The ashes of Cheddi and Burnham

Dare I risk taking on the Jaganites and the Burnhamites? Dare I question the counterfeit images of dear old Cheddi and dear old Burnham that have survived for my generation to see? My only answer is this: why else do I have a mind if not to question everything endlessly so that in the end I may believe only in those things which I have found to be true and genuine?

In the 90s I grew up with Cheddi and Burnham in Craig Village. Cheddi was like the mamoo or chacha I never saw and Burnham was the line-up-fuh-soap-and-butter man. Cheddi was the sustainer of the great and powerful roti and Burnham was the man who tried to choke the nation to death with rice-flour bake and roti.

But somehow, many of my Indian elders were convinced that Burnham’s grand scheme to choke the nation was somehow the fault of the black man. I still wonder if they’ve ever realized that black people ate and choked on the same rice-flour bake and roti.

There have been moments in my life where I have felt that I know Cheddi and Burnham more than I’ll ever know myself. When the old Indian women met at wedding and jandhi houses to clean katahar and make puri there was always an endless supply of Cheddi and Burnham jokes. But always, always Burnham took the brunt of it.

The problem is that jokes aren’t just jokes to a child. As a child, these jokes taught me that Burnham was a man to be feared. And because they had made Burnham the symbol of the black man it followed that the black man was to be feared. As for Cheddi, they said he was the hero of the Indian man and no one else. These women were selfish with their Cheddi.

How could they dishonor Cheddi and Burnham in such a manner? And how could they not have known what they were doing to my mind? The answer is simple: grassroots politics.

All my life, they’ve been trying to make me know Cheddi and Burnham; at least the images of Cheddi and Burnham that they were fed at bottom houses. But the truth is that I (and all young Guyanese for that matter) will never know these men. I think Ian McDonald says it best:

“I remember long ago when I was a boy my father held a dead bird in the palm of his hand and said the beauty all had gone – to see it like that and describe it alive, alive and flying, was to see ashes and try to tell about fire.” (“Well Remembered Friends, Cloud of Witnesses, p. 348)

Cheddi and Burnham are the dead bird. My generation will never know the real men.

As for my elders who still cling to the ashes of Cheddi and Burnham, for now I have given up trying to decide how or what I feel for you. I did not choke on rice-flour but I choke on something far worse in my time. I am sorry that you had to choke on rice-flour but I am even sorrier that you do not yet realize that I am choking in a far worse way than you did. The bottom line is I think it’s time someone told you that rice-flour was not your black brother’s fault just like the current corruption in Canecutopia is not entirely our fault.

Flour or rice-flour? They don't look much different eh?

Flour or rice-flour? They don’t look much different eh?

Sharing a quick moment with you while I’m on the go.

14 thoughts on “The ashes of Cheddi and Burnham

  1. Sarah someone is feeding you shit right now. We all lived in the same country and had the same women as our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers. Politics is politics and what you should see now is that the times have changed. Politicians changed and so should you. Stop poisoning people and make a contribution to your country. Let the AFC you supported try to stop the corruption and maybe they should ensure that Guyana do business legally with other countries.

    1. Khiroon, I believe in self sufficiency. We should not depend on people to stop things when we can make an effort to stop it. If you’ve been reading you’ll see that I refuse to be branded politically by anyone, including the AFC. And did we really live in the same country? Are you sure my mother and grandmother was the same as yours? I am simply writing from the experience that I have lived and not en bloc for all Indians. I am pointing out that racism exists in this wonderful country of ours, even if we do not speak of it, and I hope to inspire other young Guyanese regardless of ethnicity or political bearing to do the same. I believe that if we all address this issue honestly, we can fix it. Are you busy helping our country right now? Come help me.

    2. Khiroon, you would do well to LISTEN to Sara,s words of wisdom. She is pointing you to a different way of thinking. Haven’t we all suffered enough? Indians and Africans, and everybody else suffered under Burnham, Jagan, Jagdeo, and now Ramotar! We all nyam rice flour and breadfruit. We all are being oppressed by the corruption in government right now. If we keep fighting EACH OTHER, we will ALL LOSE. Africans are not to blame for Burnham’s theatrics, no more than Indians are to blame for Jagan’s, Jagdeo’s or Ramotar’s.

  2. Stand firm and strong, Sara. There will always be naysayers. I survived the yesteryears of the beloved fathers of our nation: Burnham and Jagan. They were both guilty of abuses. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Both sides refuse to admit guilt and correct the wrongs of the past.

    By the way, Burnham was onto something when he forced us to use rice flour. A few months ago, after learning that wheat was adversely affecting my health, I stopped eating wheat products. These days, I drink rice milk and use rice noodles and pastas. Rice flour bread is too dry, so I make pancakes with oat flour. The irony of life.

  3. Well spoken Sara. Without imposing your own view, this was persuasively open-ended and provokes one’s thinking into forming and educated and unbiased opinion. You write as one with true heart and passion. Keep up the good work and do not be dissuaded by those who are offended by truth. Only truth can stand when brought to the light and endure the test of time. God bless you and all the best in your studies! -a fellow U.G. student.

  4. Everyone’s political opinions will differ…,it’s in our DNA genetically
    so why not have differing opinions and share it.
    Many have sacrificed their lives
    in great wars etc so that we can
    have “freedom of expressions”
    publicly and privately.
    Sharing our passions and emotive beliefs in our writings
    May or may not change our world but it certainly will influence others to do so.
    Change we must as die we will.
    We cannot continue in the same
    ways of doing things and expect
    different results. Just change the
    way we do things with better results. Believe in ones self first
    and other will believe in you.
    Leaders are born not created.

    Que sera sera
    Kamtan ukplc

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