Man has often had to conform to society in his quest for success. But there have been times when such transformations have shaped his destiny with remarkable results.
So it was in the life of Joseph Charles, a self-made entrepreneur who rose from being a simple and poor yard-boy at St Clair, to a magnificent businessman and industrialist, who, without a formal education, developed one of the major soft drink enterprises in Trinidad and Tobago.
His is a story of fortitude, faith and the burning desire to improve life’s declining status when he was quite a young boy. His subsequent skill in business practice, more so for one with no proper schooling, was astonishing to say the least.
Here was a teenager who knew nothing of trade and economics, laying the path to a successful business through hard work, unique ideas and above all, a mind sharpened on ambition and courage.
Charles fought his way through a tough and challenging period in Trinidad and Tobago when colour and class were facets that determined one’s progress. He discovered that one of East Indian decent did not enjoy the same privilege as others in the higher economic echelons of the community.
In the first place he was born on July 29, 1910 at Moruga to a Punjab immigrant father and Martiniquan mother named Rosalin Jamaria. He was given the name Serjad Makmadeen. This was the prelude to his subsequent hardship in his early years.
Serjad was the last child of eight children, he being one of two boys in the family. They moved to Princes Town and then to north Trinidad, eventually residing in St James.
The captain of a ship, living at Ellerslie Park, gave young Serjad a job as a yard-boy when he was just 10 years old and forced to leave school because of poverty in the family. His young life was then filled with work and little hope of any progress.
But he survived because of his determination to succeed in whatever he did and to live with honesty and sacrifice. He suffered through his teen years, at one time having to pick a loaf of bread off the ground at the railway station, wash it and eat it for lunch. It was as bad as that.
But the young man rallied on and at 13 left the residence of the captain and took a job at M I Bakery on Charlotte Street. He learned the trade and then became a salesman, riding a bicycle and developing a sales technique of giving customers who bought more then 12 loaves of bread, an extra loaf which he paid for from his own pocket.