AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Ria Ramoutar and my husband Hazarie and I are the first “official” couple in Trini to the Bone, even though we appeared separately.
I’m from Chase Village, Carapichaima.
My older brother Dale, sister Nicole after me and I are all a year apart. Our brother Kris is six years younger than me and in his 40s now, but I still see him as the baby.
My dad, Ronald, passed three years ago and my mom is Janet Balkaransingh.
My mom gave us all very short first names because we had such a long way to go on our surname, Balkaransingh.
My grandparents lived in Malick, Barataria, on the outskirts of Morvant, a place that holds a special place in my heart.
Nowadays you think it is the worst area. But Nicole and I would walk everywhere and feel safe as Victor and Vera Villafana’s granddaughters. We knew people from Morvant side and Sixth Avenue side.
We walked to my primary school, Orange Field Hindu.
I was a very reserved child. I was afraid of everything. And cried for anything.
I decided early I did not want to be a mother. As a child, I saw this documentary on TTT and I remember thinking, “Why are we bringing more kids into this world when there are so many here already suffering?”
Also, outside of taking care of Kris, I never had that maternal instinct.
I cried when my parents bought me a doll at Christmas – because I wanted a kite. Flying my little chickycheechong running up and down the road was the best.
Persistence counts. If you want something, push hard for it.
Growing up, I didn't think we were poor, but we were a pretty low-income family.
My parents hustled a lot. At night, they would set up a little table around the Savannah and sell oranges to the runners on the pitch walk.
To get doubles was a huge treat.
We were really, really poor in money. But really, really rich in happiness. Just my mom and her four kids.
One Boxing Day, the mom of a Muslim friend from Holy Faith Convent showed up at our house with a sweetbread, sweet drinks, a chicken, a few other things. That was our Christmas.
I didn't know what buy-clothes was. We never had any.
Up to when I got married, my mom sewed all my clothes. She would scrutinise a dress in a store and come home and sew it.
I grew up on hand-me-downs. I relied on the charity of others.
And I want to give back to the world because I got so much. That’s where I get my peace.
I believe there is a power bigger than all of us out there – but I also believe in being a good person.
No, BC Pires, I don’t believe there is a greater power I can pray to for help in setting my curriculum – I control all of my work, not God.
I believe that what I give out comes back to me. And I give out good.
Hindus believe in reincarnation but I struggle with the concept of an afterlife. When I’m gone, I’m gone.
I might say to Hazarie, “This is how I want my funeral."
But he might put me in a burning boat and push me out to sea like the Vikings! Or keep me on the bed until I’m bones.
After my death, I won’t know what happens.
For somebody who loves so much control and order, I love me some tarot-card reading!
I love Hazarie so much because he’s my idea of perfect! Put that! My idea of the perfect human being, not just perfect husband.
He walked into the bank and I saw him and I was, like, “Holy Jesus! If this guy has a girlfriend, I’m in trouble!”
It was a very weird, very odd, and very instant connection.
We had first met at Anchorage but did not click at all. I didn’t remember him, but my sister told me, “You met that guy at your birthday party a year ago!”
I was, like, “No!”
And she was, like, “Ria, who calls their child ‘Hazarie’? How many Hazaries you think there are in the world?”
I really wish I’d gone on and done my PhD when I finished my masters.
In St Kitts, I couldn’t get a job…Correction: I got many jobs. I couldn’t get a work permit! CSME didn’t exist back then.
(My mentor) Jane offered me a job at a coffee shop at Ross University Vet School.
I’m from Trinidad. We know only instant coffee. Nobody knew Starbucks and Rituals in those days.
Coming from Trinidad, being in this new world with all these white people, I was a little bit terrified of her.
She said, “You’re wasting your life in this job. Why not come help me do things?” She would just push me. And not all the pushing felt good.
Professionally, I’m very comfortable with what I do today and I think a lot of that came from Jane’s pushing. I got my BA and graduated with honours in a masters in educational technology.
My absolute favourite role was academic scheduler. I did that for many years. To this day, I wish people would just lock me in a room and say, “Schedule!”
You have to be a little crazy to do the job. You literally have to see in your head the capacity of every classroom, every class size, every lab size.
How you going to make 24 students fit in a room with four cadavers, six around each cadaver, but the room can hold only 20? You have to make that work.
The most rewarding thing was to release 1,200 student schedules…and have it all go as smooth as silk.
I was going to university in the US. I had several full and partial scholarships. I had SATs lined up and a path marked out for my life.
And then Hazarie walked into the bank.
After five months, he asked me to marry him and I have never one second of my life regretted saying yes. He proposed in January, our parents met by March and we were married in September.
People probably thought I was pregnant!
From very early, I knew Hazarie was different from anybody I had ever, ever, ever met. It was interesting to meet someone who came from a tough background, the way he respects and appreciates people.
Hazarie can get his point across without ever getting angry or arguing with people. He will lower rather than raise his voice. He will treat the housekeepers like his equals.
Leaving Trinidad was weird. But we were embraced in St Kitts.
Trinidad is where we have our blood family. St Kitts is where we made a family of people who loved us unconditionally.
Kittitians never looked at us as Indian Trinidadians or saw us as different. They just took us in.
I feel very Kittitian. I think I found myself as an independent woman in St Kitts.
In St Kitts, an island of 45,000 people, I found something I did not know I was looking for.
As much as I am Trinidadian, born and bred, I realise I’m a Caribbean woman now.
And it’s not that I’m unpatriotic, but I don’t know that I’ll ever live in Trinidad again. I really like a simple, small, quiet life.
Barbados is too big for me, honestly. In St Kitts, everybody becomes your family.
I experienced that growing up in Trinidad but I don’t think it exists in Trinidad any more.
For me, a Trini is somebody who embraces other people’s cultures and way of life.
And a Trini could survive anywhere. And they will carry a little piece of home with them and share that with whoever they meet.
Trinidad is where I was exposed to one of the things I love most about home, how every creed and race can find an equal place, at least in the Trinidad I grew up in.
I was able to baptise as a Presbyterian, grow up as a Hindu and go to mosque. I come to your house for Eid and you come to my house for Divali.
If I’d grown up in a box, I’d probably have gone on living in a box.
But Trinidad whet my appetite for the world and I love Trinidad because of that. Trinidad gave me the foundation for what I am today.
Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com