Meet Ganga: ‘The man who has to provide 51 meals a day for his family’

The Rampersaud family


By Ravin Singh

WHILE the average family of 4 caters for 12 individual meals a day, 57-year -old Donald ‘Ganga’ Rampersaud and his wife, Vanetta Rampersaud, were tasked with finding 51 meals a day for their 15 children and themselves.

Married for over 31 years, the couple sat under a rented bottom house and told their story of having to care and provide for their 15 children, six of whom are still in school.

Apparently shy, Vanetta allowed her husband to tell their heart-rending story of poverty, determination, and sacrifices which continue even to this day. Ganga explained that he met the woman who would eventually become his wife while living with his mother in a certain village in Wakenaam. The two subsequently became married and remained at his parents’ home. Not long after, his parents asked them to leave; and with nowhere to go and no one to turn to, he built a house out of troolie palm to house his wife.

Donald ‘Ganga’ Rampersaud shows off his crop
Donald ‘Ganga’ Rampersaud shows off his crop

Emotional about this experience, he plaintively recalled that when it rained his family would stand in the house with their bed (a piece of cloth) and wait for it to stop raining before going back to sleep. By this time, he said, the inside of the entire house would be soaked. “Those were real hard times, but we didn’t have a choice,” he explained.

After living in his troolie home for about a year, he was eventually able to buy a house from his sister for $27, having saved from the pittance he earned from picking coconuts. But things went wrong again, because despite Ganga having purchased the house, he was removed from the property because the land was not in his name. Thus he started renting a house in another village.

Not too long after, he was forced to return to his mother’s place, since his landlord refused to provide him with rent receipts and threatened to throw him out at any time. Now a father of ten, Ganga was able to acquire two donkey carts while he was still working as a coconut picker. His wife also contributed financially from the little she earned from cleaning pointer brooms at the backdam.

“Me and my wife wuk mighty hard to tek care of these children,” he declared, adding that insults greeted them at every corner because they were evidently “poor.”

He admitted to sometimes stealing coconuts from the people he worked with to make an extra dollar to send his children to school. “I never play with them children schooling. I mek sure they attend school, and they got a good attendance record. I never get away [from them], although it did hard on me. Is me children, so I stay with them,” Ganga declared.

The father of 15 detailed that he then took up small-scale farming with his wife, and would travel to Parika to sell the produce there. He added that it was extremely difficult for them because small scale farmers are at the mercy of buyers.

He revealed that last year he started planting crops on the Wakenaam sea dam, since many persons were doing likewise. He plants bananas and plantains, which he says are “bursting.”  But this, too, has not been without challenges. Ganga explained that his first experience of planting on the sea dam entailed 1500 suckers which were purchased for $105,000. He recalled sending his daughter one morning to check on the crops, and she returned to say that someone had already reaped the produce. Furious, he went to the police, and someone was taken into custody. However, the police subsequently released that person on ground that the sucker plants were not marked.

Determined to make a living by hook or crook, Ganga returned to the sea dam and replanted suckers, which presently are in their blooming stage.

Aggressive in his tone, the father of 15 said he has been made aware that Government intends to spray the sea dam to rid it of plants. He is, as such, pleading with the authorities not to implement this plan, since the demise of his crops would mean unspeakable suffering for his family.

But that is not the only burden Ganga carries right now. One of his sons, 11-year-old Daniel Rampersaud, was struck down by an allegedly drunk motorcyclist three months ago, and has had the lower part of his leg broken in half. And despite the accident being witnessed by 25 persons, Ganga says, he has not yet been compensated by that motorcyclist, and has been forced to spend more than $200,000 for medical treatment and travel expenses to and from the hospital and court.

Ganga says his son had a bright future ahead of him, since he was the best graduating student at Arthurville Primary School, having written the National Grade Six Assessment examinations (NGSA) earlier this year. He explained that five of his other children had also made the best of their opportunities to have an education, but limitations continue to make it difficult for them.

The family currently lives without electricity in the home, while other basic necessities such as water and food pose difficulties in acquiring.

“If you mek children you got to mine them. I ain’t asking the Government to mine them for me; but I just asking for a little help, because people in better positions than me get more help than me. I don’t have nothing in me name. I put in for a house lot years now, and I ain’t hear back from anybody yet,” a tearful Ganga disclosed.

He hopes to one day be delivered from the vicious cycle of poverty and live a comfortable life with his family, whom he says he would never abandon.

“When you poor, people tek advantage of you; you don’t get good people to marrid your children them. So I want try and tek them out of this situation,” Ganga disclosed.