Dr. Anthony N. Sabga, Chairman Emeritus of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies (right) shows a copy of his autobiography titled “A Will And A Way” to Sir Shridath Ramphal OE, OCC, GCMG when the book was launched at the Central Bank Auditorium on Wednesday 26th August, 2015. At left is Norman A. Sabga, son of Dr. Anthony N. Sabga and current Group Chairman and Chief Executive of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies.
He slept on the floor covered in straw in a house made of mud, with a roof of tree trunks covered with rocks from a river bed in a small, primitive village called Anez in Syria.
His family kept animals and in winter they came inside to sleep in one part of their two-room house.
Christians of the Greek Orthodox faith, they lived in constant persecution by the Turkish Muslims.
At age seven, in 1930, the handsome, curly-haired little boy came to Trinidad with his family and they lived at first on Nelson Street.
While they struggled, he watched sadly as other children played with toys he could not have.
School was a sad situation because he did not know English and was dyslexic and by age 14, he was out.
This is the astonishing start of the fascinating and inspiring story of Anthony N Sabga, the man described as the “lord of the ANSA McAL empire,” the largest business conglomerate in T&T and the Caribbean.
For those who did not know, the revelations coming from the normally reclusive Syrian migrant community were astounding.
Sabga, 92 now, bares almost all in his own autobiography, A Will and a Way, launched at the Central Bank auditorium, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday night.
The book was written through collaboration among Sabga, history professor Dr Bridget Brereton and author Raymond Ramcharitar.
“We interviewed Dr Sabga over a two-year period for a total of about 50 hours. We transcribed the interviews verbatim and they formed the skeleton of the main narrative.
“This is Dr Sabga’s story. Raymond and I were there to put it in coherent text,” Brereton said at the launch.
The book, dedicated to Sabga’s wife Minerva, was launched by Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Shridath Ramphal.
In it, Sabga, whose original language is Arabic, tells of his difficulty when he started attending the Nelson Street Boys’ RC School.
“I remember one time a teacher mentioned a ‘flower’. I had no idea what he was talking about so I asked my mother for some flour to take to school.”
His father, Joseph Sabga, whom he adored, had opened a small 20’ x 12’ shop crammed with merchandise on Queen Street, Port-of-Spain, NS Sabga & Sons, but his family of seven still struggled.
“Much of what I experienced in that early part of my life shaped me in ways that still drive me.
“I still remember seeing children with other toys and luxuries we could not afford. That made a tremendous impression. Those days, those moments, were the seeds of my desire to achieve,” he recalls.
Sabga tells of a time when some boys were going to the beach on their Humber bicycles.
“But I didn’t have one. A neighbour of mine did, so I took it without his permission and we went down to Teteron Bay.
“Something happened to the bicycle, it was damaged and I had to bring it back and face the owner.
“That, too, registered something in my mind: That such a thing would never happen again.”
Sabga formed an unusually close bond with his father but said his inspiration to succeed came from both parents.
His mother, Sarah, who spoke Arabic all her life, was the source of his will. “If my father gave me strength and knowledge, she gave me patience and certainty that anything was possible.
“My father was the source of my strength. She was the source of my will.”
Brereton, who wrote a historical essay in the book, said Sabga was a true T&T patriot who never left these shores even when business counterparts were doing so.
Explaining why his story was relevant, she said he was one of the makers and shapers of post-World War II T&T.
He was born in 1923 and there are few alive to tell about that era. And, his story is, intrinsically, a story of obstacles, triumphs, apparent failure and, above all, a story of a will and a way.
Ramphal said the Caribbean community was a constellation of migrants. Many came by physical force but almost all came by force of circumstances.
A Will and a Way is the story of one such remarkable man whose faith in life was to become synonymous with the development of T&T and its rise in the Caribbean archipelago.
Ramphal said Sabga sought release in T&T from the bonds in which he was trapped (in Syria) and brought in himself so much that the island has been enriched by his coming.
Taken from: Trinidad Guardian
Story by: Yvonne Baboolal
Photo by: Andre Alexander
Date: Friday 28th August, 2015