The Newsday newsroom and the media fraternity were plunged into mourning on Sunday morning at the news of the sudden passing of photographer Sureash Cholai at age 58. He was described as humble and a good human being by those who knew and worked with him.
Acting Editor-in-Chief Camille Moreno said she was heartbroken at Cholai’s sudden death, and had last seen him on Saturday when she was editing the Sunday Newsday.
“He was as dedicated as ever, and did his circuit of assignments with ease and professionalism. He made sure I had enough photos to choose one for the front page from among his and his colleagues' work.
“Sureash was all set to return to work on Sunday and although anticipating a long day he assured he would be out early. Among his final photos for us is the Sunday Newsday sports lead photo from horseracing.
“Sureash was a mentor to photographers and reporters, and even us editors. He looked out for the junior reporters who worked with him on one of their assignments. He was like an uncle to the younger staff.
“He was a devoted husband and father, even more so to his children when his wife passed away a few years ago.
On behalf of Newsday, I extend condolences to his children and family.”
Cholai worked with Newsday for 19 years, having joined the staff in December 2003. He was originally from Cedar Hills, Princes Town, and went directly to the media from school at ASJA College in San Fernando, joining the TT Mirror and Sunday Punch, where he rose to the role of senior photographer, and then the Expres before joining the Newsday.
Former Newsday editor Keino Swamber said he was devastated to hear the news, having worked with Cholai at different houses since 1994.
“I've known Sureash since 1994 when I started freelancing at the TT Mirror / Sunday Punch newspapers. He and my mentor and friend Cecily Asson were a team.
“Sureash was not just a photographer, he had a keen nose for news - a quality possessed by only a few of his peers. I will always remember him for his insistence that he be the one to cover the Carnival King and Queen of the Bands competition. It was something he understood and loved. Sureash also covered a lot of calypso events and was able to give you a good analysis of who he thought was good and who wasn't.
“I last saw Sureash on Wednesday, when he was leaving the office. He wished me well since he was scheduled to be off on Thursday and Friday in anticipation of working this weekend. He worked on Saturday, but Sunday was not to be.
“Rest in peace and may his children and other relatives be comforted.”
Sports Editor Stephon Nicholas said he worked with Cholai for 16 years and he was always very professional, easy to get along with and an exceptional photographer, particularly at sports.
“He had an eye for catching the best shots. He would walk in the newsroom and say, 'Ah have ah nice back-page picture for yuh.' He never tried to oversell a picture if it wasn't to his standard. As a photographer he also understood the synergy required when going an assignment with a reporter. He would always be in communication so the picture and story would align. May he rest in peace.”
Cholai's fellow Newsday photographers expressed their disbelief at the news and shared their memories of working with him.
Roger Jacob described Cholai as his big brother in photography and someone he was close to and even asked him to photograph his wedding. He said Cholai was skilled at all types of photography, be it State or diplomatic functions, Parliament, conferences, portraits, profiles, human interest and crime.
“He was the best colleague you could ever ask for. He was always trying to support everybody here in Newsday. At work he was always committed to the task, he would stakeout for whoever, stand up for however long, he was like that. He wouldn’t take a bad picture too, because he would delete any of the bad pictures he had, so all of the pictures he had were good.
“His legacy will continue. He had the ability to bring out the best in every subject, it didn’t matter if it was the President or the simplest of portraits, he would bring out the joy in that person. He enjoyed his job and that showed because he was always jolly, I’d never seen him angry and even if he was upset, he wasn’t upset for long.”
Cholai’s wife Sharmilla passed away three years ago and his sister-in-law died less than two months ago. He leaves behind two children, Nadira and Ijaz.
Jacob said Cholai was a dedicated family man who cooked, cleaned, and ensured that his children were provided for.
“Condolences to his two kids that he left behind and his family that took him in and welcomed him, because he lived with his wife’s family who took him in as a brother, welcomed and accepted him. It’s really going to be hard for the children now.”
Angelo Marcelle said, “I secretly envied his ability to maneuver around every woman's body type so that they would be in the perfect position to take a cover photo for a feature in the newspaper. His eye for what is attractive and candid made the reader pause. It often created many discussions among the men.”
Ayanna Kinsale said Cholai was one of the most humble photographers she ever worked with and someone who was always willing to give advice about anything.
“He was the perfect father and always spoke about his family. In fact, just the day before he passed away, we were chatting and he mentioned his deceased wife. One thing Sureash used to jokingly boast about was the spelling of his name, saying that he was the only one in the country who's Sureash has an 'a' in it. He will surely be missed.”
Funeral arrangements are still to be finalised. He was also remembered by the Media Association (MATT).
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