Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shut up, Lalwa

Lalwa's home--directly opposite my old home.This is Lalwa, the street and village bully, thug, petty thief, and maker of mischief. If there was anything illegal going on this man knew about it. He was blamed for almost everything that happened in my housing scheme.

Lalwa, his parents, and family lived in a small wooden house across the street from the home I grew up in. His yard had a mango, guava, cheery, and podu (spelling?) tree. I was the only kid on the street allowed to go raid these fruit trees.

Ram (his real name), was very good friends with my father. His father and mother were very close to my grand parents. This family was a neighbor and in Guyana, neighbors are family. They actually lend each other salt, sugar,Approach from front of cemetery flour, rice and anything else they need. For as long as I can remember Ram always had my best interest at heart. He was kind and generous to me. Although, Lalwa had the most dangerous reputation in the village he always treated our family with respect and dignity. He was our personal security. I was told that he always warded off any potential robbers to our home. I remembered an incident when he personally jumped our gate with cutlass wielding to fend off five attackers as they tried to steal our chickens. He always defended our honor. When he drank alcohol the devil came out.

Lalwa was a habitual drunk. During his earlier years Ram was a cane cutter like most of the young men in my scheme. When he came back from the fields at around 12 noon the drinking began. This was an everyday situation. Drinking lead to him being a public nuisance everyday. As he got drunker the mischief  started. In bright daylight this man would commit stupid petty crimes and no one dared tell him anything. He wielded a cutlass very well and used it to threaten everyone. He was also a big mouth. As he got really drunk he would verbally abuse the neighbors and anyone who passed by. This would continue into wee hours of the morning. My grandfather got him to shut up. As I got older and high school became a constant series of late night studies I could no longer listen to his verbal diarrhea every night. One night I just walked over and told him in no uncertain tones to Shut the hell up. To my surprise he actually shut up. The next day when he was sober he apologized and told me that whenever he became too unbearable that I should yell at him. This began the strong bond and mutual respect we had for each other.

Although, I did not condone with his behavior then nor now I understood why he did what he did. As a “bad” man in the village he had a reputation to protect. This is how he survived. Very early in his criminal career someone threw battery acid on his legs. There was an ever  present burn mark for as long as I knew him.  Today that burn mark is skin cancer. He heard that I was in the country and came looking for me. I was not home. But as I was riding on the public road yesterday, I passed by him. He did not recognize me at first. But when he did, I finally felt like I came home. The man who had protected my family and I as a child was now holding on to me on the public road with frail arms and a barely there body. Lalwa was on his way to the hospital to get his dressing changed. He had a skin graft since the burn mark was removed. He informed me that since the diagnosis he stopped drinking and is trying to survive. Once again the fighter has another round to go. This time for his life. He was a bad, dangerous, and sometimes annoying man, but he was my protector and I will always give him that respect.