In First Standard (JB Cropper Primary) a few of us would sometimes walk to the Jai Hind cricket ground behind the Albion police station and eat our lunch under the mango tree on the bank of No. 4 trench. There used to be a boat tied to the mango tree. The boat was owned by Uncle Moolay, our classmate Rajah’s dad. Rajah was the youngest of four brothers. The others were Norman, Palaan, and Bywah. Norman owned a powerful air rifle. Bywah had a talent for singing. His favorite song was “Chandi Ki Deewar Na Todi”, a Mukesh hit from “Vishwas”. Rajah’s dad had two other brothers. Their names were Choke and Bagaar.
Some days we would jump into the boat and paddle to the other side of the trench. Rajah’s house was on the other side. It was a cozy little flat house with thatched roof surrounded by several fruit trees, including a tamarind tree. Tamarind with salt and pepper was always a treat.
One day as we were crossing back from Rajah’s side of the trench the paddle dropped out of Rajah’s hand. The water mill was pumping water towards the ocean so the boat with Beemen, Rama, Rajah, and I started going with the flow, taking us where we didn’t want to go. The boat passed under the public road bridge and then we realized we were in a spot of trouble. We started shouting for help. Quietly at first, then louder, then pandemonium. A man on a bicycle saw our plight and tried to reach out with a piece of wood, but it was too short. The boat kept drifting with its cargo of four desperate urchins. Rama suggested we abandon ship, but I told him I couldn’t swim.
A bend in the trench caused the boat to hit the bank and we all clutched on to a clump of bellyache bush. Rajah got out and broke a picket from someone’s fence and used it to row us back to the mango tree. And language to make a sailor blush. We were all late for school. Better a tad late than a no-show.
Postscript: Many years later, Beemen sought his fortune in Guyana’s interior and died a decade ago. Rama served in the first Gulf War and is now happily retired. Rajah served as a Presidential Guard to Mr. LFS Burnham. Rishi is still pondering the inexplicable mysteries of life.
Rishi Singh – Minneapolis, MN, USA