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.

The curious Curacao caper

With patches of rust scattered along the dull maroon waterline, ugly streaks on the small white cabin, and paint flaking off its faded black hull, the fishing trawler seemed a most unremarkable, dingy vessel that for years, slouched low in the open at its mooring, next to the stone walled ruins of the Curacao Trading Company complex.

The heart of the matter

The Tsimane or Chimane people are an isolated, indigenous tribe who maintain their tough, subsistence traditions in a remote area of Bolivia’s Amazonian lowlands, faithfully foraging and farming in small, rural settlements along the Maniqui River, like their ancient ancestors.

The kite fliers and dreamers

As the April sunshine blazed and the days grew drier, the boisterous north east trade winds swept in from the restless Atlantic and our schools closed with a sigh in a tired haze of dust.

Going bananas over suckers

For most of my early Guyana life, suckers were merely the plain, pointed side shoots that perennially popped up in a clump around the pseudostem of the banana and plantain trees which towered in many crowded backyards, providing cool green shade and sweet, filling provision.

Comma crimes and catastrophes

The Greek classical scholar, Aristophanes of Byzantium, is hailed as the patient father of punctuation for his pioneering efforts to sort out the complex comprehension and proper pronunciation of his native language 2200 years ago.

Facing the music

One fine Sunday evening, three months ago, Sri Lankan carolling churchgoers were stunned into sudden silence when they eagerly picked up their Christmas music sheets at one of the country’s biggest Catholic services, in preparation for reciting a beloved prayer.

The Spirit of the World

Gaping mouths and ghastly sockets scream silently of nothingness, as the phantom heads float high, trailing suckered tentacles in all ghostly white swathes, sardonic symbols of a post-apocalyptic grim world titled “Sailors on an Exotic Isle.” This year’s last minute Carnival creation of genius designer and veteran mas-maker, Peter Minshall, entirely hand-sewn from simple chicken wire, glue and plain cloth, “Spiritus Mundi” is a Latin term that means “Spirit” or “State of the World.”

Power and privilege

  “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is the famous quotation used by English Catholic peer John Dalberg-Acton, Lord Acton in an 1887 letter opposing the move to promulgate the doctrine of Papal infallibility.

Shame in the Warden City

The Mighty Sparrow complained bitterly “it’s a shame, it’s a shame” in his classic composition “Pay As You Earn (P.A.Y.E)” about the sudden imposition of income tax, lamenting, “but we have we self to blame, because we ask for new Government, now they’re taking every cent, cost of living is the same, it is really a burning shame,” While such expenses today are certainly far above that of 1958 when the double entendre piece was penned,

‘Mr. Big’ and the ‘Baccoos’

As a young child, I loved accompanying my stout father, “Mr. Big” to the city sea wall for his regular swim after a long, exhilarating walk along the Fort Groyne, a weathered, narrow concrete erosion barrier bolstered by great granite boulders, jutting out into the ocean like a giant index finger at the far end of breezy Kingston.

The Oil Men Cometh

Less than a fortnight ago, the new United States leader publicly repeated a startling phrase that had become common enough during his blunt and divisive campaign to reach the White House.

T- Rex and the Death Star

American journalist Steve Coll describes an illuminating exchange in 2001 between then President George Walker Bush and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

A crater, cenotes and clay

A slim, greenish brown band in a layer of clay clearly separates two key geologic eras all over the world, showing abnormally high microscopic concentrations of iridium, a rare dense, brittle element that best resists corrosion and bears a beautiful silvery burnish.

Little Guyana, Big Apple

The Little Guyana strip of Queens, New York runs for about 25 vivid blocks, with the thriving storefronts a feast of wild colours, bustling with immigrants sporting a range of distinctive musical accents that mark their origins in faraway tropical villages with rather strange names ranging from Ankerville to Zeelugt.

The Spice Master and Chutney Kings

A slender, supple magician behind the shaky wooden counter, the venerable spice master spoke in soft swishes of silken sound, silvery smooth like his slick hair separated at the side, but with eyes smouldering behind thick glasses.

An Author and a Gentleman

Edward Ricardo (E.R) Braithwaite never lost his distinctive Guyanese but clear, crisp accent even though he spent most of his long life away from his South American birthplace.

Dancing with Daro

My Auntie Daro’s black Christmas cake was heavy, smoky and heavenly. Baked in a traditional mud chamber, she ingeniously cut a deep rectangle in the ground, layered flickering red-hot coals and bricks, and stacked alternate shelves for cooking the countryside confection dominated by the heady base of staggering XM rum-soaked local fruits.

Alpha and Omega

The public belief of a cover-up and conspiracy in the 1976 Cubana Flight 455 twin bombing persists – fuelled by the preferential American treatment of the two prolific terror masterminds and their shielding from justice.

When hopes and dreams die

Unable to ever forget her mother’s anguished sobbing and shrill screams a sleepy Wednesday afternoon, Roseanne Persaud Nenninger finds it deeply distressing even now to speak of her brilliant older brother, Raymond Persaud, 19, one of the six teenaged medical students who won a coveted Guyana Government scholarship in 1976 but was killed on the way to Cuba.

Journey to Algiers

Thousands of eager Guyanese turned out to greet Cuban president, Fidel Castro on his whirlwind trip to Guyana in September 1973, while Prime Minister Forbes Burnham mused that the United States could get rid of three troublesome Caribbean leaders in a master stroke by sabotaging the Soviet-made airliner carrying them to a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting.

The mystery of the Korean case

A mysterious valise containing confidential documents belonging to an unnamed North Korean official was offered to the United States (US) Embassy by a “reputable businessman” in Barbados, shortly after the Cubana Flight 455 airliner crashed into the Caribbean Sea.