Story and photos by Dacia Whaul

Ruimzigt is a small village located a few miles from Vreed-en-Hoop on the West Coast of Demerara between Windsor Forest and Wallers Delight. Its approximately 600 Indian residents are mostly of the Hindu faith, whose religious needs are served by a single mandir.

This is above all else a farming community, which still holds strong to its rice-farming tradition.

20140309ruimzigt “Ruimzigt was a rice field,” said Mohan Lochan, who told the Sunday Stabroek, that he had lived in the village all his life.  “It was given to the workers by the Chinese who use to run it,” he explained, and “they gave workers the front to live on [while] the back lands were leased out to rice farmers.”

Today aside from rice farming, villagers earn their livelihood by planting cash crops, or as carpenters, mechanics, jewellers and truck drivers transporting paddy from the rice fields.

Members of the Sirpaul family  preparing shrimp for lunch
Members of the Sirpaul family
preparing shrimp for lunch

“This place was muddy,” said Ramratti Singh, a resident in the village for 60 years; “there was no water or light,” although life was comfortable and simple.  She related how villagers would come out and participate in community activities. One such event was the self-help project in the early 1990s organized by the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP). “They [SIMAP] provided the clay bricks and we built the roads…” she said, “…and it still standing.”

“People use to cheer we on,” she continued; “those who didn’t work, would cook a pot of food or bring a drinks for we.”

Ramratti Singh sitting in front of her family's  grocery shop
Ramratti Singh sitting in front of her family’s
grocery shop

“It was thirteen of us on the committee,” Lochan chimed in. He said the committee was responsible for retrieving the money for the reduced-price clay bricks SIMAP wanted. “We get $1400 from couple body fuh mek up the $7000 they wanted,” said Singh. “It was a nice experience,” reminisced Lochan.

Religious celebrations are taken very seriously in the village. One recent example was the Maha Shivratri festival two weeks ago. “The village does come alive,” said one resident, referring to that religious holiday.

Sahadeo Sirpaul a rice farmer, told this newspaper when it caught up with him relaxing in his hammock at his Back Street home, that his day usually starts at 5am. Sirpaul said at that time he makes his first journey to his farm to check on his crop while awaiting harvest time.

Mohan Lochan hanging out at a village shop
Mohan Lochan hanging out at a village shop

There is no school or health centre in the community; however, residents can seek medical attention at the West Demerara Regional Hospital or at the Leonora Cottage Hospital. Children attend Windsor Forest nursery and primary schools and depending on how well they perform in the Grade Six Assessments, they can end up at one of the senior secondary schools in Georgetown, or a school on the West Coast of Demerara, like the West Demerara Secondary or Leonora Secondary School. Residents also have access to potable water, electricity and good roads.

A combine harvester that is used to harvest rice in the  Ruimzigt rice field.
A combine harvester that is used to harvest rice in the
Ruimzigt rice field.

The only peeve is flooding which occurs after heavy rainfall. The complaint mostly seems to refer to Middle Street, where residents said the drain was blocked because it hadn’t been cleared for quite some time.

Apart from religious celebrations which involve most of the village, there was little in the way of recreation on offer, although some people went to the cricket ground at Windsor Forest. Most villagers, this newspaper was told, worked hard and outside that, stayed home. One resident, however, said the men would go for a drink at one of the rum shops in the village.

Kishan working on a car
Kishan working on a car

As for security, villagers said there was no serious crime, although there was some theft from time to time.

A young member of  the Sirpaul family  helping with shrimp  cleaning
A young member of
the Sirpaul family
helping with shrimp
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