Meet My Parents

There's where my World begun. And they came from two different worlds. One from India, the other a born Trinidadian. But they had a few things in common. They experienced "life in the barracks", worked in the sugar-cane plantations and neither could "read nor write", be it Hindi, Urdu or English.

As I understand it, to most indentured East Indian immigrants who decided to stay, their jahaji ship bhais and bahins were as close to them as any blood relative. But my parents did not even come together, yet how they met ... I know not, how or where.

They never married ... no kinda wedding ... and so, according to the law of the land, then: I am a born bastard and just "half" of several sisters and a brother. Even so, I am the last child for my mother and the only child, born in Trinidad, for my father.

Yes, to my parents I was born at Clarke Road, Penal on March 22, 1923 (according to the register, but I was told my birth was really on March 10, 1923, and to this day, my birthday is still observed on March 10).

Anyway, I was told that my birth was on a Thursday and my nephew, Doolarchand was born on the Saturday of the same week. Fact is that March 10, 1923 was a Saturday and March 22 a Thursday. Frankly, does it really matter ... I am here.

My mother, Mungaree (born on a Mangalbar .. Tuesday) grew up at Bonne Aventure (Lavantee Estate) where her mother, my Nanee (Her name I don't recall) served her indentureship.

My father,Simboodath Maharaj ... also known as Laysoon Maraj (because of his love for a blend of garlic, pepper and salt to spice up his food) came from Utra Pradesh, India in November 1917.

Where he served his indentureship or details of his earlier life, I know not, except that I was born in Penal in a carrat house off Clarke Road in 1923. And there at Clarke Road .. which was a mud trace that linked Penal to Rochard-Douglas Rd., Barrackpore .. my father had friends and "families". They all lived with such co-operation and unity, each for the other, that no visitor could tell they were not "blood relations." Were they "jahaji" (came in the same ship or boat) or from the same area or served on the same estate, I do not know.

Fact is, I did not know then, i.e. while we lived at Clarke Road. We left there when I was just about three months old, but do have a vague recollection of one of my earliest visits. I must have been about six or seven years old and I recollect myself pouched on my fathers shoulders as he waded through floods and mud and slush along Clarke Road.

There were vast open lagoons, on both sides in some parts and in other tall cocoa. imortelle and other trees.

For miles we went .. almost to the Clarke-Rochard Road end ... and then into a track, across a ravine and presto: my father pointed to a spot, telling me it was there that I was born. The house he said was of round wood, covered with carrat leaves and the walls, woven with roseau palm trunks and plastered with mud. Fact is, until 1941 that was the only type of home I had ever known.