I begin this tale from Trinidad. My wife Adiylah and I had just returned to Canada from Trinidad in mid-January 2020. We were on an extended 7-week trip to Trinidad.
My mother celebrated her 101st birthday on December 1st, 2019. It was also an opportunity to complete a few interviews for my dissertation. Michael Cooper of Pan Land (steelpan business entrepreneur); Rudy Moore, (lifelong pan advocate); Winston De Souza (relative an original member of Flamingoes of the 1950s).
Since 2012, Adiylah and I had moved to Toronto from Montreal, where I began a pursuit of studies at York University. The intent was a masters and on to a PHD, this was a set path that I had put myself on.
The journey began and I used the opportunity to encourage pan people of my age to return to school. The fact was that, if you earned the right to be a 60-year-old Canadian (getting to that age), you were allowed free university education in Toronto. A fact that a lot of pan buddies from Toronto were unaware of.
I began and other Torontonians jumped on board.
Now in my final semester of completing the PHD requirements, an incident has forced me to write about it.
For the last few years, as customary, one would go to their car in the gated parking lot. Listening to music and doing some school work, etc. was a part of the scenario enjoyed by many. This peace and serenity ended abruptly last Friday evening.
On Friday, January 31st, 2020 around 10:20pm, Adiylah and I decided to go to the car park and listen to some music. As a matter of fact, the intent was to begin listening to a song in order to transcribe the music. This is customary as I transcribe my music from the original song in order to prepare for the 2020 panorama in Canada.
All of my panorama songs have been scored since the late 1990s. We decided to look at a particular song that was quite popular last year and continued this year. The song is called “Trouble In The Morning” by V’ghn.
Normally I would take my computer to begin the transcription, but instead we decided to only constructively listen to the song as we were also considering other songs. It was a great move that I did not take my computer with all of my dissertation information.
In the car park, you would find students mulling about, couples would be taking walks, parents and kids (much earlier). It was habitual that someone or other students would approach and ask for a light. Marijuana is now legal in Canada, so the obvious was happening.
As we sat in our car, a young man of East Indian descent approached my vehicle to ask for a light. We happened to have a lighter in the car, which we gave him and told him to keep it. He looked like an ordinary student, completely harmless, and he walked away.
Within less than two minutes he returned with another person on the other side. Both had guns in their hands and ordered me out of the car. I got out of the front seat with… “What! Are you serious?” They were. It was the first time that I was seeing a gun pointed at me. I could not believe what was happening.
The taller of the two bandits ordered me back in the car with him taking over the driver’s seat. I had to now go to the rear of the driver’s seat, my wife was still in the front passenger seat, the other bandit got into the rear seat of the passenger side. Before getting into the rear seat, unknowingly to the bandits, I threw my wallet with all my important IDs under the car.
Now, we have been reading of regular muggings on campus ground where they would take your cell phone and wallet etc., so we figured they wanted the same. At this point, we realized the danger was only ticking… Our main defense at this point was to surrender, but surrender to our faith and belief.
We are Muslims, so we began calling on Allah, which had a profound effect; Allah’s name was being mentioned. We implored them to take our phones (two iphone 10), but they wanted cash. I had no none in my wallet, which was under the car, so playing for time we told them that we had not planned to travel anywhere so our wallets, etc. were back in the apartment. But, they were getting agitatedly and stated that if they don’t get money, somebody will get a bullet to their head. This was already not a fair fight when two people have guns and you and your wife are defenseless. Don’t be a hero.
The drama continued in the car, they demanded money, we started to talk to them like parents. If you know my wife and she holds you down in a spiritual conversation, you’re likely to get some form of conversion.
The two bandits were young, the one in the back seat with the gun to my head at a point was even younger; I would think about 17 or 18 years-old. The plan was to hold me in the car and my wife would go to the apartment, and get the card; we then would go to find an ATM on campus and get them the money they wanted, $200.
While my wife went to the apartment to look for her card, it became tense, but I fought back with talk. I told the young man with the gun that my grandson who is 21 is presently in University like his grandfather. I told this man that he should be doing university rather than doing hold-ups. I told them to think about their families, what would their mothers think? Explaining to them that I have six children and eleven grandchildren.
The young man was giving in, saying he only wanted the cash. He had rent to pay or he would be evicted. I assured him that money is not the problem and they would have it. Meanwhile the other bandit in the front seat was getting more agitated and scared and said at that point that they should go off with me because my wife won’t be returning.
I said my wife and I have been together for almost 50 years and she would not leave me, she will be back.
The younger one in the back seat was saying that they only wanted the money and told the other to wait.
He admitted he should not be doing this; he was breaking.
I literally began rubbing the back of the young bandit in the back and told him all will be well. I was actually comforting this bandit. They were speaking the language of East Indians (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka). They all sound the same to me. Then I popped a question to the bandit in the back. Are you a Muslim?
He lowered his head.
I said to him, “Salaam Alaykum…” He nodded his head… I rubbed his back.
Then my wife returned, she got into the passenger side, we drove about 200 meters to an ATM on campus where my wife got out to go to the ATM.
Here I am in the car with bandits, students walking around, cars are passing by, and no one knew we were being car-jacked. It was a surreal experience to be in the “now.”
My wife got back into the front passenger seat where she told them that she got them $300 instead of $200. At that point the same younger bandit, now patted her back and told her don’t worry.
They began speaking their language, apparently deciding the next move with us. It could have gone either way. Fortunately for us, they decided to drop us off near where we were picked up, warning us not to say anything or they would be back, and unknown to anyone they sped off, leaving us on the street.
I watched them as they sped off with our car, phones, money and everything else. Unbelievable!
However, the most important thing happened; no one got hurt. We gave thanks and praise to the Almighty Allah, who delivered us from this evil, without a scratch, and immediately went to one of my daughter’s apartment, who is also a student living on campus.
We called 911 and other authorities, where I went back to the parking lot to retrieve my wallet.
The investigation is ongoing… Up to this time 11:30 am Monday, February 3rd, the vehicle has not yet been found. I shudder to think if my wife and I were still not found like the car. I have so much more love and respect for my wife, she handled it all so well. I think she is indeed a hero (shero).
I wish for no one to have this experience, but if the unfortunate happens, I urge you to realize that you are never helpless and defenseless. Your voice, like the pen is more powerful than the sword (gun). You only need to know how to use it effectively.
Of course, a strong dose of spiritualism is also a major part of the ingredients to make it work.
I have not yet had the time to go back to “Trouble In The Morning” because it was just too much “Trouble in the Evening.”
Submitted by Salah Wilson (PHD candidate)