Harischandra Khemraj: Champion of Literacy and Prize-Winning Author

Harischandra Khemraj: Transforming Lives Through the Power of Words

Harischandra Khemraj, born in 1944, is a celebrated writer from Guyana who has left an indelible mark on the literary world. His journey, marked by perseverance and dedication, serves as an inspiration to many aspiring writers.

Born and raised on a sugar estate in West Bank Demerara, Khemraj’s early life was shaped by the hard work and determination of his parents, both of whom were sugar workers in the 1940s. His story is one of resilience, ambition, and the relentless pursuit of knowledge and literary excellence.

Early Life and Education of Harischandra Khemraj

Growing up on a sugar estate, Khemraj was no stranger to the challenges and hardships of life. His formative years were spent amidst the vibrant and diverse community of West Bank Demerara.

Despite the socio-economic challenges, Khemraj’s parents instilled in him the value of education and hard work. He attended local schools in Guyana, where his passion for reading and writing began to take root. His academic journey eventually led him to Howard University in the United States, a significant achievement that opened new horizons for him.

Diverse Career Path

Upon his return to Guyana in the mid-1970s, Harischandra Khemraj‘s career took a multifaceted trajectory. He worked as a payroll clerk, civil servant, bank statistician, short order cook, librarian, telephone operator, and teacher in West Coast Demerara.

Each of these roles enriched his understanding of human nature and society, providing him with a wealth of experiences that would later inform his writing. His ability to adapt to various roles and his commitment to serving his community highlight his versatile and resilient character.

Contribution to Literacy

The 1980s in Guyana were marked by economic hardship and a scarcity of resources, including books. Khemraj, recognizing the thirst for knowledge in his community, ran a paperback library in Uitvlugt and nearby villages.

This initiative was a beacon of hope for many who had limited access to reading materials. By providing books, Khemraj not only nurtured a love for reading but also fostered a sense of community and intellectual growth. His library became a sanctuary for many, offering an escape into the world of literature during trying times.

Literary Achievements

Despite his busy career and community engagements,  continued to write. For years, he wrote in solitude, honing his craft without seeking publication.

It wasn’t until he completed the manuscript of “Cosmic Dance” that he decided to share his work with the world. Initially passed over by Heinemann Caribbean for being too adult for their list, “Cosmic Dance” found its home with Peepal Tree Press.

Published in 1994, the novel went on to win the Guyana Prize for Literature the same year. This recognition was a testament to Khemraj’s literary talent and his ability to capture the complexities of human experience in his writing.

Family and Legacy

Khemraj’s dedication to education and self-improvement is mirrored in his family life. He and his wife raised three daughters, all of whom pursued higher education in the United States. This emphasis on education underscores the values that Khemraj holds dear. Currently residing in the US with his family, Khemraj continues to be an influential figure, inspiring future generations through his story and his work.

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