MamooDeen's Legacy.     [Chapter 14]

Out of the Doubles Kitchen

Doubles vendors started popping up and replicating MamooDeen's business model in every town and village. Some even aggressively placed their Doubles Boxes near to his in direct competition with him in San Juan. Some Doublesmen replicated his compartmentalized yellow Doubles Boxes on freight bikes while others tried to differentiate their imitation by painting their Doubles Boxes in different colors. But the one thing they could not duplicate was the taste of Deen's Doubles, because MamooDeen was an "eyeball cook." He cooked by the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. He cooked by instinct, not by measurement. With his "tasty hand," he left a delicious legacy.

He had switched on an entrepreneurial engine of financial freedom and independence directly in Princes Town, San Fernando, San Juan, and Port of Spain, and indirectly in the rest of the nation. Even though only two of his six sons followed his Doubles dream to fruition, he had succeeded in motivating hundreds of nationals to follow in his footsteps. Faced with high unemployment, they were inspired by his business model to be self-employed and gain entrepreneurial independence. Among those who invested their energies in the unforgiving Doubles business, several are rewarded with significant wealth for their dedication and hard work. They are living MamooDeen's dreams. He would be proud to know that so many people, especially the families of his brothers-in-law, the Alis of Princes Town and San Fernando, have embraced his intelligent foresight and helped to make Doubles the number one street food of Trinidad and Tobago.

The fact that we now take the accomplishments of the Doubles business for granted underscores how significant its progress has been, given that seventy-seven years ago its success would have been considered unthinkable. These achievements depended on the sustained commitment and sacrifice of an extraordinary entrepreneur committed to a vision of his world. He gave his life to something bigger than himself. His achievements were the manifestation of his character. Trinidad at the time presented him with the ideal setting for his life's adventure.

When MamooDeen introduced Doubles in 1936, he was making his contribution to the blending of the Indian culture with a plural society in its infancy. The national buffet of culinary delights has been enriched by his creative input. His contribution to nation-building stirred the melting pot of a diverse society that now describes itself as "all ah we is one." Calypso icon David Rudder described Doubles on his Facebook page, in December 2012, as "the great egalitarianizer of all varied stomachs."

MamooDeen's untimely demise at age sixty-two denied him the opportunity to see his creation take flight to become the ubiquitous street food of the nation, but his immortality will reside in his creation that lives. He may have lived an uneducated and ordinary life, but he left an extraordinary legacy.

Although he has not been officially recognized for the national heritage he created for his country of birth, he has left "a personal check payable to Trinidad and Tobago for an amount in excess of his lifespan." As a rural rube with a vision, he was the ideal of a self-made man who came and gave without taking.

Papa's Life: A Story of Possibility.
MamooDeen was born in a house facing a mountain of the Central Range in Piparo and died in a house facing a mountain of the Northern Range in Santa Cruz, neither of which he had ever climbed. But the mountain of struggles in his life that he successfully ascended kept his family together and out of abject poverty. In defiance of an oppressive system, this illiterate peasant pulled himself up by the bootstraps, charted a different destiny, and achieved his life's goal of being his own boss in a business he manifested from a simple idea.

His life is a story of possibility. He did not wait for the state to guide or lift him up toward entrepreneurship. He was determined to succeed despite the state, rather than because of it. His confidence came not from believing that he was inferior or by associating his plight with his birth, but by his indomitable will and strong belief that the world of his dreams was possible. This motivated him to answer desperation with ingenuity and spend his life in pursuit of conquering the abject poverty and servility that colonialism inflicted on him and his people.

He had kept his promise that illiteracy would not deter him from using his common sense and physical strength to support and protect his family. He left Ma, his lifetime business partner, financially secure, so she did not have to cook any more Doubles when he was gone. I am using my financial inheritance from his estate to finance the self-publishing of this book; so in effect he even paid for the cost of telling his own story. This was the measure of the man endearingly named MamooDeen.

He did not capitalize on the Doubles industry that he created. His illiteracy might have denied him the knowledge of patents, trademark rights, franchising, and royalties that could have made him a materially wealthy man. But intellectual property rights were not protected in those days in Trinidad.

He has, however, joined an exceptional group of other entrepreneurs and pioneers in the world who did not capitalize on their creations. Among the many is Daisuke Inoue, famous for inventing the first karaoke machine and losing out on roughly $110 million in royalties by not patenting it. The pioneering doctors Jean and Alastair Carruthers never got to cash in on their discovery of Botox as an anti-aging treatment because they never patented their own discovery. Shepherd-Barron, creator of the automated teller machine (ATM), one of the best and most widely used inventions of the modern era, refused to patent the idea and spent the remainder of his life an average Joe. George Crum, the man who made the first batch of potato chips, didn't have the political power to maximize his profits from his own creation. He was both African American and Native American and lived from 1822 to 1914. "In those days, people of color were not allowed to take out patents on their inventions," says Gant-Britton, author of the textbook Holt African American History. And Walter Diemer, who invented bubble gum, which became the most successful one-cent treat on the candy market, neglected to patent his invention.

MamooDeen's mission in life was not motivated by maximizing profit but spiritually driven to feed poor people like himself with a low-cost, high-protein, nutritious, vegan street food that was within their meager means. He selflessly taught the trade to his relatives, friends, and strangers alike who were experiencing the same vicious cycle of poverty as he did. Instead of throwing away the left-over chutney from his daily Doubles inventory, he would give it to any nearby competing Doublesman in San Juan. In his altruism, he was like the proverbial candle that did not lose its glow by lighting other candles. He was like a warrior gathering his troops to fight the common enemies named poverty and exploitation. His mission was to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship with his Doubles business, which for him represented a celebration ofstruggle and triumph over an oppressive system.