Belatedly, it came to my recall that fifty years (to the month of July) have passed since I departed my post as Assistant Personnel Manager, Blairmont Estate, West Bank Berbice. 1964 was a turbulent year, particularly along coastal Guyana, with the sugar estates being the focus of fiery attention, compounded by outbursts of racial fury.
But I remember Blairmont Estate particularly for the social and psychological challenges it offered the first Afro-Guyanese manager on that location, insulated in colonialist attitudes, lifestyles and organisational behaviours, where the converse of multiculturalism was observed in blatant separateness: by colour, race and what little there was of class.
There were marked successes however, and memory is refreshed by the camaraderie enjoyed as a member of the community centre cricket team, where this ‘senior staff’ was reluctantly captained by the centre’s caretaker, who also kept wicket. The whole team would be crammed into my second-hand Wolseley motor vehicle to traverse an unpoliced dirt highway along the Corentyne, to engage our Skeldon Estate counterparts in a weekend Davson Cup fixture – then the first class cricket competition in Berbice County.
Then there was the small but uniquely critical and lasting breakthrough of social interaction when I persuaded entrenched ‘senior’ staff to converse with and even, debate with their ‘juniors’ non-estate issues at my house (named Dorset House) which was appropriately recognised as ‘The Beehive.’
It was in that milieu that, amongst others, two important relationships developed and were, unforeseeably at the time, sustained to the time of writing.
Nowrang Persaud, a resident of Blairmont, was assigned by Booker Sugar Estates, as a product of the incomparable Booker Cadet Scheme, to the tutelage of a learner – a fantastic investment of faith which has justified this celebratory reminiscence.
The other justification can only be the discovery of a young mind who had been resolutely denied employment by my colonial ‘superiors’. Little could they have divined what a favour, indeed blessing, their hostility conferred on the hyperactive Raikha Bisnauth who, even in that contrived wilderness, became a national table-tennis player alongside Roy Fredericks (whom I also helped propel to national and West Indies cricket glory).
It is still difficult to understand what urged the various types of assistance I deeded to Raihka. I only know that I have been well repaid by the constancy of a relationship matched only by Nowrang’s – sustained between Birmingham, UK where he is a counsellor in Stress Management, and Georgetown, itself directly in need of stress relief.
Blairmont then remains a special memorial in 2014, for the above and several other positive reasons tempting the conclusion that such bonding of spirits could have happened nowhere else.
Fifty years on – a rebuff to the rank stupidity of today’s racial divide.