It was the morning of September 13, 1961. Things were buzzing at Ganga Persaud’s home in Rose Hall Village .Jai Seecharran was getting ready to make that giant of leaving his home to venture to America. He was just 18, and up to then he had been away from home for more than 3 times, and this was in the company of his parents. Weeks prior to that he and his friend Ronald Hanoman had to go to the US Embassy by train to get the student visa .He intended to go to California, but his trip to Dr. Fred Ramlall’s office in New Amsterdam for his medical tests changed that. Dr. Ramlall had attended Mankato State College in Minnesota, and was well known by even the President of MSC He would receive a copy of the report cards of all the 50 students attending the college. Because he could not afford much, they gave him a closet next to the boiler room in the gymnasium. He had his desk and bed there for the next few years. When he revisited in 1962, he wanted to see his room . I took him there. Tears came to his eyes, as he recalled his experiences. The room was exactly the way he left it many years ago. Months later the building was demolished to make room for new buildings.
Neighbors, friends and relatives had to say their last goodbyes. After the pandit gave his blessings, my mother, father and sister started out. At that time Rose Hall market was located from the now Independence arch to the cross street next to our house and teacher Farley’s. It was difficult to get through because of the crowd, and the commotion caused by people stopping the car to say goodbye. Pandit Lall Maharaj’s wife threw a parcel through the open car window, and blessed me. We crossed the ferry in Rogisnol and headed for Georgetown. The roads were paved with red bricks and becomes very dusty when vehicles travelled on it. As I was driving around Bush Lot, West Coast Berbice, there was a little boy with a bucket in his hand, about to cross the road. He put the bucket over his head to avoid the dust and proceed to cross. “ Oh my, what to do ?”At the rate both of us were going, he would be on the path of the car, no matter how much I try to brake. I decided to floor it. The kid walked onto the back door of the speeding car, and was flung to the side of road. Is he dead or badly hurt?. There goes my trip. We got out of the car, and before we knew it , a crowd gathered. They examined him and agreed it was his fault. He was bruised a little with no broken bones. He got a good yelling for his stupidity. We spent the night in Kitty with relatives, and then proceed the next morning to Timehri airport. There was a busload of friends and relatives to see me off. They brought out their curried chicken, boiled channa and roti and had a picnic. This was a major event .For many of us ,it was the first trip to the airport.
Ron and I were warned about the bumpy flight, and the chance of throwing up in the propeller plane, but it did not happen. The next stop was in Curacao. On this flight we met two friendly men and they offered to show us around while we waited to continue the trip. I was so scared while sightseeing that at any moment we would be mugged, killed and dumped somewhere. Was it a mistake to accept the offer? We were very thankful when we came back to the airport. The Pan Am flight was much smoother and our flight to New York in this luxurious plane was very enjoyable, especially with the free rum and coke and food. We spent the night at the Idlewilde hotel in New York.
Now comes a whole bunch of new experiences. A TV, how to watch it? Taking a shower. The water was ice cold. Did not know that there was hot water, so the shower was very brief. Room service for toast, eggs and coffee was $3.50. We were allowed to bring $25.00 USD plus a bank draft for school expenses. We could not afford to spend so much money for breakfast, so we looked into our suitcase for goodies. I found the parcel that Mrs Lall Maharaj had given me. In it was some Satwa, seven roasted grains including Channa,rice dal and some others. It is packed with protein and a little goes a long way. Now I realize the reason our grand parents always had some packed in a can for emergencies. WE mixed it with water and that sustained us until we arrived at our final destination. From New York to Minneapolis on Northwest Airlines and then on a smaller plane to Mankato. I had the phone number of Mohamed Ally, brother of the late Mustaffa Ally of Guava Bush . I did not have the dime to call him, neither have I ever use a phone. I showed another passenger the number. Instead, he gave me dime to make the call. I read the instruction, placed the money in the phone and made the call. Great country! When I hung up the phone, a bunch of coins came flying down. I grabbed them and quickly and stuck them in my pocket, hoping no one saw me. Ally came with his 1954 Chevrolet and took us to an apartment shared by him, Azeez Baksh, and Ramlaka Singh. After delivering his mango chutney and pepper sauce, we sat down to a welcomed chicken curry and rice. A few days later, we checked into the Searing Center dormitory and started College.
Reflecting on this eventful week 57 years ago, I have to be thankful for so much. 60 years ago, the thought of leaving Rose Hall Village was as remote as me going to the moon. The trust of my parents, relatives and friends did not allow me to fail. I am very thankful for having such a supportive life partner, and the way my children are living their lives. My grandchildren are most precious. My loyal friends are always there to make my life enjoyable and easy.
What will you be remembered for when you leave?
Jai Seecharran – Class of 1959