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It was late in April of 1979, when a poor, lone­ly and sad­dened man sat in his lit­tle, wood­en gallery in St Croix Road, Princes Town. Al­most in tears and fail­ing sight, he re­called the 45-year pi­o­neer­ing strug­gle in the mak­ing and per­fect­ing of the dou­bles, a na­tion­al food.

He was known as Singh, the dou­bles man, one of the sev­er­al pi­o­neers in Princes Town.

Singh grew up in a lit­tle bar­rack room in Trans­port, Princes Town. He be­came ac­quaint­ed with Chote, Dean and As­ga Ali of Fair­field Sug­ar Cane Es­tate in Craig­nish, who were al­so pi­o­neer mak­ers and ven­dors of bar­ra and chut­ney, kur­ma, pholourie, chan­na and oth­er In­di­an del­i­ca­cies. Chote re­lat­ed how he ac­quired his art from his in­den­tured grand­fa­ther in the bar­rack at the Mal­gretoute Cane Es­tate.

Singh agreed that he learned a few things about mak­ing and sell­ing some of those del­i­ca­cies from his as­so­ciates. As a young man, he de­cid­ed to go in­to busi­ness, and so, he filled his bas­ket and set up at the Princes Town Tri­an­gle to of­fer his del­i­ca­cies. Hope­ful­ly, and in good spir­its, he shout­ed, "Get yuh bar­rah and chut­ney! Chan­nah! Chan­nah! Chan­nah! Wet (cur­ried) chan­nah o’ dry (fried) chan­nah!"

As he con­tin­ued his sell­ing at the Tri­an­gle one day, an aged woman named Doo Doo Dar­lin tast­ed his bar­ra and chut­ney. She sucked her teeth in pity and shak­ing her head, "No!" she told Singh,"Yuh cyah mek bar­rah yet mih son. De edge ah de bar­rah too hard. Dorg self cyah eat dat." The fol­low­ing day, the woman went to Singh’s bar­rack, and with great care, she taught him the cor­rect method of mak­ing what she con­sid­ered to be good orig­i­nal bar­ra. From then, there was no turn­ing back for Singh. When the roost­er crew at four o’clock, dawn, Singh and his wife, Sookya, were up and prepar­ing the del­i­ca­cies for the day’s sale. Af­ter much labour and sac­ri­fice, Singh and Sookya had saved enough mon­ey to pur­chase a freight bi­cy­cle. It was then that he was able to move with much ease and to of­fer his ed­i­bles to a wider mar­ket

He had the grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion to sell and so, he fo­cused on be­ing an it­er­ant bar­ra man. He jour­neyed to neigh­bour­ing vil­lages on spe­cial func­tions and fes­ti­vals. He cy­cled to Cedar Hill dai­ly dur­ing the Ram­leela Fes­ti­val, to near­by Craig­nish dur­ing Hosay (Ho­sein) cel­e­bra­tion. He jour­neyed many miles to Bar­rack­pore, Debe and Pe­nal dur­ing the Phag­wa fes­ti­vals, al­so at Union Park in Mara­bel­la dur­ing the grand East­er horse rac­ing events. The tire­less bar­ra man Singh sold his prod­ucts to vil­lagers at the Willians­ville Rail­way Sta­tion, when horse-drawn bug­gies plied for hire to White­lands, Mayo and Guaracara vil­lages.

Comb­ing his fin­gers though his short, grey hair, a smile played on his lips. Singh, with a mea­sure of laugh in his voice, re­called, "Boy, some­time dur­ing the World war 11 in 1940, dey had big cock fight in Re­be­ca-Rich­mond Road, near Tabaquite down so. Ah pack up mih bike wid cur­ry chan­nah, bar­rah and hot man­go chut­ney and Ah ride off soon morn­ing un­til ah reach. Boy dat was pres­sure. Well, ah push dong mih bike trough de bush track right dong to de gayelle. Boy dat was cock fight foh so! All kin­da bigshot man in de bam­boo patch and dey game-cock fight­in’ an’ mon­ey on­ly fly­in’ as dey drinkin’ moun­tain dew like wa­ter. Well, ah sell­in’ mih stuff good, good, when ah man bawl out, 'Po­lice! Po­lice!' Boy! Man run­nin’ like ‘gouti through de bush. I run an hide in de bush too. A! A! When ah come back to mih bike all mih bar­rah an’ chut­ney gorn. Mih chan­nah tin emp­ty! Like dorg lick it!" At that point his voice dipped in­to a sob­bing tremor, his eyes turned moi­sed as he looked down to the floor. He choked, "On­ly Gawd know how..."

From that ex­cit­ing day, Singh dis­con­tin­ued his sales trip to cock fight­ing gayelles and whey whey turfs. He set­tled back to the Princes Town Tri­an­gle, and some­times at the Fair­field Junc­tion in Craig­nish, along­side Chote and Dean.

As the World War con­tin­ued, the bar­ra busi­ness suf­fered from short­ages of re­lat­ed in­gre­di­ents in­clud­ing flour and cook­ing oil. Singh heard of a Chi­nese shop­keep­er in Ma­yaro, who had a hoard of cook­ing oil. Ear­ly one morn­ing, he rode off on his freight bi­cy­cle to that des­ti­na­tion, ap­prox­i­mate­ly 36 miles plus, to the Chi­nese shop, where he bought a four-gal­lon tin of the cook­ing oil, and rode back to his bar­rack in Princes Town. Many times af­ter, he trav­elled by the TGR (Trinidad Gov­ern­ment Rail­ways) bus to ob­tain his sup­ply.

When the war end­ed in 1945, Singh sighed in re­lief, and with re­newed hope and de­ter­mi­na­tion, he sought new mar­ket­ing out­lets in the Bor­ough of San Fer­nan­do sev­en miles away. He stag­gered his vend­ing from the Na­pari­ma Boys' Col­lege on Par­adise Hill to St Bene­dict’s Col­lege, now known as Pre­sen­ta­tion Col­lege on Cof­fee Street. At al­ter­nate times, he sold at the mar­ket and on the King’s Wharf.

In those far-off days, he ex­plained that the bar­ra was sold with a daub of pep­pery chut­ney. The cur­ried chan­na—some­times called wet or soft chan­na—was sep­a­rate­ly sold. One day, while sell­ing near a well-known au­to garage on the wharf, a reg­u­lar work­er from the garage came to buy. He or­dered that Singh put a spread of the cur­ried chan­na on the bar­ra. So pleased was the cus­tomer with the com­bi­na­tion, that the fol­low­ing day, he or­dered, " 'Singh, boy, put some cur­ried chan­na on ah bar­ra and cov­er it wid an­od­der bar­ra to make like ah sand­wich.' " Singh said, "Oho! So,yuh want it dou­ble!" The sat­is­fied cus­tomer re­turned to or­der, "Aye! Singh, dat 'dou­ble' eatin’ good boy! bring ah ‘dou­ble’ dey foh mih, an put de pep­per chut­ney too." Sub­se­quent to those days, when­ev­er the man came to buy, Singh would ask, "So yuh come foh an­od­der dou­ble?" Oth­er cus­tomers ob­served, tast­ed, and were de­light­ed and sat­is­fied at the unique com­bi­na­tion. Voic­es were call­ing for more, "Can I have two dou­bles please?" And the or­ders went around; it was the ori­gin of the name 'dou­bles.'

Al­though the ba­sic art of mak­ing the del­i­ca­cies was hand­ed down from our in­den­tured fore-par­ents from In­dia, it is known that cer­tain changes were made as of ne­ces­si­ty or as a cre­ative ad­just­ment to­ward a bet­ter flavour.

The com­po­si­tion of the in­gre­di­ents was al­tered, mak­ing it an in­dige­nous food form.

Ms As­gar Ali, Chote, Dean and Singh re­main the pi­o­neers of the dou­bles. Those men and their de­vot­ed wives had sac­ri­ficed and con­tributed to a na­tion­al fast food; those who had cleared the way to­ward self-em­ploy­ment of all dou­bles ven­dors; those who had giv­en us a sim­ple meal, which is af­ford­able and nu­tri­tious. The fa­mous Ali Dou­bles chain emerged from those in­den­tured roots, as well as all dou­bles ven­dors across our is­land and To­ba­go.

It is re­gret­table that those men and their de­vot­ed wives were not recog­nised and ap­plaud­ed for their laud­able con­tri­bu­tion to the culi­nary art. Princes Town, the birth and home of the mighty dou­bles, that old freight bi­cy­cle with the dou­bles box should be the sym­bol and a tan­gi­ble his­toric item to be pre­served and dis­played on a pedestal with the names of the pi­o­neers etched in a plaque with a brief his­to­ry. The peo­ple of Princes Town must keep their his­to­ry and cul­tur­al her­itage alive; you are a part of a no­ble town with a rich and en­dur­ing his­to­ry—cel­e­brate the pi­o­neers, your her­itage, your his­to­ry—The home of the dou­bles.

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