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Caribbean Achievers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 25 July 2006

1. The Indian achiever from Guadeloupe Ernest Moutoussamy

2 The legendary Siewdass Sadhu, builder of the Temple in the Sea 

3. Ria Ramnarine, Trinidad's first female world boxing champion 

4. West Indies Cricket Eastern Roots 

The Indian achiever from Guadeloupe

 

Deepa H. Ramakrishnan



PONDICHERRY: For Ernest Moutoussamy, the Tamil connection remains just in his name. Having grown up on a sugarcane plantation where his father and grandfather worked, the Mayor of Saint-Francois in Guadeloupe knows that his forefathers came from India and that is all.

A five-time member of the French Parliament (National Assembly), Ernest is the first literate in his family. "When Indira Gandhi came to France, I was the only person of Indian origin in the Parliament and she came and met me. It was a great honour for me. I am the only person of Indian origin who has been elected from Guadeloupe. Of the 90,000 voters in his constituency only 15 percent are people of Indian Origin the rest are Africans," said Mr. Moutoussamy.

"When I tried to trace my roots, I found only numbers and names of people in the records and India as place of origin. From the name I guess I am from a Tamil-speaking region here. My daughter's name is Soraya Moutoussamy and my wife's is Monique Moutoussamy. Though we are Catholics, we still have images of Hindu gods at home. We celebrate all the Christian festivals but we don't celebrate Deepavali. I am an Indian but then Guadeloupe is home to me," he said.

Saint-Francoise is a seaside commune with a population of 10,000 people. "There are three routes to Saint-Francoise, a sea side commune, and each of them has statues of great leaders. One has Mahatma Gandhi's statue, another has Martin Luther King's and the third road has Abbi Gregoire's statue.

"Though we have taken a lot from the other people, the Indian community has given back a lot to them. The dish Colombu (kozhambu) is something that everyone eats." Mr. Moutoussamy was here in Pondicherry recently to attend a seminar organised by the Pondicherry University and Paris-8 University.

This interview would not have been possible but for the help by R. Kichenamourty, former Dean, School of Humanities, Pondicherry University, who translated Mr. Moutoussamy's French to English. The five-time MP speaks Creole at home and French officially. The Tamil words that he knows include the names of dishes that his people have retained over the centuries.

Having done his bachelors degree in History, he went on to become a professor. "My father was so proud when I became a professor. But I don't know if he understood the hard work that I put in to raise to that level. I stood for elections because of three reasons - ideological (he belongs to the Left party), he wanted to show that a person of Indian origin could win and also boost the confidence of people of Indian origin."

During his time as MP he created a sports association for his people, brought about insurance for farmers and also introduced a family allowance for all families irrespective of whether the father was working or not. "It was only in 1946 that education was made compulsory. . I will contest the elections the next time and I want to reduce the number of unemployed persons. I also want to develop some infrastructure for culture and tourism," he said.

Mr. Moutoussamy has written several books including one on Creole cuisine.

 

The Legendary Dharamveer Sewdass Sadhu:
A Caribbean Hindu Hero

Courtesy: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS, Trinidad)    

By constructing a Mandir five hundred feet off the shore into the sea at Waterloo Bay, Central Trinidad almost single-handedly with “Hanumanian” effort, steadfastness and indomitable courage, even suffering colonial persecution, a poor and devout Sadhu has forever challenged and propelled the collective will and psyche of Hindu Trinidadians and indeed Hindus worldwide to infinite possibilities. The very name SEWDASS SADHU (1903 – 1970) evokes rousing feelings of unique admiration and awe and embodies the dreams and aspirations of the Hindu Samaj yet to burst forth into unified glory. 

A legend! A National Hero! The indefatigable Sewdass Sadhu will forever continue to shine brilliantly in our hearts. His BIRTH CENTENARY will be observed from January 1st, 2002 – January 1st, 2003. 

We owe a debt of pious obligation and gratitude to Sadhuji and our Pitris (PITRI RINA) to commemorate this momentous Centenary with all the pomp and pageantry it richly deserves yet promoting the deep spirituality espoused by Sewdass Sadhu. 

Several spiritual and intellectual as well as cultural and social programmes can be planned with some being effectively incorporated within our exciting Utsavs, religious and cultural festivals for maximum effect.

DHARMA DHURANDHAR (Defender of Dharma) Sewdass Sadhu is ours: to cherish with pride and dignity; to present to the world as our Caribbean Hindu Hero befitting our adoration and for us to be inspired by his brilliance and forthrightness into assertive and noble action.

The Legendary Sewdass Sadhu

“When a man is born, whoever he may be, there is born simultaneously a debt to the devas, to the sages, to the ancestors, and to men.” – Yajur Veda

One century ago, Bhaarat (India) witnessed the birth of a son whose name today evokes rousing sentiments of awe and admiration among Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago. Sewdass was born on January 1, 1903 to Boodhram and Bissoondayia. At the tender age of four, he came aboard the SS Mutlah bound for a new land. He was accompanied by his parents and two younger brothers. Along with his parents, young Sewdass toiled under the Indentureship scheme at the Waterloo Estates in Central Trinidad. 

Sewdass dwelled in a small village named Barrancore, known today as Brickfield, for a number of years. After the death of his parents and having served the period of his indenture, Sewdass returned to Bhaarat for the first time in 1926. He first journeyed back to Bhaarat on a Dutch ship. The First World War was just ending. The voyage was perilous. Whilst in Bhaarat, he received benediction from a pandit who was 120 years of age. Sewdass was moved to pledge to construct a mandir on his safe return to Trinidad. He subsequently visited Bhaarat on four more occasions – 1940, 1946, 1963 and 1970.

Unable to bear the separation from the country he had come to love and respect as his own home, Sewdass returned and settled among the residents at Waterloo Village in Central Trinidad. During this time, he established and managed a small grocery at his home. He held firm to his strong moral beliefs and spiritual practices. He was, hence, nicknamed Sadhu, or religious one, by the villagers.

As time passed, Sewdass Sadhu continued to nurture the dream of one day building a mandir through which he could impart the spiritual doctrines and millennia-old traditions and customs of his ancestors to the children of his village.

The realization of this long cherished dream commenced in October 1947. Sewdass Sadhu purchased a small parcel of land from Caroni (1975) Ltd. at the edge of the Waterloo Bay and began the Herculean task of clearing the land, constructing the mandir and installing the murtis (icons) for worship. For four years, residents of the village and neighbouring villages came and performed poojas at the mandir.

Then in 1952, Sewdass Sadhu was ordered by Caroni (1975) Ltd. to demolish the mandir. With a heavy heart and tearful eyes, he refused to destroy this abode of God. His refusal to comply landed him in jail for 14 days with a fine of $400 for trespassing on State land. While held captive in jail, the company employees tore down the mandir and cleared the land of all evidence of its existence.

Immediately on his release, Sewdass Sadhu declared, “You broke the mandir on the land. Then I will build my mandir on nobody’s land. I will build a mandir in the sea.”

For 17 years after, Sewdass Sadhu continued the construction of his “Temple in the Sea”. His tools were simple – two buckets and a bicycle with a carrier at the back. In the buckets, he placed rocks, sand and cement. Balancing the buckets on the two handles of the bicycle, Sewdass Sadhu would push the bicycle out to the mandir site located some 500 feet off the shore into the sea at Waterloo Bay. Sometimes family and villagers assisted him, but largely, it was an almost single handed “Hanumanian” effort.

The “Temple in the Sea” today stands out as a lasting legacy of Dharmaveer Sewdass Sadhu.

Sewdass Sadhu passed away in 1971. In 1995, a concrete statue of him clad in traditional dhoti, kurta and mala standing with his hands clasped in the reverential pranaam posture was unveiled before the 5,000 Hindus present.

For Hindus in Trinidad and the world over, this Dharma Dhurandhar (Defender of Dharma) stands as an embodiment of indomitable courage, strength and determination – in fact, the quintessence of the fulfilment of the jahaajis’ mission to the Caribbean. A poor and devout Sadhu has forever challenged and propelled the collective will and psyche of Hindu Trinidadians and, indeed, Hindus worldwide to infinite possibilities. Sewdass Sadhu is ours to cherish with pride and dignity, to present to the world as our Hindu Hero befitting our adoration and for us to be inspired by his brilliance and forthrightness into assertive and noble action.

The Temple in the Sea

Over 300 mandirs are sprinkled throughout the landscape of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Undoubtedly, one stands out above the rest for its innate exceptionality of history, design and location. It is known worldwide as the famous “Temple in the Sea”. Dharmaveer Sewdass Sadhu commenced the initial construction of the original mandir in 1952. Located some 500 feet off the shore into the sea at Waterloo Bay in Central Trinidad, the mandir was built when the sea tide was low. 

Every day, for almost five years, Sewdass Sadhu transported stone boulders, gravel, sand and cement in two buckets hanging from the handlebars of his old bicycle. Steel oil drums, filled with concrete, formed the foundation of the structure. Eventually the mandir began to take shape. The area of the original structure was 1,200 square feet.

The mandir consisted of three sections – a pooja area, a kitchen and an unfinished room which was intended to accommodate guests. Murtis were installed and an OM symbol stood atop the roof. The mandir was dedicated to Lord Shesha Naaraayana – the one who dwells in the sea. For 17 years, Sewdass Sadhu laboured continuously on the construction of the mandir.

 

 


 

As the news spread of this “Temple in the Sea”, curious visitors and devotees throughout Trinidad began to flock to witness this spectacle. The mandir became transformed into a teerath or pilgrimage spot for devotees desirous of performing pooja and during the Hindu festivals of Kartik and Shiva Raatri.

With the passage of time, the ravages of sea blasts took its toll on the structure. The foundation has eroded considerably. With the demise of Sewdass Sadhu in 1971, the mandir fell into neglect. The structure deteriorated, paint peeled, murtis were broken and the walls began their collapse.

A plea was made to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to recognize and preserve this national symbol. Construction of the present mandir commenced and was completed in 1996.

Today, the statue of Sewdass Sadhu with his hands clasped in the reverential pranaam, which was installed in 1995 by the Hindu Seva Sangh together with over 5,000 Hindus, greets the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists who journey the world over to worship at this famous “Temple in the Sea” and to pay homage to the legacy of this historic figure and national legend Dharmaveer Sewdass Sadhu.

Sewdass Sadhu - Dharmaveer

The life of Sewdass Sadhu and his achievement of building the “Temple in the Sea” could serve as a catalyst for change not only for Hindus but for all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and Hindus of all the Girmitia countries throughout the world. The temple epitomizes the monumental struggle of one man of immense courage who sacrificed all to fulfill his vision.

This struggle of devotion and sacrifice has now become a much larger symbol of a people’s struggle to retain their cultural and religious tradition against hostile forces and also reflects the struggle that all indentured labourers from Bhaarat had to face in the respective countries they were sent to.

We need genuine heroes to inspire and motivate us thereby awakening the dormant spirit within us. Heroes are somewhat extraordinary and perform astonishing deeds, far beyond the capabilities of the average person. They have to stand apart from the everyday world and embark on trials, dangers and  adversities. Sewdass Sadhu was all of these and has blazed a trail for all of us to follow. The following inspirational, lasting and powerful messages have emerged from his actions:

§         Persevere at all times. Never give up even when the struggle may seem impossible. The ability to accept setbacks and overcome all challenges to secure victory and success for ourselves and our society.

§         Always have a deep sense of belief in ourselves and with undying faith rooted in our Sanatana Dharma and culture, miracles can be achieved.

§         Display bravery and courage at all times, even under the most adverse conditions.

§         Be concerned about the welfare of others and do things that would also benefit others by undertaking sacrifices.

Sadhuji was a man devoted to his swadharma and served principles larger than himself. He took the divine energies within him and brought it to manifestation in the form of the “Temple in the Sea” so that we could all benefit. The above values if inculcated in our lives will serve us well and could also develop us into good citizens for the task of nation building.

 

SADHU AND HIS TEMPLE IN THE SEA

 By Susan Gosine

Indian immigrant Siew Dass Sadhu has become somewhat of a legend in Trinidad and Tobago. He has a $1.5 million temple in the sea named after him and a pristine statue of himself clad in a dhoti, (loincloth) standing reverently at the top of a pedestal at the entrance to the temple.

On Indian Arrival Day last year, Prime Minister Basdeo Panday unveiled a plaque at the base of the statue in Sadhu's honour. It is now a tourist attraction and a shrine for worshippers.

Each year, hundreds of people gather at the site to celebrate Indian Arrival Day with the Hindu Seva Sangh. And the smiling Sadhu welcomes them with clasped hands.

At the age of four, a young boy by the name of Siew Dass accompanied by his parents left their homeland in India and sailed across the ocean to a destiny unknown. Little did he know that his name would be whispered with reverence on the lips of many or that he was destined to change the lives and history of the people in a humble village in Central Trinidad.

Siew Dass was born in 1901. He came to Trinidad under the indentureship scheme.

After the deaths of his parents and having served his indentureship period, Siew Dass accepted his return passage to India but was unable to stay away from the country he came to love and respect as his home.

He returned to Trinidad, and settled among the residents in Waterloo Village in Central Trinidad.

He loved the lush green sugar cane in the village and the clean fresh air. It was near the sea where he could perform his poojas undisturbed by the intrusion of noise from the town.

Siew Dass was of strong religious and moral beliefs. When he returned to Trinidad, he brought with him the "firm religious beliefs and traditions of his forefathers" and fought desperately to hold on to those beliefs against a society that scorned and ridiculed him.

He was nicknamed Sadhu (religious one) by villagers who laughed at him because he stood up for what he believed. Today, the name Siew Dass Sadhu is looked upon with great respect and awe.

Sadhu has come and gone, but his memory lingers on in the minds of those who were fortunate to know him. He has left an indelible mark on the earth when he single-handedly took tons of sand, cement, stone and bricks into the Gulf of Paria, to construct a mandir 500 feet into the sea at Waterloo Bay.

His dream was to build a temple and teach his children and the young ones in the village the principles of Hinduism and how to worship and perform poojas.

This dream brought him humiliation and shame, but nevertheless bore fruit before he bade this "cruel" world good-bye. In 1947, Sadhu asked Caroni (1975) Ltd. To purchase a parcel of land at the edge of the Bay, to build a temple. His wife, Samdaye, said he was given verbal consent by a Mr. Mark Millan, to build the temple.

An elated Sadhu began the herculean task of clearing the land and building the temple. For four years the temple with its murtis was used by residents and people from neighbouring villages to perform poojas.

In 1952, Sadhu was ordered by Caroni Limited to demolish the temple. With a heavy heart and tearful eyes, he told the authorities that the temple was a House of God and was built for worship. "I cannot break it down," he said.

Sadhu's refusal to comply landed him in jail for 14 days. He was fined $500, which he paid at $20 a month. While he was in jail officials of Caroni Limited demolished the temple and cleared the debris.

Sadhu told Samdaye: "They say the land is company land and they don't want me to build my temple on it. Then I will build my temple in nobody's land. I will build my temple in the sea where nobody will have to break it down and nobody will say the land is theirs."

One week after his release he began to build his temple in the sea. Each day for almost five years Sadhu journeyed from his home to the site on a bicycle with two buckets of material which he dumped into the sea to build a road.

He was laughed at and called a "mad man" by villagers as he toiled day and night. Finally the work was done, and Sadhu stood back and looked at his work with pride.

The stone temple had a kitchen and rest room. Murtis were in place and the symbol Om beckoned from atop the roof. It was time to perform pooja. News of the temple in the sea spread to all corners of the country and visitors and worshippers travelled long distances to see the spectacle.

Many visited the temple on Sundays to perform prayers. For over 30 years the temple in the sea was used by devout Hindus and served as a pilgrimage spot during Kartik and Shiva Raatri. His dream realized and his heart content, Sadhu quietly passed away in 1971.

In May 1993, he received recognition for the first time when the Hindu Seva Sangh held a march in honour of his memory. Over 5,000 followers walked from St. Mary's Junction, Freeport, to the banks of the Waterloo Bay where an inaugural ceremony was held by the late Swami Satchichnanda at the temple ruins. The procession made a brief stop at Sadhu's home.

 

 

 

Ria Ramnarine

 

 

Ria Ramnarine is the first Indo-Caribbean world boxing champion 

 

With an indomitable spirit and the heart of a lion, Ria Ramnarine has been able to achieve success against all odds. Born on 12 October 1978 in a very humble home, Ria was the last of four children to Narad and Dulcie. Nowadays Ria looks back on a childhood that was very difficult but one she isn’t ashamed of. “Things were really hard and my family had to work together to make a living” says Ria . The long days toiling in the garden or selling fruits and vegetables by the roadside built her resilience. The hours trekking through the mosquito-infested mangroves in search of oysters made her strong, mentally and studying under the flickering flames of a kerosene lamp or a flambeau made her determined. Determined to excel in school, get a good job and be successful, successful enough to give back something to her parents.


In 1995, Ria graduated from Holy Faith Convent with eight passes in the field of science, which included three distinctions. Enrolling in a private school, in 1998 she copped two more distinctions in Business and in 2000 earned her Process Plant Operations diploma from the John Donaldson Technical Institute and was immediately recruited as an “On The Job Trainee” by National Flour Mills Ltd. She worked her way up to Plant Operator 1 after two and a half years.


But during that time, Ria had her sights set on other goals too. August 1995 she joined Fine Line Fight Club, paying her first fees with one dollar bills and coins. To avoid her father’s fury, she didn’t tell her parents about the gym. Weight-lifting was her main objective but she soon started aerobics and karate as well. With classes going later and later, Ria was forced to tell her parents and as expected she met with a wall of disapproval. “Mom almost freaked out and Dad ranted and raved” she recalls. Of course she refused to stop, disregarding the continuous arguments and threats from her father. By that time she’d graded for her yellow belt and was successfully competing in karate tournaments. But now her heart was set on something else, she wanted to kick-box. The full contact scenario of kickboxing beckoned strongly but it took two years before her father agreed with some persuasion from Sensei Bharrath Ramoutar, owner and instructor of the gym. Today, Mr. Ramoutar continues to be Ria’s coach, manager and promoter.


Being the only female in the class wasn’t a problem. “Actually I think that worked for me because I had to train as hard as the guys, or even harder to be able to keep up with them. Soon enough I was neck to neck with them and even left a few behind in the physical workouts, that way I learned to train hard and smart from the beginning”.


Ramnarine made her kickboxing debut in 1998 and did not lose heart when the fight which most thought she’d won, was ruled as a draw. Instead she trained harder and in her next outing to the ring, knocked out her opponent. Some months later with just two fights under her belt, she journeyed to Calgary, Canada and weighed in thirteen pounds less than the World Champion, Vanessa Bellegarde. Standing toe to toe with the champ, Ria lost the fight, but won the admiration and more importantly the respect of the pro-Vanessa crowd.



Less than two weeks later, Coach Ramoutar signed Ria on for her pro boxing debut, which she won by third round knock out. She went straight to the professional ranks without the benefit of any amateur experience “Since then there’s been no looking back. I’m glad that I have a good coach who allows me to explore my options in the different fields of Martial Arts”, mentions Ramnarine.



But there have been moments and days when it would have been easy to give up. Having to train, study and work was draining her energy. Ria admits, “I would be so tired sometimes that I’d fall asleep in taxis or lie behind the gym counter for a ten minute nap before training started”. Then there was the problem of sponsorship. Ria and her manager prepared several packages which were sent to different companies but these would go unanswered until 2004. Because of the lack of funding, she was faced with the problem of inadequate fights. To compensate for this, Ria accepted several fights where she was mismatched either by weight or experience or in most cases, both.


One particular fight that stood out was against world featherweight champion Leona Brown in 2001. Ria looked almost tiny to the big and brawny New York native. After four rounds the referee stopped the contest in favor of Brown. She (Ria) was fortunate to come out of the fight unscathed. That was something of a turning point. Was it really worth fighting girls who were so much bigger and experienced? Thereafter Ria tried to stay at least within her own weight class.


In 2001, Ramoutar accepted a new boxing coach, Darren Vidale, into his gym. With both coaches in her corner, Ria scaled another level and went on to knock out another kickboxing opponent and then outpoint Guyanese Shondell Thomas in Guyana. However 2002 proved a slow year as there was only one fight, a rematch with Thomas that ended in a no-contest. March 2003 saw Ria resigning from her job at National Flour Mills. Not only was she a female in a male dominated industry, she was the only female in her department, and a very successful one as well. Instead of being proud of their co-worker, they despised Ria for her ability to learn and adapt quickly to the demands of the job; she had mastered both operations of the plant in less than three months. The mental stress combined with the night shifts and exhausting work began to take its toll, hence her resignation.


Through his kindness, Mr. Ramoutar allowed Ria to manage the gym. To supplement her income, she offered private tuition to schoolchildren. Though it turned out to be a hectic schedule, Ria had enough time to train and in July 2003, she unanimously out-pointed a game Vicki Boodram to win their six round contest. Her classic boxing display that night somewhat propelled her in to the spotlight and “Ria Ramnarine” was starting to become a household name. She also broke into the top ten rankings in the world in both boxing and kick-boxing.


Despite their intentions not to accept mismatches, Ria and her coach journeyed once more to Calgary. This time in November 2003 to match fist and feet with World Muay Thai Champion, Erin Linley. “At least, we were the same weight,” Ria quipped. Fighting Muay Thai for the first time was not an easy task against a world champ and although Linley won the bout, Ria again won the hearts of the people for her courageous performance.


In 2004, Ria changed jobs again. Although she had no accounting experience she was offered a job as an Accounts Clerk and always one to explore new territory, she accepted the offer. Within a few days she demonstrated her capability and was an immediate success in the company. After another cancelled bout because of a lack of sponsorship, Ria and her manager desperately sent out more packages in hope of finding a sponsor. Ma Pau Members Club, a private gaming establishment, came to the rescue and exclusively sponsored Ramnarine’s next bout against the gritty Japanese-American Deidre Hamaguchi. The Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) Mini-Flyweight Iberian-American title was at stake and according to reports the two women fought like Roman Gladiators, throwing everything they had at each other. In the end, the Trinidadian’s clean combinations and solid defense won her a unanimous decision and the title. Later on that year, when her original Puerto Rican opponent had problems with her boxing license, Ria stepped into the ring with an opponent who was thirty pounds heavier and emerged victorious.


Holding the number three spot in the WIBA rankings, Ria was eligible to contest for a world title. Ironically the opponent mandated by the WIBA was none other than southpaw American Yvonne Caples, a former world champion who had a solid amateur background and seventeen pro fights, six of which were world title bouts. Ria had never encountered a southpaw nor had she ever gone ten rounds in any of her ten fights. Hardly one to be fazed, Ramnarine handled the tough training regime meted out to her. “I am thankful for the way Sensei (Ramoutar) trained me, both mentally and physically. Although my other coach, Mr. Vidale was no longer at Fine Line, Sensei assured I was totally prepared and with all the long, hard hours I trained I felt quietly confident.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On May 28th 2005, Mr. Ramoutar promoted the first ever female world title bout in Trinidad and Tobago and Ria became the queen of the mini-flyweights when she out-pointed the slick and crafty Caples to win the WIBA Mni-Flyweight World Title. Being first female Trinidadian to win a world boxing title, Ria reveled in the moment. But her joy was tainted with the onslaught of uninformed criticism. Professional jealousy reared its ugly head and those who couldn’t bear the thought of the petite, 105lb Ramnarine being the first women in the country to win such a title wagged their tongues mercilessly, referring to the victory as a ‘very controversial decision’. Needless to say, Ria handled the situation with the savvy and aplomb of a true world champion.


“I know I won the fight without a doubt but certain entities couldn’t handle the truth of me being a world champion. They had come expecting me to lose and I ‘d disappointed them. I never ask for favors from anyone, in or out the ring. And certainly not from judges or referees, in fact, as far as I have observed I am given a harder time from certain officials in my own country. I was also to learn that a certain notorious matchmaker had put out a hit on me, just to prevent me from creating that piece of history.


Despite the efforts to discredit her, Ramnarine was honoured by the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Professor George Maxwell Richards, at the 2005 National Independence Day Awards. She now has HBM attatched to her name to represent the Humming Bird Medal that she received. Additionally she has been recognised and awarded for her achievements and contribution towards sports by various organisations that include, the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Trinidad Ltd, the National Youth Action Committee, the Couva Chamber Sugar and Energy Festival Committee, the Hindi Nidhi Foundation and the T&T Kick Boxing Federation. She emerged as one of the First Citizens Sports Foundation top ten sports personalties for 2005, although many sporting affecionados thought that Ria’s accomplishments was more than enough to win her the coveted Sportswoman of the Year award. For her first world title defence, the opponent ‘ran away’ mere minutes before the fight. Many were confused as to why Marianne Chubirka opted not to fight since she was seven pounds heavier than Ria!

Nothing was enough to distract the determined Ramnarine and she religiously continued her training. 2006 was to be a whirlwind year for Ria. Travelling to Hungary in April to face another world champion, Ria and her coach were stranded in England due to the lack of proper travel arrangements made by the promotion team in Hungary. ‘That really hurt because I’d prepared so hard for the fight. I knew Kristina Belinzsky would have been a good test and I cried my eyes out in the airport when we got stranded”. The next stop was her title defence in July, which she won by unanimous decision, again creating history by being the first Trinidadian, male or female, to make a successful world title defence in boxing. Then in September she was given the opportunity of a lifetime to fight Europe’s boxing queen, the legendary Regina Halmich. A German with a record of fifty wins, fifteen knockouts, one loss and one draw who fought at 112lbs. (Ria had less fights than Regina had knockouts).


“The purse was the highest ever offered to me and with no other fight in immediate sight, I accepted the offer. Besides, Regina was someone I admired and saw as a great ambassador for women’s boxing since the beginning of my career. To step into the ring with her was almost unreal”. Barely making the minimum weight of 110 pounds, Ria was at one of the worst disadvantages she’d ever been at in the ring. Yet she was undisturbed and gallantly matched gloves with the Box-Queen. Though Regina was stronger, Ria was giving a good account of herself when the referee stopped the fight in the sixth round. Ria was furious. The headbutt she had received earlier caused a nosebleed but she was fine and more than able to continue. “It was bizarre. I saw the tape and we won’t even in a clinch when the ref stopped it. Of course, they gave their own account and now it’s water under the bridge. But I must say that like in all the other countries I fought, I gained respect. The fight fans supported their girl 200 % but they also applauded my efforts. It was certainly a privilege to travel to Germany and fight the Boxing Goddess herself and I even got to meet my German penpal of over twelve years, Nina”.


In October Ria retired from her job, citing personal reasons. Hardly had she dealt with this, when she gave up her world title on November 7th. The glaring inequality in treatment to the female boxers in Trinidad proved too much. The Sport Company of T&T said she was not qualified for assistance; the same company that pumped over a quarter million dollars into other womens’ bouts. The Ministry of Sports meted out very meagre amounts, ten to twelve thousand, for her fights whereas they fully supported certain other womens’ bouts. Ria is still awaiting (as of feb 2007) a mere twelve thousand dollars from the Ministry of Culture and Gender Affairs that was promised since December 2005. This is the very same ministry that gave another female boxer sixty thousand dollars overnight after continuously supporting the very said boxer in all of her fights. (It is certain Ria is of the right gender, maybe she doesn’t have the right culture). Emphatically stating her fustrations, Ria literally threw her world title belt in the garbage can. Needless to say, it sparked heavy controvesy. For the next month, interviews through all media avenues were taking place. While some condemned her actions, most applauded it. She finally got to meet with the Minister of Sport, a year and a half after winning her world title. It took this sacrifice to get a hearing from the Minister. After talks that were described as “fruitful” she is still awaiting answer on her projections for 2007.


Also taking place in 2006 was fulfillment of a different kind. In the latter part of 2004 and 2005, Ria was pooling her resources together with her parents to build a new home. For the past fifteen years, they lived in a wooden house without running water and electricity. Her siblings were now married with families of their own so basically it was up to Ria to help her parents. Taking a loan (which she and her father is still paying), she kickstarted plans for the house. In January 2006, although it was incomplete, Ria and her parents moved into their new home. Whatever earnings she made, either from boxing or work, she put it all into finishing the house. After the Halmich bout, Ria was able to cover the cost of the electrical wiring, pay off the hardware bills and pay some money on the land. She had made good on her promise as a child.


At present, the little giant is preparing for a kickboxing world title bout that still has to be confirmed. She prefers to be ready for a fight that doesn’t take place rather than be unprepared for one which does take place. As far as boxing goes, she waits on word from the Ministry of Sports. It is too costly now for she and her manager to finance the bouts. Her new job in a Metal Export Company as a Field Manager takes up a lot of time, but she juggles it with her training. “My job is paying my bills at the moment and though it can be difficult at times, I willingly make the sacrifice. All the years into my sport has paid off to an extent but not to the financial extent”! The athletic Ramnarine is an Honorary Member of the Sixth Trinidad Sea Scouts, Angel Fish Patrol and is a member of the KFC Angel and Saints Dragon Boat Racing Team. She goes to the swimming pool whenever time permits and has started participating in 5 Km runs. (Though she jokingly admits she isn’t too much of a runner).


Ria is often called upon to give motivational speeches at community events and particularly at Sports days. She received the Vocational Award from the Rotary Club of Penal in 2006 and was nominated by the WIBA for fighter of the year in 2006 as well.



Because of her assertiveness and reliability, she is the Secretary of Fine Line Fight Club (where she trains) and is the Interim Assistant Secretary for the Trinidad and Tobago Kick Boxing Federation. Additionally, Ria is trying to find the time to complete her course in Freelance Journalism, a distance learning option from The Writer’s Bureau in England. Her dream is to win a kickboxing world title, her only elusive goal. She believes she has made her mark in boxing and is satisfied with her black belt in Karate. As for a husband and children, Ria doesn’t plan to get married soon, if ever at all. “I don’t think I can get a guy to treat me the way my mother does, and no I am not spoilt, I just earned the right to be pampered”, she smilingly quips. She loves kids but isn’t too inclined to have any of her own, not yet any way.


This young lady has certainly come a long way and has achieved what some others can only dream of. She is an intelligent person whose outgoing yet quiet and humble demeanour makes her the people’s

champion that she is. Her ethics and aptitude to face all challenges openly makes her a trainer’s dream, a family’s idol and a people’s hero.


Her advice to Indian women and girls is simple. “Don’t ever be ashamed of your ancestry and cultural background. Do not be afraid to step into areas where people think Indians have no right to step into. Whatever you venture into, be it sports, music, academics or any other area, know that you have the right to do so. When you set your goals, pursue it wholeheartedly, without the fear that others will condemn or criticise you. And most importantly, believe in yourself and the strenght and greatness of your people.


Generally, men respect Ria. Of course, there are those that heckle her about being in a man’s sport. Indian men however are extremely proud of her, she has done what no other Indian has been able to do in Trinidad and Tobago, take boxing to a next level on an international stage and win a world title. She is their champion.

 


Windies' eastern roots

Shivnarine Chanderpaul

Chanderpaul is one of seven 'East Indian' players


As the two teams prepare for a Test series, guest correspondent Gulu Ezekiel looks at the increasing influence of players of Indian origin on the
West Indies side.

After a barren period in the 1980s, the Indian influence in West Indian cricket has reached its peak.

Many names in the rival camp will be familiar to Indians as their team tours the Caribbean for the eighth in 50 years.


'East Indians' since 1994
Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Rajendra Dhanraj
Daren
Ganga
Dinanath Ramnarine
Sooraj Ragoonath
Mahendra Nagamootoo
Ramnaresh Sarwan


Not since the glory days of Joe Solomon and Rohan Kanhai have so many East Indians (as the community is known in the Caribbean) made it to the Test side.

Mostly from Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, a total of 20 have represented their adopted land, with as many as seven making their debuts since 1994.

Generally from the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, these cricketers are the descendants of indentured labourers brought over by the British in the 19th century to work in the sugarcane fields.

Outside of cricket, perhaps the best known of these immigrants is the Nobel Prize-winning novelist V.S. Naipul.

Today East Indians make up slightly more than 50% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago and 42% in Guyana.

Two of those 20 captained the West Indies, first Kanhai and then Alvin Kallicharan.

Calypso

Traditionally batsmen or spin bowlers, the first from his community to play Test cricket for the West Indies was Sonny Ramadhin.

Bowling both off and leg-breaks, he made a huge impact in tandem with left-arm spinner Alf Valentine on his debut tour of England in 1950.

Robin Singh

The two inspired the Calypso, 'Those two little pals of mine, Ramadhin and Valentine'.

There are no Calypsos today sung in praise of the likes of batsmen Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Daren Ganga and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

But the trio have been mainstays of the current West Indies squad.

The recent resurgence of East Indian representation has coincided with Afro-Caribbeans increasingly turning away from cricket to more financially lucrative sports likes soccer and basketball.

In a role-reversal, all-rounder Rabindra (Robin) Singh was born in Port of Spain but returned to India in the 1980s to study, and starred in the one-day side for much of the 1990s.

He is currently captain of the Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy team and has settled in Madras.

Impressive tourists

It was the very first Indian team that visited the West Indies in 1952-53 that sparked interest among the East Indian community.

Under the captaincy of Vijay Hazare, the visitors did well to lose just one of the five Test matches and made a huge impression with their dazzling ground-fielding.

Rohan Kanhai

Traditionally, Indian (and Pakistani) touring sides have received tremendous local support from crowds at Port of Spain.

Indeed this is the only venue where India has won a Test match, both in the 1971 and 1976 series.

Kanhai was the first of the great batsmen to emerge from the community in the 1950s and went onto play 79 Test matches, captaining his country from 1972 to 1974.

His exotic batsmanship was mirrored in the left-handed Kallicharan, also from Berbice in Guyana.

Kallicharan, who went on to play 66 Tests, made a huge impact in his maiden series against New Zealand in 1972 with centuries in his first two Test matches.

He briefly led the side during the period between 1977-79 when the cream of the team was contracted to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket

And he was the first from the West Indies to play cricket in South Africa during the apartheid era.

 

 

 


Last Updated ( Thursday, 17 May 2007 )
 
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