AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Hazarie Ramoutar and my wife Ria and I are the first official couple in Trini to the Bone, even though we will appear separately.
I’m from Central, Freeport. Other than three years at UWI, I lived at Arena Road until I was 27.
My father Mathura worked at a chicken farm for 40 years, my mom Leela for at least 20. My eldest brother, Dave, is in air-conditioning in Miami, my other brother Keshore is a mechanic. Hands-on stuff. Keshore and my sister Indera both live two or three minutes away from my parents. I am the last child in a very blue-collar family. My dad is one of 14 kids, my mother, one of four. So We had LOTS of cousins.
Where we are today is not the life I would have pictured, growing up as a young boy in Arena. I was the first from that family of 14 siblings to go to university. A few of my younger cousins followed suit eventually.
After a lot of school vacations spent in my brother’s garage, when my mechanic says, “This could be this thing,” I say, “Hmmm, why don’t you check this other thing?” They see you in a jacket and think, “This guy don’t know anything ‘bout car or air-condition or anything.”
I have a love of reading because I literally grew up with my brother Keshore’s trove of Louis L’Amour books. My wife will ask me, “How you come out so different?” You look around you and you see how people behave, the domestic abuse, the quarrelling. The way Louis L'Amour described the protagonists in his novels, they were always fair, men who would do the bad stuff if necessary, but would be kind and respectful to women… and family was always the centrepiece. That had a lot to do with who I became.
I got the reading from Keshore, the dressing properly and smelling good and liming from Dave. And the studying from Indera. She’s the inventory control manager of a leading Trinidadian company.
Until I left Trinidad, I went to a temple not too far from our family home. I remain a believer, though I have taken a more spiritual than religious path. I haven't done puja in many years. But when I do take part in religious rites, I expect them to work. I don't think it is just cultural.
My perspective: I cried because I didn’t have a shoe. Until I saw the man who didn’t have a foot.
I came from a Hindu family, went to a Presbyterian primary school, and a Christian secondary school. I guess I’m Trinidadian.
It was a big deal for me to even get into Presentation College, Chaguanas. Only 80 of the how many thousands of Central students who wanted to got into Pres. There were only two form one classes. My close friend to this day, Peer Nasseir, I met in form one. And the majority of 5J boys are in a WhatsApp chat group today.
I was more of a spectator than a player of sports at school.
I did a management degree at UWI, the wonderful years.
I was always good at mental arithmetic at primary school, the teacher throwing numbers at you to add, subtract, multiply. I did accounts at A’Level and did the ACCA programme while working at a firm. The last couple modules were really tough. I was living in Arena, working in Port of Spain, getting up at 4.45 am. Classes were in Chaguanas, 5.30-8.30 pm, Monday to Thursday, Saturday 9 am-4 pm and Sunday morning from nine to midday. For those six months, I was like a walking zombie. But, as soon as class finished Sunday, I would join my family at some all-fours competition. We love all-fours.
In 2001, Ria mailed out my application for a job in an ad in a Trinidad newspaper. A month later, they called me for an interview – in St Kitts! That wasn’t mentioned in the ad! After five years there, a firm in St Lucia offered me a job of operations manager. I wanted to get out of accounting. I had been doing numbers for many years and wasn't engaging enough with people.
After two years, Ria got a job with Ross University and moved to St Kitts. After some months, the dean offered me the position of campus administrator. The package was really good. There was no income tax. You were saving a lot of your income. And Ria was there. I went back to St Kitts.
My work at Ross University medical and vet schools has been extremely rewarding. It has been the largest part of my career. I really feel good that our graduates are making a difference in people’s lives all around the world.
It’s ironic how many opportunities there were for Ria and I to connect – and we didn’t. Her brother Dale and I were in the same year at Pres. They lived in Chase Village, right before Freeport. In 1996, my now ex-girlfriend arranged a party for Ria down at Anchorage. I danced one dance with the birthday girl, out of politeness, but that was it. We went our separate ways with other people.
A couple years later I went into a bank where Ria was a teller. She told me later that, when she saw me walk in she said, “Who is this guy? If he has a girlfriend I'm going to be in trouble!” We did the whole flirting thing, smiling, grinning. She did not remember me from her birthday party at all. But I remembered her as Dale’s sister. Also, she had long hair, almost down to her knees. You couldn't miss that. In those days, I did have some hair on my head but she would've seen me as some ordinary guy.
We first went out in August 1997 when I asked her to help me shop for my uncle. She says I was very forward because I slipped my hand into hers. But she held it! The next January, I asked her to marry me. This September will be 24 years we’re married. August will be our 25th dating anniversary.
When we started going out, Ria said she wasn’t into the kids thing and I never had a burning desire to have. I do not think we would've had the life we had today if we had children.
A lot of people don't understand how we can work together, live together, spend 24 hours a day together. But we were REALLY happy locked down in the same apartment! Ria is my best friend. We absolutely enjoy spending as much time as we can together.
It feels pretty good to be the first “official” couple in Trini to the Bone. I asked right up front if couples could be in it. For me, both of us being able to tell our stories was important. It’s not just me. It’s us. It’s her getting the chance to share as well.
I think the love we have for each other is about constantly building and lifting each other up. It's not about one going forward. It was always about supporting one another. When she was doing her Masters, I took care of all the other stuff. While I was doing my MBA, she took care of everything. When I was struggling, trying to get everything back together for students to come back in Saint Martin after the hurricane, I called her and said, “I need you here!” She was on the next flight over.
I have met some wonderful Trinis and some real SOBs. But one common thing is, people describe Trinis by their work ethic, hospitality and ability to have a good time. So a true Trini is a person who shows they care through their food and hospitality. And their work.
Trinidad and Tobago prepared me, a Hindu with Muslim and Catholic friends, who went to a Christian school, to be open to engaging with other cultures and religions. Interacting with professors, groundskeepers, porters, PMs, governors, people from all over the world, I’ve treated each of them the same. Because, when you cut us, we all bleed red. I DEFINITELY got that in Trinidad.
Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com