Two Johns and a few Gladstones

Faced with negative press and publicity over the ill-treatment of Indian indentured labourers on his Vreed-en-Hoop plantation, the rich and powerful British merchant behind the importation scheme quickly and quietly transferred the profitable estate to his sons.

Rum and rousing

An astute plantation cook deemed “a mere brute” soon changed into a stylish man “in European dress with a countenance beaming with intelligence and hope,” as the young Rajput who was “most enthusiastic” to become the first East Indian Christian missionary in British Guiana managed to avoid further estate work as an indentured immigrant.

Jagannath and Jatra

An unusual syncretic Indian deity that combines aspects of different major faiths, the dark-coloured Lord Jagannath is still periodically and ceremoniously renewed as a sacred, simple wooden carving, brilliantly painted with a round face and huge symmetrical eyes.

All saints and sinners

With no other person able to speak the different languages of the Indian indentured immigrants on a notorious Demerara estate, the last remaining of two abusive interpreters was quickly pardoned by the Governor.

The unsinkable Mollie

One of just six women with spouses stuffed among a shipload of strangers aboard the “Hesperus” her name was anglicized to “Mollie” within months of their arrival in British Guiana (BG).

 Pickle and Prasad 

Immigrant Number 51 was a young “brown” Bouree man from Bancoorah, West Bengal reduced to just a single distinctive name, “Persaud” in the 1838 British Guiana (BG) historical files.

A band of brothers

The group of strong, young friends in their 20s, had all signed up for their foreign adventure when the wily recruiters passed through the farming village in Bancoorah District, West Bengal promising steady jobs and good money.

The pair of Protestants

Trouble started aboard the “Hesperus” sailing ship from the time the ruthless 25 year-olds Henry Jacobs and his friend Charles James Wiltshire were appointed the only two interpreters for the mixed group of 167 pioneering Indians bound for British Guiana (B.G).

The shape of water 

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.

A father and fleas

For nearly four long months aboard the crammed “Whitby” the two little girls precariously hung on to life, as grown men groaned, suffered and died in the low, dark deck of the sailing ship.

The tides of time

These days, the impatient visitors stream through on noisy trains and tour buses, scanning the horizon and stopping for quick refreshments at the rest-houses that line the Indian coast.

Sons and sepoys

An elderly Indian father, desperately searching for his two missing sons embarked on a fateful sea journey of no return when he crossed the “kala pani” or black waters.

 A breath of fresh air

In Indian legends he is the much-loved baby, Bala Krishna, the holy, curly-haired child with huge eyes and a prankish passion for fresh milk, sweet cream and smooth butter.

From Lucknow to Moor Farm

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.

Guineas and races

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.

A very long journey 

“Bye and bye make very long journey,  Cross Kalla-panee I shall go…” excerpt “Bengalee Baboo” satirical song, 19th century.

The din of dreary drums

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.

The singing stevedores

“Sweet Evelina, dear Evelina, My love for thee shall never, never die. Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina, My love for thee shall never, never die.

Sheba and the Sheila

Her expressive eyes are deep and dark, a certain painful poignancy to them as she stares, so serious, straight into the camera, leaning slightly, with full lips slightly open.

Of Bengali and Berbice Baboos

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.

Fear for this fair land

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.

Trini tricks no treat

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.

The pursuit of happiness

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.

A ripple in time

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.

The Great Hurricane

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.

King liars and big fishes

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.

The sound and fury

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.

Down in the doldrums

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.

Stormy weather

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.

Raindrops keep falling

“It has been raining again. I have been indoors, meditating on the shortcomings of life” is the opening line of a lesser-known poem “Reforming Oneself” by American writer and attorney, Max Ehrmann.

No quantum of solace

A best-selling book by the British writer Michael Brooks, “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense,” looks at the most intriguing scientific mysteries of our time, ranging from cold fusion and the ultimate fate of the universe, to the continuing quest for understanding dark matter and dark energy.

A bite in the dark

It was late one cold night when I climbed into bed, shivering in the darkness and tucked my hand, as usual under the soft pillow.

A bag of birds

We were quietly savouring a traditional Belizean lunch of spicy black beans and fresh salsa when the sudden knocking resumed.

Smoke and mirrors

The old jest goes that you can always tell someone is a true Guyanese by their frugal request to the vendor “to pass a single” from the tray or for the bigger order of two cigarettes instead of purchasing the whole pack, like the rest of the world with money to burn.

Give me a break

American stand-up comedian, Jeff Ross is known as the “Roastmaster General” for his withering witticisms and cutting one-liners, delivered during high-profile celebrity appearances on Comedy Central.

The Negotiable Cow

The English humorist and writer, Sir A.P. Herbert is well-loved for his realistic series of satirical judgments and absurd legal accounts first set out in “Misleading Cases in the Common Law” which on several occasions were mistakenly reported by several newspapers as entirely factual.

Fires of protest

Singing schoolteacher Seadley Joseph so loved books, he became known as the Penguin after the flightless bird symbol of the famous publishing house, winning Trinidad’s coveted Calypso Monarch title with a blistering piece of social commentary, “We Living in Jail.” His 1984 lyrics declared, “Everybody talking ‘bout freedom, but is like everybody blind, If you think we living in freedom, the freedom only in your mind.

Food of the gods

We are preparing to leave a lively farmers’ market in the lush, north-eastern hills recently when our daughter rushes up smiling broadly and bearing in both hands a huge, golden present that she excitedly thrusts at me.

All creatures great and small

I awoke early one morning, with a vague sense of increasing unease, to the sharp, insistent barks of our first, feisty Antiguan Chihuahua mix, faintly audible in the deep gloom below the rumbling rains ramming the galvanised gabled roof.

A brief Bret of relief

Under the stars, in the low scrub and up among the vegetation the occasional firefly flashed by, darting in the sweltering darkness as the warm waves rolled in with rare ferocity, crashing along the curving shore of the beautiful bay dotted with small boats and cool caves.

From Martin to Ms Marks

Guyana’s most famous poet Martin Carter wrote the immortal lines “but a mouth is always muzzled, by the food it eats to live” in 1969, and soon after, disillusioned and disgusted by his own short stint in the country’s authoritarian Government he finally resigned, remarking in a Sunday Graphic piece that he wished to live “simply as a poet, remaining with the people.” His single, succinct composition reportedly handed to veteran newsman then the private newspaper’s Chief Political Reporter, Rickey Singh and first published in the November 1970 anonymous article titled “Exit Carter with a poem,” movingly captures the predicament of free speech and paralysis in a time of censorship and what one critic calls a brooding and “somber silence.” Yet “A mouth is always muzzled” resonates across the decades and world’s borders, attaining renewed relevance in a modern technological age that has seen the immediate release of

Killing us softly

The long mournful wail of the conch shell would startle us awake on certain cold mornings, as the “Fish Man,” the first of the village peddlers arrived.

Mooning in Sunnyvale 

As carefree children dancing in the magical moonlight during hot nights of electricity blackouts, we would gaze up in wonder at the full glowing orb and compete to pinpoint the fabled “man on the moon.” This low-lying near side, the Procellarum is covered in craters crammed with dense, dark volcanic material that allowed us to trace the familiar face, and we would momentarily hold our breath barely daring to blink, as we watched for the visage to emerge as the rocky ball rose.

The stone of madness

The famous Dutch surrealist Hieronymus Bosch, “the creator of devils,” left behind only a small but genius body of deeply original work crammed with disturbing symbolism.

Rise of the rubble rousers

The touching tableau of six slender bronze statues with their simple ship bundles, envisioned by two of Guyana’s leading artists should have been standing in all of its shining glory a week ago to commemorate the historic May 5 1838 arrival of the first East Indian indentured immigrants.