“Courage does not mean lack of fear.” – Sara Bharrat

Why it’s okay to be sad

March 30, 2017

World Poetry Day

Umana Yana

Dear Nana,

Charlene Wilkinson is reciting poetry in the tongue of our people to the beat of African drums. It is the kind of sound that tugs at your heart until your soul makes itself felt. I am listening to her and I miss you. I miss you more than any man’s language can ever tell you.

She speaks in the language I heard as a little girl near the cane fields or in the boat when mamoo dem bin ah come from backdam. And the language, it plunges into my heart, my soul, piercing me in ways I have never felt; in ways I never thought I’d feel.

And I look up, half expecting to see you, hoping that your ashes could find their way back to me. But I see nothing. There is nothing but the words piercing my heart.

They took you away from me and I could do nothing about it. On one side, they hijacked who you were to create fear and on the other side, they turned what you were into an ugly thing and used it to stir hate. They took you from me and I could do nothing about it.

It has been a while since this sort of spirit flowed through me. It has been a long, long time since I felt this alive, this awake; it has been like coming home. They say that our memories are short and because of this we will always be victim to our political culture. But I believe our memories are long. It is our heart that is the problem. Our hearts cannot bear the pain they’ve given us.

I have taken their new culture. I have taken their new way of thinking. I have taken these things and made a mask for myself. And I wear it to hide my wounds but still, I cannot hide all of it.

Today they told me that my eyes look sad. I am sad and I don’t try to hide it anymore. I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. We were made to feel and we feel deeply. This sadness, it is the price we pay for the privilege to love. And it is a price I will gladly pay again and again.

I am sad today but I am not always sad. I am silent today but I will not be silent forever. But until the time is right, I wait silently, sometimes sadly, but always with love.

 

Love,

Bharrat

 

A Love Letter (Love After Love)

Dear Self,

I read Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” for the first time a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I heard that he’d died. I could not believe it. How could the creator – of those moments in my life where I was wildly happy or able to see with unparalleled clarity – be gone?

But then, I suppose he’s not really gone. Not so long as we feel his words and his spirit through them. I have been told that when we say goodbye, at least we have memories of people; the moments we shared with them. But as you well know, memories are like air –  there, but not always easily felt unless there is a storm. And the right amount of time and distance can and will cause them to fade.

So why is it that all of me has been unable to let go of all of you, to let you fade? I believe there are two reasons. The first is that I do not merely remember frozen images of you. I remember your words and these words work in the same way that Walcott’s poetry and prose and drama do. They evoke feelings and they preserve all of you, your very spirit. Your words keep you alive in me.

The second reason is embedded in the primary poetic message. It speaks to our truest love being our own self. I have learned to love myself, to be happy with me and at peace. And you, you are me, a big part of who I am. So in loving myself, I have no choice but to love you too. There is no separating the two. There is no whole and pure love for me without loving you.

You and I, we are each other. And so long as my words remain with you, I will always be with you, all of me, forever. Because love after love, I stood before the mirror and I saw you; the rest of me, the part that made me whole.

 

Without Wax,

Sara

PS – Happy birthday, my darling.

 

How feeling loss increases our ability to love

I’ve lost three people I loved very much this year. Two of them I lost to death and the other I lost to what happens when people are not honest with each other about who they are and what they really want.

My mother’s youngest brother died just after New Year’s and one of my favourite, and perhaps funniest, aunts died at the end of October. At my uncle’s funeral, I spoke about my best memories of him. And I told our family that death is never the end because people live on in our memories of them and in the stories we remember to tell about them.

By the time I stood up at my aunt’s funeral, I refused to shed tears for her. It wasn’t that I could not feel the loss or that I was trying to be strong. I did not cry because I thought it would be an insult to my memories of her.

Last October, just after I gave birth to my son, she was one of the first people who visited me at the hospital. She understood what was happening to me, she understood how I felt and she, more than anyone else I think, could look at me and see the hurt I was trying to keep hidden. But she never spoke directly to me about this.

She believed that laughter was the cure for everything. And so, she brought me my first set of post-pregnancy panties and she told me: “you know they say when you get old, you get cold. Well, you made a baby but you ain’t cold”. It was the first time in a long time I really laughed at anything and felt it somewhere deep inside me.

Just before her death, I gave up a relationship that I had been trying to keep alive for almost a year. I had learned by then that love was so much more than mere possession and sacrifice. Sometimes, in order to love people in the best way that we can we need to let them go so that they can breathe and learn to live and feel; so that they may have the freedom to be.

Losing someone is never easy and how we choose to deal with it can determine how long we take to heal. When I left my partner, their response was highly irrational and they spent weeks trying to hurt me in every way possible. How did I respond to that?

Apart from two days when I was intensely angry in early October, I have dealt with it by reminding myself that this is someone I care for, someone I believe has potential to live a great life and contribute to the world and more so this is someone, like any of us, who deserves to be happy.

Today, I still feel the pain of the losses I’ve suffered but it is not a pain that limits my inner peace or my ability to see the good in life. It is the sort of pain which teaches me that my capacity for love has been increased and the people I love and will grow to love will get the best of me.

I find peace in the knowledge that as time goes by we will all heal, become better versions of ourselves and live life in the way we truly want. Life goes on after all. That’s just how it is.

Signature 2

For Dave Martins – 100 Reasons to Hope: Reason #3

Dear Dave,

Over the last weeks, I have been going into selected communities to help implement a project for the Guyana National Youth Council. I have never been so inspired in my life. I have gone from street to street meeting honest Guyanese who are passionate about building this nation.

In Region 5, I met a local government official who said that they understand that being in office does not mean that they must give privilege first and foremost to the people who live on their street.

“Not because I live on this street, it means that this street must be fixed first…we do works based on priority and that priority is determined by needs and urgency of needs and not based on which official lives where,” they said.

I am proud of Guyanese like this, Guyanese who put the welfare of all citizens above their political interests, above the political interests of a particular party. This gives me hope. It makes me want to stay and work. It keeps me going.

 

Reason #3: There are still Guyanese who are capable of working in an honest and objective manner to develop Guyana; who put country and people before party politics.

 

Without wax,

Bharrat

Politics Will Not Decide Who I am

When I was 7 or 8, I lived along Craig Sideline Dam at my grandparents’ farm house. I farmed my own little plot of cash crops to help buy my school books and I spent hours stooping in slushy mud, between pakchoy and lettuce banks, picking snails and weeds from among the healthy, thriving plants. This is something I haven’t very often shared about myself.

I have milked cows, sold fruits and vegetables on the road side and cleaned out chicken pens. During my teenage years, I stood behind the counter of my uncle’s shop in Craig Old Road selling into the night. I fetched cases of rum, bags of sugar and rice and occasionally bunches of plantains from the boat by the Craig trench landing to our house.

Most of my immediate family are traditional PPP supporters. My maternal grandfather was a cane cutter and farmer. His wife, was a seamstress and market vendor. On my father’s side, they were rice farmers from Essequibo and later moved to the East Coast of Demerara. These are things about myself I used to be afraid to share because I was afraid that I would be shamed.

I became politically aware during my early 20s. I realized then that everyone stereotyped me. Because I looked Indian, because I was of Indian ancestry, it was automatically assumed that I was PPP. And guess how we stereotype PPP supporters? PPP supporters are painted as backward cane cutters, as lacking intellectual capacity, as being dishonest, as being evil, as being the people responsible for the state of Guyana.

So when some people look at my face or any face like mine, this is what they think of us. This is the product of identity politics in Guyana. It has robbed us of the right to be and to be proud of who we are and where we came from. It has robbed us of the opportunity to really see our parents and grandparents, to truly value what they have brought to this nation. My grandfather died without me ever recognizing what an extraordinary man he was and how hard he worked for his country. I never got a chance to look him in the eyes and tell him how much he meant to me. You see, before he died I didn’t realize that he was a victim of a system that he couldn’t control.

I do not for a second believe that my experience is unique to me or to young people of Indian ancestry. I believe this is something that is experienced by all of us, no matter what we look like or where we come from. Our political culture has blinded us. We don’t see each other. We see the political stereotypes that have been painted of us for decades.

For a while, I hated looking in the mirror. I hated seeing my own face and what I believed it represented. Since then, I’ve realized that my ancestral history is so much more than the politics that has hijacked it.

And the worst part by far is that I cannot even speak up for my identity without having my voice politicised. If I speak for the Indian identity, for my right to this part of my culture and heritage, then I will be labelled as a pro-PPP racist. Most people don’t care for my independence, they only see what I look like and the stereotype that is attached to my features.

Yes, I am Guyanese and part of what makes any of us Guyanese is our unique sub-cultures and heritage. These differences give the Guyanese identity value. To attempt to take away any one facet of any of our identity, is to rob our country of part of its history and part of what makes it what it is.

We cannot have a Guyana without any of its people. We cannot have a Guyana without PPP supporters and they will never join us unless we stop demonizing them, stop crucifying them for their political beliefs, stop making them afraid to be among us. These people are our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, our friends.

The PPP alone is not responsible for the crisis of identity politics in Guyana. The PNC, now under the unity umbrella of the APNU-AFC Coalition, is equally responsible. I say this not to cast blame on either party, but to acknowledge that identity politics has been a weapon of both our major political factions. And until Guyanese begin to see what identity politics has taken from them, we will always be shamed for being who we are.

For Dave Martins – 100 Reasons to Hope: Reason #2

Dear Dave,

In 2015, the APNU/AFC Coalition won the general elections by 1.1% or 4, 506 votes. I like to think of this margin as the 1.1 majority and I believe that it is, to a large extent, reflective of the majority of non-partisan voters who voted in that elections.

We must also recognize that there are those non-partisan voters, like myself, who decided not to be backed into a corner where it felt like we were choosing between the lesser of two evils.

At the Guyana 2066 talk, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vishnu Doerga indicated that he believed independents were less than 4,506 in number. He also pointed out that we kept seeing the same faces at most spaces which represent independent conversations.

While I am inclined to agree with Doerga on this, I also believe that the repetition of faces is not necessarily a bad thing. The repeated faces have access to their various in-groups where they act as influencers. They, in their own ways, lead independent thinkers or the non-partisan Guyanese and they have the power to increase those numbers.

 

Reason #2: Even though non-partisan and/or independent thinkers seem to be very few in Guyana, they hold enough power together to shift our traditional approach to politics. Guyana is we own so dem bettah watch wa dem ah tell we and do we.

 

Without Wax,

Bharrat

For Dave Martins – 100 Reasons to Hope: Reason #1

Dear Dave,

I still think of the evening of May 24th, 2016 at Moray House Trust. Only two days before our country’s 50th Independence Anniversary, I spoke about my vision for Guyana in 2066 and expressed my belief that change, the kind we want, was inevitable.

After my talk, you more or less asked me why we should continue to hope. I tried my best to answer you in that moment and I ended by giving you a hug because I wasn’t sure then what else I could say. I’ve been thinking of your question since.

Towards the end of 2014 and until the beginning of this year, I felt that there was nothing to hope for and that there was no reason to continue fighting. It was like being thrown into a dark, bottomless pit where you didn’t even have the escape of an end.

It’s part of why I haven’t been writing. My words, they come from a deep and pure place, a place that preserves my belief in the good of this world. While I agree that a significant part of being human is being able to think, I believe that it is our ability to feel that defines our humanity in a more profound way.

When I allowed myself to be infected with hopelessness, it was as if all the joy had been sucked from my soul. And it was impossible to write then. How could I when all I had to share was pain and disillusionment and hopelessness? Can you imagine how many more of us feel like this?

When people like you and I – who share our love for country and people despite the vulnerability such sharing brings – lose hope, it can have disastrous consequences. You see, when we are infected with hopelessness, we don’t just lose hope for ourselves but for all those whose lives we touch in a meaningful way.

I believe that one day Guyana will cease to be a place where a privileged group continues to control our country’s wealth by manipulating our people with black and brown politics. Because I believe this, I have hope for a better future, if not for all of us, for our children and their children.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share 100 reasons to continue hoping for a better Guyana with you. But this isn’t really about you or me, this is about the thousands of people who feel the same things we do and who, like us, struggle to live life in this country one day at a time. This is for our people, Dave.

 

REASON #1

We’re alive, we think and most importantly we feel. This means we can still fight for what we want. There’s really no limit to what we can do. No limit at all. Just believe and keep the hope alive.

 

With love and without wax,

Bharrat