It was 1987. As I walked off the main Public Road in #79 Village, Corriverton, Berbice, Guyana, down a side alley that lead to a backyard pavilion, I wondered what was I getting myself into. Little did I know, it was the beginning of life long relationships with people from all walks of life. One most memorable relationship was with Chaitram Mangal.
A short little dark skinned boy was wrapped with a broad yellow belt that held his starch white clothes together. My very first impression was, damn his feet can fly. This was Chait, as I grew to know him by, practicing his kicks. Great impression for a first timer at Karate School. Sensei Lionel Charran, conducted Power Karate, a Kyo Kushin Kai Japanese style of martial arts, dojo. Sensei Charran gave a place to call home for us impressionable young minds. Being a small group it was quick to make friends and bond with people.
Chait was a prominent fixture at Karate school. He showed up and practiced with vigor. Never did he back down from a sparring match. Even when he encountered the hurry up action of Azam Hamid. I recalled Chait asking in the middle of a sparring session, “Banna, can I get a technique in? Stop running me around the dojo, man.” He stood up to the brute force of Dhanraj kicks and deflected the solid punches of Gary. Even at this young age, Chait was a fighter.
Later as I got to know the boy behind those vicious kicks, it all made sense. Growing up in Guyana during those times was tough as it still is today. Young men hustled to make a decent living. Chait never rested, he sold cigarettes and anything else to make a dollar, at #79 Market. Many times, I saw him helping people with their baskets. He had a ring of brothers in Rovin and Boman. Those guys were inseparable. You saw one, look around, the other was right behind. They brought that same bond from the market into the dojo and extended it to anyone they met.
If Chait knew you, he never passed without saying hello. Even for a brief tap, or hand shake, he made sure you knew he was around. His radiant and infectious upbeat personality always followed wherever he went.
Now that you are resting, Chait, I will always remember that first impression. If that lil coolie boy can do karate why can’t I? You showed the world that life is what you make of it, for that I am forever grateful. Rest in Peace my friend, Rest in Peace.