I spoke to Imran Augustin for the first time on Tuesday. I’d heard a lot about him, still, there was a lot I didn’t know, so when I saw him next to Central Library, I eagerly approached him. He greeted me enthusiastically.
He was holding a clear container filled with goodies: honey roasted peanuts, candy coated chocolate gems, lollipops, peanut brittle… you name it, he had them all.
After hearing the worst about him, I was happy to see he’d turn over a new leaf. I’d seen him on “Untold Stories” years ago homeless and broken. Fortunately, life has changed significantly for Augustin, better known as “Kripple” and he’s certainly grateful.
“I was very troublesome before. I used to rob people, break and enter people’s houses, beat people up, that kind of thing. Everybody knows about me. Before, I would curse people if they disrespected me or accused me of certain things, but I’ve changed. I don’t do that anymore. I have respect for people now and I changed because I want people to see that I’m not the same person,” he said.
Augustin ended up on the wrong side of life at an early age. Trouble hunted him it seemed, and for a long time, he couldn’t break free. It followed him like an ominous shadow and taunted him. Often, he surrendered.
“I grew up in a CDC apartment. I left my home when I was really young because people were saying all kinds of things about me to bring me down. People used to say that I’m a rapist—I never raped anybody. They would say I was harassing their life and troubling them. They said all kinds of things. I needed to clear my mind, I ran away,” Augustin revealed.
He found refuge at a friend’s place—but not for too long. He moved to another house but after a while he found himself back at square one. The cycle continued and eventually he ended up on the streets.
“I ended up there because every time I went somewhere people didn’t trust me,” the 29-year-old explained.
He quickly realized that street life wasn’t the best life. In fact, it was scary, he admitted.
“I used to sleep under the market. I used to be afraid. I lost two of my siblings, both of them were shot and killed. People would watch me a certain way. I also used to follow bad company. They put me in a lot of trouble because they used to encourage me to steal and beg and turn against my own family. They made me do a lot of stuff I did not want to do. I used to talk to myself and tell myself you never know what could happen to you at the end of the day because I was doing bad things,” he said regretfully.
He continued: “I’ve been through a lot, I got stabbed and shot already. People burst my head how many times already. I used to get licks every time people I know got in trouble. I told myself I’m not going to die for these people. It showed me why you shouldn’t be around the wrong set of people.”
Now, he’s encouraging young people to stay out of trouble as much as possible.
“Stay out of the streets, drop the guns and go and do something for yourself. The street is not a place to be, stay away from negative places and bad company. Stay out of trouble, go and look for work to do so you could put money in your pocket,” he advised.
“I see people dying on the streets for useless things, I don’t want to go down that path,” he added.
And he’s serious too. Now, he makes a living the honest way and he’s proud of it.
“Today I’m the good boy, just doing my little business and holding myself, selling my snacks. Before I sold snacks I used to work at a barbershop cleaning and sweeping and doing other things. The barber is my manager and he really looked out for me. When I was on the streets he took me in his work place like family and he helped me. I like selling my snacks, I like showing people that I’m holding it down. If somebody quarrels with me or curses me, I just take my headphones and put it in my ears, it makes me calm,” Augustin said.
He loves music wholeheartedly. In fact, when I met him, he was listening to Janet Jackson and seemed truly happy. That wasn’t the case years ago. Augustin often found himself on the receiving end of bad jokes after an accident changed his life forever.
“I was playing one of my favourite games with my brother when I was younger and he was running behind me. He ended up kicking the coal pot by accident and it fell on my skin and burned my body. The doctor said if I didn’t die, I’d be crippled and that’s what happened to me. I was three years old I think. People used to tease me and call me names. Some people would tell me I’d be crippled for the rest of my life and some would tell me no girl would ever want me,” he explained.
But it didn’t stop him from living, he revealed.
“It just made me believe in myself. It pushed me to do things for myself. I didn’t listen to what people said because nobody’s perfect and I know who I am at the end of the day,” Augustin said.
“I just want everybody to know I’m a loving youth, I care for people and I respect people. I want people to see the real me. People never really took the time to get to know me before, people never spoke to me,” he added.
He’s finally off the streets and Augustin couldn’t be happier. He’s also a popular local singer and he’s thrilled about that too.
What’s next for Augustin? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see but from the looks of things, it’s going to be good.