Jahoor Ramjohn

100 years - Gasparillo

Practicing Muslims, Jahoor's parents came from India. As a child he attended Presbyterian school as there was no school for Indian children. Many Indian children were not even sent to school but were set to work on the sugar estates. There was a mosque in their area but only three other Muslims lived there.

To prepare for school Jahoor would take a bucket to the river and bring it back for others to bathe. Rain water was collected by the carat house as well and to this day it is the only water Jahoor drinks.

For breakfast he ate roti and drank milk; his parents owned a cow. School was close to home so young Jahoor came home for lunch. The journey to and from class was traversed with bare feet. "I did up to first standard then stopped school at eight years old." There were only seven children in the school. Secondary schools in those days were expensive and limited in space so Jahoor, like many his age, stopped after their primary lessons.

Jobs clearing the fields of razor grass at the Reform [sugar] Estate in Buena Venture were all that young children could get. They earned 10c a day, Monday to Saturday, seven in the morning to four in the afternoon. Walking three miles to the estate, groups of young boys no older than 12 would meet at the estates to begin work. The cut grass from the Estate was taken home to feed livestock. What was earned was given to their parents. Parents, with the assistance given by their working children, would buy rice, flour and coconut- to make coconut oil. To make coconut oil one would sit on the floor and grate the white coconut flesh to extract oil.

For lunch the boys carried food. "Soak roti [made from corn flour hard and rigid] from squeezed cane juice [obtained from factory]." The roti was then nice and soft to eat. After working on the estate his family would plant corn, cane, rice, tomatoes and cucumber to take to market in POS.

Married at 25 years of age, Jahoor's nuptials were arranged by his parents, "parents look for wife, parents arrange marriage". Asked if he agreed with this way of doing things, his response was as blunt as could be - "Have to be…children obey parents." Jahoor had 14 of his own children; 9 were boys.

To sleep, there were no mattresses with coils, one would take old sugar crocus bags to make a pal, tie old bags together and lay a cloth over it. Most were asleep at seven o’clock at night. To see in the dark, they used either a "shade lamp" or a gas lamp. Clothes were not bought but made of old Harvest Queen flour bags. "Wash it …using a cocoa needle [large metal needle] make a traillele, cut a hole in the bag, stick yuh head and arms through and sew the sides."

Jahoor has managed to outlive more than half of his children; his speech is short and to the point. He celebrated his one hundredth birthday in 2011.