Ramesh Dalchand Kalicharran, a legendary Guyanese New Yorker, is no more. He died on December 3 after being felled by massive heart attack two weeks earlier. Kali, as he was popularly called, was an institution and a library for the Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean diaspora in the US. Everyone who wanted to do research or find out some aspects of Indo-Guyanese life would come to him for information. He was widely known and recognized for his work in helping to shape and build Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean institutions in New York, being an asset to so many Guyanese opening doors to minorities when they were closed. His presence in the community is irreplaceable.
Kali served with distinction and honour, and even his worst critic would concede he did great things for Guyanese as well as non-Guyanese and non-Indians. He had the most inspiring love for his home country of Guyana and his adopted homeland of America as well as his community in greater New York. He had great dedication and devotion to his community. He made New York or Queens a better place for Guyanese. As such, he was the recipient of dozens of honours from all kinds of organizations and various politicians, although never a Guyana award. There is no budding replacement to perform the kind of service he has been rendering for some four decades.
Kali’s 69 years were full of life ever since he came into this world at Bush Lot, Essequibo Coast. Having risen from a humble, farm life on an estate, he excelled in school doing well at GCE to become a teacher at Diamond Secondary School, East Bank. From there, he migrated to study medical sciences in New York and eventually became a medical lab technician before moving on to owning businesses ‒ real estate, travel, driving school, and others ‒ the first among Guyanese since the early 1980s. He was always willing to lend a helping hand financially or organize events not only for Guyanese or Indians, but for all communities regardless of ethnicity, nationality or political affiliation.
In addition to the US, Kali was also widely known by Guyanese in England and Canada as well as in Trinidad and other countries. He organized tours of Caribbean people to India, as well as tours to Europe, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, and Dubai. But he was better known as a tour operator to India (only Guyanese or Caribbean businesses accredited by the Government of India) running tours for over 32 years. I was at several of his tours in India reporting on them for the NY media.
Kali had a regular presence at Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean events in the greater NY area. He also attended immigration functions organized by politicians or African Caribbean groups. And he patronized varied functions including those organized by the police, fire service, etc. As a Hindu, Kali not only had a presence at every public pooja, satsangh and other Hindu religious function but also those organized by Christian and Islamic associations. He remained supportive of all religions, giving a helping hand to all. He was among a few Hindus who were welcomed at masjids. In fact, he helped several Islamic and Christian leaders to establish churches and mosques for their followers. He made many a donation to churches and masjids (and of course temples) in Brooklyn and Queens.
Kali’s death has created a void in the Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean community. He was in possession of a large collection of items written on or about Guyanese and Indians in America. Kali’s office was the venue for the launching of countless organizations ‒ political, civic, religious and business, including the Indo-Caribbean Federation, Pandits Parishad, Phagwah parade, Gyaan Bhakti Satsangh, etc. He was also a founding member of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin. And it was through his contacts that people like myself and Ravi Dev were able to meet politicians from India. Vishnu Bandhu stated that he is most grateful to Kali for providing space for the URP to host its first public meeting in America in the mid ʼ80s. Kali also provided space and donations for other Guyana political parties.
Kali was a manager, mentor, friend and father to many who came from all walks of life to seek his assistance in his office in Jamaica, Queens. And he helped thousands, often giving passage money to some to get back home. He was a most generous philanthropist. He also taught us about working together as a team, tolerance towards one another regardless of ethnic and religious differences, and to be generous.
The community in America will always remember Kali as a leader, a fighter for Guyana, a nurturer of community youths, and a very resilient man.