Story and photos by Joanna Dhanraj
Almost every street had animals nibbling and grazing at whatever green was in their reach. A few donkeys gathered near a drain feasting on discarded sugarcane; there was a fair number of goats, a couple of horses who owned the road, cows sorting out the better tasting grass and a hefty-looking calf who seemed to prefer resting in the sand. This is Enterprise, East Coast Demerara.
The quest to find Enterprise came after a former resident (who asked to remain anonymous) who lives overseas, inquired about the village.
Enterprise, he recalled, was a haven when he lived there a little over a decade ago. “Back when I was growing up there, it felt more like a community. Back in the days people you used to hang out, gaff, cook… until ten/eleven/twelve o’clock and now you can’t do that because you’re [scared] of getting robbed. It still is a very interesting place to be. [The people are] friendly,” he said and added that he always experiences a “homie” feel whenever he visits.
Getting to Enterprise from Georgetown involves taking an East Coast bus, but be sure to get one that traverses the Railway Embankment Road.
Besides the many farm animals along the roads, the boisterous children of the Enterprise Primary School was the only other noise heard; otherwise the atmosphere was one of serenity.
Pandit Dhanpaul Jaimura was relaxing in his hammock having returned from the Enmore Sugar Estate where he works as a lab technician when the World Beyond Georgetown caught up with him. He’s been serving as pandit for the Vishnu Mandir in Enterprise for the past seven years.
Jaimura who was born there recalled a community that once thrived on the Enmore Sugar Estate which provided a steady income for families. Now times have changed and persons have resorted to carpentry and masonry, he said. According to the pandit, the village of more than 1,000 residents dates back to the early 1900s or possibly the late 1800s.
“Enterprise is a peaceful community. The people are friendly and the place is relatively safe to live except for one and two petty crimes,” he said.
The advantages, he added, are many with services from the GuySuCo dispensary and the health center, multiple grocery shops and mobile vans to take care of the villagers’ necessities, a pharmacy, restaurants and bars. The children in the village attend the nursery and primary schools while most of the older ones attend Bladen Hall Secondary or Annandale Secondary. The remaining few either attend private schools or other public schools in the city. Enterprise residents, though predominantly East Indian, are diverse in their religions; some attend the mandir or masjid in the village, while others chose from a variety of churches.
There is a market building situated at the back of Enterprise, but Jaimura indicated that it hasn’t been functioning. Vendors fearing for their well-being and not wanting to be shut off from the eye of the public preferred selling outside of the building than in it.
The only disadvantage he could of was persons having to leave the village before 5.30 in the afternoons as transportation becomes difficult then or having to resort to calling taxis.
Jaimura said he’s contented with life in the village and the people are a cooperative set, citing that the streetlights were bought by villagers who had pooled their money.
With the Christmas season fast approaching Jaimura mentioned that religious holidays are big and everybody celebrates no matter their religion. Years ago the villagers would have gone big on decorations. Now they just bake, cook and enjoy a few drinks.
Parsaram Samaroo was quite comfortably laid back in his hammock chatting with a friend and was more than eager to talk about his village.
“Since me ah lil boy growing up we don’t have no problem with nobody. We always live happy in de scheme. Don’t quarrel wid nobody,” the 51-year-old man said.
Growing up he attended the Enterprise Primary School, just a walk-over since the school was and still is just opposite his home. At the time of our visit children could be heard shuffling in class as well as the distinct voices of teachers giving instructions. He has long grown accustomed to the noise coming from the school.
Talking about school brought a smile to his face as he remembered his escapades. “Me neva use to like guh school; me use to skulk. So me daddy tek me out and put me fuh mind sheep. When me come out ah school, me was twelve. Most ah me life since then, me bin ah watch sheer sheep,” Samaroo said. He recalled having to watch 100 sheep.
After leading a life of a shepherd Parsaram worked with GuySuCo. He boasts working with the company for twenty-something and is still with them today as a sluice attendant.
As peaceful as it is, he noted that strangers patrol the village once it gets dark and so most persons try avoid being on the road late for fear of robbery.
Apart from work he attends the Vishnu Mandir sometimes.
A short walk from Samaroo led to the community centre ground where a few boys were gathered, sitting in the pavilion talking. Cricket Coach Richard Albert, who was sitting across at the health centre chatting, agreed to have a photo of his charges taken.
The Enterprise born resident is coach for the under-19, under-17, under-15 and under-13 cricket teams. He boasted that Enterprise is home to West Indies cricketer Rajendra Chandrika and national cricketers Zahir Mohamed, Bashram Yadram (under-19), Kamesh Yadram and Pradesh Balkissoon.
“Eighty to a hundred youths occupy the ground every day. Enterprise is also home to female national cricketers, Kavita Yadram (under-19 and senior), Yogeeta Balkissoon and Amanda Persaud (both under-19),” said Albert. “We also have a girls club spear-headed by Kavita Yadram. The club plays soft-ball and hard-ball competitions.”
Apart from cricket, the youths in the village participate in football, track and field and bicycle racing.
Enterprise is well on its way in propelling its youths into sports and keeping them occupied; though it has made its mark nationally when it comes to cricket, it has also done so with Kampta Ramnarine, national scrabble competitor.
Albert also shared a few of the services available in the village, not least of which was its “very effective policing group that patrols four times a week.”
Enterprise, he said, is “The nicest place in Guyana…. The people are friendly. The people are cooperative. The people are supportive.”
Though most of the streets remain in relatively good condition, he wishes the few that are not up to standard could be fixed.
Leaving the village the World Beyond Georgetown caught sight of an empty, old and shabby, but charming house that added character to the village. According to a former resident, “That beautiful old house was owned and shared by a typical Indian family. They also worked for the sugar estate and purchased that lot from the overseer who was British. His name was Sylvester [the British overseer.] The house was built sometime in the late 1920s or the early 1930s and is still owned by the family who has since migrated to the US.”
The former resident, who also wished to remain anonymous, said he lived at Enterprise during the seventies to the early nineties. “I’ve had the great opportunity of growing up there… I’ve seen the drastic change in this village over a few decades. Enterprise [played] an important part in the sugar industry. I would like to call it a ‘sleepy sugarcane village’ that predominantly survived on the sugar industry because almost 80 per cent of the households there had some affiliation with the sugar industry and working in the back lands of Enterprise.
Enterprise showed up there I think in the late 1800s after slavery would have been abolished and the Indians started working on the sugar plantation. It was called a logee town… Back in the olden days it was really simple and people actually had time to play on the streets. Everyone was in-tuned with their neighbours… It was a thriving little village… that really survived on sugarcane and over the years since the sugar industry has been really struggling so was Enterprise.”
He has been living abroad for 15 years, but visits.
Enterprise, he said, also was a better place to raise children years ago when an entire village paid attention to the way a child was brought up and his respect for elders. However, the internet he believes is partially to be blamed for less play and more disrespect.
“Enterprise still is a beautiful place. People are very friendly. People are still very loving. The younger generation I can’t really speak totally of them; I don’t really know them that well but the older generation… very humble, very easy-going people that still live simple lives. I would love to live there again sometime in my life,” he said.