Corentyne boy Jag Mahadeo seems always on a path to discern spiritual enlightenment
in all of life’s experiences and nowhere is that made clearer than in his recently released book “The Heart of the Sun.”
Exactly what could you reflect on after having just slaughtered an alligator in the backdams of the Berbice coast? Of course, he surmises that panic at meeting eye to eye with the mammoth beast would prompt any a heady teenager to spring into action.
But what if he wasn’t there in the first place? What if, perhaps, he had listened to his mother or father and had gone about doing something else?
Indeed, although a “manish” and fearless teenager, Jag had within him a sense of humanity. It’s that sense that brought out a sort of “righteous” indignation in him, like when he emptied a fisherman’s quake of prized hassar into the river.
The fisherman had apparently left too much of “unwanted” fingerlings on the dam to die. He remembers at times picking up the unwanted fish and throwing them back into the river.
Even the title of his book springs from the enlightened view that the sun is what breathes life on the earth.
But don’t think that this writing of his is lazed down into the boring trepidations of how he sees fate at work, or how he sometimes might have worked against it.
Within the 200 pages you will find some of the most intriguing stories of young Jag’s life growing up at No.66 Village, and he helps to connect them gracefully to the spread of East Indian culture that would cause any of his generation, and today’s, to reflect with a certain glee.
You get a sense of Guyana’s turbulent political history from stories of soldiers scouring the family home to find, or at least that was the veil, illegal items such as guns, The elder Mahadeo would request that only seven soldiers enter the home, so that each member of the family would be able to look at what the soldiers were doing.
Jag explains that there was always a fear that the soldiers would plant illegal items in their home as a pretext to trap them. He remembers retrieving what looked like a recording device from the ledge atop the door; and at one time discovering a gun wrapped in paper atop a coconut tree in their yard.
They knew that the soldiers were up to something because the very places that they would discover foreign items in their home were exactly where the soldiers would come back later to look. Of course, the soldiers left frustrated; Jag and the other members of the Mahadeo household always outsmarted them.
There is a glimpse into the Hindu culture when he talks of playing Phagwah back in his boyhood days.
Then there are the stories of just what it was like to grow up as a rural lad in a part of Guyana that was yet to see the so-called modern conveniences, like electricity.
A young Jag, presumptuously assuming the role of protector for his Mama, would accompany her into the farmlands before the rising of the sun. He would tell you in the book, however, that it is from his Mama that he learnt the backdam tricks, such as “slapping” the water with the machete to scare away alligators and snakes.
A chunk of Jag’s writing is an ode to village elders who helped to mould his mind. Foremost among those he praises is his father, Pandit Budhram Mahadeo (whom he quotes at intervals) and his mother, Rajkumaree.
But there were others, like those whom he only described as Louis Aja or Uncle Birbal, who shaped his thinking and the type of person he would eventually become.
Jag uses the book to interweave some of his poems that brings out the same stories in the narratives he records.
Jag, an engineer by training, now lives in the United States, and is back home on his annual trip to promote the book.
“The Heart of the Sun” is published by self-publishing company Author House. (Neil Marks)
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