By Jairo Rodrigues
Writer and poet Janet John-Dorie has released a commentary DVD based on the Guyanese-Creolese poems she published earlier this year in her book The Break of Dawn. Earlier this week, she sat down with The Scene to talk about her life, her poetic work and the inspiration behind it.
Born in May of 1952 in Lusignan, a predominantly Indian village on the East Coast of Demerara and living there her entire life, Janet saw the village transform before her very eyes from a quite sugar estate to a bustling business-based community.
She recalled her experience on the estate, living among logies (small hut-like buildings where the indentured and poor field workers lived on the grounds of the estate). She said that back then people were always close; con-sidered themselves family more than neighbours – so much so that everything was shared and divided equally. “It was just a caring atmosphere, a humble neighbourhood where no one felt higher than the other. People had great respect for one another and discipline was very pre-valent compared to today.”
She told stories of growing up with her six siblings; she was the second-to-last child and would always be seen as the baby. She recalls foot racing, swimming, climbing the mango trees and pelting the fruits at each other all over the estate.
At the centre of the Lusignan Estate was a community ground where they would often go and play games, but the centre had a library facility where she grasped the advantage of learning to read and write, this developed her literary ambitions and she promised herself that she would write a book before she was sixty.
But when she was not head deep in books, she was knocking the hard balls on the cricket fields. At one point she was the only female playing cricket with the boys, having developed an interest in playing international cricket after watching her brother. During some practice sessions she would be asked to assist him.
When Guyana first selected a women’s team to play cricket at the Caribbean Championship in 1977, she played as the wicketkeeper; from then on, until 2002, she played for the Guyana team throughout the region.
Janet attended the Lusignan Anglican Primary School before progressing to the Annandale Secondary. At the tertiary level she attended the Government Technical Institute where she won the Best Student Award in 1972. She then moved on to the University of Guyana. She then took her accreditations and travelled around the world. She has a Diploma in Paralegal studies from Canada’s CDI College – Toronto; Diploma in Journalism in Aberdeen College in Scotland, UK, and then came back to be trained as a Guyanese teacher. She taught at Cumming’s Lodge Secondary, St Joseph High and Queen’s College.
Growing up in a Hindu background, she paid homage to God every day with her family. This ritual inspired her to go visit where her grandparents—who came here as indentured servants—came from. Years later, it became a reality; she frequently makes trips to India.
There is where she began her spiritual way of life at the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual Organisation which originated in India. Janet amplified her spirituality, serving in different countries spreading the word of God. On a trip to India she also picked up the studies of Raj Yoga Meditation.
She said that travelling has given her an opportunity to see the world as an invisible university which helps you to observe and learn in a very fantastic way. This, overall, is the inspiration behind her work. “To live as a writer is a wonderful thing. I always walk with a piece of paper and pen to jot my journalistic thoughts down. It is an amazing feeling to be able to share points to others, watching them materialise ideas and thoughts.”
When asked to describe her book she said, “As an adult I began searching for the meaning of my existence and received answers to the following questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? The answers provided me with a knowledge base from which I was able to understand my purpose in life and propelled me to make positive changes within myself in being an example to others in the world… when I change the world changes and so my book is about these reflec-tions and answers.”
She said seeing people read her book is like when her students passed an exam, “My heart gets inflated with love.”
She strongly believes that it is God who is responsible for guiding and protecting her at every step in life.
She has other poetic pieces which she is looking forward to deliver on stage personally, some time in the future. “I find that the people in Guyana are not too attracted to written work, they find a lot of fun looking at performances, so if I put them on CD or DVD and put it on the shelf they are likely to buy it,” she said.
She is not looking for profit, just to share and educate while having fun. “It is a means of boosting people, it makes them aware of the value and morals of life – peace, love, health, serenity, freedom and honesty,” she said.
She believes more attention should be paid to promoting literature at the primary level.