Gonzales, A small town near Port-of-Spain had an unusual visitor in Sachin Tendulkar on Thursday afternoon, in his role as an ambassador for UNICEF and its fight against AIDS. Gonzales, in many ways, typifies what has gone wrong with Trinidad in the recent past. It has seen prosperity, its economy is doing well and yet, the crime rate has shot up.
“It was not an unsafe place to live in, but now, I am getting worried. This place has seen more money and also more crime of late,” says a local.
More money also means more social disparity and in many cases, a surfeit of money makes a young generation restless and rudderless, leading them to drugs and crime.
It is this crime that has made Gonzales a dangerous place to live in. And it has to do more with drugs and children, than any organised mafia. Youngsters have formed two groups, they fight against each other — even gunfights are known to happen.
A couple of years ago, Pastor Clyde Harvey decided to get these varied groups together and mobilise the Gonzales community to fight this menace.
If one believes the speeches given at the Roberts Greenidge ground here, where a couple of hundred children had collected to greet Tendulkar, then Harvey’s efforts and UNICEF’s assistance in the project called ‘Pride in Gonzales’ has worked well and the place is no longer crime infested.
It was here on Thursday that Tendulkar, dressed in blue jeans and an India shirt, accompanied by former West Indian cricketers Larry Gomes and Merv Dillon, arrived to a warm reception from children and a few UNICEF officials. “Who is the greatest batsman in the world?” asked the master. “Brian Lara,” children shouted. Tendulkar smiled. “Who will win the World Cup?” he asked. “West Indies” was the obvious answer.
When it was his turn to speak, Tendulkar narrated a story that showed him what motivation and will could achieve. In Chennai, a physically challenged boy (he moved around in a wheelchair) wanted Tendulkar to bowl at him. He held a bat in his hands and when Tendulkar was about to bowl, the boy managed to get up from his wheelchair and stand on his legs, something he had been unable to do so far. He wanted this so badly. Tendulkar told his cheering audience that life was all about believing in yourself and fighting against odds. His parting words were: “Please come to the ground and support us.” And, as he ended his speech, he pointed a finger towards the audience and said: “See you in the final.”