alan fenty, Stabroek

Across the Kaala Pani to Highbury: My identity problem? -Knowing “whuh in ‘E mattie bag”?

-Potential riggers (Part 8)

His Excellency, our Historian President has ensured that the arrival(s) of the first Portuguese and Chinese to our land be hailed and commemorated.

For decades under past administrations, the coming of our First Peoples and the battles and Emancipation with respect to our African foreparents were “spotlighted” nationally every year. Seven, then five days ago events to recall the arrival of the first Portuguese and Indians assailed my sense of history but re-ignited a personal enquiry – even dilemma – that I had apparently fashioned for myself.

So, even though I came to terms with personal choices regarding my own identity some decades ago, I share a summarized account of my personal “confusion” about the “East Indian” part of me – fuelled by external manifestations whilst growing up, then the later adulthood acceptance of the self I prefer (red).



Guyanese child – and “Indians”

From six months old I grew up with a grandmother – a “red old lady” – the mother of the man I was told was my father. He was a sort of “mixed brown-skinned `black’ police fellow.”  (Ho-ho!)

In Bourda/Alberttown, Georgetown all my close childhood friends were Afro. I went to numerous Christian churches growing up in Church Street. My Bourda Roman Catholic School had few Indo-Guyanese pupils. I look(ed) very much like my Corentyne Madras-Indo mother but was socialized only as Afro. At Bourda Market I watched the rural female indo vendors with child-like interest – their headwear, clothes and jewellery – from ankle to nose.

But it was my neighbours, the Dasses, behind my granny’s little cottage who thrust India into my youthful Guyanese consciousness. Every day! You see I would wake up to their morning devotions – chants, prayers, bells, hymns – Hindu style! It is only about a decade ago that the late Mr Kirpalani hailed me to explain that the Aarti Bhajan I heard every morning as a child was/is “Om Jai Jagdish Hare”. (I love that melody to this day!)

Ayube Hamid’s “Indian Melody album” and theme song “Sohani Raat” added to the “Indianness” of my part of Georgetown as did the big Muslim mosque on Church Street. It puzzled this youngster that thousands upon thousands from rural Guyana and in the towns remained “Indian”, though born here. Of course, from teen years to young adulthood, enlightenment educated me.

Simply put, the descendants of the indentureds gladly retained much of their Indian culture and their religions – Hinduism/Islam. Their foods, music, dress, beliefs brought India to Guyana’s “diversity”. So I smile now at how assimilation has seen “Indian” – descended Guyanese heading our Roman Catholic Church and other Indo-descendants (Hindus) now are numerous pastors (Christian).

After the PPP 1992 ascension, African-descended Guyanese sought to embrace more enthusiastically, ACDA and their “Africanness”. But their Indian counterparts were largely always more passionate about Indian origins. I know why.

I respect the views of Ravi and Ryhaan on the West Indian marginalization of the people from the sub-continent who remained in these parts. I share some of their opinions too about how certain local administrations “accommodated” covert discrimination against Indo-Guyanese. Largely because of the intrusion of politics, Ravi and Ryhaan do not balance their valid allegations by pointing to the “Indian Triumphalism” manifested by some – is my view.

So what about me? Well I’m not sorry that I embraced what I knew. With all its faults and flaws, I’m proud of the more indigenous creole culture which produced me. I know faith and spirituality – my way. But I’m not actively religious enough to be fully Hindu, Muslim or Christian. (What a fateful shortcoming!?) I even understand why the mighty USA allows the other world’s peoples to take their cultures, religions and soul to America. People function better anywhere (?) within their origins. Perhaps sadly, unfortunately, for me my origin was in Guyana. Only.


“E Mattie” surely knows…

Definitely one of my favourite creole proverbs is “Tief-man na like see e mattie wid bag.” Meaning former partners in crime are always suspicious when they see their erstwhile operative with a container – or opportunity – they had no part in planning acquiring or sharing.

Far be it from me to describe any of our politicians as “thief-man.” But I must observe that when one set operates as opposition they scrutinize and criticize and readily accuse those in power of wrong-doing. That’s how our political democracy works and it’s good, sometimes productive, for us the “governed.”

So, Frankly Speaking, an Opposition which once enjoyed Government ought to be familiar with all the opportunities – weaknesses in regulations, laws; conflict-of-interest arrangements; discriminatory techniques; sweetheart under-the-table deals for favoured ones; and allocations; manipulation of government contracts and programmes; the re-distribution of un-monitored international assistance, etc – which those currently in power can benefit from to the detriment of the greater, common good?

Sometimes we share the view that those who committed grievous, even criminal, sins whilst in power have no moral right to criticise or accuse. I disagree. Like the proverbial now-left-out “thief man” they know what to look for! Let them speak! We can benefit!


Who can rig our elections? (Pt8)

How pleased, satisfied am I to see others taking up my “electoral malpractice” theme. (That’s what I’m here for.)

Today’s brief offering on rigging here is not meant to suggest that Guyana’s GECOM Secretariat officials, their volunteers or trained registration or polling day operatives are seized with intentions of wrong-doing to benefit some contestant unfairly.

No. I merely wish to point out that before Polling Day and on Elections Day at all Polling Places, if certain officials are motivated to cheat they probably can. Observers or no observers! Among those who can succumb to wrong-doing: Those who select persons for training, polling (day) clerks, owners of polling places, selected security persons at specific polling places, those who “ink” voters’ fingers, some scrutineers and the vital, mighty returning officers.

I wonder if I should produce a comprehensive booklet for all political parties contesting; containing all my hints and advisories? ’Til next edition.


Please ponder…

1) Sometimes you folks bore me. Do you all not realise – or accept – that there are still powerful roles and responsibilities for the four ministers retired? You-all really believe that Madam Hastings-Williams will be responsible for Oil and Gas? Or that Mr Greenidge won’t guide Foreign Policy?

2)  Name seven (7) departments falling under the Super Ministry of the Presidency.

3)  Bother with elections – after you acquire your long-delayed needs from the Cabinet outreaches.

Til next week!


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