I cannot stop emphasizing the relevance of the potential contribution The Sly Company of People Who Care can make towards the coming together of the ethnic groups and their working in unison for the development of Guyana. Rahul Bhattacharya, the writer, was able to identify some of our weaknesses and maybe flawed perceptions as a people, so there is a need for us to address these weaknesses with the aim of making corrections.
For those reasons I am surprised why there are no known responses from Indian Guyanese to address the messages sent to them. Considering the wide readership the book has garnered, this is very strange. On the other side of the coin, African Guyanese, including yours truly, have already been identifying and are very vocal about the weakness in our community. Rahul wrote this about us after slavery: “Over time there emerged among them a professional class: low-level civil servants, policemen, nurses, teachers – Western respectable, but largely a serving class.” The emphasis on ‘serving class.’
For quite some time now there has been a lot of discussion about Africans focusing on raising capital and being entrepreneurial as opposed to being mere employees. African Guyanese are not looking back to or at Africa. We are down here, “where the Caribbean meets South America” and want to make the best of it. But, we need all Guyanese committed to the development of Guyana to make it work.
Given all of this it is the Indians‘ turn to come to the realization that fantasizing about rejoining the Indian community is delusional. In the book, Rahul has pointed this out again and again. He has taken pains the point out the beauty of Guyana. From my point of view he painted Guyana as a much more beautiful place than India. I remember his exclamation when he encountered the savannah while traversing the Lethem road to Brazil. This is what he wrote: “It was only the first sighting of the savannah that aroused me to the special ecstasy of the journey. It was the Rupununi and I don’t know what that meant but it said everything.” We are all familiar with the Kaieteur Falls but Rahul also described scenes as he re-entered Guyana from Venezuela through Eteringbang. Consider large Guyanese communities against the backdrop of these mesmerizing scenes.
I would like someone to explain to me the misconceptions I had all these years. When Forbes Burnham banned split peas and Irish potatoes we were told that he was disrespecting Indians and Indian dishes. Yet this is what Rahul said, “I had never eaten a dhalpuri before Guyana” and “we didn’t use curry powder in India.”
Rahul still does not understand the relevance of ‘seven curry’ either. I know more about it than he, given the amount of time I spent playing bass guitar in the Merrytones Band. Rahul also refers to the Hindu flags on bamboo sticks. He wrote, “Many Hindu households mounted jhandis flags… you would not find such a thick concentration of jhandis in any part of India.”
Having said that, I would not have them change a thing. It could all remain unique to Guyana – a Guyanese thing. But can Indians recognize what it really is and renew their focus and begin to work with other groups to make Guyana a better place? I await multiple responses.