For Dave Martins – 100 Reasons to Hope: Reason #3

Dear Dave,

Over the last weeks, I have been going into selected communities to help implement a project for the Guyana National Youth Council. I have never been so inspired in my life. I have gone from street to street meeting honest Guyanese who are passionate about building this nation.

In Region 5, I met a local government official who said that they understand that being in office does not mean that they must give privilege first and foremost to the people who live on their street.

“Not because I live on this street, it means that this street must be fixed first…we do works based on priority and that priority is determined by needs and urgency of needs and not based on which official lives where,” they said.

I am proud of Guyanese like this, Guyanese who put the welfare of all citizens above their political interests, above the political interests of a particular party. This gives me hope. It makes me want to stay and work. It keeps me going.

 

Reason #3: There are still Guyanese who are capable of working in an honest and objective manner to develop Guyana; who put country and people before party politics.

 

Without wax,

Bharrat

Politics Will Not Decide Who I am

When I was 7 or 8, I lived along Craig Sideline Dam at my grandparents’ farm house. I farmed my own little plot of cash crops to help buy my school books and I spent hours stooping in slushy mud, between pakchoy and lettuce banks, picking snails and weeds from among the healthy, thriving plants. This is something I haven’t very often shared about myself.

I have milked cows, sold fruits and vegetables on the road side and cleaned out chicken pens. During my teenage years, I stood behind the counter of my uncle’s shop in Craig Old Road selling into the night. I fetched cases of rum, bags of sugar and rice and occasionally bunches of plantains from the boat by the Craig trench landing to our house.

Most of my immediate family are traditional PPP supporters. My maternal grandfather was a cane cutter and farmer. His wife, was a seamstress and market vendor. On my father’s side, they were rice farmers from Essequibo and later moved to the East Coast of Demerara. These are things about myself I used to be afraid to share because I was afraid that I would be shamed.

I became politically aware during my early 20s. I realized then that everyone stereotyped me. Because I looked Indian, because I was of Indian ancestry, it was automatically assumed that I was PPP. And guess how we stereotype PPP supporters? PPP supporters are painted as backward cane cutters, as lacking intellectual capacity, as being dishonest, as being evil, as being the people responsible for the state of Guyana.

So when some people look at my face or any face like mine, this is what they think of us. This is the product of identity politics in Guyana. It has robbed us of the right to be and to be proud of who we are and where we came from. It has robbed us of the opportunity to really see our parents and grandparents, to truly value what they have brought to this nation. My grandfather died without me ever recognizing what an extraordinary man he was and how hard he worked for his country. I never got a chance to look him in the eyes and tell him how much he meant to me. You see, before he died I didn’t realize that he was a victim of a system that he couldn’t control.

I do not for a second believe that my experience is unique to me or to young people of Indian ancestry. I believe this is something that is experienced by all of us, no matter what we look like or where we come from. Our political culture has blinded us. We don’t see each other. We see the political stereotypes that have been painted of us for decades.

For a while, I hated looking in the mirror. I hated seeing my own face and what I believed it represented. Since then, I’ve realized that my ancestral history is so much more than the politics that has hijacked it.

And the worst part by far is that I cannot even speak up for my identity without having my voice politicised. If I speak for the Indian identity, for my right to this part of my culture and heritage, then I will be labelled as a pro-PPP racist. Most people don’t care for my independence, they only see what I look like and the stereotype that is attached to my features.

Yes, I am Guyanese and part of what makes any of us Guyanese is our unique sub-cultures and heritage. These differences give the Guyanese identity value. To attempt to take away any one facet of any of our identity, is to rob our country of part of its history and part of what makes it what it is.

We cannot have a Guyana without any of its people. We cannot have a Guyana without PPP supporters and they will never join us unless we stop demonizing them, stop crucifying them for their political beliefs, stop making them afraid to be among us. These people are our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, our friends.

The PPP alone is not responsible for the crisis of identity politics in Guyana. The PNC, now under the unity umbrella of the APNU-AFC Coalition, is equally responsible. I say this not to cast blame on either party, but to acknowledge that identity politics has been a weapon of both our major political factions. And until Guyanese begin to see what identity politics has taken from them, we will always be shamed for being who we are.

For Dave Martins – 100 Reasons to Hope: Reason #2

Dear Dave,

In 2015, the APNU/AFC Coalition won the general elections by 1.1% or 4, 506 votes. I like to think of this margin as the 1.1 majority and I believe that it is, to a large extent, reflective of the majority of non-partisan voters who voted in that elections.

We must also recognize that there are those non-partisan voters, like myself, who decided not to be backed into a corner where it felt like we were choosing between the lesser of two evils.

At the Guyana 2066 talk, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vishnu Doerga indicated that he believed independents were less than 4,506 in number. He also pointed out that we kept seeing the same faces at most spaces which represent independent conversations.

While I am inclined to agree with Doerga on this, I also believe that the repetition of faces is not necessarily a bad thing. The repeated faces have access to their various in-groups where they act as influencers. They, in their own ways, lead independent thinkers or the non-partisan Guyanese and they have the power to increase those numbers.

 

Reason #2: Even though non-partisan and/or independent thinkers seem to be very few in Guyana, they hold enough power together to shift our traditional approach to politics. Guyana is we own so dem bettah watch wa dem ah tell we and do we.

 

Without Wax,

Bharrat

For Dave Martins – 100 Reasons to Hope: Reason #1

Dear Dave,

I still think of the evening of May 24th, 2016 at Moray House Trust. Only two days before our country’s 50th Independence Anniversary, I spoke about my vision for Guyana in 2066 and expressed my belief that change, the kind we want, was inevitable.

After my talk, you more or less asked me why we should continue to hope. I tried my best to answer you in that moment and I ended by giving you a hug because I wasn’t sure then what else I could say. I’ve been thinking of your question since.

Towards the end of 2014 and until the beginning of this year, I felt that there was nothing to hope for and that there was no reason to continue fighting. It was like being thrown into a dark, bottomless pit where you didn’t even have the escape of an end.

It’s part of why I haven’t been writing. My words, they come from a deep and pure place, a place that preserves my belief in the good of this world. While I agree that a significant part of being human is being able to think, I believe that it is our ability to feel that defines our humanity in a more profound way.

When I allowed myself to be infected with hopelessness, it was as if all the joy had been sucked from my soul. And it was impossible to write then. How could I when all I had to share was pain and disillusionment and hopelessness? Can you imagine how many more of us feel like this?

When people like you and I – who share our love for country and people despite the vulnerability such sharing brings – lose hope, it can have disastrous consequences. You see, when we are infected with hopelessness, we don’t just lose hope for ourselves but for all those whose lives we touch in a meaningful way.

I believe that one day Guyana will cease to be a place where a privileged group continues to control our country’s wealth by manipulating our people with black and brown politics. Because I believe this, I have hope for a better future, if not for all of us, for our children and their children.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share 100 reasons to continue hoping for a better Guyana with you. But this isn’t really about you or me, this is about the thousands of people who feel the same things we do and who, like us, struggle to live life in this country one day at a time. This is for our people, Dave.

 

REASON #1

We’re alive, we think and most importantly we feel. This means we can still fight for what we want. There’s really no limit to what we can do. No limit at all. Just believe and keep the hope alive.

 

With love and without wax,

Bharrat

 

New home, same life

Window View Diamond
View from my front window at sunrise.

 

My family and I finally moved into our house in the Diamond New Housing Scheme. I can’t say that I like it nor can I say I hate it. The traveling is hard and the morning traffic is harder but the place has a certain quietness to it that I like.

It’s been a long time since my mother, younger brother and I have shared a home together. At my age, I think I’ve spent too much time chasing life and chasing causes and not enough time seeing the people I love. A big part of loving people is witnessing their lives and caring about what you witness. I’ve been working on it.

And of course, I’ve got some interesting neighbours and naturally I’ve got that one neighbour that’s the epitome of jackassifiyishness. Almost every weekend they vibrate my windows with their huge music box while their battalion of children back-ball and juk the floor, the wall and each other. Sigh. I’m trying hard to mind my own business.

Just before the rain started this morning, I helped my mom wash. We used blue-soap, hard-brush and scrubbing-board. These days I look forward to washing with mom. I’ve seen her age these last few years and it forced me to accept that my time with her is not endless. Time is not endless for us.

I wait up for my brother at nights now and we do dumb things or watch pointless TV. I’m watching him become a man and I know that I won’t always be around to witness his life first hand. There’s no telling where life will take us. My mother’s eldest sister has lived in another country for most of their lives and they haven’t seen each other in years. One day, distance may stretch between my brother and I and we’ll fill that space with memories and Skype and annual visits.

This is also the first time in more than 15 years that I haven’t lived with Nani. She is there in her house and I am here in mine. Sometimes, it feels as if our worlds are not the same and never were and never could be but every now and then we meet and we laugh. Laughing makes everything better.

Life will never be perfect and happiness is not constant. But who wants that? Seriously, perfect and constant are predictable and boring.

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