It was still stuffy when the 22 men stealthily set off for the swift-moving river, slinking among the shadows in single file and silence late one Monday night, as they sought to spot snatches of the water through the bushes in the sickly light of a slivered moon.
The salt air, sea winds and ever-stronger spring tides sweep in from the swirling Atlantic sliding through the thick bushes and around the tall coconut trees that have taken over the long perished plantations.
Paid at least “a guinea” or about 21 shillings for each Indian indentured immigrant delivered alive to the destination colonies in the West Indies, seasoned medical doctors appointed as surgeons-superintendents wielded significant power aboard commercial “coolie-carrying” ships.
Borne upon the ocean’s foam Far from native land and home. Midnight curtain, dense with wrath.
“Bye and bye make very long journey, Cross Kalla-panee I shall go…” excerpt “Bengalee Baboo” satirical song, 19th century.
The sharp scent of freshly ground spices, the cooking of traditional foods and the dull drone of drums like the dholak and the tabla would have helped make the tough ship-rolling-journey more bearable for the Indian indentured immigrants during the “Sheila’s” maiden trip to the West Indies.
“Away, away, what nectar spray she flings about her bow. What diamonds flash in every splash that drips upon my brow.
“Sweet Evelina, dear Evelina, My love for thee shall never, never die. Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina, My love for thee shall never, never die.
“Oh, naughty, naughty Clara, how could you serve me so? I’ll go to Demerara, if you tell me to go.
Leading chutney artiste, the young Terry Gajraj shot to fame with a restless reworking of old lines in his “Guyana Baboo” hit composed during an astonishing creative outpouring with friends one noisy, nostalgic night in a tiny Bronx, New York apartment in 1992, far from the fertile Fyrish fields and modest mandir of his buoyant Berbice boyhood.
The early afternoon of Monday January 14, 1991 started like any routine assignment for us covering Parliament but by the end of the dramatic day, we would witness historic scenes of acerbic anger, unprecedented disorder and ugly uproar.
Out of the corner of my vision, I notice the faded maroon Camry with bits of rust and sanded unpainted gray patches suddenly pulling off the main street to park at the curb just in front of me.
Rustling leaves hang to the ground creating a lovely, lit space. We were relaxing at home under the graceful green canopy in a cool clump of giant neem trees with the sea wind sweeping hair, birdsong overhead and the dogs lolling at our bare feet.
I have a slender ring with a glowing nugget of Guyana gold, accented with pale side slips of grooved platinum, a poignant parting girlhood gift from my older sister as she tearfully left our Georgetown home permanently, decades ago, for a new life in the Netherlands.
Facing an uncertain future, batches of battered Guyanese who have lost nearly everything in the recent hurricanes finally flew back home this week with few bags and their weather weary children.
Until Monday night, the humble cottage at Lot 243 South Road, Georgetown was a house of love, laughter and long life.
Nearly three years ago, a bright-eyed dog was curiously sniffing her way through a routine examination of a small Westwind business jet that had landed early that evening for a quick refuelling stop at Luiz Munoz Marin International Airport in Puerto Rico.
In our home, stands a prized life-size panel of fine Belizean mahogany carved with an imposing figure of Hunaphu, one of the handsome hero twins of the Classic Maya creation myth, soundlessly striding with the axe that he furiously wields to help his brother Xbalanque defeat the lords of the underworld in a series of intense battles.
As the faint remnants of long lived Irma finally weakened into light scattered showers across the distant American valleys of Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee, shell-shocked survivors slowly started to take stock following the latest deadly hurricane.
As I write this column, the huge Hurricane Irma is directly hurtling towards our former Leeward Islands’ lovely home of Antigua and Barbuda, threatening to trash the small islands and test its’ big-hearted people like never before.