Three into One definitely Can’t Go or Can it?

(Now that the non-Guyanese are discussing Guyaneseness, I think it’s necessary to take this article out of storage.)

March 31, 2015
“I do not know if I am East Indian, Trinidadian or West Indian.” Sam Selvon, Opening Address to East Indians in the Caribbean Conference, University of the West Indies, Trinidad, 1979
While in the beginning I have not been overly concerned with being West Indian, there have been many days when I was not sure whether I was an East Indian or a Guyanese. In fact, I was afraid to be either of these things because I did not know how to make them live in harmony inside of me.

There was a time when I could not fully nor comfortably embrace my East Indian heritage because I felt guilty; I felt as if I were somehow betraying my Guyaneseness. But then, how could I be Guyanese without my Indianness? It took me a while to realize why it was so hard to be Guyanese; I simply did not understand what it meant to be one of us.

The essence of what it means to be Guyanese is embodied in the language we speak. Guyanese Creole is a language that is a sum total of our history as a nation. It was lexified by the language of our colonial masters (English) and given structure and flavor by the languages of our other European, Amerindian, African, East Indian, Chinese and Portuguese ancestors. Together, we have given birth to a unique language that reflects a culture which belongs only to us. Hence, the language cannot be what it is without any of our ancestors; without any of us.

In the same way, we cannot be Guyanese without our Europeanness or Amerindianness or Africanness or Indianness or Chineseness or Portugueseness. The Guyanese identity is a beautiful collage of brilliant colours; it is a work of art that can exist in no other place and with no other people and this work of art can only exist when all the parts are present together in a single space.

Having understood this, I learnt that being Guyanese did not make a sacrifice of my Indian heritage necessary. It meant that heritage was a necessary part of the whole. So the Guyanese identity does not call for a sacrifice of any of our individual heritage. Instead, it calls for an acknowledgement that each individual heritage is equally necessary in the forging of such an identity.

I like that I can eat seven curry in a household that also loves Chinese food, pepperpot, shepherd’s pie, cook-up, foo-foo, sweet and sour sauce and jamoon wine. Where else in the world would I be able to experience such variety? Guyanese people does really eat good. We lucky bad.

In my earlier writings, I have examined in some detail how Guyana’s political machinery has been fueled by racism. However, something I have avoided saying for too long is that this mechanism was not created or given sustenance by a single entity. It has its genesis, perhaps, in our country’s colonial history and, unfortunately, became a tradition that was upheld by more than one group in our post-colonial history.

I believe now that the fathers and mothers of our nation could only allow such a political tradition to survive because they themselves did not understand what it meant to be Guyanese. I also believe that many of us and our parents and grandparents have also failed in this area. Had we not struggled with our identity, had we been able to understand it sooner and in greater number then we would never have allowed a rift to be created between us.
I can only hope that more of us can acknowledge the past and learn the lessons it teaches us so that we can finally begin to build a nation. Not a nation for a single tribe and those faithful to it, but a nation for the Guyanese man and woman.

Our identity is too complex a thing to be expressed in the simple mathematics of three-into-one-can’t-go. Three into one most certainly can go and the answer is 0.33. Perhaps, we should begin by teaching this to our leaders. Sometimes, a top-down approach is necessary. But the bottom line is that helping each other with our individual struggle for identity is the answer to forging a national identity and the spread of this Guyanese identity is the solution to a large part of what plagues us.

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.

Reportah Storie

For our journalists.

Yuh tink I like wake up every marnin’ an’ see you?
Dat I like lef’ meh house, meh pickanee, meh lil piece in dis cowboy country?
Yuh tink dis is how I wan’ live?
Dat I wan’ watch dem minista thief?
Dat I wan’ watch thief watchin’ thief?
Yuh really tink I wan’ hear how yuh beat yuh wife?
And how she tell de police lef’ yuh cause she love yuh?
Bai look, you na tink I gah better ting fuh do dan dat?
Last week when yuh neighbah thief dem fowl an’ end up in front de magistrate, yuh feel I had time with he?
Yuh feel I didn’t sit dunk in de court room and laff meh rass when de chinee lie-ah tell de magistrate dat is hungry yuh neighbah de hungry mek he thief fowl?
Banna, look, is who tell you dat fowl thief na fuh laff in dis country?
Yuh feel me na laff when de mad man de shootin’ up last week?
Yuh na tink dat show yuh is wa dem people in this country deh pon?
Yuh feel dat right now meh heart na hu’tin’ fuh dem people dat dead?
Fuh dem policeman dat gi dem life fuh something dem na know bout?
Bai look, is wa you feel at all?
Couple year back when dem seh fineman shoot up de people dem,
Yuh feel I de wan’ see duh?
Yuh tink I de like seein’ how dem pack de bartica ppl like dead fish?
Is wa you feel at all?
Dat dem tings don’t hu’t meh heart?
Dat meh stomach don’t bun like you wan?
Dat meh eye watah na does leak fuh meh brethren?
Yuh feel dat I don’t feel?
Bai look, is wa you feel at all eh?

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