From Engineer To Taxi-Driver
In the minds of the vast majority, Ranjit Kumar is remembered as the one who constructed Wrightson Road, using techniques he had acquired in India.
But he was more than that. He was an ex-police officer in India, founding member of the Hindu Maha Sabha, legislator and, finally, a taxi-driver.
Kumar's ambition was to become a lawyer but being mathematically inclined, he was encouraged to pursue engineering. At 18, he graduated as an engineer with a BSc and engineering degrees. On completion of his studies, Kumar could not find a suitable job, so he decided to join the Indian Police Force when he was not yet 21.
After a stint as a member of the police force, he decided to come to Trinidad where he met Syad Mohammed Hosein. At that time, Indian movies were not played in Trinidad. Hosein encouraged Kumar to get involved in the film industry.
Thus was born the arrival of the film Bala Joban, the first Indian movie which was played in cinemas belonging to Hajji Gokool Meah in Port of Spain and in Gaiety, a cinema owned by former San Fernando mayor Timothy Roodal.
Kumar was later offered a job in the oilfields in Pointe-a-Pierre where he worked for awhile. Meanwhile, the sea front in Port of Spain was being dredged to create a deep-water harbour and an offshore road on reclaimed lands. He opted to work on the project.
On completion, two names were mentioned as pioneers of the project. Wrightson, a British engineer and director of Works, and Kumar, a civil engineer from India. The name Wrightson was selected although Kumar had built the road for less than one million dollars. Later on, he was instrumental in constructing sluice gates in the Laventille Swamp and helping to curb flooding in Barataria.
His interests were not confined to engineering. He was also a social worker. Later on, he met Dr Parshu Ram Sharma, a missionary from India. With the help of Bhadase Maraj, the Hindu Maha Sabha was formed. This brought an end to the rivalries that existed in the Hindu community.
Kumar's vision was beyond reconciling differences, so having met Alfred Richards, then mayor of Port of Spain, he was encouraged to get into politics. He contested one of the municipal elections and won, and also a general election, and won. He became a full-time politician and even presided as chairman of the Victoria County Council between 1947-1950.
Tired of being involved in internecine squabbles, Kumar decided to quit public life. He parked his Buick car in front of Queen's Park Hotel and ran it as a taxi for 25 cents. Post-war shortages of tyres and other auto parts then forced him to quit that. He died in 1982.