MonDAY, MAY 5, 2014
The Sirkissoons bought this house in 1964 and transported it to Highbury
Atendranauth Sirkissoon, the oldest person in Highbury BY ANDREW CARMICHAEL
lantation Highbury is now the site of a monument commemorating the arrival of the first group of Indian indentured labourers to Berbice, British Guiana. Two hundred and fifty labourers had sailed from Calcutta (now Kolkata) India on the SS Whitby to arrive in the colony on May 5, 1838. One hundred and seventeen labourers, including 11 females, arrived at Plantation Highbury on the East Bank of the Berbice River to begin their period of in-
say why they had destroyed the estate before the property was sold. He also visited the Stelling that vessels moored at in 1838, however, today the remaining stumps are covered with sea mud.There are still parts of punts that were used back in the 19th century in farms in the village. In 1964, there were three families and just before the turn of the century, the village was well populated, however, today there are only 18 families in the two mile long village. “People migrate, they go away. One of the main reasons is because we don’t have a proper school in the area.” Sirkissoon, however, notes that the population has started to rise again. According to him, in 1964 there were two tracks where the roadway is today. “The middle was grass right through. We mostly travel by donkey cart from here to Khotbraadth Village and from there they had two taxies and travel to New Amsterdam.” By 1960, the tracks were upgraded with a red road made of burnt brick and this was maintained through the Public Works Department. “In our area here, they had a donkey cart with a man with a spade and a ‘rammer’. He filled the holes with the brick and he ram it so we always had a good road but we hadn’t much traffic.” According to Sirkissoon, they had to travel from Highbury to Khotbrath before getting a car to go to school in New Amsterdam. “Look at the road condition
t is not uncommon for us to seek the riches and fortunes that we see others have. However, one should really think about the realities involved, because in reality, there are a lot of people with debts and a need to be boastful through material possessions. Your best bet will be to avoid the path in falling into the trap of wanting all the material things other people have, because the truth is having all those things will not make you any happier. One of the common complaints I hear is that people are not liking their job. This is something to make note of, because no matter how much you earn and regardless of what position you have, working in a job you do not like will not bring you contentment. Even your dream home and fancy car cannot overcome the daily challenges you face with your job. The key is to accept that you might currently hold a job that fits your values and to Narine Dat Sookram feel that sense of happiness is to accept that happiness may be possible, but with a less paid job that comes with greater fulfilment. However, this may require you to re-adjust your priorities in life. The simplest things in life are usually the most important; therefore we should keep healthy with the little things. For example, eating nutritious foods and having a good laugh at least once daily are all things to consider. I am sure this is not the first time you have heard of this and I know they are simple things, but there is a reason for them and that is they work. Give it a try and contentment will follow. Have you ever realised how important it is to be a good friend or neighbour? Taking the time to get to know the people around you and being there for them as much as you can are all good things to consider. Also consider creating a sense of community wherever you go and lead by example, because reaching out to everyone is a form of being contented with one’s self. Another piece of advice is to have both trust and faith, and by that I mean in both others and yourself. This can, however, be a little challenging because we live in a world where sometimes we are told “don’t trust anyone” but if you cannot even trust yourself, then that saying can be a little misleading. Sure enough, there will be people who will abuse “trust”, but for everyone that does, you probably will have a lot more people who will reciprocate your trust and eventually motivate themselves, because they will see that someone cares enough to trust them. And last but not least, be in the moment and do not worry about the past and the future, because contentment is reached when you make the most of what is happening now, rather than thinking of the past and the future which will lead to nothing but disappointment.
No May 5 repairs to East Bank Berbice road
The good road from the beginning of Highbury Village
The house that Sirkissoon’s grandfather bought and transported to Highbury
dentureship on the colony. Colonial records indicate that labourers on plantation Highbury reared the most livestock than anywhere else in the colony; both for their own food and to sell. Today Highbury is a scarcely populated village. The village has a monument to which there is an annual pilgrimage on May 5. The oldest resident is Atendranauth Sirkissoon who did not grow up in the village but moved there in 1954 when his father bought the then Police Commissioner’s house and transported it to Highbury. He said when his family arrived there, the sugar factory on which the first set of East Indians worked was destroyed. “Everything was there, the rollers, the chimney and everything but they were in pieces. They used dynamite and blow it up.” His grandfather had bought the property from the Vieira’s. Sirkissoon could not
now; you take more than 45 minutes to get to New Amsterdam… The road is so bad it destroyed our vehicles and now when you go to New Amsterdam and come back you are so tired.” The farmer said when he was old enough, he drove his sisters to school in New Amsterdam – a trip he said that took him about one hour to return. However, now it is not possible to travel the 12 miles to New Amsterdam and return in an hour. Back then the village was quiet except for the sounds of animals and birds with vegetation all around. There are five rice farmers in Highbury today. Sirkissoon, who is 67 years old, farms and has 12 acres of rice along with cash crops and a fruit farm and 20 acres of coconut estates.Although Sirkissoon was attacked by bandits once, the village is said to be crime free more than two decades after.
ast Bank Berbice residents are expressing disappointment over the fact that they are not seeing the annual road repair works in time for the pilgrimage to Highbury on Arrival Day. The residents had grown accustomed to road repairs being carried out at this time of the year in order to facilitate better access for foreign delegates and Government officials to Highbury. Despite condemning the act in the past and protesting over it, saying that they needed more than the minor repairs, which sometimes only lasted until the June rains, residents say they looked forward for the road repair. “Atleast it used to bring some relief to us, the East Bank hire car drivers,” one hire car operator told this publication. “As soon as the budget passed, we looking to see the work gon start but nothing… “ The East Bank Berbice main access road had been in a state of disrepair for several years. Government had been spending millions of dollars on it annually up until last year when a decision was taken not to resurface a section of the road, but to carry out maintenance through the Public Works Ministry. That project has not been extended into 2014. Of major concern to Upper East Bank Berbice residents is that whenever they travel to New Amsterdam, they are forced to endure the bumpy ride for 25 miles.Glasgow, Heatburn and Everton are where most of the work was concentrated in the past. Heavy duty and heavily laden vehicles have been stuck on the Glasgow road in the
past as they tried to manoeuvre the pothole filled road. Some residents told Berbice Times that the only thing they had hope in was May 5, now even the Government is overlooking them. Deodat Persaud who operates a business says, “Is because the people in the East Bank didn’t vote for them.” Region Six Chairman David Armogan explained that the maintenance project had to be shelved on advice from the contractor H Nauth and Sons Construction Company. “There comes a time when you can’t be maintaining anymore and Nauth has complained to us that it has passed maintenance stage… If you fill a hole today, tomorrow it reappears. That is Nauth’s position that we are wasting money on trying to carry out maintenance on the road.” Back in February 2013 when the residents had staged a protest they were told that Government was seeking funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to resurface the entire East Bank Berbice Road. In March last year, Public Works Minister Robeson Benn announced that the feasibility study and designs for the rehabilitation of the East Bank Berbice Public Road was scheduled to commence later that month.The conditions of the road are deplorable with potholes so wide and deep, cars were scraping their bottoms while driving through. Few cars ply the route which is an inconvenience for residents, especially the 3000 schoolchildren who use it daily during school days.