A new year has dawned once more and there I was welcoming it with some nostalgia because I am one year older and everyone knows that this means one year closer to the end of the road. It seems as if it were just yesterday I was standing in my birthplace, Beterverwagting, watching the explosions in the skies and the sparkles around me as 2016 arrived.
There were the strains of Auld Lang Syne, and from as far back as I could remember, this haunting melody always got to me at the dawn of the New Year. This time was no different. Earlier in the day I sat at the computer and played some of the legendary singers who performed this tune, none more so than Prince.
Again my morbidity got the better of me, because while Prince might have done this song at the start of 2016, he never lived to perform it again. There were many others, all of them made known to me on the television. And there were so many. Muhammad Ali, Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, Carrie Fisher, Morley Safer – who was so good on 60 Minutes – and the list goes on.
But in Guyana there were so many. The roads claimed about 140 of them, natural causes claimed more than a few, and of course there were those who died by misadventure like the young man who died while putting up a sign on an East Bank Demerara home and coming into contact with a live electrical wire.
There was the three year-old child who died in a recent fire while screaming for her mother; the young mother who got killed in the compound of the New Amsterdam Psychiatric Hospital, the many who were shot and killed senselessly by gunmen and the many who felt that they had had too much of this world and committed suicide, not least among them a young couple who hanged themselves in a home on East Bank Berbice.
I lost relatives this past year, some of them so young. One of them was a cousin whom I buried in Beterverwagting and a younger cousin who died in New York to a strange ailment that caused his organs to grow inside him and suffocate him.
There were my friends and acquaintances now gone just as 2016 has gone. E.R. Braithwaite was among the last. He was 104 but he brought me the joy of hearing the name of my country in a movie. There I was in the Rio cinema in Albouystown to see ‘To Sir With Love.’
Sidney Poitier was the main attraction. I still remember the line, “I am from Guyana, British Guiana”. The cinema erupted way back in 1968. Braithwaite had written the book.
Of course, as I have been hearing just about every year, there were those who said, “I can’t wait for this year to end.” They had welcomed 2016 with a smile, but for some reason toward the end of the year people tend to feel disappointed and want a new start.
So here is 2017. None of us knows exactly what it holds, but we can rest assured that the political climate would be no different. There is always going to be the rancor. We have perfected the art of political disharmony and we seem unable to change it.
So there I was with friends trying to smile and make merry while these thoughts flooded my mind. I began to think about my own mortality. Indeed, I have been lucky to see so many years. I avoided road accidents and confrontations that could have proved disastrous.
It is not that my life wasn’t tested. There were the ruthless drivers who tried to force me off the roads; there were those who refused to stop at major roads and had it not been for the fact that I slow down whether I have the right of way or not, I could have been heavens knows what.
The tradition is that the New Year should dawn with food in the house, so almost every Guyanese home would have a pot of cook-up. I cooked mine early before I ventured out to the office for the last day of the year.
I have my 92-year-old mother this time around (she would be 93 come January 21) so I kidded myself that I come from a long-living family and that I do have many more years on this earth and in Guyana. Then another thought flashed through my head. Forbes Burnham always boasted that he came from a family of long livers. He was 62 when he died so long ago.
But here I am making resolutions which I know I will not keep. I always do this and I keep doing it, perhaps because I want to follow the crowd about New Year’s resolutions. But then again, I may keep one or two.
Like many of us, for the first few days I am going to write 2016 whenever I have to record the date. This always happens, although I make a conscious effort to keep abreast of the date.
I do wax emotional at this time of the year because I have seen so much. I have seen cruelty and I have seen love. I have seen understanding during this past year and I have exhibited the same. I want to see social development in the new year, and I want to see my politicians behaving like decent human beings instead of being like vultures waiting to pounce on the weaknesses of the others.
Above all, I want to see smiling children all year round; I want to see people being rewarded for their labour, and I want people to feel safe in their homes. The police must help me achieve the latter.
Happy New Year!
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