By Sharief Khan
(An excerpt from an interview with Sharief Khan reprinted from Stabroek News, December 11, 1987, page 5)
In gaining a politician like Cheddi Jagan Guyana might have lost a cricketer. “I used to be in the Third Eleven at Queen’s College – not very good, but I think that’s because not too much attention was paid to me to give further training. I was raw,” Dr Jgan reflected as he talked about his earlier days.
“When I was a little boy, I was head of my own little cricket team at Port Mourant,” he said. At Queen’s College in Georgetown he continued this interest and left a record there.
“I have a Third Eleven record of over 100 not out as an opening batsman. I had potential, but it was never developed,”Jagan who is 69 years says.
His run with the bat stayed with him until he got to the United States where he studied at Howard University, Washington and the North West University Dental School in Chigaco.
In Harlem he played as an opening batsman for a group called the ‘Royal Exiles.’
“I had an interest in cricket but by the time I came back here I had to give it up because I didn’t have the time.”
And that has been the story of the life of the leader of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) ‒ not enough time.
In the US he became interested in politics.
“When I came back here I played lawn tennis and bridge for recreation but then again, whatever I do, I do intensely — I pay a lot of interest to it. And I couldn’t devote that much time to recreation and devote the time required for trade union and political work.
“So eventually sports and all those other things fell off.”
Even today, “I don’t have much time for recreation — I am so busy with research, reading, writing and ‘politicking,’ that is, being with the people, making speeches and so on…”
“I don’t even have time now to write as many current articles for local and overseas,” Jagan disclosed.
It was in the US too that he met his wife Janet.
Was it love at first sight?
“Well, I don’t know if one can call it that — more or less…”
Did he sense a kindred spirit?
“In that sense, yes, definitely. Because as we got to know each other more we obviously were thinking in the same direction. She was a member of the Communist Youth and, I would say, of the first generation of Americans who got fed up with middle class American values — what they called ‘two chickens in a pot and two cars in the garage’…
“We met at a party of a mutual friend; it was clear that not only was she beautiful but she had interests which coincided with mine.”
Dr Jagan, having remained married to one woman for about 44 years, is believed to be unique among male Caribbean politicians not famed for preserving marriages.
“Most marriages are based on physical attraction and things like that. Most women do not share the same outlook of men in the political arena particularly, and they are not involved. Whereas Janet is directly involved and has always been.
“Of course, I consider myself lucky in having met her.”