“Work and work hard…nothing comes easy, and if you work hard, one day the Creator will smile on you.”
By Sharmain Grainger
It is said that education is the key to success. From time immemorial this concept has been emphasized
and backed by purposeful efforts to ensure that children attend school in order to benefit from the teaching/learning process. However, there are some who have defied the odds and have gone on to have successful lives, even more than some of the most educated.
Mr Rahim Baksh, more familiarly known as ‘Karim’ Baksh, is one such extraordinary individual.
It could be argued that he was born educated for life or perhaps learned all he needed to know through his many experiences, some of which might very well be too much for many people to bear.
His theory of attaining success, however, like you would hear from most successful people, is hard work. And it was this that allowed the now 51-year-old to achieve just about all his dreams, except, of course, for the one that parents will eternally dream of – their children listening to their every advice.
A DIFFERENT PATH
Karim Baksh hardly has any exciting childhood memories to reflect on. But if there are some they are suppressed in the depths of his sub-conscience and will likely remain there. What he recalls quite easily, however, is how he was forced to work, and work hard, as a young boy doing chores that a man would.
But maybe life could have taken him down an altogether different path. Perhaps if he wasn’t dealt a bitter hand from his entrance into the world, his story might today have been a much different, but comparatively ordinary one.
You see Karim, the last of seven children, was born on January 21, 1964, to parents
Hassim Baksh and Shamuin Neisha. Tragedy, however, struck one hour after Karim’s birth. The delivery was a very difficult one, resulting in his mother being recorded as a maternal mortality.
He never got a chance to be cuddled and loved by this woman who for nine months had been the loving support of his development.
His father sometime after took a new wife to care for his still young children. The new union would see the addition of three more children to the household. While all his other siblings were being educated or tasked with normal household chores, Karim alone was sent out into the rice fields to work. He was also responsible for caring cows and sheep in the backdam, among other duties.
It was tough for him and even as a 10-year-old he knew that he hated the work he was made to endure.
LIFE ON AN ISLAND
Karim recalled what things were like growing up in Caledonia, a small village in Wakenaam, an Island in the Essequibo River.
“I grow really hard…I was always in the rice fields. I had to go down to the backdam every morning to look after cows, sheep and I had to cut grass; me alone for boy pickney
had to do all this,” Karim said, as he reflected on how his other siblings were favoured over him.
He hardly got an opportunity to attend school. But while this didn’t bother him too much, the young Karim was desperate to rid himself of the daily responsibilities that kept him trapped all day.
He started contemplating the unthinkable – running away from home. But where in the world would a 10-year-old living on an island run away to?
At first he was clueless, but then it all became clear. He would ‘run away’ to his aunt’s house. It would be remiss to not clearly point out that Karim’s aunt, Bibi Khan, lived directly opposite his father’s house.
“I just get away and run and hide out at me aunt house,” he recounted, while adding that one of his cousins encouraged him to travel to Georgetown.
The trip to the city was all business. According to Karim, his aunt owned a truck which would transport all sorts of items – from flour to cement – for sale in the capital city. He was only too eager to help.
His willingness saw him being recruited as a porter on the truck and, according to one of his close relatives, Karim was a dedicated and hard worker, who barely earned a few dollars.
“The money he earned from being a porter couldn’t do anything much for him, but he worked like an animal,” said his relative.
Instead of feeling overworked and taken advantage of, he was overwhelmed with excitement to experience the world beyond Wakenaam. He remembered being able to travel on a ferry for the first time in his life.
For about a month he stayed at his aunt’s house undetected by his father who
eventually filed a missing person’s report.
“I keep going to town every day, come back, hide in the truck, eat, sleep and everything by my aunt, and head back to town… and me father didn’t even know a thing,” said a smiling Karim.
His father eventually got word of his whereabouts, but could do little to reverse the situation.
While to most he was merely a ‘porter boy’, Karim was absorbing all of the business tactics that occurred before his very eyes, and it was truly alluring.
As he became a teenager he had no idea what the future had in store for him; he had absolutely no plan, but he knew that he was prepared to be the best at whatever he was tasked with doing. Moreover, he was only too happy to be the best possible porter he could be.
But one day during a routine trip to the city, the young Karim would run into his older brother, Azeem Baksh, at Parika, East Bank Essequibo. His sibling would encourage him to travel to Bartica with him, where he had started a business.
Before long, Karim was enticed enough to take up his brother’s offer. And like he did when
he was just 10 years old, again he ran away, leaving the security of his aunt’s home behind.
He remembered clearly that it was a Thursday when he travelled with his brother for the first time to Bartica – deemed the gateway to Guyana’s interior and already a very thriving business hub.
It was a long and tiring seven-hour journey to Bartica aboard a launch named ‘Glory, Hallelujah’.
“When me reach with he (his brother) to Bartica it was done night…” Karim recounted.
His new home was a very modest house which also served as the office for the small business his brother operated. And he intimated that his first task was to sell cigarettes at the Bartica market, which eventually evolved into a buying and selling trade that extended in the mining area of Mahdia, and even other areas.
“I used to be like a clerk, buying all kinds of things that we find that the people need in the
bush (mining area),” said Karim, who noted that while he didn’t attend school he was very versed in Mathematics.
“Nobody can’t smart me in Maths; that is always my brightest subject but reading no, I can write neat and everything, but not the reading…But for sure I always had good business sense and I learn more and more working when I was with my aunt,” he disclosed.
He spoke of travelling in a land rover through the interior areas to sell to miners and being very good at making significant sales. And it was while working for about two years with his brother that a plan, unknown to Karim, was hatched for him to meet a potential wife.
He remembers well how on his 21st birthday, in the company of his brother and others, he took the long trip through the interior and then into Linden with a plan to head into Georgetown. Karim had never before travelled this way to the city. And as they travelled, he thought of this being an opportunity to visit the home of one of his older sisters at Prospect, East Bank Demerara.
“Nobody never tell me that I was going to meet my wife,” said a blushing Karim, as he recalled how the impromptu meeting was in fact “love at first sight”. He immediately knew that the young lady he met, Babita Petamber, now known as Rufeena Baksh, was clearly good enough to be his wife. And according to him, she too was very accepting of him.
“Less than one week time we done decide on everything to fix (a) wedding,” said Karim who related that a month later, he and his sweetheart were tied the knot at his aunt’s house at Wakenaam. Karim was happy to have his father, who passed away, close to three decades ago, attend his wedding.
Thirty years later, the couple, whose union produced two children, are still visibly happy and very much in love. They are the proud grandparents of five-year-old Rahim Siayad Baksh.
According to Karim, he and his wife are extremely proud of their two children, Fazeela and Karim, who are both successful entrepreneurs.
BECOMING A SUCCESS
Reflecting on life immediately after marriage, Karim said that he took his wife home to a rented house at First Avenue, Bartica, where they remained for four months. By this time, he had branched off into his own business – a grocery shop.
“I used to reach till to Berbice to buy and sell,” said Karim, who emphasised that at that point his focus was on building a house suitable to accommodate his wife and a growing family.
His business swiftly grew and he was able to buy a sprawling property at Second Avenue, Bartica, which currently accommodates his home and business place, R. Baksh and Son, a general store that caters not only to the needs of the Bartica community, but especially to miners as well.
“Anything that dem can sell me does buy,” said Karim when asked about his store which sells from cooking gas to land dredge (mining) equipment.
With the support of his wife, over the years, he became one of the most popular businessmen in that section of the country, owning properties at Bartica, and also at Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo.
“I get all my money working right here in Bartica,” said Baksh who proudly related that he was even able to employ one of his sisters at one point.
One of his relatives, Glenn Lall, expressed amazement at how, against the odds, Karim evolved into a successful businessman. Lall is convinced that it is “nothing but a miracle how his life has changed over the years”.
Not only has Baksh been able to make a comfortable life for himself, but he has over the years maintained the view that “family must always come first…as long as I can help them I help them in any way I can.”
“I love to assist my family, money-wise or any way I can. I love to do it for them,” said Karim as he recalled that he was ready and willing to assist one of his sisters, a single-parent, who was involved in an accident last year. Prior to that, he was very supportive of the same sister who lost her son in an accident.
But although he is duly recognised as a successful businessman with his family close to his heart, life has remained quite routine for our ‘Special Person’. Throughout the years he has been a committed Muslim and finds time to attend the Masjid as often as possible.
His day starts as early as three-thirty and according to him, “by the time six o’clock reach, I done doing all that I have to do in my yard and ready to start my business every day. I eat breakfast every day at 7 o’clock for more than 10 years now…”added Karim, who noted that “I don’t let anybody slow me up. Time is time; if I say I’m reaching somewhere for a certain time to do business, rain or shine, I will be there.”
In concluding the still very passionate and dedicated businessman gave thanks where he insisted it is due and added some advice for young people.
“I thank the Creator for everything I have. I want to say to the young people to work and work hard…nothing comes easy, and if you work hard, one day the Creator will smile on you.”
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