A Naparima reunion in Toronto

Naparima Alumni Steelband
Naparima Alumni Steelband

Two Saturdays ago, I left Washington D.C.  to attend the Naparima College Christmas Dinner and Dance in Toronto. For the past few years, one classmate, Satnarine (Sat) Pundit, has been sharing information on our alumni dance and the exciting things our alma mater family was doing in Toronto.

Sat and I reconnected in 1998 in Trinidad and have stayed in touch by phone. He  lives in Florida.  Three months ago, another classmate, Deonarine (Deo) Seegobin, who lives in Ottawa, contacted me and reestablished communication.   He also informed me of the Christmas dance and I agreed that we should all meet at the function.

Now, I had not seen Deo since 1956, and had no idea who else I might know at the function.  So two weeks prior, I tried to contact Deo to ascertain that I will be seated at his table.  I made several calls but could not get in touch with him.  I’m in panic mode on Wednesday, and Sat calls me to inform me that Deo is in Trinidad and would be in Toronto on Friday.  He assures me that Deo has taken care of seating arrangements and ” everything is good.”

On Saturday morning I get to the Baltimore-Washington International airport, and the agents have decided to close the station 10 minutes early.  So I miss my flight and have to book another flight that gets me into Toronto at 8:30pm.  I have to get to the hotel, shower, change clothing and get a taxi to the Elite Banquet Hall in Etobicoke. Nothing is going as I planned.  The function started at 6:00p.m. and the Dinner is at 7:00p.m.

I get to the function around 10:00p.m.   People are now dancing and the party is in full swing.  I have no idea what Deo looks like after more than 50 years, I do not have a table number and the place is packed to capacity.  I decide to ask a lady who looked like an official as she was wearing a corsage, for the President of the Association, Merle Ramdial.  I had purchased the ticket from Merle and in conversation found out she was the wife of one of my mathematics teachers, Ian Ramdial.  I figured she would remember our phone conversation and would get me situated.  First positive event for the day. She remembered me and takes me to Ian, who I have not seen since around 1963.   He remembers me and from that point all horrid imaginings are erased.  Ian took me to my table and went to the chef and made sure I had food and drinks.

I reunited with Sat, Deo and his wife, and Shah.  We had a great time talking about our days in school and the influence that Ian had on us.  I also met   Garth Chatoor, the Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner to  Canada , and his wife, Diane, and hooked up with my very good friend, Fred Thornhill, and his wife Marva.   Merle enlightened me on the activities of the Association and informed me that the funds from the dinner will benefit our five alma mater schools in Trinidad.

Very rewarding to me was that Ian offered to take me back to my hotel and we spent a great deal of time discussing his involvement with the development and implementation of two after- school steel band programs in Toronto, and sharing information on our lives after Naparima.

From these discussions, I discovered that the Naparima Alumni had to discontinue one of the after-school pan classes  at Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute in Toronto’s east end because the pan tutor retired.  I know that there are a number of excellent pannists in Toronto and hope that one of you would contact Ian Ramdial at 950-844-1254 to offer your services.  We cannot allow this promotion of our national instrument to falter.

On Sunday I attended the Baron and Sugar Aloes concert in Toronto and was totally surprised by the turnout– about 1000 persons — on a Sunday.  That is not achievable in Washington DC or Maryland, especially when you had a very large turnout on the Saturday night prior.  Kudos to the Toronto Trinbago Community.  Baron looking frail but very powerful when he sang was the quintessential Baron, and Sugar Aloes looking as dapper as ever, put on a great show.   I am pleasantly surprised at the vibrancy of the community and hope that this expands into the economic and political arena.  The next time I’m in town I will spend more time checking out the businesses and political activities in the area.

Thanks for a great reunion NAAC and to the Trinbago community for showing me a great time.

(Carlton Joseph  who lives in Washington D.C., is a political commentator and  an alumnus of  Naparima College in  San Fernando, Trinidad.)