Father’s Day and Role Models – By Ron Persaud
The death of Muhammad Ali marked the passing of one more of my role models – a small band of men (no sexism intended) who consciously influenced my choices and values. There was an even smaller group who did not even know that they were my role models.
At first, I did not have to look far. There was my father – always there – ever insisting that his No. 1 son must be better and better as the days go by.
Then there was his younger brother; my uncle – the closest to the Hindu concept of “Guru” and the Christian concept of “Godfather” – wrapped in one wiry package. I could tell my uncle Seerie (corruption of ‘Shri’) anything! This worked out well for me; because he often would be the buffer between my father and me, as I negotiated the minefield of teenage. Only once did he chide my behaviour.
There were other uncles who are ‘in memoriam’ for their special and specific contributions as to who and what I am.
It is my considered opinion that every young person would benefit from this “go between” personality; to smooth out the conflicts between father and son and mother and daughter.
And of course, there were teachers and pastors. These were granted wide discretion and authority over me. To my shame, I resented this phase, on two counts. It seemed that my parents had delegated some of their duty; and, these teachers, “of stern mien and robust build”, took a sadistic pleasure ‘putting me in my proper place’ – by whatever means necessary.
I can encapsulate my ‘growing up’ in one sentence.
I was kept on the straight and narrow path by men who prodded, pushed and reined me in; and always there were some women, who held umbrellas to shade me from the sun, rain and wind – on that memorable part of my journey. I marvel that they did so well with what they knew and possessed.
In this day and age, where knowledge is one click away; and where the comforts of living are conveniently packaged in one sleek ‘remote control’ or cell phone, it is lamentable how this vital relationship has deteriorated.
In due course, I sought and found my own role models – at first from the entertainment field (cowboy movies!).
One of these was Muhammad Ali.
For me, Muhammad Ali was an acquired taste. I was brought up to abhor boasting and bragging. I was living in a country where Indians and Blacks were hell bent in exterminating each other. So when a Black boxer in the USA was mouthing off about how great he was, I was smugly uninterested – indifferent.
But he delivered! And I learned that it was OK to boast – provided you could back it up or had already done so.
Then he rebelled against the “Establishment”; and this resonated with my group – at a time when one simply had to pick a side – east or west, reactionary or radical, socialism or capitalism, colonialism or independence, PPP or PNC.
I was saddened by his passing in very much the same way as I was saddened by the passing of Elvis Presley in 1977.
Suddenly, I miss the water; because suddenly, “de well run dry”.