By Alex Wayne
In life there are sometimes, situations, occurrences, or experiences that leave an impacting impression. Equally impacting can be places and people. I have had my fair share of impacting exposures.
But by far the most intriguing for me has been those that I have had with the simple-minded. There are people who live such contended and simple lives that it often boggles the mind. They live each day as though it was their last even as they strive to overcome life’s many shortcomings.
Here I was on a bright and sunny Tuesday morning surrounded by the excited chatter of students on their way to the Malgre Tout Primary School, taking in my fill of them swarming the cart of a snack vendor. They were jostling each other to get in their orders of boiled and fried channa, cassava balls, pholourie, and white pudding.
The shrill peals of the school bell suddenly rented the air and they scattered in all directions, some stuffing snacks into their little mouths, or securing their purchases in their backpacks. I laughed out loud at the amusing spectacle. The snack vendor, Rahda Samaroo, joined me giggling almost hysterically at the antics of the students.
Malgre Tout Village, West Bank Demerara is located just over seven miles from the city of Georgetown. Wedged snugly between the busier villages of Versailles to the south and Klien Pouderoyen to the north, Malgre Tout is one of the quiet little alcoves that not much people seem to know about. This village has a population of just over two thousand according to a few villagers.
What struck me at first was the peaceful atmosphere of the village.
In most areas there was a stillness and silence that seemed almost eerie, especially in the backland areas behind the cemetery. I have got to admit that it was not a very pleasant experience to cross the bridge that connected the cemetery to the village. The sight of the tombs just within inches of me and the disturbing silence worked on my senses, certainly not in a positive manner too. The combination of a hazy darkness under the huge trees that covered the tombs created quite a drastic effect on me. In seconds I was having flashes of specters and demonic creatures rising from among the tombs. My imagination ran wild and the goose bumps covered my entire body. The hairs prickled on the back of my neck and my head seemed to be swelling and expanding. I could almost sense the ghoulish presence, of some unearthly creature hovering in the dark shadows, its evil eyes staring at me intently.
I quickly shook myself back to reality, and after uttering a word of prayer, I hurried from that particular area in the village.
Looking around me, I could not help but wonder why in most sections of the village, everything was so quiet and still. There were no dogs yelping and prancing about like other villages, neither was there much animals lazing around, save for the lone very fattened heifer I had seen in the shadows of the burial ground, rolling and looking wild-eye at me as though she was protecting some sort of demon kingdom.
A few housewives peered from behind window curtains before withdrawing back to the safety of their living rooms if I showed signs of approaching their gates.
What was certainly missing was the clucking of fowls, or squawking of ducks and other bird species. Here and there a few housewives were walking around, getting errands done, squinting their eyes from the harsh glare of the mid-morning sun.
It was not until I got to the front of the village that I was pleasantly greeted with a buzz of activity in the vicinity of the primary school located on the Malgre Tout Public Road.
That aside the village certainly possessed an arresting beauty.
The demure cottage styled houses clustered together oozed a certain yester-year aura to the location, further accentuated with a fusion of rich greenery of sedate looking coconut trees, and fruit trees in abundance. In each yard almost, large tamarind and cashew trees offer comfy shade for those resting in hammocks, or lounging on makeshift benches erected under them. I soon re-joined my taxi driver who was waiting under the shade of coconut trees since his car could not traverse some of the very small pathways and alleyways, I had to explore. He made it a laughing matter, commenting on how profusely I was perspiring. The sun by then was beating down on every object quite mercilessly.
Walking through the village I was somewhat taken aback by the quiet atmosphere. While there was a constant buzz of conversation coming from the nursery school nearby, most of the houses were locked tight.
CHATTING WITH RESIDENTS
I went in search of an elderly villager by the name of Mrs. Brenda Massiah. She was said to be quite resourceful when it came to sharing information. I knew exactly where she was living since her son, Max Massiah, and I were really good friends. I was very disappointed however to discover that her home was now almost in ruins. A very pleasant young woman told me that she had relocated to Georgetown.
My next move was to find another villager, Desiree Campbell, a housewife who had been living there from the very tender age of 10. She was in high praise of the village, explaining that Malgre Tout is one of the most appealing villages in the West Demerara District.
“Many don’t see it or learn to appreciate it, but Malgre Tout is quite an attractive village, with the perfect ambience for those who desire peace and tranquility. I feel very humbled and privileged to have lived here for so many years, and I will not trade my village for any other location. Our lush green pasture provide enough food for the few cattle we have here, and we are quite contented with our almost ancient, little dusty streets and alleyways.
This village is inhabited by mixed races and everybody live almost like one big, happy family. “I am very glad that you have visited us sir, because I am very proud to report that a few years ago a reporter came from your newspaper and highlighted some issues here that needed fixing . Long long after the Kaieteur News highlighted these issues the authorities came here. They seemed a bit annoyed that villagers had spoken to the media, but we couldn’t care less,” said Ms. Campbell. She added, “They had jobs to do and if they were doing it properly their failures would not have been made public. We now have impressive drainage, and our canals are now in a very admirable state. The very old and decaying main bridge that allowed access to the nursery school was repaired too and we are all grateful for that.”
Michelle Benn, a cleaner by profession, spoke of a few travails that villagers have been facing for quite some time now.
According to her, “Malgre Tout is quite a very nice little village, but it appears as though outsiders are bent on tarnishing the image of this community. For years now we have been faced with the problem of businesses outside this village dumping their garbage just along the rails of a main bridge on the public road. We have been trying to get help in this regard for some time now, but this practice just continues.”
“Businessmen from as far as Stewartville, Leonora and other areas would come in the later hours of the night and dump their garbage alongside this bridge, right on the shoulders of the public road. This is garbage from their stores, grocery shops and even builders waste. In some cases it’s even worst; persons are placing dead animals in large bags and plastic and throwing them there too. When this happens the stench is just unbearable when the carcasses begin to decay.”
According to the woman, “I was so glad when two of them came in broad daylight with a truck to dump garbage. Man look… dem young men give them a sound trashing. If yuh see how quick dem jump back in their vehicle and disappear.”
Julian Sherlock was very stirred up as he spoke about the issue of noise nuisance in the village.
“The young generation of today has become very irresponsible and also very arrogant. They have no regards or respect for the elderly whatsoever. We have a lot of very grown folks in this village, many of whom have retired and would surely desire some peace in their old age. But on weekends all that peace disappears when promoters from surrounding villages host their customary open air parties. The music levels are so thunderous, it’s almost impossible to sleep when this happens,” the resident lamented.
Continuing he said, “At first we had to contend with the street styled Passa Passa parties that were hosted in the neighbouring village of Pouderoyen by a particular police officer. It took years for the authorities to finally intervene into that. But there are still some promoters around who almost kill us with their music levels at nights. And to think of it, I have no idea what the Vreed-en-Hoop Police are doing about this matter. The policemen and the promoters are best of friends, so it does not surprise anyone that this lawlessness is allowed.”
Elderly resident, Randolph Cadogan, was very elated to sit down and chat about the history and makings of the village.
“This village has always been a quiet and very pleasant place to live and all the races here live as one. Malgre Tout has always been a location with quaint little cottage styled houses. It’s the quiet and serenity of this village that I like most, especially in the morning when one awakes to the merry chirping of birds and the morning sun present its first ray of light. I love to come outside and just stare at the dew drops looking like little diamonds on the grass and trees, or the sight of mist swirling among the trees…That’s the time to rush downstairs to pick up mangoes and cashews that would have fallen from the trees because they are chilled from the dew and seem more fresh and even tastier,” Cadogan shared.
Remembering the early days of the village, Cadogan said that residents had to fetch potable water from the nearby Versailles Estate. Those days housewives did most of their laundry at trench corners and even beat their clothing with wooden paddles, according to Mr. Cadogan. Those days some persons preferred to boil water taken from streams and trenches for drinking purposes. Many were of the belief that such traditional methods were always safer.
In days gone by farming was indeed a very popular avenue of livelihood, the villager said even as he recalled that there are still just a few cash crop farmers remaining. But with the evolvement of time villagers have become engaged in professions like masonry, carpentry, shop keeping and many other positive avenues of earning.
Villagers, it was revealed can access medical treatment at the nearby Versailles Health Centre or at the West Demerara Regional Hospital in Best Village. They are also seeking assistance to have their own playfield and entertainment center.
Nevertheless the villagers are contended with what they have and it is that, that was particularly moving to me.
Such attributes are certainly suited for such a demure little location which offers such comfy relaxation opportunities.
Join me next Sunday when I take my camera, pen and writing pad to the village of De Willem on the West Coast of Demerara.
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