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A ROAD ran through it and two “train-lines”, one that carried cane to the factory and another that carried the mail and passengers to Port of Spain and San Fernando, still the two largest cities in Trinidad. This was the village of Carapichaima in Central Trinidad, west of Freeport and East of Orange Valley, a place of cane and coconuts, with an oil factory, a sugar factory and the aspiration to have a rumshop for every villager.
In the immediate post-war years, I grew up there and we walked as a group, got a “tow” on my uncle’s Raleigh bicycle or a “drop” in his bullcart to the “E.C.” school. The acronym “E.C” was not the “European Community” but stood for “English Catholic” or “Anglican”, the religion that was started by the English king, Henry VIII, when he wanted to have as many wives as his title and the riches of the Catholic Church in England at the same time.
This was the time of extended families and my father’s took up a large part of the village. My aunt Irene (aka Moon), her three children and, until I was eight, my grandmother lived next door. My uncle Dan (aka Jacket) lived three houses away and various aunts, uncles and numerous cousins and “pumpkin vine” family lived within walking or riding distance. “Deedee”, my father’s oldest sister, lived in Orange Field to the east of us and had a small “parlour” or cake shop. Her married daughters lived nearby and one of them “Dood” (Hindi for milk because of her complexion) lived with her husband Rattiban (called “Ratti” for short) and many children about midway between our home and Deedee’s. One of Dood’s children, and there were many, her second son “Pally” was almost my contemporary and he, my cousin Joe and I played and “skylarked” together. On the fringe of the group was my cousin Roy.
Dood’s children went to the Muslim school which had been built near the railway station, essentially the hub of the village, a bit later than the Anglican school. From the time I was five I used to masquerade as a “Robber” and displayed my costume on the stage which was really the huge cistern which supplied the water that helped the train to keep running. My Uncle Bem had a small gambling club and “parlour” (cake shop) nearby and the children from the Muslim school bought “sweet drinks” (aerated bottled soft drinks like JuC, Solo and Coca Cola) from him.
The whole of Dood’s brood went to the Muslim School and in their green uniforms formed a noticeable phalanx as they walked along the road which had (and still has) no pavement. In those days an increasing number of buses, taxis, carts and buggies competed for primacy and one of the bigger children, Rita first and then Pally, had to keep the others from straying or make sure that they did not get “bounce down”. There was the sharp bend round by the cinema and Mr. Holder’s parlour then the straight stretch to the school. The kids refused regimentation and sometimes took off on their own.
However, it was and to a large extent still is a village that took care of its own. The day I “hopped off” the train, hitting the ground running before the train stopped, my father was waiting with his belt long before I reached home. The village telegraph was efficient. It was also integrated. Carapichaima is the most racially integrated community in which I have ever lived and, in many ways, the most tolerant. I can remember standing in a line with other boys of different races for what passed as the “boys’ toilet” urinating together and commenting on the various aspects of size and velocity without any mention of colour.
Eventually it was my cousin Roy’s turn to take over Dood’s brood and he did so until he passed the equivalent of the “Eleven Plus” called College Exhibition and then Common Entrance and went to Presentation Chaguanas. He always had ideas and asked questions. I was older, went to Presentation College, San Fernando and whenever I was around in Carapichaima (we had moved to Siparia in the far South) I had fun with him. I was the first member of the immediate family to get what was known as a “Grade One” in the Senior Cambridge examination and we celebrated in Dood and Ratti’s house with the entire family.
I lost touch and knew that Roy had done well academically and had gone off to UWI Jamaica. He had also converted his strong moral code into a vocation and joined Richard Ho Lung’s “Brothers of the Poor” which worked in Kingston’s inner-city, one of the most dangerous places on earth. Roy then set up his own mission, the Mustard Seed Community, and when I saw him last Sunday, he told me that he had expanded into Zimbabwe and Nicaragua. We were at the Trinidad Hilton.
The night before he had delivered the feature address at the Anthony Sabga Caribbean Awards (which he won in 2006) but even though he is now Monseigneur Gregory Ramkissoon, we sat there as first cousins, Roy and I, talking about family and about the village in which we grew up. Our bond goes deep, beyond family and even friends. It is rooted in Carapichaima, where we learnt tolerance and love for our fellow human beings and he, particularly, to look after the little and less fortunate ones.
• Tony Deyal was last seen joking and exploring the significance of the fact that Roy, who continues to survive Kingston, was mugged by a woman in Trinidad to whom he gave a lift over the Lady Young Road.