MONTEGO BAY, St James — After suffering through a life of poverty, disappointments, and resentment, 31-year-old Krishna Narine now sighs with relief as he journeys through his life as an internationally certified butler.
Growing up in inner-city Kingston was hard, but Narine credits those trying times for building his character and pushing him to work even harder at everything that he does.
“I grew up in a single-parent family with my mother and we were pretty poor. There were two of us…but my younger brother lived with my grandmother because of financial reasons,” Narine told the Jamaica Observer.
“We lived in Olympic Gardens, then we left from there to Jungle [Arnett Gardens]. So it was some serious garrison, and I grew up in a tenement yard. Life was tough so we bounced from one place to the next. My mother was ill at the time so for several years she had to be out of a job,” he added.
Between the financial burden of living with an unemployed parent and life in a violence-plagued community, by the time Narine had entered high school his grades had dropped significantly.
“Most days I had no lunch, but mi still get up and go to school. Even during those times I remember how hard it was to study because there were two sound systems in the yard and when one turn on fi him, the other one turn on fi him,” the Calabar High School past student said.
“Besides that, like every other night you have to look forward to jumping off the bed a try hide from bullet a come through the window,” he added.
But, his family did not give up as “small mercies” came one by one.
“We had to be getting food from Food For the Poor or the church. I remember one night when we went to church and we had no money at all. When we were walking back home…a truck passed and we heard something fall and we saw this bag,” Narine recounted.
“And you know, we were hesitant, but we just stopped and decided to look what was in the bag…it was a bag of chicken. Apparently the back of the chicken truck was opened and a bag of chicken fell. Mi a talk bout probably 100 lbs of mixed parts,” he added.
The man continued, “Keep in mind that we had no food or money. So, of course we took it up and brought it home to share it up. I am a big believer when it comes to God so, as I said, despite the struggles God was still there opening doors.”
Determined to turn their lives around, Narine's family packed their bags and moved to St James hoping for better days. But they did not come just yet, as the once star student now struggled to secure his place at a high school in the west.
“We got a house from Food For the Poor and we moved to St James when I was going into grade nine. My report wasn't too nice, and the reality was I couldn't learn if I was hungry,” Narine told the Sunday Observer.
After being turned down by several schools across the western parishes, Narine was placed at Cambridge High School in rural St James to complete his secondary studies.
But, he said, life was still tough.
“We were there for a few months without light and we didn't have a bathroom, so we had to catch water and use a neighbour's bathroom,” he shared.
“There were several weeks when I just couldn't bother to go to school because I was now struggling with depression. I went days without food and some days I had to link up some brethren to go raid the orange tree over school,” said Narine.
Though there were many roadblocks along the way, some heavier than others, Narine was hell-bent on succeeding. At only 16 years old he had to make the decision to move from his mother's home, and he ended up bouncing from one church family's house to the next in a parish he barely had ties to.
After struggling to complete high school Narine returned to Kingston.
“I moved back to Kingston…there was a house that my great-grandmother owned and that is where I ended up. I literally got ply boards and old zinc to fix it up. It was a tough situation, but I had to find somewhere to live. I remember the first time it rained while I was there. The amount of rain wah fall inside the house mi shoulda just put my pillow and go outside go lie down because more water did feel like it did inside the house,” he told the Sunday Observer.
Things still did not work out in Kingston, Narine shared. But, as his situation got worse by the day, the man did not give up because he knew his “big break” would come. That break came in 2016 when, after months of unemployment, he landed a job at the Iberostar hotel in Montego Bay.
“Sometimes people look pon roadblock as a deterrent, but a roadblock is supposed to motivate you…you have to go out there go lift up whatever block the road, exercise with it, and move forward,” Narine told the Sunday Observer.
Though he applied to become a food concierge, to his surprise, he was given the role of a butler.
“I didn't know anything about being a butler other than watching Jeffery on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but a lot of people told me to take it, so I did,” he said.
While he excelled at his new profession, Narine wanted more.
“I felt like there was a need for more…so I aggressively started to look into butler schools and found the International Butler Academy in the Netherlands. That is one of the top butler schools in the world,” he said.
Eager to get formal training, the young butler packed his bags and journeyed to the Netherlands where he underwent two months of rigorous training.
“We did like 16 hours [of training] a day, and we only got one day off. I didn't even know it was possible to stand up and sleep, mi always just a see old people sit down and do it,” he said.
Since completing the training process, Narine has travelled to some 20 countries, working with private families. His latest assignment, he told the Sunday Observer, was with a private family in Saudi Arabia.
“I've been offered jobs in India and the United States of America…then I got the offer to work for a private family in Saudi Arabia, which I took,” he said.
His message to youngsters, Narine said, is to be open to new possibilities and accept opportunities whenever they come along. Also, he told the Sunday Observer, be persistent.
“Before I throw up my hands, I have to know that I did everything that I could,” he added.