Edward Pitt-the Kumar Sanu of Las Lomas No 1
It was a Saturday evening when Anand, Dhaniram Maharaj and I were roaming the Las Lomas district to get information on Pandit Satnarine, aka, Baap, from villagers and family members. Dhaniram took us to Edward (Eddy) Pitt’s residence. Eddy was standing bareback with a pair of jeans and sneakers, holding a microphone in his hand and singing a popular Hindi film song with the accompaniment of karaoke music.
It was a Saturday evening when Anand, Dhaniram Maharaj and I were roaming the Las Lomas district to get information on Pandit Satnarine, aka, Baap, from villagers and family members. Dhaniram took us to Edward (Eddy) Pitt’s residence. Eddy was standing bareback with a pair of jeans and sneakers, holding a microphone in his hand and singing a popular Hindi film song with the accompaniment of karaoke music. Anand was impressed with his singing and began video recording him. I was equally impressed. No stranger in the singing arena, Eddy has been a contestant of Mastana Bahar on more than one occasion.
“We were the first creole family in the community, “said Eddy Pitt, now 63 years old. “I grow up in Las Lomas with my mother and three sisters and my step-father. I always wanted to be around to protect my family, especially my three sisters,” he said.
“Sometimes I get into conflict with my step-father and I would rock two stone in the house when I was angry,” he recalled. “My mother was a disciplinarian, not like the parents nowadays. My mother would put me to kneel on grater while I hold two boulders above my head,” he said.
“I was a wonderer, moving from house to house in Las Lomas No 1. I always felt accepted. No one saw me as different. We were the first creole family in the community, “said Edward Pitt.
He was asked to tell us what he remember about Pandit Satnarine. “Baap was an exorcist with the ability to take out spirits from people,” he informed. “I witnessed several people coming to Baap possessed. Baap would chant his mantras and exorcised the spirit and put it into a bottle and seal it. My duty was to dig a hole in the ground and bury the bottle with its head down,” he shared with us.
“I was a Baptist, then I was rechristened a Pentecostal and now I am an Adventist; but I am always a Hindu. I was born a Hindu,” Eddy informed us.
Eddy’s father lived with his wife and six daughters in Arima and Eddy would regularly visit to spend time with them. In this manner he developed strong bonds with individuals, families and officials and devotees of mandirs in the communities around Arima.
Dr Primnath Gooptar was a resident of Brazil Village, Arima and an active member in the religious and cultural life of his community. Dr Gooptar interviewed Eddy for his doctoral thesis on the Impact of Hindi Cinema in Trinidad.
“I recalled Edward Pitt coming to our Divali celebration in our village and singing songs,” said Primnath.
“Did you pay him for his services?” I asked.
“No! No! He never demanded any money,” Primnath reported. “Eddy would come to functions invited or not and would willingly sing when requested,” he said.
“Was his singing well received?” I asked.
“Everyone applauded his singing. More than that he was friendly and developed a healthy relationship with everyone,” said Primnath.
Dhaniram recalled:“When I was a teacher at Brazil High, no Divali programme was planned. I took the initiative to have a programme and the only artiste I had on stage was Eddy. I told him I had no money to pay him. He did not mind and came with his vehicle all the way from Las Lomas.” He continued: “Brazil High had mainly non-Hindus and non-Indians and Indian cultural activities were hardly promoted. This was a pioneering gesture and both students and teachers were spell bound listening to an African sang Indian songs. It was a revelation to many!”
After more than forty-five years singing, Eddy is still in demand. His singing was a rehearsal for a fund raiser event in the temple later that afternoon.
As a little boy Eddy frequented the Las Lomas No 1 Mandir and began singing bhajans. The Las Lomas Mandir was built by Doon Pandit in the 1940s. A policy of Doon Pandit was to open Hinduism to non-Hindus including Africans. With a dakshina or love offering of 25 cents Doon Pandit would perform the sacraments to welcome the person to the Hindu fold. In this manner Doon Pandit had a large following of African god children. It was this prevailing outlook of Pandit Satnarine and his son, Pandit Zaf, that attracted an individual like Eddy to the mandir.
Only last two week I visited the Las Lomas No Mandir to participate in a one year pooja for the late Tomatee, a daughter of Pandit Karoo Ojah Maharaj and seated on the front row was Eddy. This not only demonstrated the openness of the Ojah Maharaj family and the mandir but also the positive attitude of Eddy toward Hindu culture.
In the 1970s Eddy was a drummer with the Sangeet Bharathi Orchestra. “I started as a drummer and then transformed into a singer” he said. “Some of the other members of the Sangeet Bharathi Orchestra were Sahadath Singh, Bali and Kumar,” he recollected.
“I enjoy singing Indian songs. It is the greatest music,” he said. “Indian music is so powerful that it can move the cloud to block the sun and reduce the heat; it can also bring rainfall. I have experienced these things,“ he said beaming with self-confidence.
“In the mid-1970s I went to live in San Juan. Soon I joined the Solo Sangeet Orchestra as a drummer and then developed into a singer. “For several years I played drums and sing in weddings, birthday parties and other social events,” he said.
“I was always well received and loved by all,” he said. “Indian people have always been kind to me,” he said with a certain amount of gratitude. He continued: “It was Sham Mohammed that brought me and my wife together,” he said. “My wife is a Guyanese. I met her through Sham Mohammed, the host of Mastana Bahar,” he said.
Eddy called out to his wife to join us. Angela, his wife of 33 years, shared with us her life in Guyana: “I came from a very poor family. My parents do gardening and catch fish. They work part-time in a ranch caring for animals.”
“But how did you meet Eddy?” I asked.
“It was at a cinema in Berbice. Eddy came to perform and I went to the show. There is where I met Eddy. He invited me to come to Trinidad and I came,” she recalled.
“We were married by Pandit Sahadeo and two other pandits. After 33 years we are still together,” she said. They have two children, a boy, aged 28 and a girl, aged 21.
Eddy never had much education. “I went to primary school only,” he said. “But I always want to be a police,” he shared with me. “Trinidad and Tobago need honest hard working police,” he lamented.
Dhaniram Maharaj was high in praise of Eddy. “Eddy was always available to help unload sugar, rice and other goods when it arrived in our shop,” he said. “Eddy’s mother was also very loving and caring. She was the first to visit when she heard that a villager was ill. In weddings, wakes and funerals she was always assisting with cooking and serving guests.”
Angela then informed us of an attack on the persons of Eddy and his son in 2010. “My husband and son were chopped all over their bodies and left to die. Eddy spent 16 days in hospital. So far no one has been punished. The courts had ordered compensation but not a cent has been paid. So far none of them has been arrested,” she lamented. She then went inside and brought out pictures showing the wounds her husband and son sustained.
“I now run a parlour to earn a living. But we worked hard. We planted the land and sell our produce in the market,” said Angela.
“I did not have much education and I settled for hard work. I know about digging dirt and planting,” he said.
Eddy provided us with coconuts which he picked from his yard. As we bade him goodbye, Eddy went back to his rehearsal.