Wealth or arth is an integral part of Hindu Dharma. More so, Hinduism has a Goddess of Wealth in Mother Lakshmi and an entire festival in Divali to underline the central role of wealth in a Hindu life.
For far too long we have allowed foreign theologies that speak of an afterlife as a reward for our miseries on earth to overtake our psyche. Such debilitating thoughts must be denounced and banished immediately! In the 1950s our politicians fell prey to socialism and communism. In Guyana, the Indian community suffered political exile and consequent hardship because of Dr. Cheddi Jagan’s refusal to divorce himself from socialism.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the Hindu community was fortunate to have a leader in Bhadase Sagan Maraj. At age 30, Sagan Maraj was a millionaire. When the 2nd World War ended, Sagan Maraj won the contract to dismantle the American bases. With this new wealth he pioneered the Maha Sabha which overseer the building of schools to educate Hindu boys and girls in the rural districts of the sugar-cane belt. His wealth was also used to sponsor public celebration of Phagwa, Divali, Kartic and Ramleela, which implanted pride in the hearts of Hindus.
It is critical that we appreciate the role of our business community in the creation of wealth. When a business makes a profit, it usually pays taxes to the government and wages and salaries to its workers. It is this flow of money that conducts transactions or economic activities. Therefore, any society needs a vibrant business sector to take risk to generate wealth.
There are three types people operating in the economy:
- those who save to the point of hoarding;
- those who live on credit for consumption;
- those who invest.
(I have chosen to exclude those who are dependent on the State for their existence.)
John had a BSc in Management Studies in the early 1970s and taught economics for more than thirty-five years. He also had shares in several companies and would dutifully attend the AGMs, offer comments and ask questions. But until the 1990s, John did not see the necessity to build a flush toilet and was still living in the house he inherited from his father.
The second group are those who live on credit. They have limited savings and because of this they cannot buy cash or negotiate advantageous interest rates. They want instant gratification and are ready to pay the price for it. These individuals end up swimming in a cesspool of debt.
The third group are the ones who save/borrow to invest. They are interested in producing goods and services that would earn a profit. Such persons would live in old homes but invest in new taxis to earn incomes and for transporting their children to and from school.
I remember Suresh who lived in my village. His wife was a home maker and they had two children. Suresh was a cane cutter with Caroni Limited during the harvest season. When the rainy season came he did not have regular work. He purchased a cow and was soon selling milk to a few customers. He was also growing corn and selling on a roadside stall to people returning from work. A couple years later he was the proud owner of a car which he operated for hire between the village and the town.
A few families have worked hard, saved and invested in businesses in the town and continued to survive with humility in their heart. Always humble, they are never too busy to share a smile and a few words of greetings. These few exemplars understood the word ‘sacrifice,’ that is, everything comes at a cost…nothing is free. The Millionaire Next Door (1996) makes for interesting reading as the authors underlined the reality that the people who have a net worth are humble people who are self-employed skilled men, professionals with private practices and family-owned businesses.
Interestingly, most of the families that earn properties in the Chaguanas Main Roads were once vendors in the market. Their hard work, thrift and their ability to take risks resulted in them owning and operating successful businesses. One such family is the Charrans. The saga of this family’s rise in business is well documented in the book From the Cane Fields to the Bookstore by Dr. Primnath Gooptar. The struggles of several business pioneers in Chaguanas are profiled in The Contributors-Profiling the Builders of Chaguanas -Volumes 1 & 2. Among them are Abass Ali , Eniath Mohamed, Robert Ramsamooj, Naipaul Sookdeo, Seepersad Sookhai and Shoba Bedasie who pioneered the Upper Level Educational Institute.
The business community in Chaguanas has to overcome entrenched dark forces that actively block them from entering the insurance and banking fields. Without direct access to capital, Chaguanas businesses are allowed to survive in a ‘cat and mouse’ arrangement where the mouse survive at the mercy of the cat.
Whatever the challenges, our business houses must accept that success comes with hard work and confronting the odds stacked against them. Offering two ladoos to Sri Ganesh and hoping that all obstacles on their path would be removed is both childish and foolish. It is time for our businessmen to step forward and up their game if they wish to worship Mother Lakshmi and celebrate Divali.