Racing goes around in
cycles in my family
By Bernard Heydom
The racing gene runs in the family. Risk taking and
living close to the edge, are a part of my ancestry. The attraction to
speed is evident in our eldest son Sean who races motorcycles in the
Canadian amateur national championships. But this streak goes back a
ways to my maternal grandfather Jose Menezes and maybe before.
Menezes came to British Guiana as a youth from Madeira
in the 1870’s. We have a picture of him proudly standing besides
cycling trophies around 1900, at what I believe was the British Guiana
Cricket Club ground in Georgetown. At least two of his sons (my
uncles) were also ardent cyclists in Guiana in the early part of the
Motorcycling came into our family through one of those
uncles who owned at least three, including a Norton and Velocette. His
Velocette that was somewhat like a Vespa scooter was the first
motorcycle I had ever ridden on. Later on I rode on the pillion seat
of my eldest brother’s Francis Barnet – long rides to Rose Hall,
Canje cinema, in the 1950’s.
I owned my first motorcycle, a small Honda, in the 60’s
in Barbados. Two of my older brothers also owned Hondas and we
virtually introduced Hondas and motorcycling to Barbados. I used to
enjoy opening it up, flat out, on the long straight road by the
Barbados Seawell Airport, the bike shaking and vibrating, my heart
pounding, and the wind screaming in my face – no goggles, no helmet
or riding gear, but such is youth and the times.
Jose Menezes standing next to
cycling trophies in British Guiana around 1900
At that time, my father also rode a small Moped in
Barbados. The Bajuns used to laugh when they saw him peddling his
"motorcycle" up the hills. It was just too much work for the
In the early 70’s I owned a Suzuki in Barbados and
took my wife to be on dates, riding around the island. I did not ride
a motorcycle again for about 30 years when my son Sean took me for a
spin on his Yamaha R1 in downtown Toronto. I used a helmet this time,
hung on for dear life, and never opened my eyes for one second. The
acceleration and braking of the new machines are light years away from
what I used to ride. At the end of that ride, Sean said, "Dad,
you seemed a bit tense."
Somehow, in spite of my gentle hints, Sean had taken
up not just motorcycling but racing – powerful machines that reach
over 100 kph in three seconds and close to 300 kph on the straight!
Engines rev at 15,000 rpm. Incidentally, in races, speedometers are
blocked out – no distractions needed.
My wife and I have attended few of his races – it’s
just too much for my old heart, especially after we saw a racer
involved in a fatal accident right in front our eyes! Several weeks
ago we went to watch the championships. The drama was non-stop.
The bikers were there in their splendour and glory –
the TV cameras rolling, the stands packed. For his race, Sean had the
post (starting position on the front row) as a result of his fast
qualifying times. Over 35 riders had qualified for this final.
At the start of the race, the riders rev their
engines, the ground and stands shake, blue and white smoke fill the
air, and the machines leap (off the ground) as the racers jostle for
the early lead and good positioning.
To say that to complete 12 or more laps is a feat of
daring, courage, concentration, skills, strength and razor sharp
reflexes is an understatement. The constant acceleration and
deceleration, going round hairpin bends, the tremendous "g"
forces on the body are like aerial combat in a jet fighter. In spite
of stabilizers on the bikes, at the end of a race, it’s not uncommon
for a driver to need help to dismount his machine, so exhausted is he.
In his race, Sean took an early lead. My wife was
jumping up and down, shouting "Go, Sean go!" and turning to
folks close by and saying proudly, "That’s my son! That’s my
I stood some distance away, wringing my hands,
sweating, my heart and blood pressure racing, counting the laps to the
end. It looked like it was going to be Sean’s day after all the hard
work, sacrifice, preparation and expense.
Alas it was not to be. At more than half the race
completed with Sean well out in front, there was a serious spill in
the back and the red flag came out. Back to the start of the race
again, starting from scratch. Again Sean took the lead – again a
spill behind and the red flag. For the third time – back to the
start, Sean in the lead and you guessed it – another serious spill.
By that time, they had run out of ambulances (like a war zone) –
riders having fallen like flies. The fourth start to the race was
delayed for a couple of hours.
In the end, Sean did not get the flying start he had
the first three times and ended up fourth in the race that counted,
just off podium position. But such is the racing game.
Sean took his racing to the South Dakota Circuit in
Guyana last November, at the Spectacle of Speed, International Race
Meeting, representing Canadian riders. There he saw the lack of safety
equipment and the hardships that Guyanese riders endure. As a result,
through his own initiative, he has been trying to raise funds and send
equipment to the Guyana racing fraternity. He wants to go back to
Guyana every year, he says.
I admire his spirit, his courage and concern for others. In the
hearts of his parents, he stands tall, whether he stands on a podium
or not. When his racing days are over, he will have great memories. If
the creeks don’t rise and the sun still shines, I’ll be talking to
Caribbean musical gem
to perform for fans in Toronto
By Manshad Mohamed
One of the Caribbean's most versatile musicians will
be entertaining his many anxious and admiring fans in Toronto on
October 23. After a long absence, the accomplished Dennis De Souza
will be appearing at the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel, 655
Dixon Rd, courtesy of Millennium Express Inc and "Spot Light
Born in Georgetown, Guyana, Dennis started playing the
piano at the tender age of 9. "I finished a 3-year course in
seven months and then went to a piano teacher, Mr Herman Faria. I
loved to play popular music by Pat Boone, Jim Reeves, Nat King Cole,
Bing Crosby, Dick Hayes and whatever I heard on the radio," he
told Indo Caribbean World.
At age 20, he was booked to sail to England via
Trinidad to study music composition. But Dennis had another interest
also - cricket. "I fell in love with T&T and the ship sailed
without me. I played cricket with Harvard and with Queen’s Park C.C.
I was in the company of Willie Rodriguez, Ben Kanhai, Sonny Ramadhin,
the Davis Brothers and Joey Carew," the musical stalwart
One night after "a big victory," Dennis and
his cricketing pals went to the Penthouse in Port of Spain to
celebrate. "The resident band leader, Choy Aming, invited me to
play the piano with his band. Because of the constant encores, people
would not let me leave until 5.00 am.", he recalled.
This was still happening in T&T in a 2001-2003
stint at the Hilton Hotel where Dennis has just completed a 3-year
So far, Dennis has played music on 15 albums (33 1/3
r.p.m). Only recently, he has worked on CDs, the last one,
"Encounters," yet to be released by Denis Davids.
Dennis has also done recordings for CHFI in Toronto
and Columbia Records. (USA).
Dennis prefers to play live music "as the crowd
interaction gives me the strength that I need. I pick up on the feel
of the audience."
Music to Dennis, is a an international language which
he says we can understand without the use of a dictionary.
He remembers his many tours abroad when he visited and
played in 27 cities in Germany, the U.K, USA, France Switzerland,
South America and most of the islands of the Caribbean archipelago.
"Yet, I have not done enough. I want to do a lot
more compositions, the last being Pakarima," Dennis declared.
"Spot Light Event" is promoting Dennis'
October 23 event as an evening of glamour and elegance. They are out
to pamper you with finger foods, ballroom dancing, door prizes and
roses for ladies. This promises to be a program with a touch of class
that only "Spot Light Event" can produce and only Dennis is
capable of delivering.
Dennis will be backed by the renowned Caribbean
pianist Bruce Skeritt and Liam Auiga. De Media Noche, will be in
attendance with their parang selections as well as the Crooner and
MC for the evening is the popular radio personality
Jai Ojah Maharaj.
For tickets call Joe Brown 416-467-8101, Joel Ali 416-458-6854,
Denny 416-525-8261 or Millenium Express at 416-650-1999.
narrative in DoHarris’ ‘Ring’
Brenda Chester DoHarris,
A Coloured Girl in the
Ring: A Guyanese Woman Remembers,
Lanham, Maryland, Tantaria Press,
1997, ISBN 0-9659444-0-9
A review by Frank Birbalsingh
Although the main title of Ms. DoHarris’s novel -
A Coloured Girl in the
Ring - is taken from an innocent and rather
nonsensical nursery rhyme, her book, a fictionalised autobiography, is
quite the opposite: a profoundly insightful study of life in Guyana,
from 1958 to 1964, when the narrator was at secondary school.
Whether one regards A
Coloured Girl in the Ring as novel or
autobiography, it provides a brilliant and memorable evocation of
familiar sights, sounds and scents in colonial Guyana, and of the
country’s history, geography, sociology, politics, major
personalities and commonest events, all densely crowded around a story
about the narrator’s family, friends and neighbours, and most of all
about the narrator herself.
Using a method of itemising, cataloguing or listing
which is found in one of the earliest of English novels, Daniel Defoe’s
Ms. DoHarris assiduously researches, collects and records names,
places and events that we instinctively remember from Guyana of the
1950s: not only common items of food like coague, sugar cake and rice
pap, dumplings, fufu or black pudding, but furniture like the Berbice
chair, Morris chair, chiffonier, the Phillips radio with Sarah Vaughan
singing My Tormented
Heart, calypsonians singing All
Day All Night Miss Mary Ann, and Lighthouse
cigarettes, Nugget shoe polish and Reckitt’s Crown blue.
In a magisterial description of Stabroek market,
nearly a page long, and paralleled only by a similar passage in Jan
Carew’s novel Black
Midas, Ms. DoHarris itemises everything from
dray carts and Bookers’ taxis to mangoes, mittai, cassava pone and
genips, stinkin’ toe, pointer brooms and trusted medications like
Dodd’s Kidney Pills, Sloan’s Liniment, and DeWitt’s pills.
Yet this catalogue alone of local Guyanese life
would likely not achieve the conviction that it does if it were not
rendered in the language and dialogue of demotic Guyanese speech. It
is when Ms. DoHarris writes phrases like "Afta rall" for
"after all", or sentences like "Wake up yuh lazy behine
an’ bring dung de posy", heightened by idiomatic expressions
like "yuh cork duck" or "time longer than twine"
that she captures the accent, rhythm and intonation of authentic
Guyanese speech which makes her recorded vision of 1950s Guyana
materialise, like film, before our very eyes.
But if this vision appears idyllic or nostalgic, it
is not the whole truth: the central theme in Ms. DoHarris’s novel is
that she - the coloured or brown girl - is entrapped in a ring of
deprivation and exploitation in colonial Guyana, and that her chief
aim is: "to escape the ring, to go abroad and seek education
beyond the mudflat"; for the larger truth is that all Guyanese,
including her parents, friends and neighbours are encircled in a ring
of poverty and deprivation which is created by colonialism and is
geared to their own self-destruction.
What follows is a struggle against
self-destruction, as we see when her father overcomes dire poverty to
become a government dispenser, and her mother escapes from her own
father’s beatings to become a nurse. But when her father is
transferred to a new post in the Guyanese forest, he becomes separated
from his family forever. For all that, with her mother’s help, the
narrator succeeds in her ultimate ambition to study abroad.
Of the narrator’s neighbours, Mr. Braithwaite is
a drunkard who kicks his family out; Misses Ada, Ida and Edna hold
body and soul together by making and selling black pudding; Gatha is
jilted and left with child by the policeman Eustace; Eustace meanwhile
loves Shirley, a striptease dancer who is first mauled by her lover’s
wife, and later murdered by Eustace; while Eustace, later still,
commits suicide by throwing himself in front of a moving train.
Similar events of raw brutality also overtake the
few Indians who live in the narrator’s village: Balgobin the
milkman, Bahadur the grocer, and Ragunandan a cake shop owner.
The Canadian Hindu Arts and Cultural Society (CHACS)
in collaboration with the city of Mississauga and the Credit Valley
Hospital will hold a dinner and entertainment at the Payal Banquet
Hall on October 24 at 5.00 p.m . The purpose is to raise funds to
assist patients of cancer.
CHACS is very much aware of the pain, both physical
and psychological, that cancer patients silently suffer and would like
to work strenuously to help alleviate the pains, as much as it could.
It is therefore inviting community participation in an effort to raise
awareness and funds for this purpose. Call 905-814-1751.