To AG Anil Nandlall – On the “Chatri Coolie”

Dear AG Anil Nandlall,

Since President Donald Ramotar prorogued Parliament, I have not heard much about your Chatri-Coolie-Corruption tape. The proroguing seems to have worked out for you in more ways than one. Also, pardon me if I don’t use the word “alleged” anywhere in our correspondence because the president declared to the nation that the tape was not doctored but that your words were taken out of context. It seems that you now and forever more will be tied to those utterances.

I am not here to take sides or to defend any individual or group of individuals. I have learnt that people, no matter how righteous their actions may appear, all have some deep-rooted aim which motivates them. Instead, I defend near dead things like honour, honesty, justice, democracy and freedom of press and of expression.

I have only just listened to your tape, sir, and I like that you use our Creole language; that you embrace your identity. I heard you ask Leonard if he knew the meaning of “Chatri Coolie”. “I am a Chatri Coolie,” you declared to him. Well sir, I do believe that had you been aware of the true meaning of the term then you would not so freely use it to describe yourself.

You see, Anil, my Nani – who still swears that it could not have been you uttering those words on that recording because she cannot believe that a good and nice boy like you would do such a dishonor to his country and his people – has told me all sorts of stories about mystical India and the culture we have inherited from our forefathers. A Chatri Coolie, as Nani has explained it, is an Indian man (or woman) – or in our case a descendant of such a man or woman – who is not powerful because he revels in power but because he is a defender of those who do not sit in the place of power and because he truly understands the responsibility that comes with power.

How many people do you think have Googled Chatri Coolie over the last month Anil? How many do you think now associate the term with dishonor and corruption and a power-hungry fool? Just think Anil, this is the association that goes with the term in our little world and you, having branded yourself a Chatri Coolie, are irrevocably married to these connotations. You are the first of this new type of Chatri. Just think Anil! This is how you have been frozen in history, this is how you will be remembered, and this is now your legacy.

Chatri, dear Anil, is the mother caste of the Rajputs (even Wikipedia agrees). When we think Rajputs, we immediately think of honor and pride. A Rajput’s honor means more to him (or her) than life. In the ancient social system mapped by the Vedas, the Chatris are the sacred warriors who save the people from wounds by sustaining wounds themselves.

But you Anil, what wounds have you sustained for your people? What have you done for all of us? Have you stood apart from and fought against a system of evil that plagues us? Have you fought for every coolie man and woman, every black man and woman, every Amerindian man and woman, every Chinese man and woman, every white man and woman, every hybrid man and woman in this country? What have you done that is deserving of honor, sir? What is it, beyond riches and power, that makes you Chatri?

And you know what else Anil? The utterance which convinced me the most that you are lost – was not the scandalous things you said about your uncle wanting to fuck a young reporter or about the “borrowing” of state funds or even about attacking the Kaieteur News – it was when you expressed your concern for your wife and stated that in all of this she is innocent and knows nothing about it.

It was the only time I heard something genuine in your voice Anil. I could hear your love for that woman and your fear for her leak into your words and I listened with a heavy heart. I kept thinking, Anil, that had you really loved that woman in the way that I am sure she deserves to be loved then you would not have acted in any way that would have put her at risk. You would have guarded your honor closely, Anil, because as you well know in our culture and most others a husband’s honor is the same as his wife’s. Why would you do such things to her and your children and your mother and father and all those whose honor is somehow connected to yours? Even me, and all of those like me, young, promising souls struggling to birth Guyanese, why would you do this to us?

But more than all of this Anil, what I really want to tell you is this: you see how you love and fear for your wife? I understand that well. But the love I feel for the people close to me, can in no way eclipse the love I have for my country and all those who call it home. I believe that had you loved our country like this, had any of you loved Guyana in such a way, such dark days would never have dawned upon us. These things Anil make me fear for our country and its people, even you.

Without Wax,

Bharrat.

On the Twelfth Day

By S. Bharrat

 

I dreamt that the day of revolution would come;

that thousands would storm the city streets

screaming for justice. – Mahadai Dass

 

The day for revolution has come and gone

and I hear your cry echo the wind

that carries nothing but my brother’s silence:

mouth sealed shut by his own mud and water.

One counterfeit general – his wings beating strong;

his brooches of vanity shining

in God’s eye still – is replaced by a puppet

whose strings are imagined

to save us from our worst fear.

And it is the stringless puppet

who holds back the climbing sun in the sky;

who cements our lips with river mud,

lovingly applying the paste with his rakshas self.

His muddy hand touches our eyes; our hearts, our souls

so that he can be savior; the sacrificial lamb

avoiding an atmosphere of confrontation.

It has been twelve days since he saved us

And only another pen’s ink on the

tenth day softened the mud on my lips.

But our words bring no irrevocable flood.

Instead, waters storm the city streets

raising dirt and filth and waste

that will be shoved down our throats;

drowning a lonely call for justice.

And in all of this, I think of you

and your dead dream and I wonder

if maybe, I swallowed some of the river mud

covering my heart and hardening it.

Or is it that his hand reached into my chest

grabbing it, choking it, smearing it with mud

so that god’s eye would linger on it – drying the water from it

like the puppet sucks the life from them –  until it is a rock in my chest?

Until it pulls heavily on the rotten yarn of my life?

Until, like your dream, I am dead?

(November 22, 2014)

Dear Nana

This poem was first performed on March 25, 2014 at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport’s World Poetry Day 2014 event – An Evening of International, Regional and Guyanese Poetry. I dedicated the first performance to Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony. The poem itself is dedicated to my nana, those Guyanese of Indian heritage who have had their hearts broken, to all Guyanese fighting the blindness and anyone who wishes to see beneath and beyond the mud. Perhaps now, I should replace “Without Wax” with “Without Riva Mud”.

Moonlight bright, bright tonight
Suh bright, riva mud na hide dem rakshas face.
Ah de same moon yuh lef nana.
Same, same moon yuh lef.
Suh how come me ah see and you na bin see?
Ah de same moon yuh lef nana.
Same, same moon yuh lef.
Same moon mek dem same coolie
tun nyam man and nyam woman.
Dem ah nyam everything nana.
Everything dem ah nyam.
Ow nana, dem ah nyam dem mattie
and dem mattie pickanee tuh.
If yuh tink me ah lie,
mus ask Nagamootoo and Ramkarran.
Ask dem when dem come dah side.
Ask dem if na truth me ah talk.
Dem guh tell yuh
dat if dem coolie dah,
if dem same coolie dah
coulda find yuh ash weh e deh
Den dem woulda nyam dah tuh.
Moonlight bright, bright tonight.
E bright, bright tonight nana.
Suh bright, me ah see dem
dutty skin unda dem nice cloth.
Ah de same moon yuh lef nana
Same, same moon yuh lef.
Same moon dat glad, glad yuh done dead
because now, yuh na gah geh moonlight
fuh see dem rakshas face.
Now, yuh guh see wa dem bin ah hide
with all dah riva mud dem bin ah dig fah.
Ah de same, same riva mud dem use, nana
Same, same riva mud dem use
fuh bruk yuh heart.
Bruk yuh heart when yuh done dead nana.
Dem bruk yuh heart, nana. Ow! Dem bruk am!
Dem na know how fuh love ah land
like you bin love am.
Dem na know nothing bout love.
Moonlight bright, bright tonight nana.
E bright, bright, bright nana.
Suh bright riva mud cyan hide nothing nah mo.

(Without Riva Mud. Bharrat 2014)

To Ian McDonald

Dear Ian McDonald,

As I sit here this cold, grey morning in Craig Old Road my mind and heart and soul wander through the moments you’ve remembered these past decades. I see now, Ian, if I may be so bold, that there comes a time when a girl must rise and burn the leeches from her skin so that she may forge a sword of metaphors.

Swords, I’m sure you must know, are not only meant for blood. No Ian, some swords have been created to carry flames; flames from the same fire which has kept your dear Martin, our dear Martin burning until now. It is the same fire, Ian, which I have seen in the soul of my Martin.

I have witnessed much more than the man Ian McDonald in A Cloud of Witnesses; I have witnessed my country and region and world. But more importantly Ian, I have been taught by you to see so much more than I’ve been willing to see. And even though, I may not agree with some of what you say, I am honoured that I could drink from this reservoir of yours. Knowledge is never enough. It seems that I have been condemned to thirst until death.

In some ways Ian, I envy you. I am not jealous of Martin, no, I have my own Martin, but I am sorely jealous that you have been able to experience that thing which died long before my birth. You are right though, not all ages can be golden. I am certain that this is an age of lead.

But still, hope is an eternal friend (or foe) of man and so once my Martin lives I have hope. I await the day when the nation recognises that my Martin is really our Martin. You see Ian, men like my Martin (and even your Martin) and maybe one day I may be able to say women like me were not conceived in a womb but in the university of war.

Eternal Gratitude,
Sara Bharrat.

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.
Sara.

Encouraging Young and Emerging Talent – The Ruel Johnson Book Launch

Ruel Johnson signing a copy of Fictions

Ruel Johnson signing a copy of Fictions

Ruel Johnson may be infamous for his Facebook cuss-outs, but he is also the main man when it comes to encouraging young and emerging talent. He proved this during the launch of Fictions and a collection of Poetry at Oasis Cafe last evening.

The launch was less about Johnson’s own work and far more about his sister, Stacy Johnson, and other poets and writers present. In a way, Johnson sacrificed his singular beam of light to and for something much, much greater.

Whatever Johnson is accused of being flickers and dies when compared to the effort he makes to help young and emerging writers. Writing is clearly life and passion for this man.

All the best to him and Janus!

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.
Sara.