When I started what was meant to be a very casual conversation with Tiy and Kyle at their “Hot and Tasty” doubles stall on the busy Western Main Road, St James, I was immediately struck by their sense of purpose and commitment which went beyond ordinary expectations.
“ We are motivationally driven and determined to provide a better future for our children, to be able to leave something worthy for our kids to inherit”, said Kiyle on behalf of the Chaguanas, central Trinidad couple, both aged 31.
As evidence that they have no intention of being kept back by the usual excuses for failure that some use – such as a lack of government jobs and the uncertain state of the economy – Kiyle revealed they started this “family business” when the COVID – 19 Lockdown was imposed more than a year ago.
“With my three year old daughter, I have to find a way to be independent and to set down a track for her to have as an option for her future”, says Tiy, waving and laughing at her daughter who is in the back seat of their nearby parked car, playing with a toy.
Their simple arrangement of a system which numerous small businesses have traditionally followed over the past several years, belies the professional approach and planning behind the big vision held by these bright young entrepreneurs.
“We chose St James because it is a great spot”, said Kyle who gingerly wraps the hot product before presenting it in a paper bag with napkin.
“We like the diversity of the customers since this makes for real choices in a place where customers appear to discriminate on the basis of quality and service as opposed to ethnic and other prejudices. This gives us a good chance on an even playing field”
Tiy and Kyle represent the people with the new kind of spirit which represents a determination to make an honest living and not depend on the system to provide them a job even though they went through the processes to “qualify” for work.
About the state of play, he says optimistically : “Things are getting better up”
With the full and clear understanding that this arrangement is “not really safe”, they are going full throttle to fulfil their dreams.
While they do not express it in words, one quickly senses their sense of purpose in the emotion in the heart – almost as if they keenly understand that it’s only through this route that they can evolve through crucible of change towards eventually becoming the great individuals and citizens they know they must be in the future.
It’s not much different from the teacher who, after going through three years of training for her degree, is still unable to get placed in a school to do her chosen profession.
On learning that the Ministry of Education was no longer accepting unsolicited applications, the young woman – who preferred anonymity, told “Newsday:”: “(I) cannot afford to put all my eggs in one basket
I was like: “Forget that” I will continue looking for something else and will do my own thing.”
A few of the responses to this woman’s story reveal a similar cynicism:
Marzie Kristos – I have been in the waiting process for almost 9 years
Shirlene Nydia Gomez – Nothing new here know and, most importantly, who know your kind of country. A place where bribes are (are a frequent occurrence)
One of the questions which quickly arise in the minds of the observer about S James and similar other places is : in this slew of businesses cramped together in one small place, do these entrepreneurs share the same attitude and philosophy or are they are mix of hustlers, con-men, loafers and genuine entrepreneurs?
A look at the quietly hectic scene reveals a range of activity that makes good business for the many people who congregate here to make a decent, sort-of “honest” living.
Just a few yards away from Tiy and Kyle, a man can be seen selling fish from a pick-up stacked in a driveway while, squeezed next to him on the sidewalk, a woman is selling fruits and vegetables from an open tray pick up.
What’s very interesting here is that, on discerning their subtly intimate forms of interaction, you’re not sure if this is really a couple running two businesses at the same time.
Somewhere down the sidewalk, near the Chinese restaurant, a buxom woman in tight jeans and top watches over her display of pig foot souse, while the fat Punch maker poses under the drug store as if offering his customers an organic option to the synthetics behind him.
In these very competitive times, the Druggist sees the Punch man as a source of attraction to his business and is very happy for his presence here.
Further down, a lady makes pies and doubles while just a few steps further away the newspaperman, whose sales have become as slow as the economy, is still ferreting through the morning’s headlines.
Nearby, a happy Venezuelan who’s very likely an illegal immigrant, tosses sausages in his empandas stall; a girl lights an incense to bring blessing to her sales for the evening and the young marijuana salesman looks eagerly at you over his mask, waiting for the signal that you’re ready to buy.
All this is going on around the main business houses out of which people are coming at a pace with enough extra money to patronize street vendors such as Tiy and Kyle who usually make the bulk of their money when the sun starts to set and people are going home.
Although these people may never make news headlines, they certainly give pause for reflection on their role as a band of ambitious warriors doubling up the energy as they cut their success path on this overheated twin-island Caribbean island landscape.