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Doubles half-century

Monday, July 14, 2014
Despite the nickname, Sleepy is always alert behind the barra box.

My name is Sleepy and I’ve been selling doubles for over 42 years.


Just say, “Sleepy Doubles, St Helena,” and everybody know me. My real name is Balram Colai but if people read in the papers about Balram, they wouldn’t know is Sleepy.


I started off selling doubles under the planes in Piarco International Airport, right by the plane. The people in the tower used to give me green light to ride across the runaway and sell under the wing. Sometimes, the pilot would see me waiting to cross and radio the tower and tell them not to let me cross until after he land. 


So people could come down the plane stairs and buy doubles. 


I used to be on the ramp and all in the hangar and thing. Those were the days. You can’t go anywhere near the airport now.


People’s carry my doubles all over.  It have some Barbados people, some St Lucian, some Jamaican, when they come, they buy by the hundreds. To take back. My doubles travel all over the world, up to the Middle East and all.


Ten cents was for doubles when I started. Now is $4, some places, $5. When my father got sick when I was around 13-14, I stopped school and started selling doubles to maintain the family. I never finished school. But I have nothing to regret because, with this work, I educate all five of my children. I have eight grands. I take care of all of them and my original family with doubles.


Sleepy is a nickname a guy just give me. He say, when I wake up, I always looking sleepy. To do this work, you have to get up early in the morning. So you’s look sleepy.


I used to ride my bike down to St Helena Junction but, every day, before I reach the junction, I sell out. People used to walk up the road to meet me, to make sure they get they doubles, and children nearly get bounce. So that is why I stop riding the bike.


Sleepy & Son is me and my son, Ramesh. They’s call him, “Apache.” All doubles people around St Helena buy from me but I never buy doubles from anybody. You can’t get doubles like mine anywhere else, so it don’t make sense, I buying.


The rush hour is 7.30am to half-nine; but, on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, is from half-past five straight until finish, ten o’clock, most of the time. We prepared from the evening before. My wife gets up around 1 o’clock. I get up around 3.30am.


When I go home 10am, I don’t sleep.  Just take a little relax, start over to prepare for the next day. Because is a lot of work. People see the sales, but not the preparation.


I’s carry the madam to cinema, watch a little Indian movie, but I like to see my movies home. I have real action movies. I go on Netflix. I have a 62” TV hook up on stereo, to computer, everything. My wife pops corn and we good right there. So I feel like I in cinema when I home.


By the help of God, I never encounter any bad experience in doubles. Nobody never try to rob me or nothing.


Nothing troubles me. Because I walk with the Lord, and he is the major man in any business or walk of life. 


The best thing about the job is meeting pleasant customers. I have real nice customers. Christmas and any holidays, a lot of customers bring gifts for me! I don’t think there’s any bad part, except maybe when the weather is rough. But I have a shelter so even bad weather don’t bother me.


A Trini is about having good fun. And when they go and have their fun, every morning, they come looking for Sleepy. Lime whole night and look for Sleepy doubles to have a revival. They begin their day with me.


Trinidad & Tobago is my homeland. It used to be pleasant long-time, but not again. But we have to live with it. In St Helena, compared to other places, we have it nice.


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