Early Influences

Dr Tewarie grew up in the Curepe area of Trinidad with his parents and siblings. From an early age, he began to challenge himself. He was a good student but he also loved sports – football, cricket, table tennis and cycling.

Joseph Conrad, Sir VS Naipaul whom he paid a tribute to, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and Lloyd Algernon Best with whom he became great friends..

Many teachers were influential on his thinking and his way of seeing the world. Some of these were mentioned in his thoughtful address on the evening of his installation as Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine. An avid student of literature, some of the writers who have impacted on him were also mentioned.

Dr Tewarie wrote a book: “V.S. Naipaul Revisited: Ethnicity, Marginality and the Triumph of Individual Will Paperback” where he focused on this author. The book is largely derived from his PhD dissertation completed in 1983 entitled “A Comparative Study in Ethnicity” in the novels of Saul Bello and V.S. Naipaul.

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul TC, (V. S. or Vidia) Naipaul: Trinidadian-British writer of works of fiction and nonfiction in English Literature

As Principal of the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Tewarie invited V.S. Naipaul to Trinidad and celebrated his life and work. Naipaul read to an audience of 3,000 at the Sports Facility at UWI.

Earl Lovelace and Bhoendradatt Tewarie taught together for a brief period in the English Department, St. Augustine Campus, UWI. they became great friends since then and it has remained so onwards. Dr Tewarie has described Lovelace’s “The Dragon Can’t Dance” like a great novel and he holds much affection and respect for Lovelace’s other writings as well.

Earl Wilbert Lovelace: Award-Winning Trinidadian Novelist, Journalist, Playwright, and Short-Story Writer.

When Dr Tewarie was Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development (2011-2015) during one of his visits to East Port of Spain, he engaged four high school boys in a conversation near Picton Fort and invited them to the Ministry some weeks later for a gift of books, one of which was “The Dragon Can’t Dance” which is set on Laventille Hills.

The other principal author that Dr Tewarie wrote about in his PhD thesis was Dr Saul Bellow. He became interested in Bellow’s writing when he read “Herzog”, a novel about a University Professor going through a personal crisis which drove him to a mental breakdown, but who eventually summoned the will to bring some order to his mind and life.

Saul Bellow: Canadian-American writer. Awardee of the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts.

Dr Tewarie was struck by the fact that Bellow’s fiction was not only good fiction and challenging stories but was stimulating because of the contestation of ideas and explorations of the inner journeys of troubled minds.

Joseph Conrad was not just a writer of fiction, he penetrated human motivation and how idealism and big ideas can become corrupted if they become obsessions. He was a keen observer of the human works and the dynamics of power within the framework of a corrupt and dying imperial order.

“Heart of Darkness” and “Nostromos” had a remarkable impact on me.

Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie

Joseph Conrad: Polish-British writer regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language. A master prose stylist who brought a non-English sensibility into English literature.

During Dr. Tewarie’s undergraduate years at Northwestern University, two Professors and an author had immense influence on him. The first was Professor Harrison Hayford (a specialist in 19th Century American Literature and the world’s leading expert at the time on Herman Melville).

As a brash undergraduate who challenged assumptions and who often questioned the points of view of professors, what he learnt from him were three things; 

  1. The importance of context for a deeper understanding of anything; 
  2. The importance of structuring thoughts and ideas and seeing things concerning one another so that structured categories emerged; 
  3. How to look for deeper meaning, how to get beyond a surface understanding, how to ask questions and to critically examine and assess to make meaning.

In Professor Hayford’s class, when Dr Tewarie was 19 years of age, he wrote a paper making corrections between Transcendentations on Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”, Mahatma Gandhi on “Satyagraha” and Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, which Professor Hayford warmly received.

Professor Harrison Mosher Hayford (right)
A scholar of American literature, most prominently of Herman Melville, a book-collector, and a textual editor. He taught at Northwestern University from 1942 until his retirement in 1986

In addition to those, some other books have been influential such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (Sabriel Garcia Marquez), Arthur Koestler’s The Act of Creation, Robert Hutchins’s The Learning Society, Lin Su Kim’s From Imitation to Innovation, Peter Senge’s The Fifth Disciplineand Lawrence Peter’s The Peter Principle.

Dr Tewarie thanked Garth Alleyne, an Economics Master at Queen’s Royal College (QRC) for giving him an assignment which put into his head the question, “what really makes development happen?” A question which has never left him. Another teacher at Queen’s Royal College (QRC) was Mr. Deo Ramnarine, who taught him two valuable lessons at the age of 13 that he has carried into adulthood and the rest of his professional career till this day:

  1. How to accept and take responsibility no matter what the cost.
  2. what a code of honor was and why a code or understanding among colleagues should be honored for its good intentions and the value of the bond that it created.

Another professor who made a big impact on Dr Tewarie was Professor Donald Torchiana (A 20th-century Literature scholar with significant expertise and wide knowledge of the Irish posts and writers but especially of William Butler Yeats). What remained with him from his exposure to Professor Torchiana were three things; 

  1. The importance of passion and fervor in the pursuit of intellectual work.
  2. The complexity and diversity of the Colonial experience and the role and value of art, artists, literature and writing in the forging of national identity and the importance of spirit, creativity and energy in inspiring.
  3. The stimulus of the local context, event or circumstance, does not take away from what is universal and what is common to all humanity.

At the University of Chicago, three professors had a significant influence on him- Norman Mc Lean, Edward Rosenheim and Walter Blair.

Edward Rosenheim (1918-2005) was an 18th Century specialist who was immeasurably knowledgable on Johnathan Swift. The question put to Tewarie in class by Rosenheim was, “Is there a standard of taste?” The class was discussing David Hume. It remains an important issue for Dr Tewarie to this day.

Walter Blair was a Mark Twain specialist and a scholar. The evolution of American humour.

Norman Mc Lean was a specialist of literary criticism and a Wordsworth scholar , who after retirement, wrote his remarkable novel called “The River Runs Through It” which was made into a movie and launched the career of Brad Pitt and then “Young Men and Fire” that was also made into a film. Both made the New York Times Best seller list.

Each taught him valuable lessons that provided inspiration and motivation to him severe ideas, democratic discourse and freedom of thought. These men cultivated his love for learning and proved that thought and work can bring one joy and satisfaction, once a person is passionate about what they do for the greater good.

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