I would like to acknowledge my debt to an extraordinary woman. Her name is Ms Maggie Da Silva, a former CEO of the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry. A woman par excellence, she was the spark of my intellect, the fire in my soul; she humbled me as she had a golden heart. She challenged the male monopoly in the banking and business sectors during the dismal age of Guyana. She offered me material possessions beyond my imagination. This is how the story began.
In the late eighties, I had a small business in the Stabroek market and was desirous of expanding as Desmond Hoyte was creating avenues for free enterprise, but I needed funding for my business plans. Without any referrals I approached Ms Da Silva at her office which was then located at Lot 47-48 Water Street, Georgetown, Guyana, for a loan from the bank. She politely welcomed me into her office and the interview began. After a long and intensive questioning period she said, “Mr Mohamed I am sorry, but I cannot give you this loan, you don’t satisfy the requirements.” A defeated man, I thanked her for her time and made my way to the door. As I was about to exit her office, I heard the most beautiful feminine voice say, “Come Mr Mohamed, be seated.” For a brief moment I thought I was dreaming or that it was a call from a supernatural being, but reality struck me hard as her words still resonate in my soul until today.
Ms Da Silva broke the conventional rules of banking to facilitate my request. For another extensive period she lectured and advised me in the sternest manner and then words of encouragement came; she said, “Mr Mohamed I see in you integrity and for that reason I am approving the loan.” Those golden words were said to a young, poorly attired East Indian businessman. From that day onwards I never disappointed her. She kept me under her wing and as my prosperity grew, her advice became sterner and our business and friendly relationship grew stronger.
Ms Maggie had a special ability to make anyone feel important and special. She invited me to the Lusignaan Gulf Club to try my hand at the sport. She was a good golfer, an excellent communicator and she had a passion for helping ordinary people.
Yesterday, I spoke with a female manager of a popular city bank who shared similar thoughts and her experiences about Ms Maggie Da Silva. She said, “Maggie would fight for workers’ rights with all her strength until her beautiful white face became red.” Ms Maggie Da Silva never lost a battle; the directors of the banks would become weary of her relentless pursuit. In the highest of forums she would ‘big up’ the ordinary staff members like the ones who participated in activities that made the environment clean and tidy.
She was full of grace. It’s a pity that a fantastic, astonishing woman like Ms Maggie Da Silva is only born once in a generation.
Ms Maggie Da Silva consumed my entire being through her extraordinary brilliance. Her stunning words were the most dazzling pearl necklace around the neck of humanity. When corporate Guyana and the feminist movement will write their annals of history, Ms Maggie Da Silva will be on top of the list of the most influential women of all times. She stood tall like a palm tree and was never swayed by the wind.
The joy of having known her trumps all the other temporary pleasures I have ever had. I cannot bear the taught that if I were to subtract her out of my history, what my life would be like. Throughout our sojourn on earth one person can touch our lives and we become better, so much better.
Peace to the greatest CEO of the twenty-first century as she has returned to the divine author; peace to a stern advisor, peace to a generous giver and peace to a friend.
With utmost respect and deep sympathy,