Photographs by Mark Lyndersay
My name is Nazim Mohammed and I have learned that people in the South are VASTLY more willing to work than people in the East-West Corridor.
I might get rushed by the whole of the East-West Corridor for saying that. But it’s still true.
I’ve been in business since I’m small. Primary school days, really.
I work seven days a week. I recognise it’s not a good thing but I’m a workaholic. I think it’s just a stage in life. I bury my mind in work. When I’m ready, I know how to get out of it.
There are a LOT of Nazim Mohammeds. Some of them political. Most of them ordinary. You go into the bank and it takes them a while to figure out which account belongs to you! I don’t know if the politicians will have a lot of money in their accounts while they’re in government.
I work in the South but I’m from the North, Curepe. At the junction, Curepe has a lot of “old heads” who Curepe is more or less “attached to”. I’ve seen them there all my life. You speak “Curepe”, you speak their names, because they were the life of the junction. But I was never there as an adult.
I grew up “city” Curepe, not “country” Curepe. My father does pies and Indian delicacies in the Junction. He would have been there almost 20 years. He is one of those older heads. I would always spend Christmas and August school vacations working with him in the Junction.
I went to St Joseph Trinidad Muslim League Primary. All my life, if not every Friday, as I had the time, I went to mosque. But that’s 20-30 minuets and then I was back at work. I wouldn’t say i was part of “the Muslim community”. I have never drank alcohol. But that’s not attached to religion, that’s just my thing. I have seen the high cost of the effects of alcohol.
Life is very strange. There are a lot of little things [that teach] big lessons.
You walk past people on the street, everybody’s head is down, there’s no real acknowledgement. People walk past cleaners, security guards, they treat everybody at the level they think they are - and life is not designed like that. Life is a story.
I come from a mid-size family, three sisters, myself, parents still around. I don’t have a family myself but I want one. I think I have the financial side covered so now life allows for those little things.
I went to El Dorado Secondary. They used to have a good football team. Cricket was my field, I would say. But more on the support than the active play level.
BC Pires says you must build nest before you get bird. Last year, I closed a deal on a house and the keys were handed over. That was in July and, in June, I would never have thought I was going to buy a house!
People spend too much of their daily lives complaining about what they don’t have and never taking a moment to realise what they have. That’s why you lose! What you have is you! But you walked through life and didn’t even one day recognise what was there for you, you were so caught up with what you thought you needed.
There are very few people I’ve been able to have a life conversation with. If you try explaining something about life to them, it does not stick. They don’t relate. They don’t have time for that!
The first ten-12 years of my life, I will never forget the poverty environment I grew up in; it has probably made my mind so differently, now, I hate to see any opportunity wasted.
I wished, back in my childhood, that I had opportunities - but I didn’t. I always pushed myself to be above average on the educational side, because I knew that was my onliest way out. I walked Poverty Street and it reminds me every day to stay on the good, and not the bad, side of life.
I’m not poor any longer, except compared to the politicians. We know about leg-and-thigh now. Back then, we knew about liver and gizzard. The standard of life is a little more comfortable on the whole family now and that is good to see. It was hard but I never heard any family member complain.
I’m the manager of a large department store. The relationship with the business owners is very good. I’ve been there 12 years. I have been handed the keys and also the opportunities to make a lot of decisions that affect the company daily and I’ve been able to learn retail as a business and an environment.
In the initial stages, I wasn’t able to see what little things could achieve, what they could turn into, for the business. You experiment, and it takes form, and you learn that your execution behind it was flawless. I never went to school for this kind of thing.
My qualifications are probably way below the role I play. I’ve been entrusted with a lot of opportunities for the company. I guess experience outweighs qualifications in some environments. I can’t say that, eg, a doctor with experience but no qualifications would be the same but, in my case, it’s probably true. I have a UK-based correspondence diploma in marketing, advertising and public relations.
There are a lot of people out there trying to get jobs. I try to help. I always tell them I would like to see the willingness of the individual. To me, that is where the job lies.
The people you choose to be your employees are now the frontrunners of the company. They are, the people who represent and build the business.
You offer a job that pays $4K for the month to someone and, first morning, they don’t show up! Strangely, $4K is below par in their books, for a 20-year-old! I wish I had those opportunities! My first job, 18 years ago, was $1,200-a-month. But I went to work every day because $1,200 was a lot better than zero in my books! Now I offer someone $4K but, in their books, zero is better.
In the South, people work harder. It’s not a race thing, it’s a culture. I could have an African person in South and the output from them would be greater than an Indian from the East-West Corridor. On a scale probably of eight to ten. Where, in the North, eight people out of ten would be below par in any job and, in South, eight out of ten people you hire perform to expectation.
In the North and the East-West Corridor, 80 per cent of workers are going to be bad. In the South, 80 per cent are going to be good. That’s what we see: 20 per cent good in North, 80 percent good in South. And it doesn’t matter age group, race, gender. It’s something we need to make balanced.
The crime is a big contributor to the [negative work ethic] and opportunities in the Corridor. It’s too easy, in this country, to go and rob people.
Presence makes a difference. I am in my office or walking around the store and my whole staff is alert and motivated. They know my expectations and they work to suit. But you could drive from San Fernando to Grand Bazaar any time of night or day and never see a single police officer. If there was a police car at every major intersection of the highway, things would be locked down.
The passion side of Trinidad is seen in the Caribbean Premier League (of Cricket). I don’t think the finals should be played at the Queens Park Cricket Club. At the Oval, a lot of the traffic is from South. Out of that 20,000 seats, it’s easily 12-14,000 Southerners made the trip to fill that Oval. Even if Trinidad Knight Riders aren’t in the final, there will still be a healthy crowd.
Trinidad has been at a standstill for the last 20 years and drastically needs a big wakeup call. We need to stop playing games, take the place seriously, and invest in and build back this country. We need to get the right people behind it to get it done. For the past 20 years, it’s not been happening.
We continue to believe “God is a Trini”.
A Trini is someone with a unique culture that is a little too much on the carefree side. We need to take much more responsibility for ourselves and walk the path that we decide is best for us.
There is something deep inside Trinidad & Tobago that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. It is beautiful and I don’t want to see it go down the drain. It would hurt me a lot. Like an opportunity wasted.