Today, November 10, 2014, is every bit as significant as October 5, 1992. I remember that October day very well.
It was a Monday. It was as lovely as you would want mornings to be, a brisk, cool wind, clear skies. Vergenoegen on the east bank of the Essequibo river was picaresque.
I owned a freshly re-painted ten-speed bike – the pride of my few worldly possessions at that time. Banana yellow up front faded into a deep ocean blue half way through. ‘Hand painted’ from spray cans bought from Hamid’s Bicycle Supplies shop at Leonora, a village that was and is unshakably PPP.
There was an energy in that village leading up to October 5. People knew there would have been change, they were ready. On that Monday morning in Vergenoegen, an ethnically, religious and politically diverse and progressive thinking village, that energy was palpable. Women in their skirts – some multi-coloured and flowered, some funeral coloured and pleated – under umbrellas fighting against that brisk breeze, streamed along the dusty roads to the polling booths. My grandmother was one of them. Though she never spoken of things political, there was no doubt in which party’s favour her ballot was cast.
Though not of the age to vote by several years I recall being politically aware. I recall wanting change. Though I had never left the country and had only travelled internally in a limited way, I recall being aware enough to know that things were not as good as could potentially be. Many homes were derelict and the good ones were falling into disrepair. Food was one dimensional – rice and some vegetable or the other accompanied by a stringently controlled portion of a meat – and that was for people who were sitting above average on the quality of life scale. There was no potable water supply, electricity was scarce. The nation was impoverished.
That October morning I remember wondering whether this ‘change energy’ which enveloped Leonora and Vergenoegen was evident in the other villages. Knowing what I knew of the villages to the west of Vergenoegen I surmised that those Indian-dominant villages would espouse a certain line. So I hopped on my ten-speed and headed east. The same scenes were evident in Tuschen, one village up, and Zeelugt and De Kindren and Meet-en-Meer-Zorg. I did not need to go on further. I turned back and headed home.
I wanted change, for the better (some of which we had until Cde Cheddi passed and the party did not fall under an even tempered and level minded leader). I remember wanting Guyana to be what it had long promised to be. I remember wanting, even at 14, children after me to have more opportunities and wider access to the things I did not have – basic things – running water, stable electricity supply, balanced meals, a better standard of education, decent roads.
Sadly twenty-two years on and we have not advanced much. Some houses have fresh coats of paint while those willing to sacrifice principles which others hold dear are able to throw up mansions. Today the nation is only slightly less impoverished and the gap between the rich few and the poor masses is ever widening. Justice and equality are strangers in the land.
Though not of voting age in 1992, and though I did not share my thoughts with anyone, on reflection, it fills me with warm pride that on that day my heart was on the right side of history.
On this day, November 10, 2014 on which side of history do you stand? Twenty years down the line you will have to reflect on this day and you will either be filled with a comforting pride or pestering regret. The choice is yours and need not be public. Consider the reality, take a decision and guard it in your heart.