My father used to tease my mother and tell her that she should be buried at his feet, so that each morning when he awakens, she would be the first thing he sees. She would smile but insisted that, when she was buried, nothing must be placed on her chest, that is, no concrete on top of her. His wish was not carried out, for we felt that they should, as in life, be buried side by side. Her wish was honored and there is nothing on "her chest".
On the third day, we rented a car and drove to the gravesite. I was shocked to see the condition it was in. All grown over with bushes and the grill, quite rusted. We, my brother Krish and I stood silently, lost in our own thoughts. We did a bit of cleaning, but it needs a lot of work. We stayed for about a half- hour and we tried to find also, my in-laws graves, but was not successful. We left, deciding to find someone to clean, repair the graves and plant some flowers. We would return later. It was for me, a very sad visit, my first since we buried my mother in 1989. I will be back.
We drove on to the house, which is less than a mile away, and I started to pay more attention to the surrounding area. There were no recognizable landmarks, except the Port Mourant Hospital and the cricket ground that had nurtured so many of our top criciketers. Everything else was new, even the Roopmahal cinema, where I had spent so much time, watching the latest Indian movies......Mother India, Dulari, Dil deke dekho, Nagin etc. The trains that used to take the workers to the fields were no more. The tracks have been ripped up and a road was built over it. The houses are all new or newly painted and where there used to be rice-fields, there are now houses. The trench, with its cool, black water, where we used to swim and catch fish is no more than a cesspool of garbage and pollutants. What a sad sight and all the beautiful memories I had of the years of frolicking in it, I will cherish even more, because that is all there is. My old primary school, St. Joseph Anglican is still there but the open air market has been replaced by a large coverd one that sold everything from fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, clothes, jewelry and so on. Corentyne Comprehensive, the High School, of which I was the founding principal in 1962, was still there and I will pay a visit later.
We went up to the house and spent a few hours. We sat on the wide verandah, on the only chair and rocking chair, and we talked about the past. The panoramic view of ricefields, fruit trees, and a few scattered house, were no more. It's all crowded out with houses and their yards full, of all manner of trees, coconuts, mangos, bananas, with music blaring in the hot sun. The wide spaces where we used to play, fly our kites and the ponds, where we used to fish are no more. But the verandah was still cool, with the cool Atlantic breeze. This was the verandah where we spent so much time, relaxing, reading, eating, entertaining and at times, stretched our hands and pick large, ripe papayas from the loaded trees. This was the verandah, from which we surveyed the yard, with its plentiful fruits, mangos, papayas, coconuts, limes, bananas, star apples and vegetables.....beans/boras. pumpkins, squash, peppers, eggplants/baigans, okras, bhaijis.... The verandah is still here, in need of some repairs, and we have our memories of the halcyon days of our youth. We will cherish and appreciate, those memories even more........ The Last Days.......
The mood has started to improve, so we decided to see more and have some fun. We were invited by a friend, Buddy, to visit him at Crabwood Creek. This was located about 30 miles away and close to Suriname, separated by the Corentyne river, which flowed all the way to the Amazon. We rented a van and invited a few friends to come along. We drove past Tain, past the school where my wife Juliet had taught for nine years and where a campus of the University of Guyana was located ( in a place where there used to be rice fields). We went through Bloomfield, Letterkenny, Whim, No. 63 ( which has a lovely beach) and many other villages, and quickly noted that all the old haunts were no more ( back in the sixties, we used to ride our bycycles, up and down this area, stopping for "drinks" and sometimes a meal, at the local "rum shops"). The houses, the rice mills and other familiar spots were changed and unrecognizable. The road was clogged with cars, vans, donkey carts and people riding bycycles. There were vendors selling all manner of things and in some places, paddy (rice in its husks), was spread on the side of the road to dry. People dressed very colorfully, were also walking along the road ( there is one main road, stretching all the way to Crabwood Creek).
We arrived at our destination after about an hour and was greeted with hugs and much needed cold drinks. Soon after we were invited to a table laden with food and more drinks ( we had been asked what we wanted for lunch and we had replied "fish. We were offered "bush/wild meat" but declined. The fish was cuffum, mullet, sardine and bangamerry, some curried, some fried and some minced. It was a most enjoyable meal. Afterwards, we were taken to see a sawmill at work. It was owned by our host and he gave us the tour. We saw the huge logs that was being prepared for export to China ( while we were there they were loading a ship, for China). Our host has a "grant" ( a logging camp, where he and his workers would stay for weeks, felling the trees and cutting the logs which was then brought down to the sawmill for final preparation), and he wanted to take us there, but it was miles away, by speed boat and we declined but said that we would take up his offer the next time we were in Guyana. Most of Guyana is forest and water ( most of the people live on the coast of the Atlantic. The hinterlands are peopled by the native aborigines and gold and diamond workers, and those who work in the bauxite and manganese industries. There are some small towns like Linden, Bartica and Parika also).
We had a great time at Crabwood Creek. I would definitely return for a longer visit, but it was time to make the return jpurney.
The next few days was spent with "new" freinds who invited us to their homes and one, we especially enjoyed was with the Walter family, where we met some of Guyana test cricketers ( Bishoo and Permaul) and up and coming players, one colorfully called Kunta Kinte. The evenings was spent at my sister's, with some friends and neighbors. It was quite communal and enjoyable, some music but no radio or television, though everyone had them. We decided to have a party for all of them, to show our appreciation and that was done on Wednesday. We also held a party at the house at Miss Phoebe, for our friends there. It was Sunday. A big pot of "all-in one" ( everything was cooked together, the rice, the potato, the bhaji, the fish, the chicken, the sardine, the corned mutton etc.). It was prepared by Dinesh and his wife Indira ( these were two remarkable people, who did so much for us and made us welcome in their home, feeding us and making sure that we had a great time. I am so grateful to them). It was delicious and was chased down with beer and vodka for the adults and soft drinks for the children. There was music and some dancing by the children and the "old house" came alive and that was the purpose. We wanted to bring back some music, some laughter and some jollity, and we did.
There was one more thing I wanted to do and that was to visit the school, that I had taught for eight years and where I was the founding principal. My new freiend, Bishoo, the test cricketer, drove me there on Thursday, May 8th. I could recognise nothing or no one. The old buildings were gone, replaced by new ones ( that is to be expected after 46 years). I was welcomed by the principal Ms. Somwaru and given a tour. It was an eerie feeling. This was the place that I had helped to create and when I left it, it had about 1100 students, was doing quite well academically ( many of those students have migrated to Canada, USA and eleswhere and have been very successful in many professions ). The school, Corentyne Comprehensive, had also produced some very good cricketers, table tennis and volleyball players, for the country. I was told that there was now 900 students, that they were doing well in sports, but had slipped academically. I had a brief conversation with some of the staff, wished them well and left, somewhat saddened.
My journey was now at an end. It had started out slowly and pensively. It took me a few days to get into the mood of things and then, I started to enjoy myself. I met a lot of happy, friendly and helpful people and I will miss them, but it is time to leave. We rented a van and filled it with some friends and some childrfen ( Indira prepared food for the journey and we had an enjoyable last meal together at the airport). We said our goodbyes, some tears were shed and we left. We boarded the plane at 1.55 pm and after about six hours, landed at Pearson. We cleared Customs very quickly ( I was very concerned, because we had brought a little bit of Guyana, with us, which is only obtainable in Guyana).
I am glad i made that trip. It was for me a time of healing. I felt quite alive, while I was there and even my aches and pains were eased . I hope that this feeling, this joy will last until I return again to that wonderful place that is still my home.