One thing I know for sure about the study of philosophy –you come to accept that fate is unpredictable and cruel. When you come to grips with that reality, then tears and sentiments will never drown you. You know that life is like that and you continue with your own journey. It will be difficult for me to go back to New Thriving Restaurant on Main Street without a touch of sadness. There may be a touch of sadness whenever I go in there.
I guess I will go back. It is conveniently located and I know I will get the customary call from my daughter to pick up a New Thriving food when I am coming home. John’s face will be there whenever I put my foot into that building. It is the same with my work place –the University of Guyana. So many nice persons I met there just happened to die and I felt it would have been emotionally difficult to enter the office without feeling something maudlin inside of me.
Too many good, decent persons have died during the 25 years that I have been at UG. But I take comfort in the fact that I had some nice times with them. I remember Vernie La Rose, the union secretary. Vernie was a lovely human being who just passed away suddenly.
Working with her in the union (UGWU) was a wonderful experience in trade unionism that I will always remember.
Here is a funny moment with Vernie. During a strike the union called, I found out that the then Organizing Secretary was cozying up to the employers. A huge quarrel ensued between us and he pulled out a knife. So I told him I was going to the car to my glove compartment to get my gun. Vernie threw herself in front of me and became hysterical, shouting madly, “Ow, Freddie don’t do it, ah begging yuh, don’t do it.”
I was laughing because I was bluffing and Vernie didn’t know it. I had no gun in my car. I never had a firearm.
I didn’t have an opportunity to write about the death of Mohamed Shaw who died by suicide last June. At the annual conference of the Guyana Historical Society, Dr. Thomas Singh of UG, dedicated his presentation to him. I met Shaw (I never called him by his first name) when I became a UG lecturer in 1986. He was an Economics student.
Shaw was dedicated to human rights but was extremely radical to the point of irrationality. So we poked a lot of fun at him.
During the strike against the 1989 budget, he admitted to a group of us that for a man in his thirties, he never had sex. We pooled some money and secured a young lady for him. I met the lady, gave her the money and transported her to meet Shaw. Shaw refused to go with the woman and the woman refused to give me back the money which in those days was quite a lot. She became aggressive and wanted to fight me. So I backed off and forgot about the funds.
When Father Morrison of the Catholic Standard died, he left with me the cameras with which he did his famous work. I gave them to Shaw to pursue his new profession after he was dismissed by the then Finance Minister, Bharrat Jagdeo.
It is when you look back at the joy, hilarity and funny moments with those who are gone forever that you know you must not lament the inevitable but must get on with life’s dream. It will be the same with John, the manager of New Thriving Restaurant at the time of his death last week.
John was a lovely human being. We became friends after my daily visits to New Thriving when it was in Brickdam, to buy food for my school kid.
Since that time, we became good friends. I introduced him to my wife and she adored him. If ever there was a pleasant human being John was one. He reminds me of that unassuming human that quietly goes about his or her business without recognition but possessed of fine qualities that all people need to have.
I will leave you with a funny incident with John. During the post election violence of 2001, some protestors stormed into the restaurant and told John to close up and go back to China. In his quiet style, he said, “Why ah must leave meh country and guh back to where I don’t belong.” The protestors left immediately.
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