‘Moses Dwarka Drive’ unveiled in honour of champion athlete
By Avenash Ramzan
For decades now the community of Better Hope has been synonymous with the outstanding exploits of Moses Dwarka, the phenomenal Half-Marathon athlete, who literally blazed the trail in a colourful and decorated career.
Post-retirement though, little is heard or said of the now 79-year-old former athlete, outside the confines of the East Coast Demerara village.
To ensure his legacy lives on, the Better Hope Sports Club in collaboration with the Better Hope/La Bonne Intention Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) on Saturday named a street after the ‘barefoot king’, as he was fondly called in his heydays.
A sign, bearing the words ‘Moses Dwarka Drive’, was erected just outside the former national athlete’s residence at Better Hope, a permanent reminder the principals behind it all hope would inspire generations to come.
At a small formal function at the Better Hope Sports Club, prior to the unveiling of the sign, NDC Chairman Zaman Shaw called Dwarka “a stalwart of the community.”
“It is always a good gesture to give this kind of recognition to those who would have made contributions, not only because we want fame or some kind of recognition to them, but also because we want the community to be able to look at the recognition and continuously remember all the contributions that were offered,” Shaw told the gathering.
The Chairman, in signalling the NDC’s full support for the project, lauded the Sports Club for the initiative.
“I believe that in this day and age, lots of young people have lost the essence of sports. Our NDC is always committed to ensuring that we advance whatever we can to promote sports and culture within our communities, and that is why from the very inception we were very supportive of this activity,” Shaw noted.
President of the Better Hope Sports Club, Jagnarine Singh, added, “It’s good that we can recognise Moses at this time of his life and ensure that something is written, ensure there is a mark for his life and his achievement and there is no way better than naming a street after him.”
NDC Councillor Mayodeen Razack reflected that during Dwarka’s time of competing, against the likes of Harry Prowell, George De Peana and Clem Fields among others, persons would line the roadways to catch a glimpse of the athletes in action.
“Moses has always been a very simple, humble person. Now he doesn’t even want to talk about running, but we’re proud to have Moses Dwarka here and we’re even more proud to be able to honour him by the naming of the street,” Razack said.
Better Hope Sports Club member, Robbie Harnarine, said it is incumbent on this and future generations to preserve the history of those who have excelled in the past, not just in sports, but all other fields.
“I have been introduced to the exploits of Uncle Moses through the print media, as well as conversations that have occurred in this community. I remember sometimes coming to the centre ground, sitting down and conversing with the older people and it’s the incredible sense of pride that you get when these people sit down and they talk about Uncle Moses,” Harnarine shared.
He continued, “And often in these conversations you would expressions like ‘dis ah abee bai.’ He’s one of ours. And often time I would leave with the same pride, knowing that there was someone who put Better Hope and Guyana on the map very early on.”
Director of Sport, Christopher Jones, lauded the community for the gesture in recognising whom he deemed an “icon” in the sporting arena.
“I do hope that many other communities and village could take a page out of what they would have done here in the Better Hope community, and equally identify those sports icons in the communities and name something after them,” Jones highlighted.
Dwarka, who represented Guyana in various international meets overseas, including, Chicago, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Venezuela, Grenada, had a simple message for youngsters, during his brief remarks at the function.
He urged them to follow a healthy lifestyle and incorporate exercise in their daily routine. “If it’s just for 10, 15, 20 minutes, do some exercise. It is very good.”
All the speakers hailed club member, Mustafaa Azimullah, for being the driving force behind the naming of street. Azimullah has been using various means to highlight the achievements of Dwarka and bring awareness on the impact he had on athletics during his days as a competitor.
He made these points in a letter to the press in 2014.
“Moses Dwarka was a well known individual, and his name was a household one, especially on race day. His competitors respected him and he likewise. Moses was aware of his running ability, his stamina, his endurance, but never boasted any of it. His running did all the talking,” Azimullah recollected.
“Lots have dominated throughout their careers, but after their retirements, are brought up very little in sports conversations. There are so many athletes like this who we were talking about at one point in our lives and don’t even get a thought today. None of those athletes experienced a sadder fall from grace than Moses Dwarka. We have all simply discarded him from our memories to make room for the next phenomena, who will capture our imaginations until he is unable to do so too. It’s appalling, that a man of such stature has gone unnoticed. His brilliance as an athlete has long eluded us.”
Apart from being a dominant force on the local scene, Dwarka represented the country with distinction. He was part of British Guiana’s contingent to the first-ever Pan American Championship in 1959 and also donned the national colours at the Commonwealth Games.
He copped three gold medals in the Half-Marathon at the British West Indies Championships between 1959 and 1965 and got two bronze in the 10,000m races in 1958 and 1959 when compatriots George De Peana and Harry Prowell won gold and silver respectively, on both occasions. He also won silver in the 5,000m event at the championship in 1965, losing to Prowell.
In 1998, Dwarka was awarded by the Guyana government with a Medal of Service.