The Ides of March having passed six days ago, we are now into the Tides of March featuring the red wave of merriment as Guyana celebrates the annual Phagwah or Holi holiday.

Last night, the “Super Worm Moon” turned full, marking the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and fall in the Southern, several hours after the vernal equinox, when day and night on Earth were the same length, signalling the passing of the seasons.

In joyous preparation for the ancient Hindu spring festival, dried pieces of wood and the symbolic purgative castor oil tree planted 40 days before, would have been consumed in the Holika Dahan or the great cleansing bonfires, hissing and crackling under the shining silver orb, the fine embers and heavy smoke curling far into the starlit sky.

While Roman Consul Julius Caesar found out that one should beware of sneering seers, and the notorious March 15, the traditional deadline to settle debts, we have added reason to worry too about the passing time and tides that wait for no one. March 21 is sadly here without any meaningful last-minute agreements, and welcome pronouncements of positive changes in the hardening attitudes of our ever-combatant politicians.

We are left to flounder in uncertain waters, given the unwillingness of the nation’s leaders to reach consensus, and to sensibly resolve the inimical impasse following the shock passage of the no-confidence motion against the Government. Challenging the validity of the motion and related Constitutional Articles in the Appeal Courts, the Government stressed it is prepared to go to the Caribbean Court of Justice for final adjudication. Chief Justice (acting), Roxane George-Wiltshire ruled that the vote was correctly tabulated and validly passed, and should have resulted in the immediate resignation of the Cabinet, including the President.

Finally, there is the last-minute declaration in a letter to President David Granger from the beleaguered, elderly Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired judge James Patterson, that the Commission would only be ready to host general and regional elections late in November, upon the completion of a new national house-to-house registration process, a decision the Opposition-nominated commissioners have declared “improper and illegal.” The Opposition leader and PPP General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo has categorically rejected the date, stating it was “put forward by the three APNU+AFC nominated GECOM Commissioners and the unilaterally appointed Chairman.”

As Brutus, the close confidante of Caesar said to the manipulative schemer Cassius, he of the lean and hungry look,  according to William Shakespeare, “There is a tide in the affairs of men./ Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;/ Omitted, all the voyage of their life/ Is bound in shallows and in miseries./ On such a full sea are we now afloat,/ And we must take the current when it serves, /Or lose our ventures.”  The Phagwah tide may just be a distraction from the portended perilous waters in which Guyana is once again caught, even as unexpected ancient riches beckons from these distant depths.

Expecting new elections within three months of the December 21, 2018 motion, or at a time set by two-thirds of the elected members of the National Assembly as set out by the Constitution, has proved as difficult as asking for the moon, given the entrenched disagreements and heightened distrust between our two main political parties of the Devil and the deep blue sea, and their largely loyal ethnic voting blocks.

In this land of many waters and great falls, the ruling A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU + AFC) administration claims to be all at legal sea, clinging to office while no doubt having trouble tallying the latest finds and expected countless barrels of oil, given their complications with counting and what constitutes a simple majority. The coalition reneged on earlier public promises to honour the result, enraged by the single crossover vote to the ravenous Opposition PPP/C, 33 to 32, by now self-exiled Member of Parliament, Charrandass Persaud, that shifted the fragile Parliamentary balance and shook the ship of state, since caught in an increasingly dangerous tilt.

Coming with the latest full moon, are unsurprising warnings of too much water from high spring tides and likely overtopping of battered sea defences  along the low-lying coast and river banks, from Pomeroon to Parika and Prospect, Mahaicony with levels expected to reach 3.30 metres today,  and 3.32 metres tomorrow afternoon.

Yet Guyanese across the board, really hope that the aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats” will prove true, with long-awaited and badly-needed national improvements funded with upcoming oil money backed by sound equitable political and economic policies.

The riot of colours that signifies the start of spring and the revelry of Phagwah came with the indentured immigrants many of whom left Bhojpur, India in the 19th and early 20th centuries, seeking a better life. Phaguwa in the distinct Bhojpuri dialect still survives as the original name while Holi is derived from the Hindi.

To the frenzy of special Holi songs or “chowtals” on the radio, we would prepare the buckets of cooled magenta “abeer” coloured by cheap bags of iridescent prismatic crystals of potassium permanganate, dissolved in boiling water. Chowtals are antiphonal renditions in which two groups facing each other, chant back and forth. Melodies undergo various modulations of dynamic rhythm and tempo, alternating between softer, subdued passages and quickening, exciting climaxes.

When the “abeer” ran out we resorted to soaking each other with pails of plain water, wisely wearing old clothes or the preferred white cotton when we could afford it, proudly showing off our stained hands and faces to see whose was the darkest.

Jars of scented white talcum and little packets of vivid powders called “abrack” and “gulaal” would lie on the kitchen table like scattered pieces pulled from a pretty patchwork quilt, reflecting the dreams and hues of the season. These tones were synthetic, or produced with food dye, and packaged into ribbons of plastic for we lacked the exotic plant-based ingredients except turmeric, used for tints ranging from the red of the palash or flame of the forest trees, to fragrant sandalwood, madder, radish, pomegranate, henna, indigo and beetroot.

We grew up hearing, then reading, about the legend of the young Prince Prahalad who defied his megalomaniac father to worship Lord Vishnu. Thousands of years old, the much-loved story and cautionary tale tells of the despotic King Hiranyakashipu who is granted a special boon by the Creator Brahma. Conferring five special powers, the gift stipulates that the ruler cannot be defeated by a human being or an animal; by astra (projectile weapons) or by any shastra (handheld weapons); on land, in water or air; indoors or outdoors; during the day or at night.

Feeling understandably invincible, Hiranyakashyapu hurtles into hubris and decrees that only he could be worshipped as God, so when his son defies him, the enraged king orders his sister Holika who wears a fire-resistant cloak to trick the prince to stay with her in a raging blaze. But the garment flies off Holika and covers Prahalad who escapes while she dies.

Today, the revelry of Holi will hopefully help generate the spirit of cooperation and renewed wisdom that seem so lacking in the ongoing fight to unite and overcome evil.

ID mulls the recent statement of Minister of State, Joseph Harmon to members of the diaspora in New York, “Guyanese people are smart, and they know the type of political leadership they have had…Don’t believe the fake news. Guyana is not in a crisis. Guyana has a strong, stable government, which respects the Constitution, respects the rule of law and will never damage that.”

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