on his pen became more impressive with time as he gained maturity in creative writing.
As a writer of great standing, he is one of the few Mauritian writers who have contributed regularly in the local press in English for over 45 years.
Who will not remember his regular columns “Dear Shakespeare” in Week-end in the 1980s where he wrote several satirical pieces, for example on his mother-in-law just to tease her! Later he continued in the same trend with “My Dear Billy” in News on Sunday which he continued till December 2016. Bhisma was a fine and keen observer of all walks of life – political, societal, cultural or educational. This observation is manifested in his creative works. Through his witty pieces, he comments on life without fear, favour or malice.
In his salad days, he had opened the first mixed social and literary club for young Indo-Mauritian boys and girls in Port Louis known as the ‘Bhowani Social Circle’ for which I co-edited and illustrated its monthly bulletin.
Bhismadev was also fond of Indian music especially songs of KL Saigal, Talat Mahmood and Hemant Kumar. He was a passionate fan of Hindi films and sometimes would bunk classes with the RCPL boys – Cassam Uteem, Ravin Bunwaree and others to name but a few, to be found in the cinema halls of Port Louis! He had a huge collection of albums of Hindi songs – “33 tours” or “45 tours” which he played on his father’s gramophone and later on the “pick-up”.
He was decorated by the State for his distinguished literary achievements with an OSK in 2012. But his broad intellectual dimension, his humbleness and simplicity were larger than any meritorious award or recognition.
Thorns and Roses
His sweet and sour observations of the degradation of society reflected in one of his best full length plays “Thorns and Roses” produced in 1981. It focused on the theme of love, marriage and divorce. His novel “A Day Called Tomorrow” was a prescribed text for BA students at the University of Mauritius. Bhismadev was also a Reader with publishing houses and an English consultant for the English Desk with the MBC.
Bhismadev was the founder member of the Mauritius Drama League, the Mauritian Writers’ Association and the President’s Fund for Creative Writing in English. He was board member of several literary organizations. He also had a stint in the business of book publications such as the three books in the series of a package – A New Approach to English Literature, published in the late 1990s and crafted “to inculcate a love for literature at a very tender age”.
To Bhisma’s family, especially his wife Jinny who stood by him through thick and thin, caring and sharing, his children Mitradev and Shaili, his brothers and sister and the family at large we offer our deepest condolences.