Lakshmi Persaud was born in 1939 in the small village of Streatham Lodge, later called Pasea Village in what was then still rural Tunapuna, Trinidad. Her father was a shopkeeper and her home was hard-working, secure and increasingly prosperous. It was a devout Hindu home where pujas, kathas and other observances were regularly held. She attended the Tunapuna Government Primary School, St Augustine’s Girls’ High School and St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain. She records in Butterfly in the Wind the mental conflicts that attending a Catholic school caused for a Hindu girl.
In 1957 she left to study for a BA at Queen’s University, Belfast and a postgraduate diploma in Education at Reading University. She draws on this experience in one of the episodes in Sastra. After teaching for several years in the Caribbean she obtained her doctorate in Geography at Queen’s University, Belfast. She taught at Queen’s College, Guyana; Tunapuna Hindu School, Bishop Anstey and St Augustine Girl’s High School in Trinidad and Harrison College and St Michael’s Girls’ High School in Barbados. After leaving teaching she became a freelance journalist.
She has lived mainly in the UK since the 1970s, with a two year spell in Jamaica in the 1990s. She is married with three children and now grandchildren.
Butterfly in the Wind began its life in the mid 1980s and was published by Peepal Tree in 1990 to enthusiastic reviews in the UK Sunday Observer and The Sunday Times. It deals in an imaginatively autobiographical way with the first eighteen years of her life. Lakshmi Persaud records that her reading of Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son: A study in two temperaments and Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie were significant influences in writing this book. It was followed by her second novel, Sastra, (also Peepal Tree), in 1993. Both novels explore the tensions within Hinduism between the somewhat puritanical, patriarchal forms orthodox Hinduism took in the Trinidad of her childhood and youth and its latent capacity for a sensuous embrace of life. The mouth-watering descriptions of food and feastings in her novels have been commented on by several reviewers!
Following extensive visits to Guyana (the birthplace of her husband, the development economist Dr Bishnodat Singh), she wrote For the Love of My Name (Peepal Tree, 2000), a novel which moves far from the more familiar domestic Hindu territory of the earlier two novels. Though the fictional island of Maya draws heavily on the actuality of Guyana from the mid 1960s to the 1980s, it has resonances for states throughout the world where political repression and ethnic conflict have gone hand in hand.
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