y Roxanne Clarke with photos by Anjuli Persaud
La Bonne Intention familiarly known as LBI is a village located on the East Coast of Demerara. Located roughly 10 miles from the capital Georgetown, the community is known because of the estate of the same name which was closed several years ago. The name is derived from the French and means ‘Good Intention.‘
Beterverwagting is the village adjacent to it while its other immediate neighbour is Chateau Margot.
With a population of over 1500 individuals, the area has a fair amount of commercial activitiy, with a supermarket, grocery stores, hardware outlet, gas station, taxi service, auto repair shop and a few barber shops, etc.
Where education is concerned, there is the Phoenix Academy Private School, the LBI Primary and Secondary Schools and a nursery school.
Most of the people living there are employed in clerical jobs, while a few are teachers, cosmetologists, barbers, caterers, etc, while others work on the Enmore estate. The youths, on the other hand, seek employment at Qualfon, a telecommunication Service Agency, which is found along the East Coast.
Mrs Ram is a friendly lady who has been living there for the past 37 years. When Stabroek News visited her home she was spending time with her grandson. Reflecting on life in earlier days, she said that she engaged in vegetable farming and took the produce to be sold at Bourda Market. She explained that being the mother of eight children, working hard to “meet ends” was the major goal in her life. After tying the knot with her husband, she said, she came to live in LBI and has never regretted a day she spent raising her eight children there: “The area is a quiet place, and unlike other communities there are not too many distractions.”
Back then, she added, kitchen garden farming was dominant among the housewives. According to her, the soil is very fertile but only a few people engage in planting. “I used to enjoy planting me lil ochros and other fine greens but n
ow me get old and I can’t bend de old back so low,” she
Ram also related that the rearing of cows and goats was once done by many people there. However over the years, the villagers stopped this because theft became prevalent in the area. “De used to get people coming with them boats at the back of the seawall fu thief de goats them. Some a dem de so wicked that when dey thief de goats dey poison the cows,” she said.
According to her the rearing of poultry is done too by the people, especially over the Christmas season. “You mind you lil chicken so when you family come over you can sip on you lil liquor and munch on de fry chicken.” Recounting what life was back then in LBI, Mrs Ram said that one of the memories that she will cherish is the quality family time that she had spent together doing chores in the yard with her chiildren. “Each one of me children had a plot in de yard to take care and plant vegetable… meh and them used to go every day after they come from school and water the plants together and so.”
During the Easter vacation, the seawall comes alive. According to villagers, that is the period when most people meet together after a very long time. “The people really don’t mix with each other, but girl you might be surprised how they does come out and have fun together on that day.” The seawall according to the residents is used too by many students as a location to study for their exams, or for people desirous of “keeping in shape” or even just to enjoy the Atlantic.
When the residents want to hang out, especially after a hard day at work, most of them go to the Guinness hangout bar. Some said that they preferred to stay at home and spend time with their families: “Before I go out I could buy de drinks and cook a nice food and stay right at home with me wife and children,” one man commented.
On the down end of things some of the people believed that the seawall was a dangerous area to hang out, adding that it attracted the wrong people. “One time a group of people went early de morning to exercise and some boys came up to them, tek away de phone and so… Sometimes you in you house and [all] you hearing is “murder, murder; before you know it somebody chain get snatch or dey get held up by de thieves.”
LBI is divided into two sections: The LBI housing Scheme and Kersaint Park, also known as the LBI residential area. Sahadat Subhan, who was born and raised there, told SN that he has been living in the area for the past 47 years. Subhan, who is self employed said that he is a rice vendor. He noted that Kersaint Park is a very quiet area compared to the other section of the community. On weekends, he said, many of the children spend their leisure time riding along the streets or playing cricket, or “sall out.”
“Sometimes de old ones does join in… here you have to know how to make yourself happy.”
Most of the commuters described LBI as a very cooperative place. “If you break somebody window when you playing cricket, people don’t cuss up… they does try to work the situation out in the right way.” Some of them also made the same observations as Ram who mentioned that the village is the training ground to raise teenagers. “Your environment and community has a lot to do with the children that are raised there. If the area is filled with people who always fighting up and cussing each other, the children gonna do the same.”
Amon Subhan, one of LBI‘s first villagers, who came to the area to “meet what life has to offer,” said that Kersaint Park where he now lives was established first in 1963. He added that he was employed at the LBI estate: “I use to drive the dumper and the cane ice.” However, he resigned some 25 years later.
According to him, the estate used to be the main employer of LBI residents, and after its closure the employees suffered greatly. “Girl, when de estate deh close people really suffer, especially those who had family depending on dem.” Subhan further said that he did barbering among other small jobs to maintain his family.
Today his children have passed on the trading of barbering. These days LBI has been transformed from an area of poor roads and lack of electricity to a place of potable water, well-constructed roads and electricity. Life for him begins very early in the morning. He explained that most of the villagers have the tradition embedded in them “to get their chores done early” or before the “fowl crows.” When asked about what he does in his free time, Subhan responded that he exercises along the seawall so as to “keep his body fit.”
And as for what he admired most about the area, he said, “I love the peace and the nature… if you feel like having a quite time you go to the seawall and mediate… LBI is really a nice place.”
Sugrim Gharbarn, 75, was very happy to meet up with this newspaper. According to the residents, he is known as the “village historian.” Sitting on his stairs Gharbarn related that he had been a cane-cutter at the LBI estate. “Back then, cane-cutters used to get a better deal, girl, even though de fee deh small, the value of de money dem times was high.
Back in dem times, $5 used to give you plenty, plenty things… if you go to de shop with da you come back wid two big bags full up ah groceries.” Gharbarn said that when he first came to the area there were no roads or electricity, only rice fields. “Dem times LBI aint had no roads… it had a set a rice field, then dey turn in into a pasture… now it get plenty house lots.” He noted that the lands were allocated to the GuySuCo workers who worked along the LBI estate. “Me get meh house lot because meh used to wuk deh to.”
Sugrim smiled as he reflected on the days of catching the trains to go to Buxton, another village along the East Coast to watch movies. “I used to be so happy to go fu de train ride… de train used to pass through de area… Train ride really nice… it smooth but sometimes it slow… me really miss dem times da,” he reminisced.
A day for him begins as early as 5am. He noted that he tries his best to keep himself active by doing kitchen garden planting in his back yard. “I does do meh lil planting so when me ready me pick meh lil fine greens fu cook.” He said that although physically challenged he also does a little exercise to his keep his “old bones fit,” by riding long distances around the area. “Even though meh can’t walk me does ride a lot.” SN was told that he was engaged in agriculture almost all of his life but resigned from the estate after he suffered terrible injuries from an accident many years back.
Sugrim concluded that LBI has taught him how to “enjoy one day at a time,” and how to make himself happy despite his challenges. He concluded that LBI is a place where peace reigns throughout the community.