When I was young, I would observe men dressed in immaculate white shirt, black pants and tie with polished black leather shoes and walking the road going to and returning from work. An aura of accomplishment enveloped them leaving me with the longing to be like them one day. It struck me that these individuals were bright and working for big money when I contrast them with the field laborers with dirty clothes covered with black soot, and usually bare footed carrying cutlasses in their hands.
It was when I completed secondary school and began working that I discovered that these persons where stores clerks. In the 1960s and 1970s those jobs were considered prestigious and few had access to them. Nevertheless, with the oil boom, those individuals lost their jobs in the more competitive work environment. One went on to open a parlor selling biscuits, soft drinks, cakes etc. and a few months later the other clerk living two houses away opened a parlor also. These individuals were bringing their experiences as salesmen in department stores from the city to our little village much to the amusement of some villagers!
Another story I remember was when Rampersad’s wife, Molly, was having an affair with his neighbor Suresh who was a drunk. Rampersad could not believe his ears. Alerted to the happenings in his home, Rampersad confirmed his wife’s infidelity and proceeded to help her pack her bags and reach her by the neighbours’ house.
The following Sunday Rampersad had a fete with his family, relatives and friends. All the neighbors were present and with the food and drinks sharing, even Molly and Suresh came over to celebrate.
Partap, a neighbor, went for screening with the PNP for the Dadville constituency and after he was rejected, he went and joined the rival party. He was later screened and given the nod to fight the seat.
I remember a Raj, good friend, who took up a teaching post at the university. I pointed out the him the marginalization of Indians in the history syllabus and he was in total agreement with me. He then informed me that “I am still in probation and you would have to give me some time” and promised that “as soon as I am confirmed, I would raise the matter.” This lecturer got confirmed but died a few years later without addressing the bias in the syllabus. I later shared my experience with Sat Maharaj and he said that “that fellow was born to die, not to fight for social justice.”
Indo- Caribbean politicians are of the same ilk. After their appointment to office, they abstain from addressing anything ethnic for fear of being labelled a racist. I remember one Minister of Culture remarking that “Indians feel that they can spread a soharrie leaf and collect money from the Ministry of Culture.” He was obviously not speaking to Afro-Trinidadians. Here was an opportunity for this politician to correct an historical injustice but he did not have the fortitude to do so.
No one can deny that Indo Caribbean people have a parlor mentality. It is time for us to expand our minds to malls or online shops. Today Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest man on the globe because he does not earn a parlor but an online shop with millions of goods and services available to customers at their door step with a click.
It is innovation and creativity that drive the world forward, not parlors and market stalls. Dull witted people have no place in the competitive world. They are like a batsman who occupies the crease for long hours but score few runs. A wise captain would have to retire such a batsman. But in our village cricket, there is no captain; everyone is his own boss. You retire a batsman and that may be the end of the game. The captain would be running the risk of the player taking his ball, his bat and his stumps and leaving for home, thus bringing the game to a premature end.