Making the ordinary look extraordinary

By Raffique Shah
October 26, 2016

Raffique ShahWhen an act of kindness that should be an everyday occurrence is cause for national celebration you know the society is in moral decay.

Further, when academic achievements by pupils who come from ordinary homes in so-called depressed communities are hailed as extraordinary, Trinidad and Tobago, we have a serious problem.

I am not dismissing the human compassion displayed by teenager Lillyan Williams towards a wheelchair-bound man as trivial or not worthy of the widespread commendations she has received.

Indeed, I agree that Lillyan is an exemplar for others of her generation and even older people who are so immersed in their mobile devices, they hardly notice anything around them, far less some suffering soul silently crying out for help in the midst of the madding crowd.

That Lillyan felt a moral compulsion to leave what she was doing and dispense the milk of human kindness to a fellow human being who was in distress speaks volumes for her upbringing, for the values she must have been taught at home.

That her actions were considered so unique that they brought her fame is a sad indictment of the wider society, especially parents and elders who have a responsibility to shape the minds of children. They, or maybe I should say we, have failed to instil humaneness in our offspring.

Acts like helping the elderly, the infirm, the destitute, which were considered routine in times gone by, are seen as extraordinary in modern society.

There are few children who greet elders with a respectful “hello” or “good day”. Sometimes when they do, you are so shocked, you fail to respond.

A blind or wheelchair-bound person waits forlornly to cross a busy street, but no motorist or pedestrian would give way or offer help.

Hell, some public offices that deal with services for the aged and infirm have these poor souls suffering, at times standing in queues, in order to access their entitlements.

So in this uncaring, some might say hostile, environment, a rare act of kindness is seen as heroism, which is a hell of a thing.

I hasten to add that there are still many good, generous souls out there who readily respond to appeals for assistance.

Persons and organisations that are behind the drive to render aid to devastated Haiti will confirm the overwhelming response they got and continue to get.

On the issue of academic achievements by pupils from crime-ridden, depressed communities like Beetham Estate, I accept that such scholarship winners deserve not just commendations, but further assistance as they pursue higher education. I agree, too, that the parents who persevered with such pupils, invariably against immense social and economic odds, also merit praise.

However, I think such scholars and the people in those communities need to be told that the now-notorious districts of East Port of Spain, Laventille and environs have a rich history of academic achievers, pioneers in culture and entertainment, as well as successful entrepreneurs. Most current residents know little or nothing of this aspect of their history.

I cite two personal stories in arguing why they should be so informed, maybe through the organisations that have worked hard to reduce crime there, and the new schools initiative launched by the Government recently.

I know this prominent Indian medical doctor, but never knew that he had spent his formative years living in East Port of Spain. In a rambling conversation we had one evening, he told me the story, and proceeded to name scores of other professionals whom he knew from back then who also grew up “behind de bridge”. I was amazed by the names he called, maybe because of my pre-conceived notion of the area.

In 1960 or thereabouts, a new Latin teacher at Presentation (Chaguanas) also came from that community. He would regale us, boys who had only heard about Laventille, with stories about Desperadoes and Hilanders, the people there, and his fellow achievers. He would become a medical doctor and practised in California in the United States until he died a year ago.

Later in my life, I’d meet many eminent persons who had roots in those communities. They had one thing in common—the determination to succeed in life, to rise above the noise, the rubble, the violence, the distractions, study hard and work hard to achieve their goals.

This formula for success does not apply only to pupils who attend the so-called prestige schools, all of which are denominational.

While they continue to dominate the scholarships board, there is a minor but discernible shift in which the much-maligned government schools are asserting themselves.

It is up to the teaching staff at such schools, the parents whose children attend them, and the pupils themselves, to work together and rise above the stigmatised rubble in which the education system has dumped them.

They can make what seems extraordinary today quite ordinary tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “Making the ordinary look extraordinary”

  1. It is the quantifiable actions of a community that causes an image to arise. Laventille, Morvant, Beetham are communities that have created the greatest drain on the treasury with billions spent on maintaining the peace. Most of those living there are descendants of island imports, young, ignorant and illiterate the recipe for disaster.

    The best way forward is to bulldoze those communities and build extensive government and cooperate housing. Many cities have undergone “rejuvenation” and “revitalization”. Through public partnership programs depressed communities have been converted to oasis of hope. These undertakings can be done in a phased in basis with each community changing over the courses of a few months.

    The fact is people are leaving the city and in order to attract people back to the city there has to be renewal. Years of bad planning and terrible infrastructure has seen flooding where there was no flooding in the city.

    As for human compassion that is something lost in TNT. People who are elderly still have to make long lines at the bank to do withdrawals. The sick at one time sat in chairs for hours in a hospital corridor waiting to see a doctor. Death a welcome relief.
    As a gentleman said to me it is not unusual for a doctor or government employee to be talking on a cell phone while attending to you.

    The way forward is to require students in high school to volunteer at least 40 hours in a nursing home, religious place, business place or old age home. This should be a requirement for graduation. It will help them to develop human compassion.

  2. “Laventille, Morvant, Beetham are communities that have created the greatest drain on the treasury with billions spent on maintaining the peace. Most of those living there are descendants of island imports, young, ignorant and illiterate the recipe for disaster.The best way forward is to bulldoze those communities and build extensive government and cooperate housing, then encourage citizens from Indian areas into these new communities, so as allow for tribal balance,and political fairness at the polls, during future election.
    In addition, both business , and government should likewise, heavily invest, in major housing schemes in Indo dominant ,ultra civilize areas ,such as Chagurnas, Couva, Caroni, Oropuche, El Secorro/ Aranguez, Tabaquite , Siparia,Penal,Debe, and Princess town, then move these mental degenerate, African savages out from said East West corridor enclaves , into those vacated by their industrious ,more culturally sound ,Indo Trini cousins ” Mamboo

    Hey Mamboo, an initiative, that would force Indians into African enclaves, NNW of the East Dry River/ Beetham Labasse, while simultaneously, pushing Africans, into Indian enclaves , South of de Carioni? You won’t get any arguments from me here one bit. Tell you what , it’s a Win/ win for everyone.
    Illiterate ,African savages , would get a chance to live , and interact closely, with their Indian counterparts, while the latter, get a chance to experience/ feel the pain , of their disgusting fellow citizens, from Lavantille Morvant, and Beetham.
    Ooops, I forgot , you support Gentrification , so the bulldozed , remodeled ,former African fiefdoms , would be then become ,new and improved, si?
    Yet a few naive folks ,on dis here, Trini Center Nation, still wish to view Mamboo, as some delusional,neo trollogian , non progressive bozo.
    Well, in one swoop, he just dispelled that idle characterization, with this brilliant response.
    Great. It’s a beautiful day in T&T.

    1. Yes the UNC started a project via Port of Spain city cooperation to build toilets for the people of Laventille. This after they vote PNM since Papa doc days.
      But here are some examples of rejuvenation, hope you can wrap your head around this Nealos.
      “Illustrating the transformation, other case studies from the new report include:

      The city of Santiago (Chile) lost almost 50 percent of its population and 33 percent of its housing stock between 1950 and 1990. But the city turned this around, using a national housing subsidy to specifically target the repopulation of the inner city. The private investment reached USD 3 billion throughout the life of project, stimulated by a USD 138 million subsidy.

      Buenos Aires (Argentina) found itself on the verge of becoming unsustainable, when urban sprawl moved away from downtown leaving prime waterfront land, with significant architectural and industrial heritage, vacant and underused. To tackle this problem, the city used a self-financing urban regeneration initiative in Puerto Madero to redevelop the unused 170-hectare land parcel to an attractive mixed-use waterfront neighborhood. The total investment reached USD 1.7 billion, with USD 300 million invested by the city through the sale of land.

      Seoul (Republic of Korea) experienced a major decrease in residential and commercial activity in its downtown, where small plots, narrow roads, and high land prices made development too costly. From 1975 to 1995, Seoul lost more than half its downtown population, while substandard housing for mostly squatters and renters was more than twice the city’s average. Seoul launched the Cheonggyecheon revitalization project to redevelop an 18-lane elevated highway into a revitalized stream with green public space totaling 16.3 hectares, dramatically increasing real estate values and the variety of uses for the downtown areas.

      In Ahmedabad (India), the closure of mills along the Sabarmati Riverfront caused unemployed laborers to form large informal settlements along the riverbed, creating unsafe and unclean living areas and reducing the flood management capacity. In response, the city created a development corporation to reclaim 200 hectares of riverfront land on both sides and paid the project costs through the sale of 14.5 percent of the reclaimed land, while the rest of the riverfront was transformed into public parks and laborers resettled through a national program.

      In the 18-square kilometer inner city of Johannesburg (South Africa), a series of targeted regeneration initiatives achieved a decline in property vacancy rates from 40 percent in 2003 to 17 percent in 2008, and a similar jump in property transactions. Since 2001, for every rand (R) 1 million (about USD 63,000) invested by the Johannesburg Development Authority, private investors have put R 18 million into the inner city of Johannesburg, creating property assets valued at R 600 million and infrastructure assets valued at R 3.1 billion.

      Yes there is a need for rejuvenation in Port of Spain. The PNM can generate vast employment by spending some money on their very poor slaves ops supporters.

  3. THERE IS REAL NEWS NEVER TO BE TOLD but this……The word is already out that stealing from the public purse be it Life Sport or ………….is okay when you have connections who ensure you are never caught. I have a document to show you from IFC New York USA that 70 Million USD was stolen from the Tringen 11 Plant project 1983 to 1987, where three governments were involved; namely PNM, NAR and UNC (club 88). Ish soley owned,operated and managed North Construction who was the main contractor on the project(Ish also the Caroni Racing Complex man of this fiasco fame). But I doubt Ish ever built a fowl cob in his life. And then there was section 34 with all its lies and controversy. And do not forget the boys who were there out in the middle having fun in Los Angeles where the design was blessed for construction in 1983 and who are, while we speak are in more big pappy positions today in T&T. We will never know the truth will we?

  4. Someone much smarter than yours truly, once said the following:- ‘He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, is a fool- avoid him!’

    Now here is a reason, as to why folks should never attempt to enter into debates, over subjects they know absolutely nada about. What do ya know people! We have the Trini Center resident- cyber Bozo , in Mamboo, doing just that , and therefore reminding us , that the only time his good for nothing Pappa , allowed him, and his other 25 siblings ,to visit a school ,was during the August holidays , when the gates / doors were firmly locked.
    Holding up Chile, and Argentina ,as some model of civil democracy, worth emulating.So scary!
    Tell that to the thousands of political dissidents who varnished in neo Fascist Argentina , during Military henchmen rule.
    Tell that to the thousands of native, brown skin Indians, who were murdered in Chile, so that that country could maintain a more pristine -White , wholesome image.

    “Rejuvenation,” huh? Hey Mamboo, a word of caution. Just be careful , for what you wish for in La Trinity.

    Chile ,and Argentina , are the home for thousands of Nazis, and Mafia Dons , all who rushed there to escape from persecution.
    Stay in your lane , and limit your typical trolling efforts , to nonsensical issues that are linked to your tribe.
    Someone might take up your suggestion, and start said “rejuvenation , “by taking back all those land deeds ,that were given out during de Kamla reign ,to former Caroni workers , and hand dem over instead, to those they perceive ,as rightful owners- namely African slaves ,great –
    grand pickeeneys.
    Love Humanity people!

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