- Home of the Best in Caribbean & Black British Writing -

Butterfly In The Wind

Written by Deborah Jean-Baptiste for Trinidad Guardian on no date provided

LAKSHMI PERSAUD, née Seeteram, left these shores in 1957 to attend Queen’s University in Belfast. As a simple country girl, her childhood in Pasea was rich and memorable, and has served to be the inspiration in her adult life and writing.

Her first novel Butterfly in the Wind was well received in London; she had expected it to be exciting for Trinidadians but even the Londoners gravitated to its vitality and it is a huge success. The book was launched yesterday at the Central Bank Auditorium, Eric Williams Financial Complex.
Of her novel, she said ‘Butterfly makes you feel as if you are a traveller, a visitor in your own land.’ She explained that many of the things will be seen for the first time, or seen with fresh eyes.

Spiritual Aspects
The events in the book are recorded through the eyes of a child who is growing and thinking. She said ‘it deals with childhood feelings we are forced to repress, for the adult world would not tolerate it.’ But Butterfly makes it possible to be a child. Persaud feels that there are aspects of Caribbean life that are yet to be touched by writers, such as the ‘sensitivity of the people, spiritual aspects, and the invisible things within us that make us Caribbean. Our sense of community and camaraderie is exceptional.’

She attempts to open window to the invisible things locked with-in us. As was the experience of Naipaul, writing served to be a form of release, a process of rebirth; she related the personal and truthful incident of having nightmare which remained with her from childhood, but ‘after writing about it, it ceased.’

Earlier Life
She has chosen to describe her work as ‘fictional autobiography’, explaining that the content of the book is autobiographical, about a girl growing up in TT, but the form is fictional. Persaud named two novels which had a profound Influence on her present work. One was Father and Son: A Study in Two Temperaments written by Edmund Gosse. Here she was stunned by the reality of a domineering father and the impact this had on the son. It also re-awakened her own memories of earlier life, and until then she thought that her own childhood was ‘nothing spectacular,’ but she became determined to write about it. The other book was Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie which was the opposite, it was ‘all sugar, all sweet.’ She said ‘mine (childhood) fell in between, it had its darkness, shadows, and lighter moments.’

Written in a technique which fully explores the inner voice of the protagonist, and employs the stream of consciousness in parts, the author is certain that ‘it will shake you like an earthquake,’ and ‘force you to think.’

From a Hindu home Lakshmi recalls that she attended a Catholic school, and that this was the source of conflict in her mind. She said ‘Catholicism in the 40’s made no exceptions, it was almost muscular.’ She remembers being awed at their magnificent churches and tendency toward ceremony. And then to return home to a simple temple and family prayers. In her child’s mind, Catholicism was ‘the religion of the ‘status quo’, the religion of Empire.’ At the time, still in the sunset of the British Empire, she observed that ‘people with this God were at the forefront of science and technology’ and so figured that their God must be superior. She approached her father telling him that she wanted to convert. And his response was poignant. He told her that all religions were imperfect and that if she changed she would just be going from one form of imperfection to another.

Career Field
As such she is a Hindu still. She made the point that ‘we in the Third World have unconsciously felt that if one is technologically superior, the same is morally superior.’ She emphasised, ‘...this is false, but somehow we have meshed the two.’ She feels that people in the Third World need to question things more. There is an entire section in the novel which deals with her childhood questioning entitled ‘Forms of Imperfection.’ She feels indebted to her father who taught her that nothing was so sacred that it could not be questioned.

Now a mother of three, and on the eve of being a grandmother, she said ‘women are marvellous human beings.’ She said ‘they possess special skills that the world needs.’ Some of these lie in their ability to persuade gently, and be natural diplomats. Somehow they manage to handle an exceptionally exacting job in the home, and go in the career field and compete with men who can engage all of themselves only to their job. In the early years as a married woman, Persaud found teaching a rewarding experience. Still amazed with how she managed career and family, she said ‘some things have to be done at that time or never again.’ But she admits that it was not easy, ‘it was quite a balancing act.’ Growing in a Hindu patriarchal society, she says, ‘I was fortunate to have lived abroad, it was like taking a plant and re-planting it in another soil.’ She continued, ‘I just stepped right out in true Hindu fashion, and alluded to the sacred books where women were not as subordinate as they are made to feel.’ She said, ‘I was brought up in a Hinduism that was far too puritanic,’ and not as sensous and full of life.

Teaching was a constant delight especially as she had the opportunity to dispel the old teaching methods with which she was tutored. A passage in her novel recaptures the fear generated in a West Indian classroom as the form master comes in armed with leather strap to give a test. It begins with the sentence ‘But we in Standard Five would be wide awake, jumping and bouncing like drops of water on a hot plate.’ Persaud has written a book of which one critic has already predicted ‘will delight the senses’.

This is a review of Butterfly In The Wind

View this book
- Home of the Best in Caribbean & Black British Writing -