Net savvy 96-year-old blogs to share ideas in online world (Special)May 28th, 2008 - 10:20 am ICT by admin
By Shubha Singh
At an age when people begin to lose interest in many aspects of the world around them, 96-year-old Randall Butisingh not only mastered the intricacies of the internet but also began his own blog, which describes him as one of the world’s oldest bloggers and shows him as a man with a remarkable catholicity of interests. The grandson of indentured workers who were taken to Guyana to work on sugar plantations, Butisingh has watched the world transform many times over in the past nine decades and has adjusted himself to the changes.
“I am a learner. I believe that when one stops learning he ceases to live and that it is never too late to learn,” Butisingh said.
At the age of 80, he learnt Arabic so he could read the Quran. At 95, he began studying Spanish and he is doing it “poco a poco” (little by little). Butisingh has an agile mind and an eager interest in life and at present he is studying the Hindu religion and philosophy.
Butisingh’s blog is versatile. Its subject categories vary from Buxton (his home town), economics, world politics, environment, history, philosophy, poetry, psychology, religion and an inspiring thought for the day.
In April, Butisingh posted a blog on his website that stressed the need to keep the internet an open arena and out of the hands of those who wished to place restrictions on this free medium. He responds to every comment or response to his popular blog.
Born in Buxton, Demerara, in what is now Guyana, Butisingh has never visited India since he does not like travelling, but he has followed Indian history and geography.
“The person I admire most is Mahatma Gandhi, the architect of India’s freedom. Although I never saw him, I wept when he died as many did all over the world,” he said.
He has three collections of poems to his credit - “Love’s Light”, “Wild Flowers” and “Love’s Balm”. His poems were written in the 1970s and he was inspired to pen them after reading about the life of the late blind and deaf humanitarian, Helen Keller.
Explaining his daily routine, Butisingh said: “At my age, I do not work strictly as per routine. I cannot read for very long although I have good eyesight. You may find me in the day resting for hours and at nights up until two or three reading or typing up my blog.
“My blog takes up most of my time. When I am not on it, I am with my recorder (flute) or keyboard or going for short walks. I also use some time of the day to brush up my Urdu and study some Spanish.”
Butisingh is also working on his memoir, titled “My Story”, which starts from 1914, the beginning of World War I. He was born on Dec 1, 1912. His grandparents came to Guyana around 1875 and his mother was born a little after they reached Guyana. The indenture system had not yet ended when he was born. It came to an end in 1917.
“I have vivid memories of things and events as far back as two years old. Hindi and to some extent Urdu were the language still spoken and all the old customs and traditions were still adhered to,” he said.
Butisingh has a love for languages. He grew up speaking a dialect of Hindi and Creolese, which was the language of emancipated African slaves. According to him, the one thing he deeply regretted is that Hindi did not survive as a language for the Indo-Guyanese as it had in Surinam.
“Hindi did not survive thanks to the British who are geniuses in obliterating the identities of ethnic peoples. However, I have been fortunate in learning both Hindi and Urdu because of my natural love for these languages,” he said.
In one of his blogs, Butisingh wrote: “Creolese is still being used today - I always use it when I meet some of my old friends. Creolese varies from region to region. When I was a teacher at Port Mourant, I visited the home of one of my pupils one afternoon. I heard him say to his mother: ‘Maa, come out me eat’. Although we never said it like that in Demerara, I understood that he was asking his mother to dish out his dinner.”
Butisingh finished his primary education at the age of 14, passed the school leaving examination and was employed as a pupil teacher on a salary of $6 a month. That was the beginning of a career that lasted for over 45 years with short breaks. He retired in January 1972 and became involved in a variety of activities, including the propagation of Hindi through the Hindi Pracharni Sabha.
Butisingh has a large family of four sons, three daughters, 19 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.
“At present I am living with my daughter whose husband and older son are doctors. It is at their home, here (in California, US) where I have all the time to pursue my interests,” he said.
On his birthday last year, Butisingh wrote in his blog: “I have lived another year to see the sun and hopefully will see another year. I am thankful for god’s grace, without which I could not have overcome so many hardships and survived so many dangers. Living long has no meaning unless it is lived with enthusiasm and commitment in service to your fellow men.
“We live in deeds, not years. Living long has meaning if one can redeem oneself with the time given. It is never too late to learn - youth is an attitude, not number of years. The soul never grows old.”
(Shubha Singh is a writer on the Indian diaspora and international affairs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)