“My Story” Chapter 29

“My Story” – by Randall Butisingh.

(Reminiscences during my life beginning 1914)

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

In the year 1972, the same year of my retirement, I read the Life Story of Helen Keller, the blind and deaf humanitarian.  I was so touched by her courage, her faith and her accomplishments, and also her love of Nature, that I was inspired to write poetry.  Those poems were not my first;  I had written before, but now I was so inspired by her example that the words kept flowing  My compassion was awakened and some of the poems I have written  exudes this feeling for the underprivileged..  In the same year, I published two slim volumes of poetry – “Love’s Light” and “Wild flowers”.  To date, I have written about seventy odd poems.   This was the time also when I came in contact with Rooplall Monar, one of Guyana’s most winning poet, Guska, poet and painter and Bramdeo Persaud, poet and story writer.  Together we formed the Annandale’s Writer’s Group .    I had a hand press then and we were able to publish our first volume of  “‘Poems from Annandale”.  

When I retired from teaching the salary of a trained or certificated teacher was good.  With the low cost of living – the price of oil had not yet gone up – a family, I had seven children and could have maintained a good standard of living on the wages of one individual.   Teachers, with other Government workers formed the middle class.  Soon after this, with the Sugar Welfare Programme, sugar workers were ushered into financial sufficiency, especially cane-cutters whose wages for the cutting season totaled a sizeable sum.  Those sugar workers lived then in middle class comfort though by reason of their intellectual limitation were not considered so.

The steep rise in oil price affected the standard of living, but not to a very great extent; the dollar still had its purchasing power though to a less extent and the country still had a budget surplus, but good things were not to continue.  Guyana, the most self sufficient and resourceful of the Caribbean countries was to be plunged into a state of impecuniositiy next only to Haiti, the most impoverished of the West Indian Islands.

This state was precipitated by a Republican Government that was racist and corrupt.  The leader was dictatorial and suppressive.  Vision was absent.  Many square pegs were placed in round holes because of political patronage.  The Government made blunders time and again.  It nationalized the main industries: sugar, rice and bauxite and hurt them badly.  Some of the banks were nationalized.  The sixty mile railway from Georgetown to Rosignol was curtailed and afterwards brought to a complete halt.  Large buses were then brought from India to take its place resulting in poor transportation.   The one way road traffic became congested and there were frequent accidents resulting in casualties.   Also bad handling of these buses rendered them unfit very early and they were relegated to the scrap heap.

From this time there began a massive emigration from Guyana, chiefly Indians who were afraid of being victimized.  These included lawyers, doctors, teachers, rice millers and others; the cream of the population.  This resulted in a brain drain which impoverished the intellectual strata of the society.

Today, high offices are being filled with the mediocre and the inefficient.   Also the parlous economic situation has resulted in poor wages, a debilitated standard of living and corruption.  The crime rate, too, has increased and justice has changed its meaning.

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