Ravi, a man of the people
By LAUREL WILLIAMS Wednesday, October 2 2013
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Friends forever: Aleem Ahmed, left, and Fiorenzo Conte, flew to Trinidad from Kenya to pay tribute to their friend Ravindra Ramrattan at his funeral i...
TWO of the last people to see Ravindra “Ravi” Ramrattan, 30, alive in Kenya almost two weeks ago, journeyed thousands of miles to Trinidad to pay a touching tribute to the 2002 President’s Gold Medal winner as an intelligent, friendly person who touched the lives of persons worldwide.
Fiorenzo Conte and Aleem Ahmed were among a group of friends who immediately went in search of Ramrattan on September 21, when terrorists stormed an upscale shopping mall at Westgate in Nairobi, Kenya, holding scores of shoppers hostage.
Ramrattan, an economist, was killed in the attack and yesterday several of his foreign friends were among hundreds of mourners paying their final respects to him during a funeral service, according to Hindu rites, at the family home at Railway Road, off Munroe Road, Cunupia.
He was a former student of Presentation College, Chaguanas, and also attended the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
“I met him three years ago and the friend who introduced me to him said that Ravi was from Trinidad and knew about cane. He was very creative and hard working...Ravi was an Indian by day and Caribbean (man) by night,” Conte told mourners.
Conte said Ramrattan had a brilliant mind and was very humble.
Not dwelling on Ramrattan’s killing, Conte said only three weeks ago he and Ramrattan discussed how they would see themselves in a few years’ time.
“Ravi said in three years’ time he wanted to visit Burma. He told me that where people see scarcity, he sees opportunity. For me he was a brother, a friend and my inspiration. I will miss him a lot,” said Conte.
Ahmed said Ramrattan worked with some of the world’s leading economists to understand how to make the world a better place, to show what was working and how people’s lives were affected.
“He was working on an intervention to find a way to ensure farmers receive income throughout the year. He inspired us to do the same. Ravi not only aspired to make the world a better place, he showed us that he actually cared. Your legacy will carry on just as the way you would have,” Ahmed added.
Sean Smith and Trudy Rebert, two other friends who met Ramrattan in England, also travelled to Trinidad and offered condolences to the bereaved family.
Smith, who was near to tears, told mourners Ramrattan hardly told persons he was the recipient of the President’s medal, the highest award for the Advanced Level examination. Rebert said Ramrattan brought joy to anyone who was around him. “To remember Ravi over the weekend friends joined from all across the world from the UK, Singapore, Turkey, Canada and USA. He was instrumental in bringing many of us together. He was fiercely smart and his presence enriched people,” she noted.
During the service, Ramrattan’s mother Parbatee sat between President Anthony Carmona, who was among the mourners, and her husband Bisnath. Parbatee smiled at times in response to what her son’s foreign friends and her two other children Rajiv, 28, and Rishma, 24, said about him. Rajiv and Rishma both said they only found out a few days ago that their brother was also a novice DJ abroad, sharing the local culture with his foreign friends.
British High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago Arthur Snell yesterday said the British government is continuing to work very closely with the Kenyan authorities to unravel the events and identify those responsible for the act which claimed Ramrattan’s life and the lives of 67 other persons.
Ramrattan had made Kenya his home for the past four years and was employed as an economist with Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSD).
Addressing the mourners, Snell said the British government funded FSD to assist in developing financial solutions for low-income people in Kenya. FSD Kenya was set up as an independent trust in 2005 by the British Government’s Department for International Development.
On behalf of the British government, Snell thanked Ramrattan for all he did for the people of Kenya and the wider world adding that Britain would not forget him or his service to humanity.
Snell also read out a speech of Dr Amrik Heyer, Head of Knowledge at FSD Kenya, who was unable to attend the service yesterday.
“We delighted in his boundless curiosity, always venturing on new paths, whether it be learning Mandarin, exploring islands off the African coast or delving into new theoretical positions. Ravi’s dedication to life has given all of us pause for thought, and a commitment to live our own lives more deeply,” Snell said as he quoted the words of Heyer.
Snell continued that Ramrattan played a leadership role in developing and delivering FSD’s core research product, the FinAccess surveys and in partnership with the Central Bank of Kenya, he oversaw FinAccess 2013.
Pundit Amar Seepersad, who officiated at the service, described the terrorists as cowards saying if Ramrattan was given a fair fight, he would have beaten them.
As the service ended, mourners pushed and tugged hoping to get a look at Ramrattan’s body after relatives performed aarti (Hindu rites).
Ramrattan’s mother broke down in tears after pallbearers placed the body inside the hearse to be taken to the Waterloo Cremation Site.
“Ravi! Ravi! Oh Gosh,” she shouted as relatives had to restrain and comfort her.
Ramrattan was treated as a maharaja (Indian royalty) as his body lay in an open wooden casket, with roses and other flowers on it. A decorated turban (pagree) covered his head. There was a huge photograph of him adorned with roses and a table displayed trophies of his achievements over the years.
At the cremation site, a wooden edifice was built around the pyre. While the pyre was lit it was silhouetted against the serene backdrop of the historical Siewdass Sadhu Temple in the Sea which provided a somewhat surreal atmosphere to the tragedy which had taken place in Kenya.
Government officials, including Acting Prime Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, House Speaker Wade Mark, National Security Minister Gary Griffith, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner were among the mourners, and joined them in placing flowers into the casket. Neither the President nor the Government officials made any public remarks.