“I think more than anything we all need to display empathy when we are dealing with others…we may not understand what someone is going through to cause them to react in a particular way; so in empathising you just may be able to help someone.”
By Sharmain Grainger
From being the spokesperson for a major company the likes of the Guyana Sugar Corporation [GuySuCo] back in the day to an outstanding television
personality today who highlights many issues that affect the vulnerable in society, Nazim S. Hussain can easily be classified as a force to be reckoned with.
He thrives on helping to make a positive difference. So it is no surprise to those who know him well that for the past four years he has been playing a major role in a Non- Governmental Organization [NGO] which is known for its anti-violence advocacy, especially regarding suicide.
Hussain, in the capacity of National Coordinating Director of The Caribbean Voice [TCV], is essentially the NGO’s national voice. He certainly makes no bones to continually stress the need for more measures, such as the decriminalisation of suicide, to be put in place by policymakers, since he believes this can allow for more people to have access to the help they so desperately need.
As any true member of TCV, Hussain is unyielding in his advocacy, even when needed measures seem to be taking far too long to be implemented.
A soldier in his own right, he understands all too well the importance of strategic tactics, and therefore knows when being on the frontline is warranted or when a vanguard approach is best. However, when it comes to helping to save lives, retreating is simply not an option. It is the same way Hussain views suicide ideation or the perpetuation of violence against others – neither of these should ever be an option, regardless of the situation faced.
But since he recognizes that he nor TCV, by no stretch of the imagination, have all the answers to mental illness, which is known to have a colossal bearing on such issues, a close collaboration has been forged with entities such as the Ministries of Public Health and Public Security, both of which employ professionals to deal with such cases.
But even if all else fails, the ever-tactical Hussain will always be ready to devise a new strategy to move forward in the fight to save lives.
WHO IS HE?
On April 18, 1958, Hussain was the third of nine children born to his parents Moses and Zarina Hussain. What is interesting to note is that while he was christened Nazim Hussain, as an adult, Hussain decided to factor in the initial S as part of his moniker. “I did it for style; the ‘S’ is for ‘Sure’,” said Hussain amidst a boyish chuckle. This deliberate move, he explained, was intended to distinguish his identify from another individual who shares the same name.
Reflecting on his early days, Hussain remembers vividly growing up with his paternal grandparents – Mohammed Hussain called Zakoor and Maratoon – at Plantation Nuclear Yard which was simply known to many people as the ‘Old Cane Field’ or the Rose Hall, Canje Sugar Estate Junior Staff Compound.
As he fondly remembered his grandfather, Hussain recalled him being a representative of the workers and being very versed in management affairs. In fact he recalled that it was his grandfather who was instrumental in communicating to sugar workers the importance of joining the National Insurance Scheme. Hussain recalled learning a great deal from his grandfather, including the ability to flawlessly deliver a speech in public.
But life on the Plantation did not only prepare Hussain for adulthood, it allowed him to have a very fulfilling childhood too.
“I did everything that young boys do on a sugar plantation like stealing cane, jumping in the cane punts and going swimming when told not to go,” a smiling Hussain recounted.
In fact he was very much being a boy when calamity struck one day before his ninth birthday in 1967. He recalled being in the company of an older brother and close friend.
At the time they were attempting to cross an Estate trench and since Hussain could not swim he was mounted onto the friend’s shoulders. But the journey became troubling when the friend carrying Hussain found the waterway to be too deep and therefore Hussain too much of a burden to carry. “He had to end up saving himself…I couldn’t swim and I went down and floated away in the current…it [the current] was pulling to a creek where the koker was locked. The current took me and braced me to the koker wall at the bottom of the trench…I became unconscious,” Hussain recounted.
As fate would have it, two young men were alerted to the misfortune and together were able to remove Hussain’s nearly lifeless body from what could have been a watery grave. The closest medical personnel was the estate’s dispenser who, after examining Hussain, was certain that he was dead. But the young Hussain’s grandmother was not prepared to accept that verdict.
He was rushed by ambulance to the New Amsterdam Hospital where indeed he was found to be alive, though unconscious. He would remain in that state for the next three days.
Hussain is convinced that it was the ardent prayers of his strong Islamic-faith grandmother that helped him to find his way back to the land of the living.
“I am told that I woke up making a supplication in the Islamic way…I am told too that because it was very cold the water formed a clot and prevented water from getting to my lungs which would have killed me. I am told too that this matter was so rare that it was reported in the British Journal of Medicine, but I have never seen it myself…”Hussain related.
BECOMING A MAN
Hussain was raised in what could easily be described as a modest household. However, he recalled that it was one that valued education and therefore its members were always among the leaders in the society. In fact, Hussain recalled that his father, much like his grandfather, was well respected in the society since he was a celebrated radio broadcaster.
“I was always looked upon to be number one in my class because I came from a Hussain family…It was an inherent thing. The Hussains were seen as people with a certain status and you had to emulate them,” he recalled.
Moreover, in the quest to embrace the family’s legacy, he attended St. Patrick’s Anglican School which was perhaps the top primary level school in the Canje – New Amsterdam area. Although captivated by his grandfather’s public speaking and his father’s broadcasting ability, the young Hussain from a young age had envisaged himself becoming a lawyer.
But things simply were not going in his favour, since the family’s financial situation warranted that he secure a job at an early age. He was soon after working the fields at the Rose Hall Estate. However, on the sidelines Hussain was still finding time to delve into some studies, which allowed him to write nine GCE subjects privately.
Hussain’s grades were outstanding and by the time he presented same to the Estate managers he was found to be quite suitable for an office job. He remembers starting as a Junior Book Clerk and quickly working his way up the ladder.
“GuySuCo was one of the best training grounds because they would offer, almost every month, training seminars and that, coupled with me being an incessant reader, really helped me along…I read all that was available to me and I also enjoyed listening on short-wave radio to things like the BBC news.”
Hussain nevertheless credits most of the knowledge he attained as a young boy to some of his teachers including Messrs. Samuel O. Archer and Cyril Dabydeen.
“Those guys helped to shape the person who I am today,” said Hussain.
Although engaged in the world of work at an early age, Hussain was still determined to advance his studies and did so at the New Amsterdam Multilateral School where he completed a number of ‘A’ Level subjects. He eventually moved on to the University of Guyana where he majored in Marketing.
This was indeed an unprecedented move but, according to Hussain, he was persuaded by an acquaintance to embrace that area.
“I met a gentleman by the name of Stephen Leacock and he impressed me a great deal during a presentation he made which hinged on marketing and the power to convince people about certain things, and I thought that this was the way I wanted to go…this was a big move,” he reflected.
By that time, Hussain, who is certified by the prestigious International Marketing Institute, was elevated to the position of Manager at the GuySuCo Diamond branch where he was in charge of the massive Volunteers’ Department. Communicating with senior government functionaries was a task that came quite naturally to the outspoken Hussain, who reflected on being at the centre of things even during troubling times.
“I had a great time working there though, because I was always a people’s person,” said Hussain, who spent 11 successful years of his life at GuySuCo.
Although he had dabbled a bit in broadcasting over the years, it wasn’t until he travelled to Suriname to take up a job offer that Hussain recognised that being in the media fraternity might just suit his personality.
At first it started with a few religious programmes aired on a Surinamese television station. But Hussain quickly recognised that he could do so much more in his homeland. Upon his return he commenced undertaking a feasibility study to ascertain how he could best infiltrate the national airwaves.
By this time, Hussain’s heart was captured by a beautiful young woman by the name of Indira, who he said has not only been his inspiration, but happens to be the mother of one of his best friends – their only son and popular radio personality – W R Reaz.
“At first the response was not that good…so I decided to do some odd stuff because I had a family to provide for. I did law, communications, several online marketing programmes… I even went to Critchlow Labour College and did their Communication and Effective Speaking programme. I was trying to shape myself for a career in radio and television,” Hussain recalled.
Before long he was able to launch a television programme and it was by no means a small deal. You see Hussain, an Indo Guyanese, was able to infiltrate a traditionally Afro-Guyanese television station [Channel Nine] with Indian programmes. This of course was a phenomenal development which Hussain remembers, quickly attracted a tremendous following.
“Channel Nine was not producing anything Indian really and I was able to introduce that…” said Hussain who had long learnt from his grandmother that integration was a necessary part of life. “My grandmother instilled in us that the colour of a person’s skin was so insignificant that one should never look at that…so I basically grew up colour blind. Unto today I have a passion for merging the races, for cohesion, and bringing Guyanese together so that they are able to understand races and culture,” Hussain shared.
So successful was his television career that he even helped to launch his son’s career too.
In fact he has expanded his range of programmes with the introduction of Coast to Coast, a programme aired on Friday at 6pm on TVG, which is streamed live on Facebook too. The topical programme, which is perhaps one of Hussain’s most outstanding accomplishments, is one that brings to the fore societal issues such as suicide, violence, road carnage, among others.
Through his programme [Coast to Coast] Hussain has been helping to advance the anti-violence message of TCV. However, he recalled that his involvement in the organisation was one that came about because of an invitation. You see, he was found to be an ideal candidate to become a member of TCV mainly because he was already embracing ideas that the organisation was already promoting.
“I have always been very vocal on Facebook in terms of my comments on domestic abuse and I was always talking about men not even hitting women with a flower,” Hussain emphasised. He quickly embraced the stance of TCV, since he recognised it as “a movement through which I could help to make a greater impact”.
Hussain first started off as a Director and three years ago moved on to the portfolio of National Coordinating Director.
Speaking with pride of the efforts of TCV, Hussain disclosed that a number of persons, including in excess of 400 teachers, have been engaged via workshops with the view of helping them to learn tactics to function as gatekeepers in their respective communities. This initiative, he explained, is designed to help curb the suicide and violent thoughts of some members of society.
“We usually talk about the importance of self-esteem, emphatic communication, suicide warning signs, self-care, drug and alcohol abuse, among other issues,” Hussain related, adding, “I think more than anything we all need to display empathy when we are dealing with others…we may not understand what someone is going through to cause them to react in a particular way, so in empathising you just may be able to help someone.”
TCV, according to Hussain, has been seeking to expand its efforts through collaborations with like-minded organisations. It has already been able to forge such a partnership with the Guyana Teachers’ Union and continues to work closely with other organisations which, according to Hussain, have also been doing “fabulous work”.
But Hussain is convinced that he is able to be the best at what he does because of the relationship he shares with his son. In fact to Hussain, his son has been his mentor over the past decade or so.
“Most people see big and international figures as their mentors, but my son, he has been mine,” Hussain proudly admitted. He recalled seeing his son recover from a serious automobile accident as perhaps the single most inspirational thing he has ever witnessed, which has essentially helped him to believe that there is literally nothing he cannot do once he puts his mind to it.
“His legs were broken but he set a date for himself by which he would walk, and he did…He set standards for himself and he achieves them because he is such a hard worker. Everything he sets about to do, he does it with undying passion. Although I am his father and he calls me his first superhero, his ability to work hard has made me a determined person,” Hussain said.
It was in recognition of his determination to help create positive change in a society, which is ever so often overwhelmed by negativity that Hussain was this past week presented with an Ambassador for Peace certificate from the University of Peace Federation. Today he is also recognised by this publication as a ‘Special Person’.