edge

​Scared Straight to Barbados

My name is Marla Dukharan and I’m paranoid. For the very good reason that my husband was shot in a robbery attempt.


My husband was shot on 20 February 2018, the week after Carnival.

My husband, Richard Raphael Ramkissoon Snr, said our son had to have his name and I was, like, “I doing all this wuk and I not going to get to name this child? No!” So our son is named Richard Raphael Vivekanand Ramkisoon. Our daughter is Sophia Ananda. There is no literal translation but I guess “Anand” means “bliss, salvation”. Vivek and Sophia both mean wisdom.

I come from a Hindu background, but a quite secular one. I grew up eating meat, including beef. When my mom, Shanti, was not around, my dad, Raj, would open a can of corned beef for us.

I went to UWI Prep School, Lakshmi Girls, St Augustine Girls under legendary principal, Anna Mahase. I did my MSc in economics at UWI, St Augustine, choosing psychology for my electives because all economic actors — the central bank governor, the finance minister, the CEO, the housewife — are human beings.

In SAGHS, when I was 16, I opened a macroeconomics text by John Beardshaw and fell in love like I’ve never fallen in love since. I’m not joking. Economics was my salvation. If I won the lottery, I’d still be an economist. I never felt that way about a man. My husband knows this.

I’ve always believed in God but I don’t believe in religion, a manmade construct. And usually constructed to keep women in their place.

I don’t believe, I KNOW there is an omnipotent, omniscient God capable of, not just intervention in human affairs, but capable of miracles! In delivering Sophia, her heartbeat was slowing, I was losing consciousness after many hours of labour. I was exhausted. I kept saying, “Lord, help me!” This overwhelming feeling of calm came over me and the Lord said, “Why are you struggling? I am here. Let go. And let me handle this.” And that’s what I did.

My hair started greying prematurely when I was 16. By the time I was 21, I had a patch on the front right hand side. People used to call me Indira Ghandi. By my 30s, I was dyeing my hair every two weeks. All those chemicals in the dye made me reconsider what I was doing to myself. In my late 30s, we went on holiday and didn’t dye my hair. When we got back home, my son said, “Mummy, you’re not pretty any more”. My husband didn’t like it. My mom said I looked like a little old lady. But it made my life easier. Now, people ask me where I go to get my hair coloured like this.

Since 2009, Trinidad & Tobago has been on a steady, relentless and now accelerating decline. Acceleration usually happens when you’re getting to the tipping point. In Trinidad, not only the economy but, I think, democracy itself is in decline, in that you have about one-third of electorate that is increasingly non-tribal — but we only have two choices. And each iteration of those two parties gets weaker [every election].

Trinidad is deteriorating from within, from its soul all the way out.

On 20 February, 2018, my husband drove out of his compound gate in Arima at about 4.30pm. Video footage shows a car that had been driving slow-slow-slow, just sped up and cut him off. Somebody inside might have called them and said, “Look, he leaving now.” They blocked his car. They thought he had the day’s cash deposits on him but he didn’t.

My husband got into a struggle with the guy who was holding a gun, first to his head and then to his mid-section. He was shot at point blank range. The bullet entered the left side of and went straight across his abdomen. It’s still lodged in his hip today.

Except by his clothes, I didn’t recognise my husband when he came out of the ambulance on a stretcher. He just looked so different, so pale and scared. He had been bleeding for three hours and he looked close to death.

If not for his cousin, Dr Faisal Daniel, and the surgeon Professor Vijay Narinesingh, my husband would not be alive today — and even they didn’t expect him to make it. Vijay said, “Make sure and bring the children.” Much later, when Richard was safe, he said he had to almost admit defeat. And stop operating because there was so much shock and internal bleeding. He had to pack sterile gauze into the abdomen and stitch Richard back up and hope to go back in 12 hours later, when the haemorrhaging had hopefully subsided and the patient would, hopefully, have the strength to survive.

Vijay Narinesingh had to take my husband’s intestines completely out of his body and go through 22 feet of intestines inch-by-inch, holding them up to the light, to make sure there was no perforation. He tole me the bullet had passed through Richard in the most harmless way a bullet could possibly go through an abdomen, straight through the bladder without perforating the intestine, kidneys or any other organs.

The homicide rate is determined by two things: the level of violent, life-threatening crime; and the level of healthcare. With poor healthcare, you have a greater chance of violent crime ending up as a homicide statistic.The sad thing about Trinidad & Tobago is that the majority of people who get shot would not have the care and attention Richard got.

The average person doesn’t realise the kind of impact violent crime has on a whole family, an extended family and generations in a family. We are all in Trinidad just boiling frogs. We make incremental adjustments as things deteriorate slowly without even realising our countries, our lives, our families and our societies are being destroyed.

The effects of the injustice of these kinds of things last a long time. This incident changed the trajectory of our lives. My son celebrated — it’s a generous word — his 11th birthday in the hospital, with his father recovering from ten hours of surgery. The next year, he said he didn’t want to celebrate his 12th birthday because his birthday was “nothing to celebrate”. We had to break him out of that. His school friends had to insist that he have something on the day.

My children now recognise Trinidad & Tobago as a broken place [that let] something like this happen to their father and no one be held to account. They associate Trinidad with pain, insecurity and fear. That is the loss our country has suffered: that there will be hundreds, if not thousands, more like them, like us, that you don’t hear about. But that doesn’t make it less real.

I was working for a Bajan company and they’d always wanted me to be based in Barbados. I’d actually negotiated hard to remain in Trinidad because my daughter was doing her SEA in 2018. After the shooting, they knew I was suffering and they said, “Why don’t you come to Barbados now?” And I’ve been in Barbados since.

After the shooting, I didn’t sleep for months. Even now, when I’m in Trinidad, I have to take [medication] to get to sleep. I lie in bed and, every noise, I feel somebody is coming to get me. You always have to look around. You don’t go to your car if you see someone hanging around in a car park. I don’t think about these things in Barbados.

I can only live in an apartment building now, with neighbours all around me. In, like, strength in numbers. I can’t imagine being in a house with a yard, where a man could jump through the window.

When I land in Trinidad, I get tense. When I leave, I relax. For ten years now, boarding a plane is like taking a stiff drink: you just feel better.

Just leaving one of my kids alone to go pick up the other, to go to the supermarket — I would never do that in Trinidad.

I love my country and I so want to see it succeed and to see people flourish. But, so help me, God, I really hope I don’t ever have to go back to live in Trinidad. I do feel a sense of obligation. But I feel a greater obligation to my family. I can’t save the world but I can save my children. Maybe, one day, when my children are grown, I’ll go back and play my part. I do what I can from outside already, behind the scenes.

A Trini is the happiest person alive. So happy that we become apathetic. The treasury could b’un down and we jamming still.

To me, Trinidad & Tobago means the potential to be paradise. But it is an unrealised potential.

​Scared Straight to Barbados

My name is Marla Dukharan and I’m paranoid. For the very good reason that my husband was shot in a robbery attempt.


My husband was shot on 20 February 2018, the week after Carnival.

My husband, Richard Raphael Ramkissoon Snr, said our son had to have his name and I was, like, “I doing all this wuk and I not going to get to name this child? No!” So our son is named Richard Raphael Vivekanand Ramkisoon. Our daughter is Sophia Ananda. There is no literal translation but I guess “Anand” means “bliss, salvation”. Vivek and Sophia both mean wisdom.

I come from a Hindu background, but a quite secular one. I grew up eating meat, including beef. When my mom, Shanti, was not around, my dad, Raj, would open a can of corned beef for us.

I went to UWI Prep School, Lakshmi Girls, St Augustine Girls under legendary principal, Anna Mahase. I did my MSc in economics at UWI, St Augustine, choosing psychology for my electives because all economic actors — the central bank governor, the finance minister, the CEO, the housewife — are human beings.

In SAGHS, when I was 16, I opened a macroeconomics text by John Beardshaw and fell in love like I’ve never fallen in love since. I’m not joking. Economics was my salvation. If I won the lottery, I’d still be an economist. I never felt that way about a man. My husband knows this.

I’ve always believed in God but I don’t believe in religion, a manmade construct. And usually constructed to keep women in their place.

I don’t believe, I KNOW there is an omnipotent, omniscient God capable of, not just intervention in human affairs, but capable of miracles! In delivering Sophia, her heartbeat was slowing, I was losing consciousness after many hours of labour. I was exhausted. I kept saying, “Lord, help me!” This overwhelming feeling of calm came over me and the Lord said, “Why are you struggling? I am here. Let go. And let me handle this.” And that’s what I did.

My hair started greying prematurely when I was 16. By the time I was 21, I had a patch on the front right hand side. People used to call me Indira Ghandi. By my 30s, I was dyeing my hair every two weeks. All those chemicals in the dye made me reconsider what I was doing to myself. In my late 30s, we went on holiday and didn’t dye my hair. When we got back home, my son said, “Mummy, you’re not pretty any more”. My husband didn’t like it. My mom said I looked like a little old lady. But it made my life easier. Now, people ask me where I go to get my hair coloured like this.

Since 2009, Trinidad & Tobago has been on a steady, relentless and now accelerating decline. Acceleration usually happens when you’re getting to the tipping point. In Trinidad, not only the economy but, I think, democracy itself is in decline, in that you have about one-third of electorate that is increasingly non-tribal — but we only have two choices. And each iteration of those two parties gets weaker [every election].

Trinidad is deteriorating from within, from its soul all the way out.

On 20 February, 2018, my husband drove out of his compound gate in Arima at about 4.30pm. Video footage shows a car that had been driving slow-slow-slow, just sped up and cut him off. Somebody inside might have called them and said, “Look, he leaving now.” They blocked his car. They thought he had the day’s cash deposits on him but he didn’t.

My husband got into a struggle with the guy who was holding a gun, first to his head and then to his mid-section. He was shot at point blank range. The bullet entered the left side of and went straight across his abdomen. It’s still lodged in his hip today.

Except by his clothes, I didn’t recognise my husband when he came out of the ambulance on a stretcher. He just looked so different, so pale and scared. He had been bleeding for three hours and he looked close to death.

If not for his cousin, Dr Faisal Daniel, and the surgeon Professor Vijay Narinesingh, my husband would not be alive today — and even they didn’t expect him to make it. Vijay said, “Make sure and bring the children.” Much later, when Richard was safe, he said he had to almost admit defeat. And stop operating because there was so much shock and internal bleeding. He had to pack sterile gauze into the abdomen and stitch Richard back up and hope to go back in 12 hours later, when the haemorrhaging had hopefully subsided and the patient would, hopefully, have the strength to survive.

Vijay Narinesingh had to take my husband’s intestines completely out of his body and go through 22 feet of intestines inch-by-inch, holding them up to the light, to make sure there was no perforation. He tole me the bullet had passed through Richard in the most harmless way a bullet could possibly go through an abdomen, straight through the bladder without perforating the intestine, kidneys or any other organs.

The homicide rate is determined by two things: the level of violent, life-threatening crime; and the level of healthcare. With poor healthcare, you have a greater chance of violent crime ending up as a homicide statistic.The sad thing about Trinidad & Tobago is that the majority of people who get shot would not have the care and attention Richard got.

The average person doesn’t realise the kind of impact violent crime has on a whole family, an extended family and generations in a family. We are all in Trinidad just boiling frogs. We make incremental adjustments as things deteriorate slowly without even realising our countries, our lives, our families and our societies are being destroyed.

The effects of the injustice of these kinds of things last a long time. This incident changed the trajectory of our lives. My son celebrated — it’s a generous word — his 11th birthday in the hospital, with his father recovering from ten hours of surgery. The next year, he said he didn’t want to celebrate his 12th birthday because his birthday was “nothing to celebrate”. We had to break him out of that. His school friends had to insist that he have something on the day.

My children now recognise Trinidad & Tobago as a broken place [that let] something like this happen to their father and no one be held to account. They associate Trinidad with pain, insecurity and fear. That is the loss our country has suffered: that there will be hundreds, if not thousands, more like them, like us, that you don’t hear about. But that doesn’t make it less real.

I was working for a Bajan company and they’d always wanted me to be based in Barbados. I’d actually negotiated hard to remain in Trinidad because my daughter was doing her SEA in 2018. After the shooting, they knew I was suffering and they said, “Why don’t you come to Barbados now?” And I’ve been in Barbados since.

After the shooting, I didn’t sleep for months. Even now, when I’m in Trinidad, I have to take [medication] to get to sleep. I lie in bed and, every noise, I feel somebody is coming to get me. You always have to look around. You don’t go to your car if you see someone hanging around in a car park. I don’t think about these things in Barbados.

I can only live in an apartment building now, with neighbours all around me. In, like, strength in numbers. I can’t imagine being in a house with a yard, where a man could jump through the window.

When I land in Trinidad, I get tense. When I leave, I relax. For ten years now, boarding a plane is like taking a stiff drink: you just feel better.

Just leaving one of my kids alone to go pick up the other, to go to the supermarket — I would never do that in Trinidad.

I love my country and I so want to see it succeed and to see people flourish. But, so help me, God, I really hope I don’t ever have to go back to live in Trinidad. I do feel a sense of obligation. But I feel a greater obligation to my family. I can’t save the world but I can save my children. Maybe, one day, when my children are grown, I’ll go back and play my part. I do what I can from outside already, behind the scenes.

A Trini is the happiest person alive. So happy that we become apathetic. The treasury could b’un down and we jamming still.

To me, Trinidad & Tobago means the potential to be paradise. But it is an unrealised potential.