307 years ago the Act of Union, between England and Scotland was passed. There was resistance and rebellion from Scotland, especially the Catholic supporters of Bonnie Prince Charles, who was excluded from his rightful position as King by the passage of the Act of Settlement, 1701. This Act barred Catholics from the throne.
In 1715, one year after George, the Elector of Hanover was crowned ( a search had been conducted to find a Protestant, and they settled on this 55years old unknown, who could not speak English and so the position of "primus inter pares" or premier/ first minister, was created and Sir Robert Walpole became the first holder of the office that would grow into that of Prime Minister), and a rebellion broke out, which was quickly put down. In 1745, another rebellion, this time led by Bonnie Prince Charles, threatened the rule of George 11, but the rebels were routed at the bloody battle of Culloden and thousands were "put to tthe sword". Charles fled to France, died and with him the claims to the throne. The clans were disbanded and forbidden to wear their "colours".
In the intervening years, many Scots held very high positions in the government, the military and other areas of life. Tony Blair,( he of Scottish heritage, and who after leaving the office of Prime Minister admitted to being a Catholic), started the process of devolution, to give Scotland more powers over its domestic affairs. Last year Prime Minister Cameron ( very famous Scottish clan name), whose Conservative party is so hated in Scotland that they won only 1 of the 59 seat for the House of Commons in the last election, agreed to a referendum on Scottish independence. Smug and over-confident and unaware of the extent to which the Scots detested the Conservatives, Cameron left the "No" campaign in the hands of Alaistair Darling ( former finance minister in the previous Labour govt.). He was inarticulate and a poor debater and Alex Salmond , the Scots nationalist leader, slowly build his case for independence, allaying the fears of the voters, by telling them that Scotland will still use the pound; will be a member of EU; will be rid of the right- wing agenda of the Conservatives and will prosper with the revenues from the North Sea oil and gas. The voters gradually got over their fears of " doom and gloom" painted by the "NO" , and the latest poll show the "YES" slightly ahead.
Westminister was shaken and immediately set out to win back support against independence. Cameron went Edinburgh and spoke to workers of Lloyds Banking Group, and begged the voters not to break his heart...." I would be heartbroken, if our family of nations was torn apart.....these islands are our home". Opposition leader Ed Milliband , his party is very popular in Scotland , went to Cumberland, near Glasgow, spoke to labor activists and pleaded " please stay with us....we are stronger together.....stay with us and we can change Britain together....we are favorite to win the next election in May.....the right way is to vote "no" in the referendum and then vote for a Labour government". Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrat, and Deputy Prime Minister, also went to Edinburgh
In this final week, the issues of the currency, EU membership, economic viability, social programs, business investments will be front and center for the voters. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England has stated that an independent Scotland will not be able to keep the pound because it was "incompatible with sovereignty". There will be no currency union. The large banks, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, RBC Capital, Credit Suisse and Societe General have all made dire predictions about the country's finances and the increased risk of investing in Britain if the vote is "yes". The three major parties have agreed that should the "no" side win, more powers in the areas of taxing, public spending and social policy will be ceded to the Scottish Parliament ( Salmond dismissed this as a "bribe").
On the 18th, residents of Scotland, including those from Commonwealth countries, the EU and the UK, age 16 and over will have their say. Polls have indicated a close race, but with 18% of the voters undecided. My prediction is that it will be a narrow "no" vote.
One further note. There is no comparing Quebec with Scotland. Prior to the Union, Scotland was sovereign with clear borders. Quebec on the other hand was created by Confederation and its territory is as a result of various acts of parliament. Also there are 11 First Nations living within Quebec with claims to territory and resources, like the Crees, the Mohawks, the Montagnais, the Inuit etc.
The "Nay"got 55% of the vote. George Brown, the former Labour PM, did yeoman service at the end. Cameron was a wuss. Now the promises made have to be kept and that will not be easy, as Wales, Northern Ireland and especially England will want the same and also that laws affecting each, not be voted on by the others. Next election, in 2015 will be real interesting. I fully expect the voters to reject the Conservatives and Cameron.
Vladimr Putin's has sent a message to the USA, and that is that he can play the game of neighborhood interference. He has come bearing gifts to Cuba, forgiving 90% of its, $32 billion Soviet era debt...$28.8 billion. He will also go to Brazil and Argentina and will be accompanying his "buddy" Angela to the World Cup Finals.
Merkel is still smarting from the eavesdropping on her cell phone calls and has recently sent the station head of the CIA in Germany, packing, for spying activities. Brazil's president is also mad at the eavesdropping on her cell phone by NSA.
Actions have consequences and Putin has reacted, on the Ukraine gambit by the EU ( getting it to sign a trade agreement and moving away from Russia) and the criticism and sanctions on Russia and some of its officials. He first made a visit to China and signed an energy agreement (this in response to Europe's futile and useless threat to cut off Russian supply ). He then threw a "spanner" into Europe's unity, by getting many south European countries, to agree to a Southern pipeline. Comfort before scnctions.
Putin is clearly relishing this. It makes him stronger in the eyes of his people and he gets to ,poke some fingers in the eyes of America and Europe.
Maybe he will go barechested to the beaches of Rio; ride a seadoo and play some beach football.
Netanyahu has one single-minded plan, and that is to re-occupy Gaza. It will be done under the guise of destroying the tunnels and destroying Hamas' ability to operate , but this is not the real reason. As a deputy speaker of the Knesst, Moishe Feiglin has stated in a recently published op-ed in Arutz Sheva, the land of Gaza will be conquered, the residents " cleansed" and the land will be used "to ease the housing crisis in Israel".
The former head of Mossad who had initially opposed the war,has now concluded that Israel will have to stay years in Gaza to achieve their goal of neutralising Hamas. The war continue to expand and more and more Gazans, mostly civilians are killed and wounded. Nowhere is safe, not UN facilities; not schools; not the beach; not the market place and most certainly not homes. All are targeted. None is spared not even little babies.
There is another "hidden and unstated" reason for wanting to re-occupy Gaz. It is the gas fields off-shore ( which the Gazans were not allowed to develop). Israel has always decried the fact that " God" did not give them any oil and gas. Here is a solution to that " oversight".
So Gaza will move from the largest " open-air prison" to an "occupied open-air prison", where the Gazans will be under a new and more degrading oppression. They will not be cowed, thesE Gazans. They will continue to resist and Israel will pay a huge price for "Netanyahu's Folly".
Once again Gaza has been turned into a killing field. Three times in the last six years, Israel on the grounds of "security" and the "threat" posed by rockets fired by the militant Palestinian group, Hamas, has launched a series of air stikes. Once again, civilians are the major casualties,with nearly 100 killed and over 1000 injured, mostly women and children ( at least 23 children have been killed so far). No Israeli has been killed by the rockets, but a gas station was hit, and a few Israelis were injured, while running for shelter. Houses are being targeted, (340 so far), on the grounds that they belonged to known Hamas fighters. A short warning, either from phone calls or a "non-armed" bomb dropped nearby, is reputedly given, before the target home is obliterated, with much "collateral damage"....that is what it is called when innocent women and children are killed or wounded.
So far no ground offensive has been launched, but over 30,000 Israeli reserves have been called up and are massing at the border. In 2008-9, the Israeli ground offensive resulted in more than 1000 Palestinian deaths and 13 Israeli ones. In 2012, there was no ground offensive but airstikes killed 100 Palestinians ( 6 Israelis died). And now this.
The reason given by Netanyahu was the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers (June 12) and the firing of rockets ( after hundreds of arrests, humialiating treatments, beatings by border guards and the killing of a Palestinian teenager (six Israelis fro an extremist group have been arrested) , allegedly by Hamas, though it could have been a break away group, the Islamic Jihad. The Israeli government knew the three boys were dead within hours of their kidnapping, yet the public was not told and Netanyahu went on a air to rouse the public. The Israeli intelligence knew the identities of the kidnappers by June 13, but this information was also kept secret, while Netanyahu continued to rant and rave and threaten. It was evident that Netanyahu wanted an excuse to attack Hamas, even though it it was clear that they had nothing to do with the kidnapping and they said so.
Why would Hamas commit an act of terrorism that would jeopardise the just completed coalition agreement with Fatah? Hamas has been severely weakened by the previous Israeli attacks. They had been forced to leave Syria, because of their support for anti Assad rebels. They had lost their $24 million a month funding from Iran for this . The Saudis had also put pressure on the Qataris to stop funding them and the election of el Sisi in Egypt has seen the supply routes to Gaza limited. They were in dire straits and that is why they turmed to Fatah, which under Abbas had pursued a policy of non-violence, cooperation and co-existence and were rewarded with $400 million aid yearly from the USA and the EU had given them $3.4 billion between 2008-2011. Cash -strapped, Hamas had no reason to start a war with Israel.
Why did Netanyahu hold back evidence from the Israelis? Obviously, he wanted to use it to rouse the population and that he did, and the support to launch an attack grew with each passing day. He was also concerned by the criticism from Lieberman, who threatened to leave the coalition government over Nertanyahu's handling of Gaza. He was concerned about losing the support of the right wing, the nationalists ( Bennett) and the extremist settlers and he was concernerd about the Fatah/Hamas coalition. Thus his decision to go to war. He has always played the "security" card and he has always been more interested in staying in power. That is why he has, time and again sabotaged the peace process ( don't forget his joy at the assissination of Rabin, who had negotiated Oslo with Arafat). Hamas can be weakened but it cannot be defeated. It is an idea that has taken root firmly in the soil of occupation, continued daily humiliation and degradation.
No country can maintain military control over another people indefinitely. To do so is wrong and immoral and it is a drain on human dignity and economic resources. It creates resentment, hatred and instability. It dehumanises the occupier and the occupied. This dance of futility must end.
July, 28,...Israeli police have confirmed that Hamas did not kidnap the three, but that it was done by a "lone" cell. Netanyahu lied and used the outrage to launch this war. On July 15, a deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Moishe Feiglin, wrote an op-ed titled "My Outline for a Solution in Gaza.....Clear and Concise steps toward achieving Quiet in Gaza" in Arutz Sheva calling for the "ethnic cleansing" of Gaza. The seven steps are ...Ultimum; Attack; Defense; CONQUER....after the IDF completes the "softening" of the targets with firepower, the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza with all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other consideration; ELIMINATION......the General Security Service and the IDF will thoroughly ELIMINATE all armed enemies from Gaza. T he enemy population that is innocent of wrongdoing and separated itself from the armed terrorists will be treated in accordance with international law and will be allowed to leave. Israel will generously aid those who wish to leave; SOVEREIGNTY.....Gaza is part of our land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also to ease the housing crisis in Israel. The coastal train line will be extended to reach the entire length of Gaza. This is the plan by no other than a deputy Speaker of the Knesset...cleanse Gaza of the Palestinians and use it to ease the housing crisis in Israel
. Nationalism; tribalism; expansionism; manifest destiny and chauvinism. You can read the other details in the article written by Kate Halper in Raw Story.
One more quote from Netanyahu.... no relinquishing of security control of the territory west of the Jordan river; and the Dahiya Doctrine, to treat villages as military bases and destroy them. Israel is well on its way to achieve this goal of ethnic cleansing, while the world looks on in 'conspirational silence".
The "chicken-hawks" (the ones who are now war-hawks, after using various nefarious means to avoid being sent to Vietnam...Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz etc.), are coming out of the shadows, to blame Obama for the mess they created in Iraq, with their lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction). They are directly responsible for the deaths of close to 5,000 Americans, tens of thousands of Iraqis, as well as over 32,000 Americans badly wounded and also countless Iraqis and millions displaced, infrastructure destroyed and a country beset with violence and a breeding ground for terrorism. They undermined the American Constitution, lied to the American people and caused a conflagration which now threaten to consume the Middle East and drag the world back into this cauldron of death and destruction. Now they have the gall to blame Obama for this disaster that they created. Wolfowitz was the one who told Congress in 2003, that Saddam has WMD; that there will be no Sunni/Shia violence and that oil profits will pay for the war and for after-war reconstruction. All have benn proven to be false.
Bush's lap-dog, Tony Blair has been yapping also. He was complicit in all that Bush did, going along with the lies and even adding to them ( telling the world that we are only "minutes" away from Saddam's weapons. He even lied/ hid the fact that he was Catholic, from the British people, while he was Prime Minister). Now he and Cheney and Wolfowitz and their cronies, some whom benefitted from contracts they got for the rebuilding of Iraq ( first you destroy it and then you make money, billions, rebuilding it), are once again lying and blame-placing.
The recent success of ISIL and the continuing civil war in Syria is raising the spectre of a conflagration in the region, fanned by Sunni/Shia enmity. 60% of the population of Iraq are Shia; Assad's Alewite, an off-shoot of Shia is in power in Syria and both are supported by the Iranians, who are also Shia ( and so is Hizballah in Lebanon). Saudi Arabia is leading the Sunni support for the rebels in Syria and have been pushing for American intervention, but so far Obama has resisted. Now however the dynamics have changed with the success of ISIL. Now there is pressure on Obama to intervene on the side of the Shias in Iraq, to stop ISIL, but this is fraught with danger, especially for American "boots " on the ground. It will stir up a hornets nest and incite terrorist attacks from not just from al Qaeda, but others associated and sympathetic to the Sunni cause. Of course, drone attacks can be used, but it will be very difficult to pinpoint ISIL and its leadership due to their not being concentrated in one place and the lack of human intelligence on the ground.
There is another option, but one that will face fierce opposition from the Republicans, (especially blowhards like McCain and his "buddy" Graham. Don't you love the way they echo each other, in lock-step?), Saudi Srabia and Israel. This option is to work with Iran. Iran will supply the ground forces and the USA and whatever allies, it can muster, can supply the air strikes and satellite surveillance. al Maliki has asked for American help and Iran is quite willing to stop ISIL, which has made it clear that Iran is its next target. The Iranians can also help with Assad of Syria and Hizallah. It, Iran is the only stable country in the region and its power and influence can and should be used by Obama. Teher is no other alternative.
It was time. I can no longer postpone the inevitable. It was after all the reason I came to Guyana. My parents are buried side by side at Babu John, Port Mourant, the place where our dead,other than the Christians,( who are buried at their respective churchyards), are buried and where the great leader of the country, Dr. Cheddi Jagan is buried, a few hundred yards from ny parents ( they knew each other very well, as they grew up about a quarter mile away from each other in the village of Ankerville, he and his many siblings, called my parents Musa/uncle and Musie/ aunt).
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.
I am still running on Guyana time. I went to bed at 9 pm and am fully awake and rested at 5 am. My thoughts are roiling and so I have decided to continue writing about "the trip" and today, I will focus on the House and the Yard.
The house was built around 1932, by my father. on land bought from a lady named Bakserie, for $25. He and his young bride, Sonia, 16 yrs (he was 19 yrs), would live there for the rest of their lives and would raise eight children, who thankfully, are all alive today, but none of us are in Guyana anymore. The first two children, two boys died in infancy. My eldest suster Betty ( we all have "pet" names, which I will be using), was born in Dec. 1937, followed by Baba in June 1940, me, in July 1942, my brother Cecil in Jan. 1944, followed by Prame in Aug. 1945, Baby in Dec.1946, Kesh in May 1948 and lastly Krish in Dec. 1952. We were a healthy, happy brood and quite a handful for my mother, who stayed home to take care of us, with love and a firm hand. She would tell us stories, that would become lessons in life ( I have told those stories to my children and to my grandchildren).
It was and continues to be a three bedroom, house, with a large living room upstairs and a bedroom and a prayer room ( all Hindus have a prayer room in their homes, no need for temples), and a large kitchen and an open, well tended "bottom house' with a hammock (my mother loved to swing in it, singing and telling stories while putting us to sleep when we were babies), two benches for visitors and there were many. ( That "bottom house was swept many times a day, kept spotlessly clean, daubed with a special mud every other day and as one neighbor recounted to me on my visit, " you could eat off of it").
The house would be rebuilt and enlarged three times, the last was in 1963. The best wood was chosen, mostly hard woods, like greenheart, wallaba, cedar etc. because it was bulit to last and so it did, even with the past 25 years of neglect. It was built on eight feet high posts, with a red-painted zinc roof. It was centrally located in the large yard , surrounded bt fruit tress. My father planted clumps of three mango trees, one in the east, one north and the other south. Later he would add other mango trees, coconut trees, star apple, sapidalla, banana, lime, carmanga and papaya trees etc. My mother planted her garden with peppers (various kinds), pumpkin, squash, beans/boras, bhaijis ( great for iron, especially the saijan ), jhingi, egg plants/baigan and many more. She loved flowers and she had a special place for them, especially the hibiscus ( In 1976, when she came to visit us in Montreal, she brought a few stems, which she planted and which my wife, Juliet, has cut and replanted many times over the years, we have about six large ones in pots in our home , she would put them outside in the summer and bring them back in the fall, and she has succeeded in getting some flowers from time to time), used for prayers, tulsie, chamaillee, ferns (orchids grew wild, all ove rthe place, especially on the bird droppings on the mango trees.) and so many more. Oh the color, the smell and the beauty.
The house has a spacious verandah, from which we could see the large expanse of rice fields, the fruit trees of our neighbors and especially the train that took the workers each day for work in the cane-fields. Port Mourant of which Miss Phoebe is a sub-section was the most productive of the many sugar estates owned and ran by the British firm, Bookers, until it was closed down in the late fifties for political reasons ( the country was demanding independence from Britain, and the leader of the movement Dr. Cheddi Jagan was from here and his most loyal supporters were from here and the sugar workers were always in the fore front of the struggle, refusing to work, going on strikes and generally sabotaging the economy and so in retaliation Bookers closed the factory, fired/laid off many workers, seized their land and rice-fields and moved operations to the nearby Albion estate, which continue to operate today as the largest and most successful sugar factory in the country, but now run by Guysuco...the Guyana Sugar Company). In the mornings. it was quite a sight to see the over-loaded trains, bristling with cutasses, shining in the glaring sunlight. It was a wonder that, those very sharp cutlasses did not wound/ cut many of those workers, jammed in, on the lurching, swayimg trains.
We woud wake up in the morning ( about 6 am) with the songs of the many birds, the kiskadee, the dove, the blue saki , the yellow bird, the humming bird, the "old witches", the wrens, sometimes parakeets and parrots flying overhead, the red-breasted cardinals, but it would begin with the roosters. We would swim in the trench, with its clean, cool black water, that ran next to the house and then have a hot breakfast and prepare for school, which was about a half-mile away, a nice walk in the morning sun. The day has dawned and there would be so much to see and do as it progressed.
More later, because it is now 6.30 and time to watch cricket.
The Start....25th April.
My brother Krish and I decided to drive down to Toronto and take Caribbean Airline and its direct flight to Guyana. It left on time, checking and boarding was speedy, and we reached Cheddi Jagan Inernational Airport at Timheri, Guyana, at 4.45 am, a few minutes early.
We cleared Customs and Immigration very quickly, the agents were polite and courteous and I appreciated that, after the long, overnight journney. It took some time to retrieve our baggage and joined our waiting taxi, that would take us directly to Albion, where my sister, Baba and her husband, Seenauth were waitng. The journey was about 2 1/2 hrs.
It was quite a revealing, captivating journey, good roads, superb scenes...the miles of sea-wall ( built by the Dutch, when they occupied this part of Guyana, other parts were occupied by the Spanish and French, until it was ceded to England in 1713, Treaty of Utrecht, that ended the Spanish Succession War), protecting us from the Atlantic ocean, the beautiful houses with their resplendant gardens of breath-taking flowers and fruit trees. It was a veritable garden of delights, with all kinds of flowers, red, white, pink, black, blue, yellow, short, tall, round and bushy and so much more, and the fruit trees in every yard..coconuts, guavas, bananas, mangoes, genips, sapadillas, star, sugar and monkey apples, soursops catahers, jamoons, cherries, even sugar canes and many, many more.
The long, winding but smooth roads took us by thess homes and over canals and rivers. Guyana is called the "land of many water", and there are many large rivers dividing the land and enriching its soil.....we drove by the majestic Demarara, crossed the Mahaica, the Mahaicony, the Abary and finally the wide, Berbice rivers. There is a pontoon bridge across the Berbice and this has not only replaced the ferry, but has reduced the amount of time of travel by a couple of hours. We by-pass the Canje river and New Amsterdam, the second largest city in Guyana, and drove through, No. 2, Sheet Anchor, No19, Bolham, Fryish to Guava Bush, Albion, to my sisters home. There was a warm welcome and a hot meal, chased down with some Guyana-made vodka with coconut water. Oh, the delight.
It was a hot but very breezy day. We sat in the shady bottom, verandah of the house ( my sister and her husband now lives in New York, but return to their refurbished home each year for a few ennervating/ healing months). There is something about the place and the weather, the food and the fruits, the breeze and the heat, the people and their energy, that seem to work in a healing way ( I suffer from a lot of aches and pains, coughing and sneezing, eyes watering and nose clogging, but after a few days in Guyana, I feel so alive, even not taking my medications, and feeling very hale and hearty) . I will come more often.
The days and nights are equally divided ( Guyana is close to the equator, so there is equal hours of daylight and darkness). People go to bed early and rise early and we did that too. Each night, after about 6pm., neighbors would come over to my sister's, where they will sit and tell stories or converse. I was used to a different regimen....dinner, T.v. news, joepardy, some show or the other, or a movie, a bit of reading and bed at around 11pm. I found the first couple of nights to be strange and then I got into the rhythm and thoroughly enjoyed the communalism and comraderie. I, who used to read a newspaper, magazines, do my facebook, read e-mail, blog and Tweet, watch cricket or other sports, each day, went almost two weeks without these things and did not miss them. Not only was my body rested and healing, but my mind/brain had a much needed furlough and it was most enjoyable and ennervating. I must do this more often and for the past week, since my return, I have done less, read less, watch less and feel great, that I do not have the world's problems/depressions, to worry about.
There is a different pace to life in Guyana. People wake up early, some to go to their workplace, whether office or fields or factories or stores. Hot breakfast is prepared each day, children are fed and sent off to school; adults feed themselves and go off to work and housewives, the most important cog in the wheel of the family, the very soul of the family, do their chores...cooking, sweeping, dusting, washing and marketing. They go the market each day ( there are two markets, an open air one in Rose Hall and a covered on in Port Mourant, and there is an abundance of everything, the noise, the hustle an bustle,...fresh salt-water fish from the ocean and sweet-water fish from the inland canals and rivers, crabs, shrimps and so much more), to buy fresh fish , fruits and vegetables, which is then prepared into lunches ( most children come home for lunch and so too some adults ), and dinners, a family affair.( During my two weeks stay in Guyana, I tried to eat a variety of fish, fruits and vegetables, and I enjoyed them thoroughly. I had only three meals of chicken, duck and lamb and did not miss, meat. I shall try to do this, when I return to Brossard). Afterwards, there is playing time with the children, homework, a small snack and after a while, bed. We soon got into the swing of things.
Day 2 and the Visit
After a hot, delicious breakfast of fish, bhaji and roti with tea, we set off for the familial home in Miss Phoebe, a place I had not visited in twenty-five years. My mother died in November 1979 ( my father three years earlier), and even though I knew I had to return, I kept postponing it and now I am here and it was devastating. The once beautiful/ beloved/ busy and bountiful place that I grew up in, with its resplendant, colorful, abundant fruit trees and flowers was a neglected, soul-wrenching, shockingly empty shell. Here, where eight children and many grandchildren were born and where their navel-string were buried ( chooked), here where there was constant laughter and children running, here where there was so much life and happiness, where birds sang cheerily while feeding on the ripening fruits, here, where there were 16 mango trees, papayas, bananas, coconuts, sapadillas, cherries, sugar, star, monkey apples, limes, carmanga, catahars, sewmootoo, peppers, pumpkins, squashes, beans, saijan and other bhajis and so much more, now stand emptiness...there is one mango tree, one sapadilla and one star apple with a clump of banana trees. That's it. Our fertile, verdant garden of wonders is a vast neglected wasteland. I was moved to tears; tears of neglect; tears of life long gone; tears of longing; tears of joy mixed with sorrow; tears of what might have been.
I will continue this later...............