notes from a visitor
By Norman N. Datt
When it comes to vacations, many people fall victims to the grass is greener trap. My own traveling history is a perfect example: Ive done the mandatory family trip to Florida, right down to California and even took in Mexico, the all-inclusive Caribbean and Central American packages, went hopping in Europe from England, Scotland, Holland and France. I traveled also in Canada to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but my mind is always on Guyana.
For the third time I visited our beautiful country for a vacation, I still consider it my homeland and I came away glad but somewhat very sad. I had four restful, filling, at times frightful and exciting weeks. The only memorable good time like that, minus the crime, was when I went to Cancun for a one week all-inclusive. In Guyana it was different, cheaper, saw a lot of friends and families and had some good times with Guyanese of all colors and all walks of life.
The resorts are getting better and can stand up to most North American all-inclusive. I am glad for Guyana but the prices in US$ are still too steep even for us expatriates. Yes! And I must mention the juicy fruits, especially the mangoes, and the best were the Buxton Spice, now the word Buxton has a bitter taste (we have to change that name maybe to Berbice Spice) and the rare cuyous, awaras and cocorites. And as we munched on genips and slapping mosquitoes we were entertained by numerous and colorful birds, which would make a bird-watcher cringe with envy. Ah! Only in Guyana!
It was invigorating to wake up with the Fo day manin cock; only he got up sometimes before 6 oclock and woke up the whole neighborhood. Also when I was in my village, a donkey next door kept me awake before 6 am. One morning when he brayed I watched through my window and could have sworn he had five legs. Only in Guyana! It was refreshing to ride the horse and draycart (buggy) in Leguan and drove around the island, stopping at the numerous sandy beaches and swam in the estuary of the Essequibo River
I was fortunate to attend two Hindu weddings, one in Houston and the other in Clonbrook. I had a good chance to see the two major races oblivious of all hatred and racism, just getting down to some hot seven-curry and chatney music.
But everyday I picked up the local papers, especially the Kaieteur and the Stabroek News, I was bombarded with murder, racial killings and sheer disadvantage of hate maligned against East Indians. How is it when the PNC were going on a march, we read it in the papers, everyone was talking about it, and the army did not know about it! EH soldiers! Asleep in your barracks? Only in Guyana!
Then the Civil Servants are so lethargic they all need big doses of castor oil to enable their constipated bodies to move faster. This goes also for all the potbelly generals in the army just biding their time for retirement and with an attitude to hell with the country.
Breathes there a man
With soul so dead
Who hath never to himself hath said
This is my own, my native land.
How can this be? I see them eat and drink together; yet I cant pass Buxton, because some hooligans were waiting to smoke me. And to think of it, I was born in Nabaclis, grew up in Berbice and worked in Essequibo. I am a Guyanese like all of you.
I felt good in Guyana; you have to be Guyanese to feel it. Georgetown by Stabroek was alive, with the aroma of all kinds of curry and the pungent chunkayed dholl, despite the crime and the hoodlums always watching for victims. I forgot all about them and settled down to some soft-jelly water coconuts amidst the happy banter of the hucksters.
Stabroek market was a real busy hive of activity
Happy banter, bargaining and music filled the streets
Everywhere there was love, life, laughter and gaiety
And the vendors stands filled with green and sweets
Ah Guyanese! Your fathers fought and died, that you may stand a noble band, in honor and in pride. And you are blowing it all away in the wind. The customary hospitality and good manners are still prevalent. It was pleasing to hear folks greet one another with Good Morning and Good Night when they enter homes mini-buses and cars. Whats the matter with you all down there? The folks at Anna Regina, in Berbice and the West Demerara showed no signs of fear or anger against their fellow Blacks or Indians.
You have such a beautiful country; it reminds me of a poem: My Guyana, I will inject pieces of it now and again. Youd know how precious your country is, if you ever get a real taste of snow or temperature below -20 degrees, or was caught in a mudslide like in Mexico, or struggle to stay alive when the monsoon hit your shores.
When I left in nineteen seventy
Everything was sugar and spice
The people were free and happy
Then everything was so nice
My Guyana was one of real unity
People working and living together
Not one of hatred and enmity
Setting one race against the other
My Guyana was a real Paradise
When I visited I became very sick
Nothing was good, safe, or nice
Why we became a Republic?
The Botanic Gardens was one of Guyana's pride
Also the Museum, the Zoo for visitors and all to see
Not a haven for the choke and robbers to hide
But where Queen Victoria presided in all her majesty
Yes, that is how I left Guyana in 1969. Things were not too bright and well for Papa Forbes had just banned a lot of food stuffs, and all we had were long, sweat meandering waiting lines under 90 degree sun and very angry folks. But we were not killing one another like you are doing now. You couldnt for Papa Forbes would have sent you to Sibley Hall before you can cry Hoyte.
They would attack anytime day or night
Using anything even the army machine gun
The police or army is never in sight
Always appearing when the damage is done
When your doors and windows are too secure
And they cant kick it down with their army hoof
Youre still not safe whether youre rich or poor
For they may be coming through your roof
Guyanese folks really work hard, cutting sugar cane maybe is the hardest job in the world. No wonder the Afro-Guyanese ran away to the gold-fields to try their hands and take their chances with the diamond fields and become pork-knockers. Also planting rice, cutting by hand, bagging it off and hauling to the rice factories have to be the second hardest. With the coming of the combines and modern machinery things changed. What took a whole month to do was done in less than a week. Yes I remember when school was closed for the summer holidays and everyone would pack up lock, stock and barrel and moved seven plus miles to settle in their benabs, their home for the next two months. Ah! Those were the days and peaceful ones.
Rice Field Ploughing
From dawn to dusk, furrows we cut
Sleeping in our humble hut
And sometimes will work at night
So as to get a bigger bite
Friends and foes we hardly see
Bull-frogs and quacks our company
Thundering rain is no barrier
Our drenched clothes keep us cozier
No shelter from the boiling sun
No peace until our work is done
No one can gainsay the hardships felt by the two major races can be easily forgotten. Our forefathers came in slave ships, then they were called indentured servants when they brought the East Indians, but the treatment was about the same starvation, deaths and the whip took its toll.
The SS Hesperus
The Hesperus sailed with a heavy girth
As women scream in pitiable child-birth
Of all these daughters of India
Some made it to British Guiana
Oh Beautiful Guyana! Such luxurious homes but all fenced in with metal rods to keep thieves out. When would the madness stop? Guyanese! You and your comrades are killing yourselves and killing the country at the same time. No one in his or her right mind wants to invest in your country because of your high crime rate.
Burnham did the same thing and the country drifted backwards for 28 years, and your eyes are still not opened. You are dancing to the tune of the myopic politicians.
Remember Wismar and the X13Plan?
It was a cool, calm ordinary night
When they swept dawn on peaceful Wismar
It became a sad red-lettered day of fright
Leaving each victim with an indelible scar
I know I dont bring back old scars, aye! It happened and it can happen again. Yes, we have to move on as one people as Cheddi wanted:
To clean up the damage of decades of decadence
Even when the satanic corrupters are gone?
Would call for feats of fortitude and real patience
Hoping to God the old bad blood would pass on
For dictators like Hitler, Burnham and Amin
Have gone in hiding or are always on the run
cause lies and corruption can never win
And always the end of every son-of-a-gun
Then I remember Africa where they are still fighting for freedom; in Bosnia where they did ethnic cleansing; and in the Middle East where they are fighting for land. And I ask my self what are Guyanese fighting for? Freedom? Land?
Maybe President Bharrat Jagdeo is right when he said the crime is politically motivated. The record speaks for itself, every time general Elections are called, we have violence sometimes coupled with burning and looting the majority of folks who are injured or looted are East Indians. Why my African brothers? These are the same people with whom you dwell day in and day out. Are you going to be hoodwinked by a bunch of selfish politicians who think only of gaining power?
The Guyanese folks are fed up they just want to live and they want to live peacefully with all Guyanese. This, as my poet friend would say, Enough rass.
I am from Toronto and this week the Pope was here for World Youth Day on July 28, 2002, and there were over 800,000 people, more than the population of Guyana, and there were no crime, no choke and robbing; folks lined up and slept for days in an open airfield at Downsview, Ontario, waiting for the Pope. Can you imagine if the supporters of the PNC were prevalent? The Pope quoted from the New Testament, and this is so fitting for Guyanese who are persecuting their other fellow Guyanese. He said, quoting from Matthew: It boils down to those who hide their heads in the sand when others are being robbed, beaten or looted are as guilty as the perpetrators.
Guyanese grow up! Bullies! Stop harassing the other races. Guyana belongs to all the six races. So live and let live. How would you feel if someone comes one day or night and burn your house to the ground, steal all that you have and you are left penniless? Can you be happy? Have you no conscience? The ability to recognize right from wrong regarding ones own behavior. Cockroaches dont have any. Remember what goes around comes around.
I saw first hand how a young mini-bus driver was robbed in broad daylight. I was traveling from Berbice and the driver stopped and picked up four Afro Guyanese and when we reached Georgetown, the driver went to the eldest and said,
Well who is going to pay me?
The biggest of the men answered, Man! I pay you buddy Ramsingh already, which was a lot of bullshit.
Of course the Driver said, No! You have to pay me now.
By this time more of his supposedly buddies came up and one said, Do wee have a problem here, brootha?
I said, No, and told the Driver to Lets go, Ill pay, before we get into hot water.
This is just a small example of what goes on in Guyana, and it happens in the stores and in the market places too; and the police are never around. The East Indians are helpless as other Afro Guyanese stood by and do nothing. You may say I am too hard on you, but I am fed up with all the hogwash we have been putting up with for the past 40 years. Yes, I am bitter, but as Martin Carter put it:
If you see a smile of bitterness on my mouth
You must not think some joke amuses me
It is only the fury of my heart changing to fire
Most of our Afro Guyanese are Christians who go to churches on Sundays. What do they pray for? You are as guilty as the culprits who pull the trigger or set the match alight. You are also just as guilty with your reticence of silence. Edmund Burke said, All that is necessary for the forces of evil to prevail in the world is enough good men do nothing.
Arsonists! Throw some gas on your ass and catch a fire see how you feel. How do you go to sleep when you know you were the architect for many fatherless and motherless babes? Shame on you! and then later you go and pretend as if you are innocent.
Thieves! How do you feel when the ill-gotten gains you are spending came from some hardworking East Indian who have only tears for his family? Only in Guyana can some folks wear big gold necklaces and rings. Because you have robbed East Indians in broad daylight as your accomplices and companions look on? Disgusting! Such culprits are sowing the seeds of breeding grounds for insurrection and racial warfare. Luckily or unluckily the East Indians are not an aggressive race. But moon ah run til daylight ketch am.
Afro Guyanese! Havent you seen: the more you try to kill the soul of the Indians, the more they prosper, they have the luxurious homes, more land and their kids are better educated. So you are also killing yourself. Use the time to nurture love than hate and spend the time making a better life for yourself. There is no free lunch. Your racial prejudice has caused thousands of us to leave our beloved land of Guyana. You have shown your nurtured hatred when you cut the hair off an East Indian woman after you robbed her family. We abroad prefer to stand the chill winters and work for minimum wages than to put up with your bloody, political temper tantrums.
Then there is Sharma and his gang! What a bunch of jokers! Is that what TV has been reduced to?
Politicians on both sides: how do you feel when there is so much turmoil, heartaches, pain and suffering stupidly placed on the heads of your peoples? You and your cohorts have failed the six races of Guyana. Give the young blood and the new generation a chance. All the pomp and ceremony you displayed at your Independence celebrations is a farce. It is meaningless when one half of your populace lives in fear. Guyanese do not want to spend another 50 years hoping for a beautiful Guyana. They are crying, take back your independence and your Coop Republic and give us back our peaceful life.
But the Creolese proverb says
Sun n Moon ah run till daylight ketch um'
Now the bosses are on the run
And cant be saved even with white fowl and rum.
When the PPP got into power, they did not ruffle any feathers. By being less aggressive the PPP thought eventually the violence would go away. It would never, once the old heads of both parties are still around. Guyanese have to come to grips with this perspective and call a spade a spade, and learn to live together like old times. Cheddi maybe turning in his grave to see what is happening, he wanted a Guyana for all Guyanese. Lets not disappoint him.
He's was no ordinary man, he dreamt in his own way
Like the Rev. Martin Luther King, he hoped one day
The people of Guyana would rise up peacefully
Become one people, one nation, with one destiny.
Norman N. Datt, Real Estate Consultant for over 24 years. Specialist in Condos, 2 storeys and Bungalows in the Toronto and Durham Regions. Also specializes in ICI real estate. Ask for my 4% Cashback. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."