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The Good Book says it is right and good that we give thanks. Today I begin to give profound thanks to those who assisted me in my professional life which has resulted in being awarded the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) in this year’s National Awards in the year that we are celebrating the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence. I cannot call the names and I do pray that they will understand, but I must do it if only for the record and to show my appreciation in the best way that I know…in writing.
Every life has a story and I am recalling just a little bit of my experience in the world of journalism, which I happened to enter by chance because my first leave was teaching something I was unable to pursue because of my economic state as a young man growing up. Anyway, I must say thanks to the man who made it all possible and I will tell you why.
I joined the media in 1963, as an office boy/janitor/carrier boy in the San Fernando office of the Daily Mirror newspaper, hired by the manager Mr Harry Sharma. One morning a fuming proprietor of the Paramount Transport Company, which had the contract to distribute the Mirror in the south, Mr Lutchmansingh, barged into the office and demanded from Mr Sharma that he should fire me because I wasn’t throwing the papers properly in subscribers’ homes, which caused them to be wet by the rain or the dogs to chew them up.
I was trembling like a leaf and felt my macaroni pie was damn well burnt when this “big man” angrily demanded that I should be sent home and Mr Sharma, to my everlasting admiration, promptly told him: “Clevon is not employed by Paramount Transport Company, he is employed by the Mirror newspaper.” Years later after I went on to build my career as a member of the Fourth Estate, I called him and told him that whatever I had achieved in journalism I give him all credit.
But he characteristically replied, “Clevon, no, don’t give me the credit. All I did was to bring out what you had in you.” As long as I live I would never forget him because on that day he could have easily bowed to the pressure of a powerful businessman and sent me packing. Thanks again, Mr Sharma. I am sure you are smiling down on us and wishing you were here to give your forthright views on the various issues facing our country today.
In 1970 I resigned from the Express San Fernando office where I was a junior reporter for two years and brought back to Port-of-Spain, also as a junior reporter, by Mr George Harvey, then news editor of the Trinidad Guardian and one of the wittiest individuals I have ever come across. I wished I had his sense of humour even though he would take any serious matter and turn it into a joke. I credit him for saving me from Abdul Malik (Michael X) whose activities I was covering in the 1970s on his return from London, to Trinidad and Tobago.
Mr Harvey warned me about the man, that I should not be so taken up in what he was doing because he had his doubts about Malik’s motives for announcing plans such as the setting up of an agricultural village for young people and so on. As most young reporters filled with the idealism of the profession and mesmerised by Malik’s charisma, I was damn vex when Mr Harvey told me to be careful about my enthusiasm and that meant that I had to reduce considerably my professional interaction with Malik.
Subsequent events proved Mr Harvey was very well on the ball and on reflection I always wonder what would have become of me if Mr Harvey did not make that timely intervention. A sample of Mr Harvey’s wit. In those days when it was big news when a woman left their spouse especially because of physical abuse, a tearful husband was crying his heart out telling me to beg her to come back, that he was a changed man and would not beat her again.
Mr Harvey, casually walking into the newsroom with his lunch box, overheard the weeping man and calmly told the distraught man: “Boy, what happen to you? Your wife leave you and you begging her to come back back? I know many men would throw a party if that should happen to them.” Up to this day I laugh my head off when I recall that episode. Thanks, Mr Harvey.
Next week: More thanks and the most embarrassing and happiest moments in my career.
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