Liliendaal, Georgetown, Guyana – March 8, 2014
This afternoon, Leslie and I went to the Phagwah Mela & Bazaar. The Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha sponsored it. That is an organization somewhat equivalent to a diocese in the United States. The event happens annually, usually the weekend before the actual Phagwah holiday (more on that after the holiday). The tickets for the event were $800GD, about $4. Parking was $1,000GD, about $5. I found it interesting that the parking was more expensive than the seat at the event.
The gates were due to open at 16:00. We arrived around 16:30, late by U. S. standards, but quite early by Guyanese standards (we shall see that demonstrated later in this post). When we arrived, we were directed to park in a lot on the east side of the Guyana International Conference Centre, the venue for the event. In the lot to which we were directed, there was only one car. It was backed into the first space, right by the driveway. We backed into a spot next to that car.
It was a very sunny afternoon. Walking from the car to the vendor tents found us walking directly toward the sun. It was quite tricky to see. Regardless, we made it to the vendor area. There were four or five vendors selling items such as jewelry, cosmetics, and Indian clothing. There were about as many tents housing various food vendors. There was one tent for a games area.
Our first stop was a tent with Indian clothing for men and women. I decided I would buy one of the beautifully decorated shirts. Speaking with the young lady there, I quickly found out they did not have anything in my size. I may have to wait to get that style of a shirt when we go to Pakistan.
We continued our walk by the food vendors. There was a lot of homemade Indian food for sale. We did not buy anything because neither of us was particularly hungry at the time.
There were hundreds of white chairs set up in front of the stage. Since we had already “seen” everything, we decided to take a seat and watch things unfold. At first, there was Indian music playing over the very, very large speakers. It was so loud that the sound vibrated our ribs. We could only hear each other if we leaned in and shouted in the other’s ear. The sounds morphed into a sound-check as we sat and watched the stagehands complete their final tweaking for the show.
The technicians performing a soundcheck.
The audience continued to build as we sat. Many of those arriving seemed to be drawn by the singer, Purnash Durgaprasad. We were treated to a beautiful sunset as we continued our wait.
I noticed one of the sponsors was I-CEE drinks. The shape of an I-CEE bottle struck me on one of the Centre’s building panels.
The audience builds, ready for the show.
Before attending, work colleagues told us it was very likely the President of Guyana would attend the show. That became readily apparent when the President’s bodyguards arrived. They directed the event staff to remove the front row of white, hard, wooden seats. Soon we saw some workers from the Centre bring out several plush, upholstered chairs. Those became the new front row. We were sitting about five rows behind them.
The program was slated for 18:00. It was probably about that time when the Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, showed up. It was about 18:50 when the Mistress of Ceremony addressed the crowd to say the program would begin in about 10 minutes or so. I was surprised she did not use the common Guyanese phrase, “just now.” Finally, at about 19:00, we could hear sirens that signaled the approach of the President’s motorcade.
I had sat on an aisle seat in the row we chose. Shortly after the sirens went silent, the President walked right by me. His wife, Deolatchmee Ramotar, followed him. They both made their way to the front row.
Almost immediately, the Mistress of Ceremony walked on stage to introduce the evening. She announced that the music that night was being provided by the eNetworks Orchestra. After she made a few remarks, she invited the President to come up and address the crowd. A portion of his speech dealt with the need for Guyana to pass the pending anti-money laundering legislation or face the consequences from the international community. After his remarks, he took his seat, and the show began.
The mistress of ceremonies introducing the President of Guyana.
Since we did not understand the language, it was impossible to tell what vocals accompanied any of the acts we saw. Regardless, the costumes and dancing were stunning. It appeared there was a contest of sorts between the different dance troupes and the various singers. The troupes and singers had come to the Georgetown area from all over Guyana.
The final act we saw was the crowd’s favorite, Purnash Durgaprasad. According to the Mistress of Ceremony, he was born in Guyana and now lives in New York. We stayed for four of his songs. At that point, our ears could take the loud beating no longer. We left our seats and walked back to the car.
As we approached the area where we had parked, I saw we had a challenge to overcome. There was another diplomat van parked perpendicular to our car, directly in front of our car. Faced with the prospect of having given up our excellent seats only to be stuck at the event until the bitter end, Leslie took it upon herself to see if she could find the driver of the van. To my surprise, she came back in less than two minutes with the driver. He moved the vehicle, and we made our exit.
We drove to the Grand Coastal Hotel to have a late dinner. I know my Spanish friends will not think of sitting down to dinner at 20:30 as anything but early, but for us it is late. We sat in the alfresco dining area and began with a bottle of 35 Degree South Merlot Reserva 2012. It is from the San Pedro vineyards in Chile.
Our dinner selection was easy on our waiter, Colin. We both ordered a Caesar salad and the main course of giant grilled prawns. On the side, I had potato wedges and fried rice. Leslie had garlic bread instead of the rice. The prawns did not seem giant to me, but they were delicious.
We paid our $20,000GD ($100US) tab and headed home for the evening.
We are very much looking forward to the Phagwah celebration on March 17.