DELHI India -- Bhismadev
Seebaluck (21 November 1941- 8 April 2017) was 'The
Shakespeare of Mauritius'. All his life, a Mauritian man of
letters, Bhishmadev Seebaluck, was inspired by Shakespeare
and died a few days before the birthday of the bard
celebrated on 24 April every year. Swami Anana Kul
Bhushan remembers a dear friend:
An author, a
playwright, a dramatist, a journalist, an educationist, a
littérateur and, above all, a gentle and loving soul,
Bhismadev Seebaluck is no more.
The cultural scene in Mauritius has lost its shining
He contributed immensely to the literary and cultural
scene in this island of sun, sea, sand and relaxed living
with his articles, books, plays and the promotion of
In a laid back isle famous for its swaying dance, Sega,
Bhishma made the bard a topic of common conversation when in
1980s he started a weekly column, ‘Dear Shakespeare’, in the
leading Mauritian weekly and it continued for over four
Sharing a very personal rapport with the great English
playwright, Bhisma addressed him every week as ‘My dear
His keen observation, wit, satire and mockery in these
articles garnered sustained acclaim till December 2016.
Selecting some memorable and really witty articles, he
published three anthologies under the title, "Dear
The head of English Department at the University of
Alberta in Canada, Stephen H. Arnold, introduced this book
"Written to Shakespeare as if to a pen pal, most of the
collection of short, humourous pieces were taken from a
weekly column in a Mauritian newspaper.
"Their author who takes delight in writing irreverent
drama and film criticism, presents a collage of sarcasm
about typical Third World problems endemic in this island
where African and Asian blend under a Western veneer."
Later, Bhisma translated "A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
into Creole, the local language, and directed it on
stage for the common people to enjoy the classic comedy.
He emphasized the famous line from this play, "Lord, what
fools these mortals be!"
His plays bearing the stamp of sweet sarcasm laced with
bitter honey include ‘The Angels’, ‘The Young Ones’,
‘Thorns and Roses’ as well as the epic ‘Mahabharata,
The Eternal Conflict’.
As the founder member of Mauritius Drama League and the
director of the Arts Institute of Mauritius, the founder
member of Mauritian Writers’ Association and the President’s
Fund for Creative Writing in English, he was a cultural
trailblazer and trendsetter.
No wonder he was honoured with a top Mauritian national
award; Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean in
Passionate about books, he devoured them from an early
age and later wrote 25, translated classics into Creole,
published books and edited them.
While in primary school, Bhishma developed a love for
He recalled, "I was in the sixth grade when I had for the
first time a book of Shakespeare’s in my hands.
It was "Tales from Shakespeare" that I found at
"Later, he lived with his aunt in Port Louis to attend
"Here he had his first encounter with Rabindranath
"She had a photo of Tagore with his large beard and his
big white hair hung on the wall.
"I was attracted by this picture."
At the same time, he discovered the Nalanda library and
devoured novels, plays, poems and magazines.
During college, in he studied other Shakespeare plays
Macbeth, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and
"We had even mounted the play Julius Caesar," he
"Of course, he was calling, "Friends, Mauritius,
Countrymen, lend me your ears."
And they did.
After reading Tagore’s Gitanjali during his youth, he was
trying to translate it into Creole for the benefit of fellow
But it was difficult since he did not understand a lot of
words and phrases.
He had to wait until 2011, after watching this classis in
Hindi and Bengali on stage and meeting a very learned person
that he could translate it into Creole and present it on
After his high school certificate at the Queen Victoria
Royal College of Arts, he joined the railways as a clerk.
But his heart was in English literature and so he left
for New Delhi where he was admitted to the Hindu College for
BA Honours in English.
On his return, he taught English at the same Royal
College in Port Louis and later was appointed a senior
officer in the Ministry of Education.
Due to his understanding of education and culture, he was
appointed Advisor to the Ministry of Art and Culture.
During this time, his literary output blossomed along
with his contribution to journalism.
As a dramatist, he was very skillful at presenting
Shakespeare on stage in English and in Creole as in the cane
of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and also Tagore’s
Gitanjali and other stories like Post Office.
His masterpiece was adapting for stage the greatest
Indian epic, ‘Mahabharata, The Eternal Conflict’ in
One of his books, "A Day Called Tomorrow’, partly
written in New Delhi, went on to be prescribed as a text for
BA students at the University of Mauritius.
Other books by him were: On the Wings of Destiny: A.
Raouf Bundhun, The Shattered Rainbow, The Young Ones, The
Angels, Appointment with Death, The Three Wishes, The Hunter
Hunted, and some school texts.
He wrote some 25 books; school books, novels, plays and
"The course of true love never did run smooth," is
another well-known quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Bhishma had his ups and downs with his true love of
language but ultimately he triumphed.
On his numerous transit stops in Nairobi during the 1980s
to fly to other destinations in Africa and Europe, he stayed
with me and so I made a great friend; and enjoyed his
hospitality in 1990s in Mauritius too.
The last time, I met him was when he came to Delhi in
1999 to write his novel.