Leaving home to get hitched
Nineteen fifty-seven quickly became 1958 and the romance between Vijay and Cintra was in full swing. Handsome, eloquent, rich and the son of the most powerful man in Sangre Grande, Vijay, was quite a catch. Vijay in turn admired Cintra’s obvious academic brilliance and her incredibly organized manner. She managed her time excellently and if she set her mind on something, it got done.
Indra returned to Trinidad in July of that year. She was all excited and was eager to discuss her future wedding with Vijay.
Vijay, as planned, manoeuvred her around Grande, trying to avoid any areas where my mother’s friends or family might see them together. It worked for almost a month; however, during her fourth and final week, Aunt Val, saw them walking in front of her house. When Cintra came by to visit, she lost no time in telling her. Visibly upset, she immediately had a letter delivered to Vijay’s house explaining that they were now finished.
Indra had two days left in Trinidad. Vijay explained that he had a dying aunt in Penal and had to leave town. He remained for those two remaining days in the sanctuary of Caigual’s deep bush.
With Indra’s departure, Vijay lost no time in trying to woo Cintra once again. He explained that he was simply walking with her on the street. They were going in the same direction. Had her aunt seen any inappropriate behaviour? Of course not.
He made it clear, Indra had never been invited to his home. He had not visited hers. He even lied about leaving town as to avoid her during her last two days. His family could “vouch for this.” However, he did see her on the street and they had a civilized conversation as any two adults would.
She wanted to believe this; however, she had pride and needed to save face. Vijay was given the cold shoulder for another two weeks. He duly ate some humble pie and continued to plead his case. He would write letters to her and have her cousins at Aunt Val’s house give it to her. On one occasion whilst writing to her late at night, he killed a mosquito and wiped the blood on the letter. “Look, I’ve cut myself for you.” Cintra was incredulous. Her cousins and Ana found him to be full of shit.
However, by the end of the school summer holidays they were an item again. Cintra’s siblings had seen the pair in public and it was obvious what was going on. Her brothers wasted no time in informing their parents. They did not approve of the Darsan boy courting their daughter. “That boy family is too rich,” said her father. “Break it off.”
Cintra had met the love of her life. She was the envy of many a girl at SG College. She had no intentions of breaking anything off. After two months of pressure from her parents, the matter came to a head. Fed up with the constant haranguing, she packed her bags and left a letter for her parents saying that she was going to live with relatives in the south of Trinidad.
In reality, she had very little clue of what she was going to do. She hitched a ride to Ana’s house. They spent the next two hours moving her bag from room to room as so Ana’s parents wouldn’t notice. However, Mr. Greene, was not exactly stupid. He had a small house and the two girls were not the most subtle in trying to hide Cintra’s suitcase. Not only was he Ana’s father but also a school principal, a status that commanded immediate respect from the young people around him. He sat the two down and demanded to know why Cintra had a suitcase in his house.
Once informed he explained to Cintra that she was a young girl with a lot to learn about life. “You think you are in love but this is really infatuation. Do not be carried away by your emotions.” Ana and my mother dutifully listened to Mr. Green, as to interrupt or talk back would lead to a buff.
It was agreed that the matter should then be taken to her Uncle Vinaya, whose house on the Eastern Main Rd. was much closer and accessible to Cintra’s. As her guardians in central Grande Vinaya and his wife would be an acceptable option.
Six foot tall, a lean 175 lbs and deadly serious when he wished to be, Cintra did not relish the prospect of facing him. However, she had Aunt Val as a buffer.
Uncle Vinaya listened to Mr. Greene, thanked him for his concern and intervention. He then told Cintra to have her beau show up at 2 pm the next day.
Vijay, nervous, hands sweating, dutifully appeared at the appointed time. His eyes widened noticeably when he saw Cintra’s father standing next to Uncle Vinaya. Oh Lord, he thought to himself. He called her father.
He did his best to appear calm. Rural Indians were known to go a bit ballistic if they had a disagreement. It was even worse if they thought their family had been harmed in some way. Living off the land, they could use a cutlass as well as some city folk cold use a knife and fork.
Vinaya took the lead: “So! What are your intentions young Darsan.?”
“What does that mean?”
“Don’t be stupid boy!” bellowed Vinaya. “What are your intentions towards Mr. Rambarran’s daughter?”
“Well Mr. Madosingh, I am courting her and my intentions are honourable.”
At this point my Nana chipped in: “My daughter ran away from home because of you.”
“I didn’t ask her to run away.” My father could feel himself cringe on the inside the moment he opened his mouth. He knew he had to tread carefully but the natural impertinence within him was revealing itself.
“Well we have to talk to old man Darsan,” said Vinaya. “Tell your father Mr. Rambarran and I will be there tomorrow after lunch to speak to him.”
Vijay arrived home that day mumbling and apparently ill. He complained of a terrible headache. His mother who was always close to him put him to bed. She began massaging his head with limacol to soothe him.
The shoes that were just a little too "right."
Despite not going anywhere on Boxing Day, we did receive some visitors. We heard someone screaming on the street “Darsan!! Darsan!!”
My father and I jumped and looked at each other in shock.
“Who the hell is that?”
“Who do you think it is? Obviously one of your damn country bookie friends!!”
He ran to the window and saw his friend from Sangre Grande, Duggie and two other Indian men.
“We’re in Apartment 2A. And why are you shouting like that?”
“Well you know I from the country. I eh know any better!”
The entire building had to know some country bookie ass was visiting us.
Despite his sometimes lack of finesse, Duggie adored my father. They had been students in high school. Daddy would always laugh and sometimes recount Duggie’s deviance in class.
Mr. Mohamed was their Mathematics teacher. He had a habit of putting the better students at the front of the class and the less inclined at the back. If Duggie was too talkative, he would say to him, “Sit in the back of the class.”
Duggie would rise, look at Mr. Mohamed very seriously and shake his finger at him, “The sins of the father shall be visited upon the sons.”
Mr. Mohamed would give him a bemused look. My father would laugh at Duggie during the lunch break. “You are talking in class so he sent you to the back. Why did you say that to him?”
“The sins of the father shall be visited upon the sons,” he said watching my father with great intensity.
Duggie came from a poor family and would come to school barefoot. This bothered my father so after a few weeks he approached his mother one day and said “My friend is too poor. He has no shoes. He always comes to school barefoot, I want to buy some shoes for him.”
His mother fished five dollars out of her purse. “Here. Go buy some shoes for him.”
The next day my father handed Duggie the five dollars. “Here. Go and buy some shoes. When I see you tomorrow, I want to see you with shoes on your feet.”
Duggie was shocked. He looked at my father in disbelief. “Ok boss,” was all he could say with a grateful smile.
The next day he approached my father with a broad smile, “Look,” he said pointing downward.
My father looked and his eyes widened. Duggie was wearing two right sided shoes.
“What the hell is this!!”
“You wearing two right shoes boy!!”
Duggie looked down at the shoes silently as if trying to process the information which he had just received. He then looked up at my father queryingly.
“Oh God Duggie!! They sell you two right sided shoes!! You couldn’t see that!!??”
No Duggie couldn’t. He had never owned shoes before. He was just so proud of his brand new, shining shoes.
“Duggie, after school we going to the store that sell you this!” bellowed my father.
They walked into the store together and Duggie pointed out the salesman whom he had dealt with.
“Did you sell him these shoes yesterday?” asked my father.
A slim, young Indian man with glasses and a moustache looked at my father as if a fly had just landed on his shirt. “Yes and what about it?”
“You sold him two right sided shoes. Sell him the proper shoes.”
The salesman and the Manager looked at this precocious youth telling them what to do unaware that he was the local MP’s son.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said the salesman calmly. “I sold him a normal pair of shoes.”
“You sold him the wrong pair. Now get it right. We are not leaving here until you sell him a proper pair of shoes.”
“Boy!! Catch yuhself!!” shouted the Manager. “He was sold a proper pair of shoes. Now leave!”
An old man who had been trying on some black, leather shoes and was observing the drama, looked at Duggie, “Did that man sell you those shoes?”
Duggie nodded in the affirmative.
He looked at the Indian, “Sell him a proper pair of shoes. Or I will go to the Police Station and make a statement about you and I will take him with me.”
The Manager and salesman were shocked. They had not expected this.
“Alright,” muttered the Manager, “Let’s see what we can do.” He took the shoes and came out with a proper pair. “Here see if this is alright.”
Duggie tried them on, walked around and then looked at my father with a bright smile. “It’s ok.” And with that they left the store.
He now worked as a clerk in the Postal Office. Although he hardly ever saw my father much, he had never forgotten his kindness. When leaving that day, he gave me a firm hug. “Remember, I am your Uncle Duggie. If ever you need anything, let me know.”