Fiction: Sadhu Ram

V. Ramsamooj Gosine
Editorial Note: The demand for Indian indentured labourers increased dramatically after the abolition of slavery in 1834. Indian immigrants were brought as indentured labourers to Trinidad and Tobago between 1874 and 1917. Here is a story set in Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians background.

Summary
Sadhu Ram is caught up in a modern world which conflicts with his ideas. He establishes a school to teach Hindi, the language of his ancestors, to his fellow villagers. Parents are very enthusiastic at first but soon lose interest. Many factors work against such a school. One is the people have suddenly got into a lot of money. So they are concerned with eating, drinking, feting and having a good time.  Greedy, ambitious salesmen from the nearby town know of their sudden gain and make regular trips to the once sleepy village. Because of their carefree spending, the villagers lose a lot of money. One villager says frankly he is not interested in the sadhu’s efforts but is more interested in sending his children to a university to get a big job later.  The sadhu’s world crumbles around him but is contented to keep it alive even if it is only with his own family.

Story: Sadhu Ram
In Cacandee Village, far away from Windsor Town, there was a quiet discussion among the elders to build a mandir. It should be a mandir, along with its religious functions, that dealt with social issues that affected people. After a few months, the discussion trickled to a word and then it died away. Soon there was talk of building a school but that ambition too soon faded. As time went by, no one was talking about ambitious projects. Everyone was too busy eking out a living in the sugarcane fields and that was his priority and his life’s ambition. A few were also thinking of pursuing higher education.
 One night it rained heavily, lightning revealed frightening images and the sudden, leaping, blasting sounds of thunder scared the life out of all. All the mingling of sounds and sights conspired to wake Sadhu Ram from his deep sleep. He jumped up, left his wife sleeping, saw the children tossing and turning on their beds and snailed to his gallery, overlooking the main road, wet and dark and scary.
 Outside in the rain, there was a man struggling to walk on the windy road. His clothes were ballooning and this added to his fight.
‘Kown hai?  Kya naam hai? Bolo na.’
 The man did not answer.
‘Who is you, bredder? Come shelter na before you get blow way?’
 Within seconds, the man had walked a short distance away. Sadhu Ram followed him as far as his eye could see and then returned to his own thoughts. It struck him though that few people knew Hindi and there was no effort to teach the young. At this point in time, he said to himself that he must capture the young and teach them the language. He himself knew little, was still learning from the elders, but hopefully he could influence the elderly bearded pundit in the village to assist.
 That same day Sadhu Ram visited the pundit at his home. He knew what he was going `to ask but feared the gruff, matter-of-fact man. He feared that he would not respond to him positively. The villagers knew that the pundit was a selfish old man, whose main concern was looking after his family, unlike his altruistic brother, also bearded and also a pundit.
 ‘Just start the school,’ he said. ‘I’ll be there to help. I will come.’
  The pundit’s children had been to secondary schools while the sadhu’s children had ceased their education at the primary school level.
‘Tank you. I so glad you go come.’
‘Don’t worry. I’ll be there.’
  Most unexpected, the sadhu thought. He smiled as he walked out of his yard. ‘He goin’ to come and help. I so glad. Now I know I goin’ to teach everybody the longridge. Tank Gad.’
 Immediately he reached home, he told his wife of his meeting with the most feared but revered pundit.
‘Is nice he go help,’ she said, and returned to making a sadda roti in the kitchen. To herself, she said, ‘We go have to wait and see. Time go tell.’
   Sadhu Ram continued talking, telling her his plans to make a blackboard and a few benches and clean the unused space near the cow pen to house the school. He told her too that teaching would be done at about six o’ clock in the evening on three days of the week.
 She said, ‘You going to help me break up the bodi or not? Eh? Tell me na. You talking as though you swallow talking pills.’
 He sucked his teeth loudly. ‘Jees and ages’ and began breaking the bodi into small, one-inch pieces and allowing the pieces to fall into the blue plastic bowl.
‘Peel two aloo for you too?’
‘Two big one. Make sure they not rotten.’ 
  For one week he worked towards getting all that was necessary to begin the classes. He walked throughout the village and invited all parents to send their children at six o’ clock on those particular evenings. He told them everything they needed to know.
 Mr. Prem, his neighbour, said, ‘Is nice to know somebody go teach Hindi to the young children. My children sure coming.’
 Mr. Chotulal said, ‘Is good, man, sadhu. Is good. I glad. My four of them go be there.’
 Mr. Koon Koon, the drummer, from the pundit’s kirtan group, was very pleased that the sadhu would house the class at his home. ‘It real close to me. Not far to walk at all.’
 
    There were sixty houses in the village and Sadhu Ram invited all the parents to send their children. He was extremely pleased that all agreed and thought his idea a commendable one. It was the first time someone was going to teach Hindi in a school setting to the villagers.
  That night, a cool and windy night, the sadhu dreamt his students and how they attended in such large, unexpected numbers that he was forced to bring out his own chairs and tables to accommodate them. They came well-dressed in saris and dhotis and kurtas. No one wore shoes. However, a few wore sappaths and a few others were barefooted, who on entering the compound, washed off the little sand or dirt they picked up on their way. Many came with tikkas. When he saw the response, Sadhu Ram bubbled with excitement. With this effort, he knew that Hindi in Cacandee Village would never die.
  At about four o’ clock on the first day of school, he returned from his labourer’s job at Texaco, where he dug trenches for six hours daily. At five o’ clock he dressed himself in his white dhoti and his long decorated kurta. He adorned his forehead with a red tikka and wore a pair of sappaths.  Earlier he had glued a piece of rubber to each sappath so that they would make no clacking sounds when he walked in the class.
‘No noise. No noise. Gat to be quiet,’ he heard himself say.
 He sat on the bench in front of his house and waited.  He expected many students would be anxious and come early and so he would greet them there. Many came and he was excited.
 At exactly six o’ clock, he called the students together to begin the class.
‘First thing we must begin with is ah prayer.’ He looked at them and smiled. ‘Now close your eyes, put your hand together, bow your head and begin.’
  The students began, ‘Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name…’
 ‘What! What is that? Eh? What you saying?’
 ‘Prayers,’ a few students volunteered. ‘School prayers, sir.’
‘No. No. Not them kinda prayers.’
‘Sir, we know ah next one then. Ah short short one. Hear it sir. “Now the day is done….” ’
 ‘God, you not know Hindu prayers?’
  The class was silent.  A few bent their heads low. One or two sat down.
 Narain told his friend, ‘Don’t tell him I know ‘twa mewa mata’ , you know. Else he go call me to say it.’
‘But he know your grandfather was ah pundit,’ the friend said. ‘So you bound to know prayers.’
‘But I ent know it so good. Just ah little bit.’
   Sadhu Ram said, ‘I don’t know what your father and mother and them teaching all you.  Me just not know.’ He paused, looked around and called one of his sons. ‘Prakash, bata. Ai, Praks. Come here ah little bit na.’
 ‘Coming, pa.’ Within seconds, Prakash presented himself. ‘Say “twa mewa mata” for them children.’ Prakash clasped his hands and chanted the prayer. He turned to the class. ‘That is real prayers.  Now say it after Prakash.’
  Ten minutes later, the students were still repeating it after his son.
‘Now say it for yourself.’
  They started, faltered and stopped.
 ‘Now Prakash going to say it again and you say it while he saying it. Okay?’
 That night Sadhu Ram told his wife, ‘They learning.  Me tell the children to say prayers and they start off with, “Our father who art in heaven.” ’
 Mrs. Ram began laughing. ‘Man, them children going to the Christian school so they learning what they teach them. Remember they does give them post cards to carry home.’
‘And what ‘bout they mother and father? They not teaching’ them nothing?’ Sadhu Ram said.
‘Them not go to school to learn anything so what they go teach them? Them parent too busy.’
 ‘What ’bout the pundit and them? Big Baba and Small Baba’
‘Too busy. Too too busy. Them is now big time seeaman. They not have time for people, ’cause they making big money checking book for people.’
  He sighed. ‘Me know that. Everybody busy these days.’
 For the first week, the class repeated ‘twa mewa mata’ every day. In the end, each student could have repeated the words with his ‘eyes shut’ and with the accepted pronunciation, according to Sadhu Ram. This Sadhu Ram was proud of and told their parents that they were doing well.  He was happy and their parents were also happy.
 His wife said, ‘Is too much noise, Ram. Them children does talk too much.’
‘Them not talking. Them learning. Them praying. The more they talk the more they learn.’
‘Too much noise still. Them giving me ah headache. Big big headache’
 Sadhu Ram was indeed not pleased. ‘Okay. Me go tell them. Me go try to let them talk soft soft.’
‘And then this dog barking barking all the time. Wow. Wow whole night.’
‘You mean, King?’
‘He self. Who you think I mean then?’
‘King King aaw aaw.  Come King. Let me talk soft to you.’
 He knew it was impossible to speak softly. Since he was not a man to dismiss issues easily, he was troubled by his wife’s protest. He agonized over it and finally informed her, ‘Me think me go build ah nice shed behind the house. Not big. Small small.’
‘What? Near Bhola pig pen? That smell go kill the children.’
   He thought for a second. ‘You right. Me not think of that. Pig pen too stink. But me go have to do something. Me go have to do that one day. One day for sure.’ Then a thought occurred to him. ‘You know what? Me thinking to do something.’
 ‘Like what?’
‘Me think me going to ask everybody in the village to put up to help fix ah little place for the school.’
 ‘You mean to help you teach the children?’
‘Na. Not that. To make ah collection you know to buy galvanize and thing to make ah shed. And there we go have class.’
 ‘Oh. That.  Well, yes. They should help you ‘cause is they children who coming to learn Hindi. So why for you should spend your money to do things for them? Eh? Why for?’
  After two days, Sadhu Ram collected $1.94 cents, not enough even to buy a sheet of galvanize. He was disappointed and it was this disappointment which forced him to tell his wife, ‘If is me alone, I go still build it. I have to teach the little beti and bata the Hindi Longridge.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘Imagine even Chotulal ent give ah cent. But is alright. Is alright. I go build it meself.’ He paused for a second. ‘But every day they by Siew shop and he father was ah pundit but he selling rum.’
 Those were bold, fighting words but Sadhu Ram knew he alone could not build that shed. For the next few days, he agonized over it and finally he decided to visit the village pundit once more.
‘Sarry to bother you with me prablem,’ he said. ‘Me want to put up lil shed, punditji. Behind me house. Class getting bigger, punditji. Bigger and bigger and better and better.’
 The pundit sighed, rubbed his overflowing belly in a circular motion and then said, ‘It have some old wood in the shed in the back ah me house.’ The sadhu’s eyes brightened.  ‘Take what you want. It even have galvanize that Gir did buy to build ah kutiya with. Take nough to cover the shed.’
 ‘Oh punditji, I so glad I come.’
 Within a week, the shed was erected and the class got its permanent accommodation, away from the sty. In fact Sadhu Ram had convinced Bhola to sprinkle a disinfectant to keep down the smell and this had helped a lot. It was now more tolerable.
 The next morning, Sadhu Ram spent an hour praying in front of the Shiva Lingam.
 ‘I never so happy, Bhagwanji. Never so happy. Maybe one day me go build ah kutiya and keep all the class there. Right now I going to write in ah board, ‘Sadhu Ram Hindi School. All Welcome.’
  It was just about this time that the sugar company began paying out huge sums of money to their ex-workers. The company, on instructions from the government, had closed down its operations and sent thousands of workers home. Only those at management level were kept on the company’s payroll. So now, two years later, it was paying them their compensation packages.
  Suddenly there were rich people in Cacandee Village. The road was much busier than before as many chose to buy cars, a few bought pick ups and others chose motor bicycles. And even if these new acquisitions were parked in uncovered areas in the owners’ yards, the villagers felt an air of excitement in having them there. Vans and motor-cycles, coming from the fast-food outlets in Windsor Town, raced through the village, regardless of the time of the day. Many bought furniture and appliances they wanted, but did not need. People were spending so freely that salesmen and women paid daily calls on the once-poor villagers. It was a time of plenty and the Windsor Town businessmen knew this and decided to cash in on this newly-acquired wealth.
  Soon the villagers embraced a new life: few cooked; many ordered from restaurants and doubles-vending stalls. The only liquor shop in the village also did good business and the cigarette vans made at least one weekly trip, previously it was a monthly trip, to this little unknown village. The once agriculture-minded people soon left their tools to rust in the rain at the back of their houses and so the vegetable markets at Windsor Town and Calpaiya boomed.
  Chotulal, who was walking the main road with two opened pints of beer, said, ‘I happy. I so happy. God give me money to get happy.’
  Rampey said, ‘My children just enjoying theyself. Every day is a big bucket of fry chicken for tender licking lip.’
  Harold said, ‘I fed up eating this stupid cascadoo and guabin. I now eating fresh fish from the grocery. Good nice salmon from Canada.’
  Villagers were expressing themselves in the best way they knew and all in all, the newly gotten money was ensuring them of happiness. They had never before had so much to spend or touch and now that they had, they were putting it to the best use they could. They were blessed, they said to themselves. Their hard, canefield work, had finally paid off!
  Sadhu Ram was not totally unaware of these sudden changes. He knew though that ex-sugar workers had received their long overdue back pay. He thought that was a good thing. They had waited so long for it and now they had gotten it.
 However, he thought of his mandir and the little projects he could put in place.
‘It so nice that people have money,’ he told his wife and eldest son, Sonnyboy. ‘I might just get to begin my mandir.’
 Sonnyboy said, ‘It might happen, pa. It might happen. Keep your finger cross.’
 Sadhu Ram was going to use his own lands on which to build the mandir but the mandir itself would belong to the public. Here he remembered Siewdass Sadhu who many years ago, built a mandir on the company’s sugar cane lands, only to have it broken down a few months later. Finally he built a mandir in the sea and no one ever touched it.
‘Ah, Chotulal,’ he said. ‘I not asking for money. Just give me ah brick, a sack of cement, some gravel or sand. Anything I could use to build the mandir.’
‘To build ah mandir?’
‘Eh hm. That self. I want to do that for the people.’
‘And who would build it?’ Chotolal said. ‘You go have to have carpenters and mason and labourers and a foreman.’
‘Oh that.’
‘That self.’
‘I think ‘bout that already. Me did ask Koon Koon, Talley, Mahangoo, Lal, Ritoo and ah few other people and they say they go help. Them is nice people I tell you. Nice people.’
 Over the next few weeks, villagers donated not-so freely but Sadhu Ram was indeed happy that he had gotten at least something.
 Within six months, he had built a long, sturdy, concrete shed with whatever material he received, and slowly, very slowly, the mandir itself was taking shape. Sadhu Ram was not too bothered about the mandir itself. He had gotten a place to accommodate his students and that was most important. Now he could concentrate on his teaching of Hindi and religion.
  One Monday evening, the first of April to be exact, he sat outside the mandir waiting on his children, as he chose to call them.
 ‘Me so happy,’ he said almost aloud. ‘Me so happy.’
 That evening he counted twenty five children, which meant that five were absent.
‘That is awright. Them go come tomorrow. Me sure ‘bout that.’
   And he was right. However, a different five stayed home the next day.
 Again he said, ‘Them go come tomorrow.’ And he was right once more.
   Two days later, another five stayed home.
‘Me sure them go come tomorrow.’
 This time he was wrong. Earlier when he had started the class, he could have calculated exactly how many students would attend. Now he could not be sure. There would now be an average of fifteen and this disappointed him.
 Sadhu Ram lived in Cacandee Village but was not really part of the village’s everyday life. He was not a good mixer. He looked after his family, tended his milking cows, worked hard at his job and tried to develop the musical skills of his children. He was neither a drinker nor a smoker and did not have any spare time to linger with the villagers. His commitments put him at a little distance away from them. That notwithstanding, he meant well and so pursued his dream. There were times when villagers nicknamed him, ‘Pustack,’ because of his love for Hindi books but that did not bother him.
   One Saturday afternoon, the thought occurred to him that he should do something to encourage students to continue attending his classes. He thought that he should take a stroll through the village. Hopefully he would visit a few houses of delinquent students and chat with their parents. A little encouragement, perhaps, would put things once more in place.
   There was no pavement in Cacandee Village and this forced Sadhu Ram to cross the road to walk opposite vehicles racing in and out of the village. Once, as soon as he reached the opposite side, he heard the racing sounds of a car. He turned as quickly as he could only to hear the driver addressing him.
 ‘What the hell happen to you, old man? You want to get kill or what? You time come or what? Stupid fool.’
  Sadhu Ram did not recognize him. However, Koon Koon was riding his bicycle and heard yje driver loudly and clearly.
‘Careful, sadhu. Is ah highway now.’ Koon Koon laughed. ‘From bicycle road to highway road.’
   Sadhu Ram shook his head sideways. ‘When me hear the noise, man, me thought the car woulda knack me down.’
‘Careful. Them young boys speeding and don’t care who on the road.’
‘Very true. Highway for car.’ He pulled his long grey beard. ‘Who that boy?’
‘The driver?’
‘Yes, man. He from Cacandee? Never see him before.’
‘Toolaram grandson. Big shot now, sadhu. Father sick with stroke in he left hand but get pay off and buy car for son to work PH. Now you can’t talk to the boy. He just driving crazy up and down the road.  Going Windsor Town whole day to buy fry chicken. And that making him look like ah gorilla.’
‘And he mother can’t talk to he ‘bout driving?’
‘They get rich now and don’t talk to the neighbour. Mother and father put on socks and shoes in the evening and going for evening walk. Don’t mind he have stroke. He dragging but he still going for evening walk. Them is big shat now.’
‘Going for evening walk where?’
‘Number Five. Holding hand and walking like they alone know about holding hand.’
‘I never hear more. Bap re bap.’
‘They used to respect Big Baba but now they don’t even tell him Morning. High and mighty people. Too much money, sadhu.’
‘You not makin’ that up though, Koon Koon? Me know them chirren from small.’
‘Making up, sadhu? Is money that turn their head. Is ah shame though. Nice people when they cutting cane but soon soon they get money, they come big shot.’
  When Sadhu Ram was alone now, he reflected on the conversation and could not believe that Toolaram’s daughter and children had changed so much.
‘Well. They don’t have little children so none of them coming for Hindi lessons. Else I woulda know.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘Why for he ent larn trade? Eh? Why for? Fix car, fix bicycle or pipe. My father did always tell me to have education but it didn’t have school in me days. But eh eh. You know Deo Bull tell me something and me not pay plenty attention. He say he daughter can’t come ‘cause she does be tired after she walk back from school. Yea.’ He pulled his flowing beard. ‘Walk back from school?’
  Later that day his wife said to him, ‘Walk back from school? What chupidness he talking! We used to walk to the same school on the train line and dirt road and come back home and cut grass for the cattle and them and still we do lesson in the night. And we wasn’t tired. He only making excuse for he daughter. That what she doing.’
   Sadhu Ram was bent on finding out more. And so he visited his friend, Talley. Talley himself was fast asleep on the floor in his gallery and Sadhu Ram could hear his loud snores. Nevertheless, he walked in his yard, stood at a short distance away from the house and called. The two of Talley’s children, who attended his Hindi class, saw him and ran inside. Sadhu Ram saw swift movements but could not fully recognize what was taking place.
‘Ai, Talley. Talley oh. Ram here, bai. Sadhu Ram, bai.’ No one answered the old man who persisted in his quest. ‘Talley, oh. Oh Talley, oh’.
  From deep inside and most unexpected, someone said, ‘Papa sleeping. I go tell him you come. Okay?’
‘Me not want to see papa. Me want to see you. Come lay me talk to you.’
‘I don’t come to your class. I too small.  Is me brother and sister and they under the bed hiding.’
‘And where you mama’
‘She in the back washing clothes.’
‘Tell she me want to talk to she?’
 A little silence followed and the sadhu heard a bird flutter from a mango tree and flew to Premchand’s pistachio’s tree. Then the same voice returned the answer. ‘Mama say she hand wet with soap that when you pass back she go talk to you. She busy.’
 Sadhu Ram said to himself, How she know me go pass back? To the voice he responded, ‘Alright. Tell you mama me gone.’
  However, contrary to what he said, he did not leave. He took a few steps nearer to the gallery where he saw Talley sleeping on the floor, a bottle half-filled with alcohol lying next to him. ‘Gad, what happening to Talley?’ Sadhu Ram thought he should meet his friend’s wife face to face and ask her what was really going on. He heard chopping sounds and slowly inched his way. In fact he didn’t have to walk stealthily because the loud, quick sounds of cutlass on wood would have drowned his light footsteps. On a flat piece of wood on the ground, Talley’s wife was busily chopping a pig’s leg into smaller pieces. Many fine pieces flew around and a cat and dog were anxiously scrambling for them. In one sweep of the tongue, they licked it up and greedily ate it.
 Sadhu Ram stood stunned, looked carefully and then called. ‘Me could talk to you girl? Jusr one minute.’
  She apologized for the children’s not attending and finally said, ‘They go come na, sadhu.’ He smiled in acknowledgement. ‘I go ask them if they want to come.’ With those words, she returned to her chopping and he knew he was dismissed.
 Though disappointed, he continued his walk to meet other villagers.
   Minutes later, he called on Lal Bisram, who on seeing him, immediately promised to continue sending his two boys.
   The sadhu said, ‘Tank you. Is good for the chirren. They have to learn they longridge.’
 The findings stirred his imagination and he began wondering what was really going on. In spite of his disappointment, he was pleased that he had met many parents. Most of all, he was happy that they would send their children once again. True to their word, they sent them and the school was filled once more. As before, Sadhu Ram, though his wife mildly protested, did have to take his tables and chairs to the new shed to accommodate them.
  He told Koon Koon, ‘Is ah good thing I take ah walk and talk to mother and father. Is ah good thing.’
‘Yes. You right.’ He smiled. ‘Is ah very good thing.’
‘And soon I might have to get help to teach them ‘cause is so much.’ Sadhu Ram paused for a second and played with his greying beard now hiding his wrinkled neck. ‘I better ask that Kalkar lady. Come from India to teach Hindi and she might come and help me out.’
   Koon Koon had his doubts. ‘You could try. She might come.’ Other disturbing, thoughts, however, were passing through his mind. He knew of things happening in the village but didn’t think he should tell Sadhu Ram, never mind they were childhood friends. ‘Is better I keep them feeling to meself. Suppose I wrong.’ To the Hindi teacher, he said, ‘I hear she always willing to help people learn Hindi. Is only the transport might be ah problem cause she coming from quite Kurepe.’
  One week later Sadhu Ram again admitted that the parents were true to their words and now the class was overflowing.
 He said to his wife, ‘Me so happy them children coming. So happy. Now they will learn they longridge.’
‘Is free. So they must come.’
‘Still I glad. I feel if they had to pay, they woulda still come. Them father and mother well want they children learn the longridge.’
‘I have me doubts.’
  So everyday with great expectation, Sadhu Ram carried his own tables and chairs and placed them among the others. Soon they became permanent in the classroom and most of all, all were occupied.
‘Is just for ah time,’ he told his wife. ‘Till we collect ’nough money to make some more bench and chair.’
‘I hope that come soon, you know. And I hope them people don’t let you down.’
‘Let me down? Never.’ He smiled. ‘You see what I do? I go to them and tell them I want they chirrren come back to the Hindi class and they send them in ah jiffy. I so glad. I so happy.’
 ‘I just warning you, you know. I not making trouble. I not quarrelling.’
‘Them people go never let me down. I know that.’
 If Sadhu Ram ever had any control over the needs and wants of the people of Cacandee Village, his class would have been a tremendous success. As it turned out, he was battling to keep it afloat and though it presented unexpected challenges, he rose to the occasion as best as he could.
  For some weeks, passers by heard the children singing at the top of their voices; they heard them repeat the Hindi alphabet and they heard them recite prayers in Hindi. They were overjoyed; Sadhu Ram was overjoyed. His sleep was so peaceful that he slept although it rained heavily and the slanting rain speared the roof of his house. Because he saw the class filled to the brim, he ceased taking a roll of the students. He was happy. He was so happy.
   One day though, he saw his own chairs empty. He saw them empty the next day and the following day. These empty chairs drove him to continue taking his roll. On discovering that there was a huge drop in the students’ attendance, he decided once more to visit those delinquent parents.
  Willingly he set out to visit specific houses. Roy’s parents were not at home. He also with some luck met Sat’s father, who was leaving for his watchman’s job in Windsor Town.
‘Sadhu, I late but we could talk for ah minute,’ Tulsi Persad said.
‘Why for Sat not coming to Hindi class? Two week now and me not seeing him?’
‘Long story, sadhu. Long long story. It getting dark quick quick now and then this time so I have to leave for work. Ride to Windsor Town. I tell Phulo to carry Sat and she say is awright. One night she going back for him and two drunk boys, Beer son and them,  hold she up and take she wedding ring and well beat she up.’
‘What? Take way she wedding ring?’
‘Yes, sadhu. That self.’
 ‘I sarry to hear that but is not right for them boys and them to do that. We is Cacandee people. Them thing never happen in Cacandee Village when I was small.’ He shook his head sadly and in great disappointment. ‘Phulo okay though? She feeling better though?’
‘Yea. She awright but the ring gone and she still frighten.’
‘I can’t believe them thing happening here. I thought it used to happen only in Windsor Town.’
   Tulsi Persad said, ‘Okay, sadhu. That is why the boy not coming again. Phulo ’fraid to go back for him in the dark. It late. So I gone.’
‘But tell me this na. Why for you have to do watchman job? Thought you was going to open ah parlour?’
‘Have no money. Money finish. I pay off for ah van and the man say come back for it in two three weeks time and he go have all the papers fix up.  When I go for it, I can’t find the office. It ent have no office there. ‘
‘And you ent tell the police?’
‘They take ah report but they say they go try to see what they could do.’
‘I can’t believe them thing happening to we people in Cacandee village.’
‘Sadhu, three ah we get catch so. So we loss all we money. All we backpay gone just so. Then them bandits is ah real trouble Them blow out them money so now they thiefing and robbing. Thiefing even gas tank and we new stove. It not safe, sadhu. It not safe to walk in the village we grow up in. Not safe at all.’
 Sadhu Ram heard some unbelievably shocking stories. Each teller tried to explain why his children could not attend classes. The most staggering blow came from Lallu Lall, who made his view clear to Sadhu Ram. Lallu Lall was the first person from Cacandee Village to attend a university. As a result, his newly-found education helped him to get a respectable job which carried a good salary and allowed him to buy a new expensive imported car.
   Lallu Lall said to Sadhu Ram, ‘I know you doing a good job. So keep it up. .’ 
‘So you children coming back next week then?’
‘They real busy these days.’
‘Too busy eh? Doing what, Lallu?’
‘Studying.’
‘All children study in school, Lallu.’
‘Sadhu, my children have to go to a university just like me. So they have no time to study ah useless subject like Hindi.  What you think they’ll do with that? They can’t go in the grocery with that. They have to get ah degree to get ah big job.’
 ‘Is they longridge,’ the sadhu said. ‘Is they longridge. They own longridge.’
‘They wasting time there. Let other people study it.’ He paused. ‘Anyway I wouldn’t send them to waste time there. They have better things to do.  But if you want ah donation, I could give you ah little money. I know is ah donation you really come for.’
  ‘I not want no donation. I want you send you children. That better than ah donation. Donation go come and go but Hindi longridge go stay.’
‘No, sadhu. They wouldn’t come. Is just wasting time there. This ka ka ga gha stupidness. They have to get this degree to move up in the world, sadhu. Is ah competitive world, sadhu. But I guess you don’t know about that.’
  Sadhu Ram clearly understood that Tulsi Persad and many others would not be sending their children to attend Hindi classes again. ‘I just don’t understand why they not interested in they ‘longridge. Eh? Is bad I tell you. Is bad. And this generation have to larn it good but they don’t want to. Them too busy.’ However, he admitted that there were a few who were genuinely interested at this time but could not be absolutely sure the children would come all the time. 
‘Even if them come two out of three days, they go still larn something,’ he told his wife. ‘And then you know something? Even if five people larning the ‘longridge’, it mean that five more people than nobody learning the longridge.’ He smiled.
    Suddenly another happy thought flashed across his mind. ‘You know is better I spend the time teaching me own children, too, cause they like music. They know some Hindi and they getting to like music.  Eh. And then they like to play specially the bull-bull. And then we done have we own kirtan group. Yes. Better I do that. What else to do in me old age? What else? At least they go carry own me name and if anybody want to join they could join. And anybody else who come, I go teach them too.’
   As soon as he reached home, he said, ‘Sonny, Praks, come lay we play the dholak and organ and sing some bhajan. Today is Thursday. All you forget or what?’
 ‘Yes, papa, we coming now. All ah we coming.’
  Even as his own children responded positively to him, there was still some disappointment in his heart. He really wished he could embrace all the children of Cacandee Village. Better I teach me own children and hope other children go come. I go just have to wait and see. At least me children go carry on me name. Even me grand children go learn. And they might start ah modern school. He smiled. That go be nice. Very nice. Hm. I can’t believe this happening in Cacandee Village. Lard, things could change, yes. Things could change so fast. He smiled again. And then I hear Sonnyboy thinking of going Kanada. Hindi school in Kanada? Hm. He smiled again.

1 comment :

  1. I love Sadhu Ram for his penchant to resurrect Hindi and the untiring efforts of the old hero is praiseworthy. The narrative is painstakingly superb. And the story is heart-wrenching.

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