Photos by Joanna Dhanraj
Golden Grove or Grove, as most persons call it, on the East Bank Demerara is said to be one of the most developed villages in Guyana. It is adjoined by Diamond and Good Success. Entering Golden Grove, you must adjust your eyes to the scene. Unlike the nearby villages, Golden Grove presents a congested atmosphere with vehicles and people jostling for space in its streets. Visuals are of shoppers packing bags into taxis, children in merriment as always and businesses lining both sides of the road as far as the eye can see. Then the noise hits you: of vehicles speeding by honking their horns, vendors asking if you need anything, taxi drivers hawking fares and through it all people chatting, some quite loudly trying to outdo the noise around them.
Golden Grove has a number of taxi services, a few supermarkets, doctors’ clinics, pharmacies, schools, food courts, restaurants, two police stations, auto shops, boutiques, many churches, a mall, beer gardens, and a health centre, to name a few. The reason it has just about two or more of everything is that Golden Grove has approximately 16,000 to 18,000 residents.
Golden Grove is a main point for persons selling wholesale. Persons come from nearby islands, villages on the West Bank Demerara, neighbouring villages and even from Timerhi, Linden and other places around Guyana to trade at Golden Grove. But however boisterous the main road may seem the residents living inside the village lead a quiet life. One such resident is Purlettia Pollydore.
Pollydore migrated from Port Kaituma in the North West District ten years ago to live in Diamond while she worked at Gafoors at Land of Canaan. It was there that she later met the love of her life, got married and had two children. Five years later, they moved to Golden Grove.
She tells of escaping death two years ago during an accident. “The bus I was in was driving on the road when a forklift turn onto the road into the bus,” she said. Her left arm bears rows of stitches where the lift went through. She was hospitalized for a bit at the Woodlands Hospital and counts herself lucky and is grateful to be alive.
The housewife spends most of her day at home enjoying the quiet atmosphere while taking care of her family. “Sometimes people play music but not much; especially during the week, it is quiet,” she said. Possibly, because of the Grove Police Station that is situated nearby. With so many supermarkets, stores and shops around, Pollydore has many options to choose from and since they are so many; you can bet the prices are competitive.
Her two children walk a few blocks down to attend the Grove Primary School. “Transportation-wise, you get more access to transportation. In Port Kaituma the school there is almost three miles away and when the rain falls, you don’t get transportation so you have to walk instead. But here in Grove everything is right at hand,” she said. She attends the Craig Kingdom Hall Church.
For Pollydore, there’s a vast difference as regards fruits and vegetables growing in Golden Grove compared with Port Kaituma. Unlike Kaituma, Golden Grove hasn’t much land space for planting. According to her, it is also easier to get house lots in Kaituma.
Nevertheless, she goes on to say, “You get access to more things here. The hospital is nearby, the school, police station and health centre. If the rain fall you could always call a taxi.” Reasons enough to keep her here.
Sixty-one-year- old William Hodge was born in Golden Grove and has never known another village. At the time of our meeting he was taking his bird out for an afternoon walk. “Grove then,” he said, “wasn’t so populated. It was more like isolated. It really developed in thirty to forty years. At that time, it didn’t have pitch road and so.” He went on the list the streets in his village, “It got Market Street, Post Office Street, Sarran Street, Santoo Street, Times Square, Station Street, Reid’s Avenue, Jimbo Street, Burial Ground Street, Niles Street, School Street, Campbell Street, Tank Street, Downer Street, Squatting Area, Grove Scheme [with another set of streets], extension of Grove Scheme [Samatta Point] and Kaneville.”
Hodge said the trench at the koker he once swam in was black water but today the water is muddy since according to him the sea dam is being washed away into the trench.
Hodge loves his community and is proud of the fact that it has come very far in being one of the most developed communities in Guyana. He adds, “On the East Bank, Grove got the most of anything, rum shops, supermarkets; you name it. Grove got the most of anything; good and bad.”
Sitting on the same bench with Hodge was Bibi Reid, wife of Lennox Reid, who Reid’s Avenue was named after since he would have pitched that street. When Diamond Hospital had just opened its gates to the public, she was one of the nurses who volunteered her services. Now retired, she works along Guyana Watch and the Seventh Day Adventist Medical Mission. She was part of the recent medical outreach sponsored by the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and Grove Station Management Committee. “We catered for diabetics, cases of hypertension, foot care, VIA testing and dental work. Medication and hampers were given to patients,” she said. The outreach saw approximately 200 persons.
Many of the women visiting, she said, were ignorant of VIA testing so an awareness talk was also done which saw a few more of them being open to the VIA testing than they first started out with.
“Grove,” she said, “is a quiet place. Everybody go to work and try to keep their surroundings clean although we always have a problem with garbage.” She was speaking of the garbage thrown at the sea dam that remains an eyesore. It was said that businesses would often pay “junkies” to dump garbage at the sea dam after ten at night because of the excess garbage they have although they’re provided bins.
“For us personally [her and her family], we have our home, our business [a paint business] and our family here so we don’t want to go anywhere else,” Reid said.
“Grove has a football field and the best football team,” boasted a few of the villagers gathered on Reid’s Avenue. But for such a huge village, there is no other recreational facility. Reid said they would welcome a facility for the youths of Golden Grove.
Referring to the Grove Police Station on Station Street, Reid commended the officers there for “doing a very good job; they’re always patrolling the community.”
She added, “People in Grove are cooperative. They’re always there for you. We don’t have race and colour. We are all one.”
Savitri Persaud, whose residence the little crowd was gathered in front of hadn’t much to say, “I like everything here except the water bill I does get.” She once paid $14,000 a year but now with the meter she pays $6,500 a month. “The water bill is killing me,” she said before returning inside to finish preparing dinner.
Her husband, Vickram Ramodar, having just arrived home talked a bit about the condition of the koker and sea dam. Ramodar operates the sluice obliquely opposite their residence. “The koker needs revetment both sides,” he said. “The river water deteriorate the place and there’s poor defence. If it break away the whole village duck. The [river] defence needs to be reinforced. The excessive speed by heavy vessels carries away the [river] defence with the big waves that does wash up.”
Ramodar also wishes for a street light at the koker since in the wee hours of the mornings he’d have to go out and operate the koker. The light that was there was stolen.
Apart from the issues he would have mentioned he said neighbours here gather together outside in the street for a gaff sometimes beyond ten o’clock.
Golden Grove is not only busy with business during the day but is as much the same at nights; a place known for thriving businesses, bright lights and people who enjoy living in the fast lane.