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Matriarch of an empire
Sakunti Ramnarine Singh, 90, was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of Penal earlier in May 2018. Few people know that she is an entrepreneur and was a single mother in 1976 when she took the decision to sell her prize cow and jewelry to purchase a shop that later grew into the Anand Low Price Group of Companies that now employs over 400 people in South Trinidad.
She has under her wings children, Anand, Payie, Camini, Chandinie, Jaichan, Dianand; nine grandchildren; ten great grandchildren; and, one greatgreat grandchild.
Sakunti independently raised all of her children. While growing up, the family did not have enough money but no one felt as though they were poor since she always showered her children with love and care.
Her eldest son Anand Ramnarinesingh said: “She showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like. She also ensured that all of her children attended school which provided us with the knowledge and tools to be successful in life.”
Camini, her youngest daughter, received an additional scholarship in agriculture which probably would not have been possible without the support of her mother who stayed up with her at night to keep her company while studying.
Anand said Sakunti’s parents, Loungi and Ramnarine Singh, as well as Payie, the eldest child, were very present and played a vital role in the development of her children.
He said: “Our mother worked long hours in the fields. In those days she was never afraid to discipline her children and made sure that we were brought up with good values and were respectful to others. She believed in doing things right the first time and was strict.
Nevertheless, this didn’t seem as though it was a burden, instead it was a blessing.”
In order to provide a comfortable life for her children, Sakunti endured tedious hours of hard work in the agricultural fields of San Francique and Penal. This experience made her determined to ensure that her children had a better life and appreciate the value of family. Along the way she found solace in her faith and religion, something that was passed on to her by her parents. Her reliance on religion helped her endure the unfortunate loss of her son Dianand who passed away in 1993.
In the quest to improve the quality of life for her family, she took advantage of the opportunity which came about in 1976 when a local shop in Siparia Road was up for sale.
With assistance from her parents, she sold her prized cow and jewelry to accumulate the downpayment for the business; a bold and fearless move at that time. This business later went on to become the Anand Low Price Group of Companies.
Sakunti was a single mother venturing into business.
However, she wasn’t alone.
She had full support from both of her parents as well as her children. Anand said his brothers and sisters assisted her in the shop before and after school which allowed them to build a special bond with one another thus creating an appreciation for family life. He said: “There was a lot of hard work and sacrifice involved in growing the company to what it is today.”
After Anand graduated from secondary school at the age of 15, along with his brother Dianand, they took the initiative to rent the building where the Uriah Butler Statue is currently located and opened a supermarket. They both spent endless hours working together and faced many challenges in operating this business.
However, this was the first step in allowing Anand to realise his passion for the grocery business and enabled him to gain 40 years experience in the retail industry and build Low Price Group of Companies.
Following the death of his brother, Anand continued to expand the business with the support and guidance from his family, especially Sakunti.
Anand said his mother embedded in all of her children to be humble and treat everyone as equals.
He said: “When she didn’t have much, she wasn’t as appreciated as she is now. Being the mother of a well-established businessman, people look up to her and greet her warmly.
This is one of the reasons she enjoys helping and giving to those less fortunate and pay attention to those who are often neglected as the children and elderly. She believes in Karma which is why she dedicates her life to doing good. From humble beginnings, with hard work, sacrifice and through the endurance of some very tough times.”
Anand said, at 90, his mother is awake at the crack of dawn everyday practicing her religion, yoga, meditation and has been a vegetarian for over 40 years.
He said: “She reads the newspaper daily and is not afraid to express her strong opinions on what is reported and current affairs. She spends most of her afternoons looking after her flower garden and is somewhat of an orchid fanatic.
“Because of her love for animals, if she had her way, she would still be nurturing cows and other farm animals.”
Anand has inherited this trait as he has found the time in his busy work schedule to look after three cows.
Some of her charitable work involves offering assistance to religious organisations, schools, children homes, sport clubs and needy families.
Her father was a founding member of the Kasheenath Mandir at Siparia Road; a place she considers her second home.
She has been actively involved in all aspects of its operation for over 40 years and is constantly being recognised for her religious fortitude. She is an avid reader and continues to educate herself on the teachings of the Hindu religion.
Her social activities include attending religious functions, entertaining her friends and family at her home and often visiting her children abroad.
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