Transforming lives through education, inspiration and leadership
By John Persaud and Kamla Sharma
Roop Sharma was a trailblazer who transformed lives through education, inspiration and leadership. For a boy born in Sparta on the Essequibo Coast, Guyana, to a man who rase to great heights through education, his journey was a remarkable one. His stalwart efforts were recognized and honored by leaders in India, England, Guyana and Canada.
Knowing him first hand and intimately as a daughter and son-in-law, these are our personal observations of the strategies he employed to transform lives and communities. .
Roop Sharma was destined to be one of those great leaders who instilled traditional values and principles from our scriptures. In Guyana he was an instrumental part of the Maha Subha and Ghandi Youth Organization. His young voice was heard on Radio Demerara promoting our culture through bhajans and reciting verses from sacred scriptures such as the Bhagwat Gita.
In Canada, he continued to further uplift our culture through the formation and development of the Canada Hindu Organization. An organization that hosted religious gatherings, Diwali and Holi festivities, Hindi classes, music lessons and meditation classes.
Roop Sharma was always thinking about how to rebuild a sense of connection and accessibility to our Mother land. He was one of the first Guyanese to chart pilgrimages to India in the 1970’s, returning home with hundreds of rudra mala’s, rosary beads, Ganges water, and Shiva lingams to distribute to the community. One of his memorable encounters in India was having tea with Dilip Kumar, a Bollywood legend. On meeting Kumar, the first sentence to him was “we are proud Guyanese, thank you for bringing us such joy, happiness and entertainment through your movies”; then over chai tea, Mr. Sharma spoke to Kumar about the strength and tenacity of our Guyanese community. He shared those same sentiments with the great singer Lata Mangeshkar when she visited his home in Toronto.
He also maintained close friendships with the Indian Counsel Generals stationed here in Toronto. Many of whom celebrated the Diwali and Holi festivals with him at his home. He took every opportunity to open dialogue and bridge the gap between Indian nationals and the Caribbean diaspora.
For over fifty years this formidable barrister challenged and engaged the legal system to advance the lives of marginalized immigrant and refugees from around the world. In a landmark case, he cleverly found ways to interpret the conventional definition of a refugee to include political and religious persecution. By this precedent setting case, he opened the gate to thousands of asylum seekers and refuges to Canada. Furthermore, he successfully advocated for immigrants by telling their stories and their homeland to win thousands of Humanitarian and Compassionate Immigrant cases.
His reputation in the judicial courts in Guyana and Canada was impeccable. Judges in the courts of justice trusted respected his integrity as a lawyer and advocate. Clients benefited from his trusted relationship in the courts of law. judges showed more leniency to his clients. Mr. Sharma went on to counsel and educate his clients to help them reengage in society as respected and productive members.
We have lost a distinguished member of our community. A gentleman who by his actions leaves a legacy of hope in a troubled world. Legacy is not leaving troubled for people. It’s leaving something in people.
Roop Sharma’s was a life well lived.
Note By Sukhram Ramkissoon
Mr. Roopnarine Sharma was a true friend and will always be remembered as a person who exemplified kindness, dedication and commitment to the community. I have known Roop for over 40 years during his impeccable career as a lawyer. We met regularly to discuss various strategies to better serve our clients.
He was active in the industry and made a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands, including those who knew him personally. I wish you, Roop, devine blessings in your next life, dear friend.
Rest in Peace.