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My Yesterday

Saturday, 14th January, 1961. It is dawn and the day begins. No sleeping late today. I can hear the rumbling of the old Bedford truck as it turns into Gopie Trace, its low gear grating. But above the grating sound comes the sing song of the loader. “Wood, firewood, purple heart, dry wood, ten piece for a dollar”. I race outside to stop the truck and make sure that the loader only drop small logs of purple heart which will have to be chopped into firewood for use in the chulha during the week. Purple heart is the king of firewood with little smoke and lasting longer. Even the coals that remained after cooking could be used to fire up the heater to iron clothes. “Sita Ram, Sita Ram” can be heard above the barking of the dog. It is Bassie, the Naaw who is passing out invitations for either weddings or religious ceremonies. Her husband was the original Naaw and when he died, she continued in the position becoming the first female to do so. Since she is on foot, she likes to leave early as she walks to every home in the village to deliver verbal invitations and state the day and time of the puja or wedding. Wedding invitations were for Friday night Maticoor, Saturday night Bhatwan or cooking night and Sunday wedding. Pujas would usually be for one day except for Yagnas which could last for seven and even nine nights. She usually gave a few grains of yellow rice as a symbol and in turn got a cent or a penny. She has long stopped taking a cup of rice in her bag, as she complained it was difficult to carry over the long distance she had to travel. I had barely taken the small logs from the roadside into the yard when the sound of another horn. “Porp en, Porp en, Porp en”. Terry had left his home in Mohess Road just before five am and rode his Humber bike to the San Fernando wharf. He had built his wooden fish box to sit above the carrier and made sure it was well balanced so as not to cause the bike to lean one way or the other. At the wharf, he waited for the fishermen coming in with their catch. Then he bought fish for resale. Since his customers were mainly poor country folks, his chief purchase consisted of herring and fry dry, and he would buy a few carite of king f ish to cater for Mr. Gunness who owned the gas station or Bobo who had the orange estate. On his return journey, he would first pass through Lagoon Road from Debe and onto Suchit Trace and finally Gopie Trace vending his wares. “Fisssh herriinng, fresh fish, three pounds for twenty-five cents. Saturdays were “fish day” in the village and the ladies would come out with their little basins and sometimes, Terry threw a few herrings in after he had weighed their purchase. By now the sun is hot and the sound of bells can be heard. “Riiinng, Riinning” would come from Presso the press man and the more subdued “ting a ling, ting a ling, ting a ling” from the palet man Poach. Each tried to reach before the other for parents would seldom buy both press and palet for their children. Presso had a similar bike to Terry the f isherman but his box carried ice, a shaver, two tins of syrup and tins of condensed milk. Press was made of shaved ice pressed into a small glass or cone shaped tin and dipped into pans containing red and yellow syrup. The came at a penny for one and when served with condensed milk on the head went for three cents. Palet is a frozen ice-cream on a stick wrapped with paper. Poach pushed an enclosed box cart with ice within and a round cover which helped to keep the palets frozen. A small bell hung on the handle of the box cart which he would ring regularly while shout “palet, palet, palalalet, palet”. The palet factory was located in Mohess Road and several Paletmen collected their carts before proceeding to the neighboring villages to sell their palets. If there was a wedding in the village, they would stop a while for there they got extra customers and they could have a meal. Saturdays, when the Penal market was in session the palet men did a brisk trade. “Morning Neighbour, Morning Neighbour”. It is the Awake and Watchtower people who visits our village from time to time. My mother usually remained indoors and sent me out with a ten-cent piece to say she had a pot on the fireside and could not come out. I gave the ten cents and collected the magazines. Once, when I was about ten, I pocketed the money and said we had none today; I was treated to a long discourse about the true living God and presented with My Book of Bible Stories. I was ashamed and wanted to take the ten cent out of my pocket but was scared of being found out a thief. For many years I had nightmares of being punished by the Lord. “Pathik, Pathik, Pathik”. The old Syrian man with the over-sized grip and bundle hanging from his shoulder calls. He is selling cloth. Dress length for one dollar, pants length for two dollars. He praises this new fabric for pants. “Garberdine, better than Khaki of Chambray” he boasts. “Makes good working clothes. House bun but Garberdine nah bun!” “Beep, beep, beep, beep.” We all recognize that horn. Gopaul, the jewelry man has finished his stint at the Penal market and is now coming through the village. He has a stall in the front row next to Marajin, the bara lady where he displays his gold and silver jewelry, beras, necklaces, chains, earrings and watches on a white table cloth. “If you cannot come to the market, I will come to you” he says as he pulls into our yard with his Vauxhall Cresta loaded with boxes. He gives credit and his Saturday afternoon visits is not only to sell but also to collect installments from customers. Mostly women from the neighboring houses come out either to pay existing credit or create new accounts as village people cannot afford to buy jewelry on one go. He has an old note book where he slowly updates the customer’s accounts and I never heard anyone complain of being cheated. By now it is nearing four o’clock in the evening. I hope I won’t be disturbed by any more peddlers and vendors today. Tomorrow is Sunday and I wish I could sleep late. I groan as I remember that that Rueben the fowl buyer, Saiphoo “sharpening scissors, cleaning jewels”, the “buying bottle” van as well as the clothes van had not made their weekly calls as yet.

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