edge

​ITCZ in They Nen-nen Tonight

My name is Robin Maharaj and I changed weather reporting in Trinidad; I brought the Eye-Tee-Cee-Zee to T&T.

I was born in Dades Trace in the unique cosmos of Rio Claro. I am a country boy at heart. Every weekday, we walked 3.5 miles to school, sometimes along the train line. When I was ten, and still barefoot, we moved to Rio Claro’s town centre.

My mother (Jasso) and father (Rambharat) had ten kids, eight boys, two girls. Ma died in 1973, Pa in 1980. My brothers all passed away, in a strange order: the eldest and the youngest lived, but all in-between left. Then the eldest died on January 23 this year, before his 93rd birthday. The youngest brother survives; with humility, that is me.

In 1959, at Skinners Park InterCol, I saw this beautiful Naparima Girls’ High School girl. We looked at each other for a brief moment. The next year, classmates dared me to tug the plaits of a girl walking alone in front of us along Harris Promenade. When she turned around with sad, questioning eyes, my heart sank: it was the same girl from Skinners Park! I apologized. In October 1960, my girlfriend begged me to meet her best school friend. Embarrassment! Same girl again!

When that nice girl came to do A’Level studies at our Naparima College, she was 17 and I was 18 and I was smitten. My black book with 11 names disappeared. We eloped a week after school ended in December 1962 and that was over 56 years ago. We are still head over heels in love. Grace is my life. Our sons are Glenn and Gary.

My family knew about my feelings for Grace by Christmas 1960. My Ma approved of her as daughter-in-law while we were still students. When our school days were about to end, I asked for her hand formally and was rebuffed. “Too young! You ent wukkin yet, how yuh go mind mih daughter, yuh wearing Wrangler jeans and banlon jersey and looking like a tout, etc.”

We hid out in Mayaro until my parents took us home with no reprimand, no questions, only love and concern. They married us after we insisted and we moved to Couva on our own. We eventually reconciled with Grace’s family when our first son was about four.

I remember the face of my great grandmother, who passed away in 1945, and I have seen the face of my angel great granddaughter, Anya, born 6 months ago. That’s seven generations – I am blessed!

My father was a road overseer and a pundit. Mom was a housewife and seamstress. We thrived in Dades Trace and Tabaquite Road, a known cocoa, coffee, banana and tampi area.

I was the first enrollee at the Rio Claro Hindu School, opened in 1953. The Colonial Government offered a bursary, only one, to the student who topped the island in the school leaving certificate. I came first. In early 1957, I started at Naps. I appeared, as bursary winner, on the front pages of the newspapers, wearing my father's socks and shoes and a cricket cap.

Grace and I taught for two years after marriage. On my birthday in 1964, I joined the meteorological service. After a two-year forecaster training scholarship to the Caribbean Meteorological Institute, I completed graduate studies at Penn State University and had stints at the University of Miami, the National Hurricane Centre and the World Weather Centre at Camp Springs, Maryland.

I have not been to a barber since January 15, 1963. We could not afford the 36 cents price as we needed every cent after elopement. I have cut my own hair for over 56 years, up to today.

When I had to stay down in Sando for weekends I took up walking from San’do to POS – 40 miles on the old road. I did that ten times, getting rides to return. When I could not afford taxi fare to Rio on Friday, I walked the 26 miles, overnighting midway at a friend’s house, as darkness would catch me. Plenty quarrel from my Ma. I did that more than ten times. After leaving Naps, I walked around the island. I’ve trekked up Mt. El Tucuche innumerable times. I believe this prepared me, physically and mentally, to hit the trails in retirement.

I was born in a Hindu home and my father and grandfather were pundits. As I grew older and faced the world and its realities, I started accepting all faiths as valid. I then started questioning religion, not God, and ended up avoiding any declaration of faith. I stay away from places of worship and find comfort and answers in the contemplation in solitude of my own self.

I absolutely believe that every religion was created to promulgate fear, to control people, to force people to look up to a leader or a cause. Man created God in his own image and likeness. All Gods. Wise men avoid quick answers and keep searching for evidence and truths.

Call me agnostic. I have no answers. But each person owes it to himself to question, even ending up not finding answers, rather than accepting wholesale the embellished and prettified stories in Holy Books about prophets. Are we here to pray or to live?

No religion provides an answer that does not depend on your own blind belief. And blind belief cannot lead to, or be equated with, truth. Cast-in-stone religion has handcuffed unsuspecting populations, stymied the search for answers, and created stultified and repressed peoples.

At first there were many TV weathermen…and then there was one. Me.

In 1972, I joined the met office forecasters on TTT, Trinidad & Tobago Television, not for pay, but only a small travelling allowance. A small wooden blackboard was the only thing on the set. The presenter stood in one spot, wooden pointer in hand, and read off the report on the board.

After studies abroad in 1982, I decided not to do the TV weathercast again. But TTT Head of News Neil Guiseppi and John Barsotti, who became CEO, prevailed upon me to do one report per week. Then TTT issued an ultimatum: Robin does all the reports or there will be none. By early 1988, the authority of the met office on the TTT weather report had slowly degenerated until the arrangement was between myself and TTT. The beginning of the 90s saw me free as a bird, finally. The Huggins Group of Companies hired me to do their commercials on TV, radio and newspapers, a first for someone of my origin.

People might remember I wore shirt jac suits before 1992 but, as a condition of the new Accuweather computerized graphics acquisition [I wanted], TTT made me an extensive wardrobe of tailor-made suits. And the TTT weather report became ROBIN’S WEATHER.

Tropical weather could be a bore as it seems hardly anything changes from rain or sunshine. I knew the weather presentation had to be dramatic, to make viewers stop what they were doing and focus on the message. I worked on a convincing and impactful weather report and tried to be different. As Trinis say, “Ah try ah ting and it wuk, boy!”

Who in TTT’s viewership knew about tropical wave, ITCZ, upper level troughs, equatorial wave, Sahara dust, jet stream etc.? Explaining in simple layman’s terms tropical & temperate systems, high- and low-pressure cells, cold and warm fronts etc., boosted peoples’ knowledge and interest. I tried to come up with bits about weather as a starter for each programme. The audience lapped it up.

When I presented, I faced the cameras, but I saw an image of a family sitting down in front of the TV in their living rooms, listening to me. I wanted them to smile when I was funny, nod when I was doling out serious information and sit up with cocked ears when I mentioned severe weather. I accepted the Medal of Merit in 2000 for my contribution to meteorology and excellence in weather broadcasting.

The greatest level of satisfaction was being recruited by the United Nations agency, the World Meteorological Organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. My career at the met was stagnant and the TTT weathercasting was no longer challenging. Out of 167 candidates worldwide, I was selected for a plum job as meteorological scientist in WMO. I never missed the TT met but I did miss TTT.

I suspect that public acclaim was the best part of the job at TTT. Followed by the satisfaction of moving the weather report to a better place, and promoting meteorology in Trinidad and Tobago. There were no downs.

In July, 1994, waiting for the floor manager's cue to go ON AIR one night, I was asked to give a final mic test. We were always joking and kicksing during breaks. So I said, “Is rain in they mudda-ass tonight!” It was a test, not on air. But the director had the channel ON AIR. Calypsonians made mincemeat of that.

I found the transition to retirement very easy. Age and comfort have a lot to do with it, as well as my Grace. She is the perfect companion.

I last went to the cinema in July 1978, in Tunupuna.

Approaching retirement, I was overweight, whereas Grace kept her high school size and figure up to this day. I started pace and distance walking in Geneva. When we migrated to the US, I was doing over 15-20 miles, three times weekly. I even walk marathons (26.2 miles).

I lost near 50 lb. in a few years, walking year-round, even during the most severe Minne-snow-ta winters. When I was 70, I fell on ice and the family banned me from walking in icy weather, so I joined Grace’s gym. But I still walk the trails from April to late October.

Who the hell, after age 70, builds muscle? We are gym addicts, 90-minute workouts up to six times weekly. We keep flexible, strong and do not diet but eat with moderation. Many people do not believe our ages, or that we have a great-granddaughter.

I cannot forget my first introduction to Americans in the latter 1940s: US military jeeps drove by as we walked home from school on the lonely Tabaquite Road. Our parents told us the soldiers kidnapped kids and gave their hearts and livers to racehorses as food. We hid in the bushes.

I worked alongside American members of the US Navy at Chaguaramas base, seconded by the TT government, to prepare to take over the upper air stations when the Americans departed in 1967. I learnt a different type of discipline and found I could contribute to a world effort. I was not fearful for my liver, but my heart was softened and welcoming to their way of life.

I was lucky to get a scholarship sponsored by the US thru the UN to study meteorology at Penn State. This third experience with Americans confirmed to Grace and me, as well as my son Gary, that adopting aspects of the American way of life would make us better people. But we did not forsake Trinidad.

In retirement, Grace and I joined the boys in Minnesota. Home is where the heart is. I understand racial profiling, politics and I know that I am a foreigner. But never once in our life here, has anyone made us feel as intruders, unwanted and despised.

Our lives are simple, free from tension, and we go about doing what we know will benefit us in old age. I am approaching my 77th birthday with a positive outlook and comfortable in the decision we made to live in the USA.

What is a Trini? Buh-ay-ay! I is ah Trini! Look at me and you might believe I am from Mexico or India. Listen to me and you know I am not. Then hear me out and you know my Trini identity is not whittled down because I am an isolated Trini. My internal Trini consciousness allows me to broadcast a person and personality originating in Trinidad.

My navel string is buried in Rio Claro, in our ancestral lands. Trinidad & Tobago is where we belong – but space, challenge and opportunity attracted us elsewhere.

​ITCZ in They Nen-nen Tonight

My name is Robin Maharaj and I changed weather reporting in Trinidad; I brought the Eye-Tee-Cee-Zee to T&T.

I was born in Dades Trace in the unique cosmos of Rio Claro. I am a country boy at heart. Every weekday, we walked 3.5 miles to school, sometimes along the train line. When I was ten, and still barefoot, we moved to Rio Claro’s town centre.

My mother (Jasso) and father (Rambharat) had ten kids, eight boys, two girls. Ma died in 1973, Pa in 1980. My brothers all passed away, in a strange order: the eldest and the youngest lived, but all in-between left. Then the eldest died on January 23 this year, before his 93rd birthday. The youngest brother survives; with humility, that is me.

In 1959, at Skinners Park InterCol, I saw this beautiful Naparima Girls’ High School girl. We looked at each other for a brief moment. The next year, classmates dared me to tug the plaits of a girl walking alone in front of us along Harris Promenade. When she turned around with sad, questioning eyes, my heart sank: it was the same girl from Skinners Park! I apologized. In October 1960, my girlfriend begged me to meet her best school friend. Embarrassment! Same girl again!

When that nice girl came to do A’Level studies at our Naparima College, she was 17 and I was 18 and I was smitten. My black book with 11 names disappeared. We eloped a week after school ended in December 1962 and that was over 56 years ago. We are still head over heels in love. Grace is my life. Our sons are Glenn and Gary.

My family knew about my feelings for Grace by Christmas 1960. My Ma approved of her as daughter-in-law while we were still students. When our school days were about to end, I asked for her hand formally and was rebuffed. “Too young! You ent wukkin yet, how yuh go mind mih daughter, yuh wearing Wrangler jeans and banlon jersey and looking like a tout, etc.”

We hid out in Mayaro until my parents took us home with no reprimand, no questions, only love and concern. They married us after we insisted and we moved to Couva on our own. We eventually reconciled with Grace’s family when our first son was about four.

I remember the face of my great grandmother, who passed away in 1945, and I have seen the face of my angel great granddaughter, Anya, born 6 months ago. That’s seven generations – I am blessed!

My father was a road overseer and a pundit. Mom was a housewife and seamstress. We thrived in Dades Trace and Tabaquite Road, a known cocoa, coffee, banana and tampi area.

I was the first enrollee at the Rio Claro Hindu School, opened in 1953. The Colonial Government offered a bursary, only one, to the student who topped the island in the school leaving certificate. I came first. In early 1957, I started at Naps. I appeared, as bursary winner, on the front pages of the newspapers, wearing my father's socks and shoes and a cricket cap.

Grace and I taught for two years after marriage. On my birthday in 1964, I joined the meteorological service. After a two-year forecaster training scholarship to the Caribbean Meteorological Institute, I completed graduate studies at Penn State University and had stints at the University of Miami, the National Hurricane Centre and the World Weather Centre at Camp Springs, Maryland.

I have not been to a barber since January 15, 1963. We could not afford the 36 cents price as we needed every cent after elopement. I have cut my own hair for over 56 years, up to today.

When I had to stay down in Sando for weekends I took up walking from San’do to POS – 40 miles on the old road. I did that ten times, getting rides to return. When I could not afford taxi fare to Rio on Friday, I walked the 26 miles, overnighting midway at a friend’s house, as darkness would catch me. Plenty quarrel from my Ma. I did that more than ten times. After leaving Naps, I walked around the island. I’ve trekked up Mt. El Tucuche innumerable times. I believe this prepared me, physically and mentally, to hit the trails in retirement.

I was born in a Hindu home and my father and grandfather were pundits. As I grew older and faced the world and its realities, I started accepting all faiths as valid. I then started questioning religion, not God, and ended up avoiding any declaration of faith. I stay away from places of worship and find comfort and answers in the contemplation in solitude of my own self.

I absolutely believe that every religion was created to promulgate fear, to control people, to force people to look up to a leader or a cause. Man created God in his own image and likeness. All Gods. Wise men avoid quick answers and keep searching for evidence and truths.

Call me agnostic. I have no answers. But each person owes it to himself to question, even ending up not finding answers, rather than accepting wholesale the embellished and prettified stories in Holy Books about prophets. Are we here to pray or to live?

No religion provides an answer that does not depend on your own blind belief. And blind belief cannot lead to, or be equated with, truth. Cast-in-stone religion has handcuffed unsuspecting populations, stymied the search for answers, and created stultified and repressed peoples.

At first there were many TV weathermen…and then there was one. Me.

In 1972, I joined the met office forecasters on TTT, Trinidad & Tobago Television, not for pay, but only a small travelling allowance. A small wooden blackboard was the only thing on the set. The presenter stood in one spot, wooden pointer in hand, and read off the report on the board.

After studies abroad in 1982, I decided not to do the TV weathercast again. But TTT Head of News Neil Guiseppi and John Barsotti, who became CEO, prevailed upon me to do one report per week. Then TTT issued an ultimatum: Robin does all the reports or there will be none. By early 1988, the authority of the met office on the TTT weather report had slowly degenerated until the arrangement was between myself and TTT. The beginning of the 90s saw me free as a bird, finally. The Huggins Group of Companies hired me to do their commercials on TV, radio and newspapers, a first for someone of my origin.

People might remember I wore shirt jac suits before 1992 but, as a condition of the new Accuweather computerized graphics acquisition [I wanted], TTT made me an extensive wardrobe of tailor-made suits. And the TTT weather report became ROBIN’S WEATHER.

Tropical weather could be a bore as it seems hardly anything changes from rain or sunshine. I knew the weather presentation had to be dramatic, to make viewers stop what they were doing and focus on the message. I worked on a convincing and impactful weather report and tried to be different. As Trinis say, “Ah try ah ting and it wuk, boy!”

Who in TTT’s viewership knew about tropical wave, ITCZ, upper level troughs, equatorial wave, Sahara dust, jet stream etc.? Explaining in simple layman’s terms tropical & temperate systems, high- and low-pressure cells, cold and warm fronts etc., boosted peoples’ knowledge and interest. I tried to come up with bits about weather as a starter for each programme. The audience lapped it up.

When I presented, I faced the cameras, but I saw an image of a family sitting down in front of the TV in their living rooms, listening to me. I wanted them to smile when I was funny, nod when I was doling out serious information and sit up with cocked ears when I mentioned severe weather. I accepted the Medal of Merit in 2000 for my contribution to meteorology and excellence in weather broadcasting.

The greatest level of satisfaction was being recruited by the United Nations agency, the World Meteorological Organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. My career at the met was stagnant and the TTT weathercasting was no longer challenging. Out of 167 candidates worldwide, I was selected for a plum job as meteorological scientist in WMO. I never missed the TT met but I did miss TTT.

I suspect that public acclaim was the best part of the job at TTT. Followed by the satisfaction of moving the weather report to a better place, and promoting meteorology in Trinidad and Tobago. There were no downs.

In July, 1994, waiting for the floor manager's cue to go ON AIR one night, I was asked to give a final mic test. We were always joking and kicksing during breaks. So I said, “Is rain in they mudda-ass tonight!” It was a test, not on air. But the director had the channel ON AIR. Calypsonians made mincemeat of that.

I found the transition to retirement very easy. Age and comfort have a lot to do with it, as well as my Grace. She is the perfect companion.

I last went to the cinema in July 1978, in Tunupuna.

Approaching retirement, I was overweight, whereas Grace kept her high school size and figure up to this day. I started pace and distance walking in Geneva. When we migrated to the US, I was doing over 15-20 miles, three times weekly. I even walk marathons (26.2 miles).

I lost near 50 lb. in a few years, walking year-round, even during the most severe Minne-snow-ta winters. When I was 70, I fell on ice and the family banned me from walking in icy weather, so I joined Grace’s gym. But I still walk the trails from April to late October.

Who the hell, after age 70, builds muscle? We are gym addicts, 90-minute workouts up to six times weekly. We keep flexible, strong and do not diet but eat with moderation. Many people do not believe our ages, or that we have a great-granddaughter.

I cannot forget my first introduction to Americans in the latter 1940s: US military jeeps drove by as we walked home from school on the lonely Tabaquite Road. Our parents told us the soldiers kidnapped kids and gave their hearts and livers to racehorses as food. We hid in the bushes.

I worked alongside American members of the US Navy at Chaguaramas base, seconded by the TT government, to prepare to take over the upper air stations when the Americans departed in 1967. I learnt a different type of discipline and found I could contribute to a world effort. I was not fearful for my liver, but my heart was softened and welcoming to their way of life.

I was lucky to get a scholarship sponsored by the US thru the UN to study meteorology at Penn State. This third experience with Americans confirmed to Grace and me, as well as my son Gary, that adopting aspects of the American way of life would make us better people. But we did not forsake Trinidad.

In retirement, Grace and I joined the boys in Minnesota. Home is where the heart is. I understand racial profiling, politics and I know that I am a foreigner. But never once in our life here, has anyone made us feel as intruders, unwanted and despised.

Our lives are simple, free from tension, and we go about doing what we know will benefit us in old age. I am approaching my 77th birthday with a positive outlook and comfortable in the decision we made to live in the USA.

What is a Trini? Buh-ay-ay! I is ah Trini! Look at me and you might believe I am from Mexico or India. Listen to me and you know I am not. Then hear me out and you know my Trini identity is not whittled down because I am an isolated Trini. My internal Trini consciousness allows me to broadcast a person and personality originating in Trinidad.

My navel string is buried in Rio Claro, in our ancestral lands. Trinidad & Tobago is where we belong – but space, challenge and opportunity attracted us elsewhere.