Part 5 – Worst day at Elementary school and my Father’s belt

Back Row: Sean, Chunka, Toyer, Sona, Middle Row: Mama and Papa, Front Row: Me, Vady and Betsy. This was taken probably in 1999 or 2000.

Before I continue, I only now realize that others reading may be part of the events that I write about. This is how I saw things so don’t put too much into it if you saw it in a different way. The object of this little story is to write about my life and not justify, accuse or prove anything. We cannot be ashamed of our past because it is part of what shaped us. Our inner strengths and weaknesses are always tested in life. Anyway, I don’t want to get to philosophical at this point, but my children will read and tell their children one day of how life was in Trinidad. If we had the story of our ancestors from them, themselves about life back in India before they immigrated, now that would be a treat.

So, what happened next?

I felt violated. I felt ashamed. I felt weird. I hated that some were laughing at me. I was quite young and innocent in things and at that point was in the phase of not liking boys. This boy was from another class – probably 3 yrs. older than me

So, I was crying buckets of tears when I reached the principal office. The other students were there to relate the story. I remember being called into the principal office and relating my story. I left the office and the kid (my brother Chunka, nicknamed him “Big Eye Grieve” because he had big eyes) was called in. I think he got strokes with a belt. Yes, we still had that kind of punishment in school for more serious things.

That same afternoon before we got dismissed as I was washing my teachers drinking glass, it broke and I got a cut on where my pinkie finger and hand met. Two mishaps in one day. It was indeed my unlucky day. So, why was I washing the teacher’s glass? It was customary that if a student did well in class you get to help the teacher. In this case it was a privilege to wash the teachers drinking glass and us students looked forward to if we were chosen that duty for a week. I was at the time in Miss Marion class and that classroom had the only sink in the first floor of the school. The only other sink in the school was in the principal’s office.

The cut was a bit deep as I saw flesh when the blood started pouring out. My teacher and the other nearby teachers Mr. Kelvin and Miss Pearl helped in cleaning and putting a band aid. They were a bit anxious and concerned and I could hear them talking about my father – how he might come to school and cause trouble.

Papa – maybe in his forties or fifties – He lived to be 88.

My father indeed knew how to cause trouble. Back when I was a baby or toddler and my brothers attended the elementary school there was trouble.

Here’s what I was told:

My second brother Toyer, did not like school and would sometimes hang out in the back of the church out of sight and miss class so he did get into trouble. One of the teachers put him to sit in front of the class facing the class whole day and from that day he did miss class. He was indeed a bit mischievous and had the trait of a leader so of course he would get into some harmless trouble now and again. Part of the routine in school was to say the Lord’s Prayer, prayer after lunch and a prayer before school’s daily dismissal. All the classes in the whole top floor had to join in the prayer together. One day Toyer was caught by Miss Samdaye saying “samdaye mud ass” instead of the prayer.( I really don’t know where he got that from because my parents never cursed at home.) So, she hit him. It must have had a bruise and he went home crying. My father donned a broad belt with a cutlass in a scabbard and went to school. I think he was not wearing a shirt. I’m sure he must have created such a scene and frightened the whole school. The teachers were scared (I would be). Since the school had just been dismissed, some of the students were on their way out or had already left. Imagine if all the students were in the buiding? They would have freaked out.

So, from that day the teachers were very cautious in dealing with my siblings and I. We were good students though. If I can digress for a moment – throughout the years I remember most of us had very good grades and did not cause trouble. I remember always placing in the top 3 from standard 1-4 and in the top 10 in standard 5. We were well known to do well in school by neighbors and relatives. At one time one of my cousins would come over to take lessons from Toyer (who was in High School at the time) to prepare them to write the Common Entrance Examination. This was an island wide examination for 11 and 12-year old’s in Elementary school. If you passed you get a chance to attend a Government public High school for free. We still had to buy books, uniform and supplies. If you failed then you stayed in elementary school until standard 6 (I am guessing until you are about 15 or 16 years of age) or if your parents had money then they paid a fee for you to attend a private school. Thank God we all passed and my brother Toyer scored high in the exam so he got to go to Naparima Boys High School in San Fernando. It was one of the most prestigious schools in the South of the island.

So, now you know why the teachers were very concerned about the kiss and the cut in my hand! They just hoped that my father would not come into school and quarrel with everyone. Luckily, he did not. I just told what happened and knowing that the boy got punished was probably enough for my father.

Nobody knew this but his “bark was worse than his bite”. When he did not have any alcohol, he was quiet as a lamb and hardly even talk to us children. In the village inn(bar) I don’t know but he probably cursed and carried on if he got drunk. So, he had a reputation.

He did beat my brothers once(or maybe more, I don’t know, I never got hit)with his belt. He would say “get my broad belt and we would all be scared”. I spoke to Chunka recently and he said that he and Toyer got a beating for stealing some arts and crafts things from the school. He would never allow stealing. We never had paper to draw on, much less for art and craft stuff. We had only books to do our school subjects and one drawing book (this was a book without lines that we could do drawing in school) We did not have any extra pencils or crayons to do drawings at home. Nowadays, children don’t  know how they are privileged.

In the village my father’s nick name was “Ganjar.” I was told that when my father was in his youth he would sell marijuana (I looked it up but I am vague about the history. It says it was banned) to people in the village and that’s how he got the name. In those days it was not done in the same cultural context that it is done right now. It was like an equivalent to taking a smoke or drink after a long day’s work. In India the elevated sadhus would drink a drink (called bang) made out of it to bring down the energy in their systems. So, selling this was not in the same connotation of today’s thinking.

He would read the daily newspaper (Express or Guardian), listen to the radio or sometimes potter around things in the car repairing or I don’t know checking the engine. Another pastime would be just sitting in the gallery (front porch area – everyone had one and that was a favorite pastime for everyone in the village) and rubbing the top of his head. He would wave at the people in cars who passed by and called him out. They would shout out as the car passed by “Mush” which was his nick name on the bus route he worked. He was a bus driver for the Public Transportation Service Cooperation and this was the job I knew him to work for most of my life at home. He was well known on the southern part the island and well-liked by the people who traveled by bus from Point Fortin to Cedros or Point Fortin to San Fernando. He was an excellent driver and his bus made it on time or sometimes in a shorter estimated time so people were anxious to get “Mush” as their driver when they took the bus. After high school I worked in Pt Fortin and when I encountered anyone who knew my father, they had good things to say. So, there were some good things about my father.

My siblings and I were very embarrassed by him sometimes when he was drunk and would curse one of our neighbors (miss Dolly). We did not like that one bit and my brothers would coax him to come home and stop cursing. He did not always listen. One of the most embarrassing moments was when he was drunk and would be just in his underwear and bathe in the front yard. Fellow high school students and teachers knew where we lived and it was embarrassing if they saw him on their way to Vessigny Secondary school(the high school I attended).

When I would go anywhere in the village old and young would ask me “are you Ganjar’s daughter” and give a weird look. Sometimes as soon as they knew that they would not want to have nothing to do with me. It happened to my other siblings I think also. There were a few people who did not care. Because of this my mother said she did not really have any friends. Well, she did not have time for that but if she meant that if there was some event (like a yagna, puja or wedding) taking place in the village. She would sometimes be shunned by some.

Oh well, too much on my father, but this is one of the reasons I don’t like alcohol. It ruined him. Besides the first time I tasted it I did not like it so I never indulge in alcohol. My brothers drink occasional alcohol but my sisters don’t. I think Betsy might have an occasional glass of wine.

Alcohol ruins a lot of people’s lives.

Yet to come – my experience in High school, my hospital stay, my speaking in tongues and more 😊

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