We frequently feasted on the juicy, orange “awara,” pale nutty “korio” and oval, thin-fleshed “kokerit” fruits from far flung palm trees. Brought to the coast for consumption these were common at certain times of the year. Since the languages of the indigenous peoples left many such words in the rich Guyanese lexicon, we practised the names of the tropical timbers also from the Amazonian rainforest, used by our father in his occupation as a builder. Mora, simarupa, tauronira, wamara, silverballi, kabukalli, wallaba rolled off our tongues with the smoothness of the seeds we savoured.
Looking out for the leaf cutting “acoushi” ants on farm jaunts, we feared the “labaria” snake as much as the huge, hairy, Yeti-like creature, the “massacooraman” with a yen for human flesh and mayhem, believed to dwell near deep, lonely waterways.
Buoyed by the reassuring presence of noisy kit and kin, we enjoyed the bounty of the smaller rivers in the form of the wolf fish or “haimara,” the glossy black “patwa” cichlid and the colourful spotted peacock version, the “lukanani.” In our simple household, we boldly pronounced our Sindhi-derived “kinnah” or intense dislike more of other foods, than of obnoxious people, such as the pungent “kowa” and curried “cuirass.” The first whiff of the former, a massive ripe jackfruit promisingly presented by our farming aunt, made our heads spin. Overwhelmed by the sight and stench of the thick yellow gummy insides, we took one taste, gagged and uncharacteristically declined any other helpings, causing our parents to frown in concern as we rushed outside to gulp lifesaving fresh air…..